What should you do when your industry is changing rapidly and your clients are not aware of the new services they should be asking for?
It’s a challenge for many service firms because yesterday’s state-of-the-art practices are becoming outdated in a business environment increasingly dominated by the Internet. One company that has faced this challenge is LPR Global, a consulting firm that specializes in international trade and business development between South Korea and the rest of the world.
LPR Global’s clients were accustomed to paying for conventional marketing services, and they found it hard to understand the value of online tools such as search engine optimization and web analytics. “We can’t only provide them with what has worked well in the past,” says LPR Global’s founder and CEO Mikah Lee. “For our clients to be successful, we have to give them tools for the future.”
How do you convince your clients to buy something new from you?
Ms. Lee founded LPR Global in 2001 to provide consulting services to South Korean companies, mostly high-tech small and medium-sized businesses interested in expanding into foreign markets. Ms. Lee’s background spans South Korea and North America, so she is ideally suited for this role. Born and educated in Korea, she is a bestselling author there with two books targeted to Korean managers who want to improve their written English.
She started LPR Global after completing an MBA at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and a stint at Brightspark, a Toronto-based venture capital firm. Her company is accredited by the South Korean government as well-qualified to help technology-based firms enter foreign markets, and it has hundreds of customers.
In the past few years, as web marketing has become more important, LPR Global has developed new online services, including customized web analytics. A challenge was getting customers to try them.
“In order to change client perceptions, you have to target both the influencers and your target market,” Ms. Lee says.
Influencers are the organizations that have impact on client perceptions, such as technical and trade associations, and government agencies. Since their mandate is to educate their members, they are interested in learning about new ways to do things and passing them on. Ms. Lee helps them fulfill this mandate by offering to put on seminars about online marketing. An early one she did for electronics giant LG was very well received and it gave her credibility and subsequent invitations to other prestigious speaking events.
In order to influence her target market directly, Ms. Lee started by getting an endorsement from a business in South Korea. She deliberately picked a highly reputable, long-standing client, and offered to provide it with a free online marketing platform, in addition to the conventional marketing services they were paying for.
“We had worked with them for three years, so they trusted us,” Ms. Lee explains. “As well, our offer was risk free. They didn’t have to pay anything and they didn’t have to use the new platform if they didn’t like it.”
The client loved it and gave LPR Global’s online marketing services a strong endorsement. Because the client was so well-regarded, that endorsement was influential in encouraging other clients to ask for the new services LPR Global could provide.
To get prestigious speaking engagements and great endorsements, however, you have to be sure the novel services you’re offering actually make a difference. Since practice in the online marketing world is changing so rapidly, achieving high quality requires paying considerable attention to monitoring and assessing these changes. Ms. Lee estimates that she spends 20 per cent of the firm’s resources on this.
Ms. Lee’s new online service offerings and her two-pronged strategy of educating her client base has proven to be successful. The South Korean clients are happy because the new online marketing tools have increased their sales revenue by an average of 30 per cent. LPR Global’s revenue has increased by almost 50 per cent.
Of the roughly 150 consulting companies worldwide accredited by the South Korean government to help small and medium-sized businesses enter foreign markets, LPR Global has been designated one of the top seven, the only firm in North America to receive this designation. As well, LPR Global’s new expertise in online marketing has enabled the company to start selling products online itself.
Not only has this increased and diversified the company’s revenue stream, it has also given Ms. Lee and her team a better understanding of client needs.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Becky Reuber is a professor of strategic management in the Rotman School of Management of the University of Toronto.
This is the latest in a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Your Business website.
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