Insights and Resources

Why you can’t differentiate – Management Consulting firm’s greatest challenge

By Jim Thompson

It’s time to turn our attention to the differentiation dilemma.

We are not going to pretend it’s easy because it’s not – how do you differentiate one firm from another when from the outside it looks like you all do basically the same thing at a similar level of competency?

Well we will tell you how you don’t do it.

You don’t differentiate via subjective fluffy motherhood statements like these.

None of these are differentiators, they are purely entry-level qualifications for any decent business.

And hey, if you struggle to differentiate yourself what hope does a buyer have?

There are a number of issues at play that make your life difficult – let’s explore a few:

Most of you are or work in a generalist firm. If you are a generalist, then it’s hard to talk in any other way than generally.

Generalists will within reason basically work with anyone with a chequebook meaning that everyone is your customer which in turn means everyone is your competitor.

It’s amusing how so many websites list their areas of expertise or industry specialties and it’s basically a list of every industry on the planet.

We do this to make sure we have every base covered in fear of going too narrow and pigeon holing ourselves and missing out on a client because of it.

The other trap we fall into is dumbing down our expertise and value into services that set you up to be directly compared to everyone else sprouting the same list of services. In effect commoditising what you do and leaving yourself to the whim of subjective or cost-driven buyer decision making.

So in the end, because we are trying to be everything to everyone and squashing everything into the one hole (our website) we end up with a battlefield of compromise that is selling vanilla ice-cream.

Another problem that shouldn’t go unsaid is that the partner model is a ball and chain around your differentiation ankle. Egos and internal politics far too often stifle or worse, kill targeted marketing campaigns and efforts.

But we continue to market ourselves this way despite the fact that the research tells us that when all the hygiene boxes are ticked what the buyer actually wants is better expertise or specialisation.

Key takeaways:

  •  If you can’t differentiate yourself then what hope does a prospective client have?
  •  Service and value-based brand statements are NOT differentiators
  •  If everyone is your customer, then everyone is your competitor
Before you start

Before beginning any engagement and to create a more valuable initial conversation we ask you to download and read our guide.


Inside you will find out more about the One Rabbit philosophy, learn some uncomfortable truths and how to market your firm.

Why it’s so hard for consulting firms to market themselves.
Practical steps you can take to overcome the uncomfortable truth and leapfrog your competitors.
The most common mistakes that consulting firms make in marketing themselves.