Kim Robertson and SMPS U

Client Value, Firm Differentiation, and SMPS U.

As the recipient of this year’s SMPS Fellows Scholarship for SMPS University: Leadership Advancement Program (SMPS U), it was my goal to walk away with a possible plan to distinguish our firm from the sea of others. Among the wealth of material taught, value differentiation and client service were key lessons that provided a way to address my firm’s biggest challenges—but how to get there was the question.SMPS U, a program developed in partnership with the University Of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, was an incredible opportunity to learn complex marketing strategies in an industry-based environment. The program provided access to masters’ level instructors who presented in-depth modules on marketing strategy, financial management, survey research, and leadership. The program was developed to specifically educate A/E/C professionals, and all course work related to our industry. Each of these lessons focused on the client—as ultimately, that is who we want to listen to in order to provide the best possible client experience.

I learned that beyond just listening to your clients and learning what their needs are, communicating the value of your firm is essential to a firm’s success. There is a misconception that proving value is solely the firm’s responsibility to communicate to a client. There’s mutual responsibility by firms and clients to prove value to each other.

In order to best establish value, the firm must provide something comparatively better than their competitors. If it is something that can be mimicked, like design approach or expertise, there is no true differentiation. Without differentiation, a company does not have a competitive advantage and cannot sustain growth or a relationship with clients. Once a firm’s value has been established, the firm should assess the value of the potential clients they pursue. Selecting what makes a good client and evaluating the profitability of the work with the client are key factors to consider.

Project managers and clients must work together to create true value, as the appropriate pairing of firms and clients creates the greatest return. If you see something as valuable, but your client does not, then this relationship it is not valuable. Value is different for each client, and therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

The knowledge I gained at SMPS U was exceptional, and I left the program highly motivated with plans on how to better reflect value to our clients and assess the value clients bring to the firm. My firm will greatly benefit from my program participation and can implement new strategies to create firm differentiation and value, while positively affecting the bottom line.

Kimberly Robertson, CPSM, is senior marketing manager at MKK Consulting Engineers, an engineering design and consulting firm. She can be reached at 303.796.6000 and [email protected].

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