I spend a lot of my time talking to professional service firms, reviewing their marketing collateral and in particular their websites.
One glaring recurring theme I see is that everyone is trying to differentiate themselves on exactly the same things. Of course, if every firm’s differentiators are the same, then they aren’t differentiators no matter how true you believe they are.
Over time I’ve developed a list (it’s not that long) of all the “differentiators” I hear. When I present I usually read out my list of dribble to illustrate the point, usually with most in the audience recognising their own firm’s attempts to differentiate around the same things.
The problem is so widespread and predictable that when I get the chance I’ll get the audience to anonymously write down what makes their firm different before I read my list. If there are multiple firms represented I get everyone to read them out and predictably they are usually all the same. And to further make the point, I then pull out my own pre-prepared and matching list!
Setting aside the point that these are not useful differentiators if everyone is saying the same thing, how much value do these claims carry even if they were differentiating?
Let’s look at the opposite claim
One of the best ways to demonstrate this folly at work is to take the opposite claim (the one you are differentiating from) and I think this highlights an even deeper problem which I’ll pick up at the end of the article.
So let’s start with a classic example, a claim nearly every firm makes: “We are client focused”…
The opposite to this is “We are not client focused”.
To your audience, it’s possibly bordering on being condescending. Who is ever going to say they are not client focused?
Being “client-focused” is just an expected basic entry qualification for a professional services firm if they want clients. It DOES NOT make you different.
I’m sure you get the point but for a bit of fun let’s look at some more;
- We have years of experience – We just left university.
- We make it happen – Nothing happens when you work with us.
- We are innovative – We just keep regurgitating the same old stuff we always have.
- We care – We don’t give a shit.
- We listen and understand – We ignore you and for the life of us we don’t get where you’re coming from.
- We are friendly and accessible – We are arseholes and you can’t talk to us.
- We are modern and progressive – We are old fashioned and going backwards.
- We are ethical and trustworthy – We are a bunch of crooks that can’t wait to rip you off.
- We exceed expectations – We under deliver every time.
- We are results driven – We are not interested in results we just want your money.
- We are down to earth – We are up ourselves big time.
I hope you got a laugh or maybe a cringe or two, but sadly nearly all of you are saying the same things that everyone else is. At the end of the day, in my mind as a potential client, they are just a given anyway.
Yes, I believe what you tell me, but I believe the other guys too so don’t hang your hat on it. Show your prospective clients a little bit more respect.
Here’s the deeper problem
Professional services firms have become so generic that they are unable to differentiate on the one thing that actually really matters in the first instance – the ability to differentiate on expertise.
And while all those supposed differentiators I listed above sound good, they really only differentiate your firm from the bad apples.
How is your firm going to differentiate from the good firms? If you read and follow our content, we’ll give you some ideas.
Clients come to you because they want a problem solved. Focus on that and stop dribbling on them.