Lobbying firms are now becoming full service communications and consulting firms. It makes sense really. Lobbying and government relations are simply highly specialized forms of public relations that require a targeted approach. The recession has taught many that expansion means rebranding the skills you already have in order to grow your business. Why shouldn't this principal also apply to lobbying?
In the last 5 years, lobbing firms have offered "political intelligence" services, which is supposed to alert clients to legislation or regulations that may sway markets. They have offered federal marketing services that match clients' products or services with federal needs and they have branched out into risk management services for corporate merger and acquisition activity. Here, experts anticipate political, "inside the Beltway", reactions to corporate mergers and acquisitions and assist in planning communications activities to ensure a smooth process. The lobbying world is no longer confined to influencing legislation and regulations.
No matter what service I am marketing to potential clients, I have found that there are a couple of things that you can and should do to win business. First, be upfront and clear about what the potential client is asking for and what realistically can be accomplished. Second, be clear about the services that you plan to provide, what is and what is not included in the scope of work. Finally, be clear about pricing. Clients can't stand surprises on their bills and too many will destroy a realtionship.
I had one potential client tell me that they wanted to sell their product to federal agencies. I asked the CEO what his time frame was. He said 3 to 6 months. He wanted to capitalize on some projects that were already underway and get his product into consideration. Then he told me that he needed to see results before he would commit to a relationship.
I explained that federal marketing is a slow process and that while there might be present opportunities, it would be very difficult to capitalize on them because of the process that the government uses to purchase goods and services. He told me that he had heard that from other firms and that he was looking for someone who could deliver. It was at this point in the conversation that I got nervous. I reiterated many of the points that I had already made and explained that set up the right way, federal sales could represent a reliable source of revenue. Done the wrong way, federal sales carried consequences that could undermine an entire company.
Ultimately, I did not work for this potential client and the company did not break into the federal market.
Where can you find new business? My experience is you find it in different ways. Some comes from word of mouth as with attorneys and accountants. Some will come from friends, relatives and professional connections and a couple of clients will come from cold calls - not many, but a couple. The key is making sure that your current and former clients, friends and contacts really know what you do so that they can easily communicate it to others. The potential client must trust that you can do the job and that you will love doing the job. Ability and passion generally win the client.
I love what I do and am passionate about politics, advocacy and civic participation. I have found that when I project that, business is good. I hope that this quick piece helps you focus your efforts.