By far the greatest challenge I see with professional services firms from a marketing perspective is their ability (or lack thereof) to differentiate from their competitors.
Differentiation is a marketing 101 concept so why do so many struggle with it?
Unfortunately, most firms are victims of poor differentiation due to their own willingness to adopt the existing markets established and accepted “generic” positioning.
There’s several reasons for this:
Casting a wide net:
A natural fear is missing out on potential client because you haven’t mentioned their sector on your website.
As a result, your firm strives to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. If your firm specialises in all services, to all clients and avoids all messaging that may lower your appeal to a narrower audience, vanilla and generic is the end result.
Shoehorning expertise into generic services:
Your sector probably has an established set of standard/generic services into which you willingly slot your expertise.
There are some good reasons for why most firms do this (see next point) but it’s inevitable you’ll just end up reinforcing your “generic-ness”.
Whilst I mention there are valid reasons to do this, I don’t believe you need to – the compromise is too great!
Most clients self-diagnose their own problems and seek out an advisor offering what they consider to be the appropriate service.
Self-diagnosed clients have common expectations of what they are looking for. Positioning your firm to this audience, forces you to be generic in order to match their common expectations.
The gravy train:
There is often very little pressure to deviate from the generally accepted body of “common” knowledge.
Ongoing compliance work can become a bit of a gravy train particularly if your sales office is the Tax Department.
A steady sticky stream of business and repeatable processes makes comparatively light work of adding to the bottom line.
I’ll leave with this question to ponder….
Is this sustainable given the rapid advances in technology and globalisation, are you happy being a commodity?