Let me tell you a story.
Scratch that actually.
I’m not going to do the telling.
But instead will highlight what this 10-person accounting-turned-energy-sector-consulting firm principal (Wolfram Moritz) told me in an interview yesterday and was kind of enough to allow me to share here.
It’s a story that paints the picture of what the path of an initially credibility-and-head-start-lacking firm looks like in practice.
First, I asked how they got started…
How they found their way into large energy producers that were used to consulting with the big dogs (KPMG and the like).
For them, this meant first discovering the key industry conferences (where all of the buyers congregate) and then going out on a limb:
“It all started with presentations at seminars and conferences that got me involved in the whole thing. I quickly learned that when people see you and I’m presenting something and they get the impression like this guy knows what he’s talking about… That attracts clients.
And of course when you start they are like, who are you? Why in the world do you want to even give a presentation? But, over the years we managed to get them all. I mean it’s like you first go there and just talk to people and the next year you come and say, well, you know what, I have a comment on this. And then you participate in a discussion and next year you already know the people and then you can make some suggestions about topics for the conference. And then they started inviting… So it’s a long term process to get to that point.”
But it wasn’t just about showing up and giving a talk. Because as a “nobody,” visibility alone isn’t enough to move someone away from the status quo.
So they had to find the angle that most other people weren’t taking:
“Yeah, I mean That’s the other thing. You can’t beat the drums that everyone else is already beating because then you’re not differentiating yourself from, from the other guy. So we always tried to find out what is the, what is the most pressing need? What is everyone thinking about? What solutions are they looking for? What problems are they considering? And then think about, do we have an innovative solution for that? Do we have something that nobody else is talking about, even if it creates some risk for us as an entity. So we did that… Others were following, were going into the same realm, but we were the first movers and that differentiated us.”
They kept putting their ideas on display (strong, alternative positions) at risk of looking stupid and made it a point to make sure they weren’t just regurgitation what the incumbents were talking about.
And where did these risky, differentiating insights come from?
“It’s usually coming from the conversations with clients. I mean, they are talking about, ‘Oh there’s this new regulation and we don’t know how to deal with that.’ Or there’s a court case that changes the realm or something happening in the industry where everyone feels like we don’t know how to deal with that. And then, yeah, you need to work hard and get solutions and hopefully you find something.”
What’s interesting is that they didn’t stop there.
They then leveraged those relationships through ongoing email communication.
And not just from any sort of “list,” but specifically the buyers of the type of consulting services they were offering who were already attending those conferences.
“We try keep in touch with those where we had business cards and had conversations. So we tried to, we had pretty early on an email newsletter that we send. And that’s also a tool to tell them what we are working on. So we told them what we were thinking about on this particular problem or where we’re working on a solution for this particular problem. And asked them for feedback. And that was tough from time to time…”
Not only was this content keeping the communication flowing, but it also led directly to business-generating conversations.
“Interesting discussions came up, or they even mandated us with a project and said, ‘Hey, this is exactly what we’re currently thinking about. Can you lead a project on this?’ So yeah, email, newsletter, but specifically focus and get the right people in that mailing list because that is sometimes really a challenge. And then focus on topics that came up during those conversations and follow up on it. Don’t, don’t let it go, because that’s sometimes the go-to solution for a lot of professional firms. If it’s too complicated, we’re not finding anything. Let’s go back to what we told last year. And that doesn’t work. Not if you’re not in an established position.”
Today, MPW is established.
The slippery “word-of-mouth” engine working for them now that the industry knows who they are.
But their current-day market position was built on the back of market-insight-generated expertise-based content put on public display and regularly communicated via email to a highly targeted audience.
And I think that’s pretty cool… because it’s an actionable approach any specialized firm with enough hutzpah to take a shot at can put into play.
More stories like this to come.