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Will this be the solution to the professional services industry?

An App to spur participation among peers, competitors, friends and associates of service providers

The services and consulting industries in Asia is facing headwinds. Jobs are being outsourced to low-cost providers or lost to AI and technology disruption. A conservative and stagnant economy doesn't help either.

A Mavenlink report in 2017 cites that;

  • 78.3% of services leaders state that business conditions are changing quickly, and 20% said faster than ever before.
  • 62% reported an increase in market competition in the last year, with 36.6% saying it’s coming primarily from new entrants into their space.
  • 84.6% have diversified their services offering in the last 12 months, and more than two-thirds diversified as a result of clients requesting new services.
  • 58% of services organizations are now primarily project-based, vs. retainer-based, driven by client preference for shorter term engagements.
  • 89% of services organizations believe it's important or critical to be able to tap a subcontractor network to scale the workforce to meet surges in demand.
  • 95.6% of services firms are actively seeking new relationships with subcontract resources.

Services industries now see a higher increase in "on-demand" professional services, that is providing services only when the client needs it there and then. This means that service providers need to scale up to meet client demand (44.5%) and to tap specialised skills that full-time/in-house team members do not have (35%).

So what can be done to spur people in this sector to position for this change? Will creating an environment to share resources and revenues help? Can people summon enough motivation to work together?

theAsianIR has recently developed an App which achieves the points mentioned in the report. The App allows professionals to;

  • adapt better to the changing demand environment
  • collaborate with current and new entrants to the industry
  • have higher impetus to take-on projects on retainer or contract-base
  • increase the time it takes to meet new subcontractors

The App is made for services industries to increase collaboration based on incentivising your networks to bring out the provider's value-add - Johnson Koh, CIO theAsianIR

It's based on the business logic of incentivising friends and networks of the provider to bring the value-added aspects of the provider's service out to people whom may appreciate them more.

The App is currently built on the WeChat platform in Mandarin. It can be applied in other languages or other platforms. Read on. 

1. Followers of the account will see a notification whenever new content is uploaded

The advantages this posting method has over Instant messengers and Social Media are,

  1. Zero content wastage - User is immediately alerted when new content is published
  2. Headlines and preview text clearly displayed to capture users' attention
  3. Content sent in Company's name increases validity and enhances corporate image
  4. Option to push notice (left image) acts as security that user receives messages

User sees everything about the company on the Official Account presented in H5 format. Additional features include ChatBot functionality installed on the main dashboard of the OA, and a live chat function in H5 format. Every content displayed on the company's main website can be presented in H5 format.

Up till now the user will see everything similar to a normal website. What's special is the login/register function, and the teaser that brings up this function.

A teaser encouraging the user to sign up is automatically brought up in front of him/her. After reading the teaser, the user elects to be taken to a login/register page.

Current persona of a distributor are friends and associates of the service provider whom knows people who will appreciate the services more. This is not extensive, as personas can change or increase depending on the content published by the service provider

Users who register will provide some basic personal info, and be able to state their marketing avenues so that the provider can gauge whom to prioritise working with.

This is also where the User can state their reasons for working with the service provider and what they hope to get out of working with the provider (i.e to pitch to larger clients).

Campaigns page - Application relies on explicit content written by the service providers. Strong, capturing headlines with indication of target market is shown on the preview. Explicit content allows distributors to know who to push the content to, and whom to recommend services to.

The Sharing Fee for each campaign/content is clearly displayed on the Ongoing Campaigns page. Fees can be tuned according to the Company's budget.  

Agents HeatMap is a feature on the Company OA is a feature that displays who have read the campaigns published by the Company and where they are on the map. It includes an instant messaging function for the User to contact the Person. The feature is especially installed to achieve the following objectives;

  1. Provide more justification for the listee to upload their services on the Company OA
  2. Spur interaction between distributors and those whom have read content around their peers

The Agents HeatMap feature can help the service provider on three primary fronts;

  • It could add personalisation to the Service Provider. Sorting content by a user's location is an effective way for the App to cut through the overwhelming amount of information that's saturating their feeds. The Service Provider can offer more contextual and relevant content depending on the location, that can also help boost engagement rates.
  • Service Provider's app could become more valuable to their peers. For example, their peers can pay to have their Company Logo made visible to people visible on the HeatMap, which are mainly people whom have used the same services or are looking for the services provided by the Service Provider. This can significantly boost a business' lead generation — a 2014 study by Google found that 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their phone contact the business that same day. Given the growth of smartphone ownership, that percentage has likely increased since.
  • It could provide an alternate revenue channel. Marketers can use the on-demand information from the Map to list their own services on the App, to instantly engage other users with explicit content and contextual advertising. In the US, on-demand-targeted mobile ad spend is projected to reach $16 billion in 2017 and grow at an annualized rate of 19% to reach $32 billion by 2021.

Distributors settings - Distributors can see from the setting pages, notifications sent by others on the HeatMap, section for ongoing/completed campaigns.

It's also here where they get paid by accessing their Commissions Wallet and be able to switch roles between Distributor and Listee.

The Commissions wallet section displays the amount earned from sharing content and recommending people. Distributors apply to withdraw their commissions via this page.

Distributors enter the amount to withdraw from their commissions wallet.

My recommendations page - Distributors can have the added option to specifically recommend people to the Service Provider for a fee. Persona of the people recommended will be other marketers or agents capable to extend the awareness of the services provider. This gives the service provider chance to create a community around their services, drawing people whom have used or can market the services together via the App. People can sign up as distributors or listees via introductions (after quoting their the recommender's User ID).

There are two roles on the members area, distributors (or promoters) and listees, roles are interchangeable.

Peers can elect to sign-up to list their services on the Company's App.

Why will the service provider allow services from their peers or competitors to be listed on the App?

  • This creates an environment for peer, competitors and the App owner to share and combine their expertise to serve the same clients or customers
  • This creates an additional revenue stream for the App owner to use its company page to list similar, vertical or horizontal services
  • This expands the market for the service provider
  • This creates an environment for the consumer to compare services, and encourages both parties to agree on the pricing structure quickly
  • This creates JV and M/A opportunities

Login/Register page comes with phone verification feature.

Listee section - Four tabs to spur listee participation.

Adding to the sharing mentality and to spur listee participation, service providers here see the profiles of those whom have signed up as distributors.

For an additional subscription paid to the service provider, listees can contact agents directly.

Join our live-stream event on Kickstarter and FB, scheduled for 11am SG time on 28/8

From the author: theAsianIR is a Singaporean digital agency implementing business models for companies in traditional sectors to do business with mandarin-speaking demographics digitally. Planning and executing disruptive business on behalf of these companies in the form of apps, softwares and websites, theAsianIR has clients across wholesale, retail, logistics, f&b, built-environments and real estate. Sign up to our newsletter on our website to get tips and exclusive deals about future-proofing your business.

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