Professional Service Firms: Attracting – Retaining Clients By Employing Intangible Asset Services

Attracting new and retaining existing business clients…whose value, revenue, sustainability, and competitiveness is increasingly ‘intangible asset intensive and dependent’, represents a distinctive positions professional (business) service firms are obliged to recognize, secure the relevant operational familiarity, and integrate as lucrative service offerings.

The professional – legal services sector is highly competitive...but most competitiveness is administered through norms and conventions which collectively influence how and when (new) parallel services can be structured executed for clients.

Unfortunately, those conventions – norms seldom incorporate…the globally universal and irreversible economic fact that…

  • 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, and ‘building blocks’ for competitiveness, growth, profitability, and sustainability lie in – evolve directly from intangible (non-physical) assets and not tangible (physical) assets!

Intangible asset intensive and dependent client companies, are the norm…not the exception, operationally and transactionally.

Tactical and strategic paths professional service firms can engage to ethically exploit this economic fact on behalf of clients…can commence, perhaps initially through IP (intellectual property) service sections as there are obvious correlations in IP and intangible assets.

For starters, IP is a subset of (types, categories of) intangible assets…e.g., often proprietary intellectual, structural, and relationship capital.

Company – client specific intangible asset services can readily commence, once firms have acquired sufficient (operational) familiarity…

   1st –  with all things intangible, especially the various forms – contexts of intellectual, structural, and relationship capital.

   2d –  to effectively explain – articulate the how, when, where, and various (other) circumstances, i.e., types of business initiatives – transactions which intangible asset services are prudent, relevant, and will elevate                          probability clients will achieve their desired (transaction) outcomes.

   3d –  to differentiate – assess intangible assets’ contributory roles to client company’s value, competitiveness, and sustainability, while mitigating asset fragility and risk.

   4th  to articulate why-how intangible asset services are necessary contributors for producing profitable, sustainable outcomes, which, in most instances, will exceed client’s expectations.

   5th –  with an array of intangible asset (business) applications, i.e., marketing, leveraging, and exploitation that elevate the assets contributory role and value to an array of initiatives, engagements, and transactions for   clients which are increasingly intangible asset intensive dependent!

Intellectual property (law) firms particularly, are positioned with the knowledge to deliver intangible asset services, and, doing so, will…

  • contribute to revealing – unmasking client’s intangible assets that underlie – contribute to the development of intellectual properties.
  • elevate firm’s attractivity and competitiveness among horizontal and discriminating clients.
  • create new-additional opportunities to generate sustainable firm value and revenue.

Preferably, the above should influence progressive professional service firms to…self-assume the obligation to seek – acquire operational level familiarity with the intangible asset side of their client’s businesses.

Bringing awareness and clarity to clients intangible assets leads to achieving that coveted market exclusivity and dominance, i.e., to… 

1.entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, research-based (university) start-ups, and maturing companies about the intangible assets they produce, acquire, and possess, but, as yet, may not have fully or consistently exploited.

2.more fully recognizing how intangible assets represent the economic – competitive advantage drivers to business success.

3.influence business clients to re-examine the relevance of conventional models for strategic planning, continuity, contingency, and intellectual property development which are absent the inclusion of intangible assets, which are foundational underliers to all intellectual property.

I am not suggesting there is anything inherently remiss…in conventional strategic business planning, especially when applied as a descriptive – projective roadmap for what boards and management teams want their business to (a.) eventually look like, and (b.) how to get there.

Based on 20+ years of research of the intangible asset intensive – dependent companies…for various reasons, many remain inclined to view their business plans and mission statements in the contexts of a ‘constitution’, i.e., either…

1. malleable ‘living’ document which can evolve – be amended to accommodate-reflect changes in global business transaction – operational environments which most seek to engage, risks that materialize, the nuances of global – legacy free players, OR,

2.  static (non-malleable, variously permanent) document which they are obliged to interpret primarily on-the-basis of its ’original intent’ irrespective of business operational change.

Of course, #1 above, in my judgment, presents far more opportunities…for current and prospective business clients to be introduced to the intangible asset side of their business which puts an onus on professional service firms to recognize how, when, where, and why…

• client’s intangible assets can be nuanced, dynamic, and fluctuate with respect to (asset) value, revenue generation capability, competitiveness, and risk.

• strategic (IP) planning should be more adventurous and variously challenge to existing conventions.

• there is legitimacy to guiding clients to assess (vulnerability, probability, criticality) for risks materializing which can – will adversely effect their intangible assets, i.e., competitiveness, value, revenue generation, etc.

• most all (business) transactions that clients will engage – undertake, their intangible assets will inevitably be in play!

Professional service firms do have options…of being the competitive leader, late adopter, or follower insofar as addressing the intangible asset sides of clients businesses.  However, in-light-of the globally universal economic fact referenced above, overlooking or dismissing intangible asset intensity and dependency would like prove to be an irreversible error!

Devoting (allocating) practice area attention and resources to clients’ intangibles…will reap lucrative – competitive advantages by conveying this service provider’s services reflect current and horizonal client needs by, among other things…

• demonstrating how – when – where intangibles routinely play contributory roles in intellectual property development, transaction outcome values, revenues generated, competitive position, and sustainability.

• bringing clarity to the necessity for tactical and strategic stewardship, oversight, management, and assessment of the relevant and contributory intangibles.

Unfortunately, the economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value…sources of revenue, and ‘building blocks’ for competitiveness, growth, profitability, and sustainability lie in – evolve directly from intangible assets…

• has yet to become so self-intuitive to professional service firms and client company management teams, c-suites, and boards, that they instinctively recognize the necessity for, i.e., how, when, and the circumstances which it is necessary to identify, develop, safeguard, and exploit their intangibles.

= opportunities, opportunity, and opportunity!

Many professional service and IP law firms already possess various levels of experience with intangible assets…which makes it all-the-more legitimate and relevant to include, as a lucrative and competitive advantage components to existing practice area expertise, intangible asset services specific to – for clients.

The benefits of adding intangible asset dimensions-perspectives to client service offerings…

  • provides clients with the necessary processes – mindfulness to recognize the relevance of intangibles to their business.
  • will aid clients to recognize the various ways their company, through its intangible assets and IP, can… elevate its value, create additional-new sources of revenue, and sustain competitive advantages achieved relative to effective processes to develop, utilize, exploit and manage those assets profitability within the market space which they compete.
  • demonstrates professional service firms’ competency to defend intangible asset intensive – dependent (client) companies in the intricacies of intangible asset risks, disputes, and challenges.

Ultimately, an IP law firms’ ability to attract and secure new…and retain existing clients, particularly among increasingly frugal, discriminating, and cautious prospective buyers of external business services, can rapidly emerge from operational clarity that articulates viable strategies to achieve greater value, create new sources of revenue, and enhance competitive position, presented in readily actionable contexts that exceed each client’s expectations!

Michael D. Moberly May 2, 2018 St. Louis [email protected] ‘The Business Intangible Asset Blog’ since May 2006, where attention span, business realities, and solutions meet.

Readers are invited to explore other relevant papers, books, and blog posts I have produced – published at  including (1.) Intangible Assets: The Introvert of All Business Assets, (2.) Money Ball and Intangible Assets, and (3.) Organizational Resilience for Intangible Assets.


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