The Challenges and Opportunities Facing Professional Services
Digital has changed every industry – even well before 2020. But the impact of digital has been particularly acute in the professional services industry, which has had to quickly adapt to client needs and a global pivot to a digital-first world.
Meetings and briefings are now held online, sales and marketing funnels depend on a strong digital content strategy and deals hinge on providing leads with a sophisticated, engaging digital experience.
While the professional services industry has learned fast, its members — from your accounting firm to your consulting firm — must keep up with the constantly changing relationship between them, client expectations and the mutual medium where both meet: digital channels.
The Pressure of Change in Professional Services
Digital channels contain many, many challenges – and those in the industry feel that pressure from all sides. Content production and promotion, analytics and reporting and even the hum-drum of everyday meetings are all affected by the firm’s digital decisions.
For example, a digital meeting tool is typically a poor tool choice when giving a presentation to a large audience – especially if a solution is prone to security issues. Conversely, when presenting to a small group online, face-to-face discussions (held over video-to-video features) are a must.
The very professionals in which the industry depends on, too, are one of the key challenges a professional service firm will have to manage in a digital world.
First, professional services firms must ensure their partners stay updated with the latest trends and developments within their respective sectors. In many cases, practitioners need to accrue continuing education credits to stay compliant with industry standards and regulations.
Second, the professional services industry is fiercely competitive over talent. Poaching and recruiting talent can often depend on how a firm presents itself to its peers. A professional-looking website with engaging content (alongside an offsite digital marketing strategy) stands a better chance of attracting would-be partners.
In this digital-first world, professional services need:
- Interactive, engaging and professionally branded experiences
- Self-service solutions that make it easy for professionals to publish content
- Always-on digital resources for peers, clients and stakeholders
- Unified insights into audience behavior, engagement and questions
Professional services firms must find innovative ways to create value and deliver the best possible outcomes. And to succeed, digital has to be at the center of any strategy.
Professional Services Turns to Tech for Help
When a professional services firm turns to digital, it cannot do so half-heartedly. As cliche as it is, they need to undergo a genuine digital transformation. But that transformation must be done with a goal in mind: engaging with and understanding what its revenue-generating audiences really want and providing solutions to improve the client relationship.
Here, technology can help drive that revenue engine. Specifically, the professional services industry must rely on holistic solutions that provide the firm with the insights it needs while delivering the content, engagement and service a client expects.
For example, associations typically drive profitability through dues-paying members. But to maintain or grow memberships, associations must provide unique, career-advancing services to their audiences.
In years past, this may entail hosting in-person events, such as luncheons, summits or conferences. But today’s professionals are busy. They need to access materials on their terms and when they’re ready.
Here, a unified content platform can help make customer success possible. Firms can host virtual events, such as webinars and virtual conferences, before sending these events to a content hub for on-demand consumption. And, with the right solution and accreditation, firms can use these events to issue CPE credits – a major incentive for attendees.
Finally, with a unified platform, professional services firms can use the engagement data it collects to understand an audience’s digital body language, see what content connects and plan marketing and outreach activities accordingly.
This all isn’t just theoretical. You can see the power of holistic platforms through the NJCPA, IMA, Ernst & Young and others.
Professional Services Still Needs To Catch Up to Digital
In the legal sector, lawtech continues to rise in prominence as clients demand more transparency and accountability through new technologies. But your everyday law firm is not alone. The same trend is true in other professional services sectors such as accounting.
But before professional services firms can examine cutting-edge technology, they must play catch up with digital fundamentals.
For example, according to a Gartner white paper, a third of financial organizations favor optimizing soon-to-be obsolete processes over crafting resilient processes that’ll keep up with the rapid pace of digital transformation.
If firms are going to take full advantage of what digital has to offer, they need to identify and use solutions that fit in with the organization’s tech stack, existing processes and are flexible enough to adapt to any changes in the digital landscape.
Data and technology are the cornerstones of digital transformation, and the professional services sector is no exception. The convergence of the two is set to shape the evolution of the industry in the years to come, and companies need to keep pace with the change if they are to succeed.