Clients Want an Outside-In Firm

Sometimes everything changes when you look at something from a different angle. Consider a drop of river water: to the naked eye, it looks innocuous enough. However, that same drop of water under a microscope will suddenly appear to be teeming with all sorts of life.

Who knew?

The person who tried a different perspective — that’s who knew.

Consider a professional services firm, perhaps even a law firm. From the perspective of someone who works in the firm, it’s an employer, an institution with a history, a collection of colleagues, a platform for professional successes or failures, a place to shelter from the elements, etc. Sometimes, it can seem almost incidental that it is also an organization that is ostensibly devoted to the service of its clients.

If, however, you take the perspective of the client, what is that professional services firm? It depends on the client and that client’s experience. If that client has had a good experience, this is how that client might describe the firm: a source of useful advice, a partner in problem solving, an indispensable counselor for problem avoidance, etc. If that client has had a bad experience, the picture looks different: a source of delay and aggravation, a frustrating collection of individuals who do not make my job as easy as they should, an expensive part of my budget that I am constantly trying to trim.

For the firm that is serious about meeting client needs, the first step is obvious: make sure you are looking at things through your client’s eyes. To do that properly, you usually have to leave your firm.

What does this mean?

In their book, The Startup Owner’s Manual, Steve Blank and Bob Dorf explain this concept very succinctly: “Get out of the Building!” Why get out of the building? According to Blank and Dorf,

Getting out of the building means acquiring a deep understanding of customer needs and combining that knowledge with incremental and iterative product [and service] development.

A little further in their book they say something that should cut close to home for many of us in professional services firms – just substitute “products and services” for “product” in the following quotation:

Of all the lessons of Customer Development, the importance of getting out of the building and into conversations with your customers is the most critical. Only by moving away from the comforts of your conference room to truly engage with and listen to your customers can you learn in depth about their problems, product features they believe will solve those problems, and the process in their company for recommending, approving and purchasing products. You’ll need these details to build a successful product, articulate your product’s unique differences and propose a compelling reason why your customers should buy it.

To quote Blank and Dorf: “There are no facts inside your building, so get the heck outside…. Facts live outside, where future customers live and work….”  Go where your clients are. Interact with current and future clients in their own habitats. Live in their space, walk in their shoes.

In other words,  become the outside-in firm that clients want.

 

[Photo Credit: Flash Buddy]

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