Monday, Feb. 14, 2011 | 10 a.m.
So many professional service firms that I run across look and act the same. Architectural firms, accounting firms, law firms, and engineering firms all have adopted an industry-specific business model that is so similar to each other that one can barely tell one firm from another.
I can see how this happens. Each profession has a professional society that helps its members organize their practices and provides guidance and training to its member firms. Individuals who leave these firms start their own practices, largely basing their business approaches on the firms from which they left.
But professional societies are not to blame for firms looking and practicing so similarly. Just because these societies provide basic tenets of practice to their members, it is up to the member firms to decide whether to follow this business model verbatim or to use its creativity to develop its own way of conducting business. Sadly, many of these firms have taken the easy way out and have not built practices based on their values, vision, and purpose. They simply have adopted a predetermined, generally accepted way of doing things.
This can lead to disaster in a slower economy, Kelly Riggs of 1-on-1 Management suggested in a recent presentation to the Southern Regional Conference of the Society for Marketing Professional Services on February 10, 2011. He said that if firms look and act identically, clients believe that these firms will deliver the same services at the same quality. When clients believes that firms are equal, they tend to select firms based solely on price. Riggs advocates that firms competing in today’s marketplace identify their differentiators and then become adept at communicating the unique value they deliver to avoid being viewed as a commodity. Following are ideas for identifying and communicating your firm’s differentiators:
Focus on purpose. Don’t focus on the services your firm provides. Instead, focus on why you provide the services. It may be that you are interested in bettering a community, it may be that you enjoy helping people, or you may like to help your clients negotiate through bureaucracy. By focusing on your purpose, you will identify areas where you and your firm are unique.
Identify strengths. What do you do that is better than anyone else? Is it real or perceived? If you can identify a strength that you have and it truly is better than your competitors, you may have a differentiator. However, it must be a strength that your clients can recognize and need.
Be authentic. Be true to who you are. Sure, there may be other firms who tout the same ideals as yours, but most likely, if you are being true to who you are, your sincerity and authenticity will come through, where other’s may not.
Build your brand. Don’t build someone else’s brand. Build the brand that best represents you and your firm. If you identify your purpose, your strength, and act authentically, your own unique brand will be clear for all to see. Make sure that everything you do and say is reflective of these things that you hold dear.
Find your way in this world; don’t just follow a predetermined path!
Until next time ...