Stand Out With Special Expertise

Some AEC companies have a hidden treasure. It is their expertise, developed over the years, but overshadowed by the company’s so-called cash cows. One of my clients concluded that to sustain a leadership position, they had to move their special expertise into the limelight.

The CEO of an established A/E firm approached me a while ago with a request. They had developed special expertise for several consulting sectors, but kept quite quiet about it, even within their own firm. The specialists took part in the company’s large projects and sometimes sold their services directly to clients. However, most of them did not promote their prowess as something extraordinary.

The client had already identified over a dozen areas of expertise where they could claim national, or even international thought leadership if they had not been so understated. What they needed was a strategy and process for turning knowledge into a marketable service offering.

Setting the ground

We started off by organizing an expertise steering group chaired by the CEO. We prepared a work plan and schedule.

I was to interview some of the leading professionals, and afterwards we would invite a larger gathering of experts to workshops. During the strategy process we wanted to create a generic model that all experts could to use to transform their knowledge into new, high-value services.

At the interviews I gathered information on client needs, the current way of marketing and selling, competition, and future opportunities. The insight from the interviews helped us in figuring out the business problems and possible solutions.

Imagining the future

We formed seven groups that presented different areas of expertise. I devised a set of questions that each group would have to answer before their respective workshop. Here are the questions in a nutshell:

  • What customer segments and needs can you specify, and who would be the high-value clients?
  • What are the service attributes according to the KANO model?
  • What are your current sales volumes, the resources that you have and how you would develop them?
  • What is the current sales process, and what should the model for the future be like?
  • Analyze your competition; what is their market share and their ability to deliver; what are their strengths and weaknesses in this specific area of expertise?
  • How will the market evolve: what will grow or diminish, how competition will evolve, and what are the future success factors?
  • What thought leadership is already available pertaining to this area of expertise?

During the workshops, every group used the same structure to describe their future service. This process helped them understand the business potential and gave them ideas for marketing. It also revealed how committed they were to move to the next level.

Creating the strategy

The steering group used the information created during the process in formulating the special expertise strategy. The strategy comprised these main topics:

  • Analysis of the present model
  • Suggested new model
  • A service vision
  • A list of changes
  • How to make the change happen
  • Roadmap for the next two years

We concluded that the company had to make several changes in order to increase the value of their leading expertise, including

  • New organization and management model for the special expertise domains
  • New marketing plans and tactics
  • A service productization model
  • Business case studies
  • New pricing models
  • A model for training and developing future experts

The change is now on its way. I have already seen results from the work we completed and will follow up on their success. Management support is essential, as in any change process. I have no doubts that this particular client’s management team is up to the task.

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