Jim Bourke, CPA, partner with WithumSmith+Brown, CPAs in Red Bank, NJ, and practice leader of the firm’s technology services niche, faced a challenging issue. A competing firm was well established in the very market that he felt very passionate about: NJ-based technology companies. And there appeared to be no room for new providers. However, as Jim learned during Gale’s practice growth consulting sessions, all markets have holes – places where the competition isn’t. Finding those holes is the key to establishing a firm’s rightful place in the market and developing a following of new clients. By properly leveraging and implementing Gale’s Research Call℠ strategy, this niche leader found a unique way into this market.
Using Research Calls℠, Jim uncovered a major issue facing the industry: technology companies couldn’t find enough talent to fill their entry-level positions. A consistent result of a successful Research Call℠ strategy is the ability to uncover issues and develop strategies around them. A dearth of qualified technology graduates isn’t really an accounting issue, but grabbing onto an issue can put the firm at the epicenter of the market. Sponsoring the issue leads to visibility, positioning, thought leadership, and often innovation. Jim turned this market intelligence into an advantage for his firm. As his conversations uncovered the issue, he made Research Calls℠ on university leaders for their perspective. He also made Research Calls℠ on the leader of the local technology council, gaining her engagement in the issue. The niche practice leader had now uncovered three constituencies who were all concerned about the same issue in an industry niche where they were trying to gain a foothold – technology CEOs, professors, and the technology council.
The first thing Jim did was interview the technology council head, producing a video that was added to both the council’s and the firm’s websites. Then, the firm and the council jointly sponsored and moderated a panel of university professors discussing the issue. The event drew dozens of technology executives. At the event, Jim announced a joint initiative with the technology council – a talent survey, designed to gather information about the talent issue from a variety of stakeholders. The panel and the survey gave the firm high visibility with a wide swath of technology companies. The partnership with the tech council gave the firm a new level of credibility that to date had not been achieved.
Jim and his firm were becoming known as a notable player in the industry. After the surveys were returned and results were compiled, the tech council agreed to reveal the results at the organization’s annual meeting. A sponsorship fee was involved, but it was an investment worth making. With over 350 people from the technology sector attending, Jim, along with an attorney who co-sponsored the event, presented the results to the crowd, allowing the firm to gain even more credibility and demonstrate expertise in front of a room full of potential clients. The press also came out to cover the event, further expanding the firm’s reach and disseminating the results. The survey and event were so successful that the tech council asked the firm to participate on an annual basis. Additionally, a council in a neighboring state expressed interest in a similar initiative.
The strategy is a perfect example of using Research Calls℠ to find an issue as a focal point to sponsor thought leadership. It’s also led to the practice leader finding a distribution channel – the way by which the firm and buyers find each other. Now that the firm has found a market hole and is well positioned in the technology sector, the natural result will be to drive revenue around these and other recent efforts. I’m confident that innovation in services will also result as the firm gains an even greater understanding of the needs of technology companies. I can’t wait to see the next chapter of this story!