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Differentiating your firm can be quite a challenge. In this video blog post, Lee Frederiksen talks about how to find true differentiators for your professional services firm.

Video Transcription

Hi, I’m Lee Frederiksen, and today I want to talk to you about finding true differentiators for your professional services firm.

Now, it’s a topic that’s of interest to a lot of people in professional services because it’s so darn difficult to do this. This is not an easy thing. Professional services firms are very difficult to differentiate between the two, because the services they offer sometimes are so flexible, and the people are flexible, so it’s hard to really find what is it that really makes you different.

Now, there are three important tests to think about and these help you think through the possibilities and try to understand what’s the right type of differentiator for you.

First thing that you have to consider is, “Is this differentiator true?” I mean, is it really characteristic of your firm? And that can be sometimes a little bit of a stumbling block for people because they want things to be true. They really value a certain thing. The leadership team may value a certain kind of culture or a certain type of way of approaching things, and you want it to be true, but is it really?

Now, the only way you know for sure is to do a piece of independent research to find out whether what you think are differentiators are really true in the minds of your prospects and in the minds of your clients. Doesn’t have to be 100%. There can be an aspirational, but, by and large, you’ve gotta deal with something that’s true, because you’ve gotta deliver on your brand promise. So if it’s not true, it’s gonna be very hard to do.

Second criteria, and this is also very challenging for some firms, is it needs to be relevant to your buyers at the point they’re deciding to work with you. And that’s a really important distinction there. Because there are some things that become true over time but are not relevant to the decision-making about whether or not they should go for you. Let me give you a perfect example of that. One of them is, let’s say, becoming a trusted adviser. You hear that so much that, you know, you’ve become a trusted adviser to my firm and then we think, “Oh, trusted adviser, our clients like that. We’re the trusted advisers. We are the people you can trust.”

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The problem is people don’t look for trusted advisers. They’re not going out, “Is my accounting firm trusted or not.” If they don’t trust you, they’re not going to do business with you. But becoming a trusted adviser is something people do only after they’re working with someone. More likely they’re interested in, “Can you solve my business problem? Do you understand my industry?” Those are the things that are gonna be relevant to you. So it’s more about your expertise and what you can help them do that’s relevant. And, again, research is gonna help you figure that out.

The third criteria is, “Is it provable?” So, you can have something that’s true and something that is relevant but if you can’t prove it. So, for example, you say, “We have the most talented staff.” Well, okay, how do you prove that? How do we know they’re talented? They don’t look any different, you know. What makes them more talented? So, how do you prove that? Well, you may have, like, publications or have them doing speaking engagements. Making that expertise visible. That may be the way you prove it, or you may get an award.

It’s very difficult, for example, to be innovative or to prove that you’re innovative. But one of our clients received an award as being the most innovative law firm in Asia, and this was by a respected independent newspaper. So, getting an award, sometimes, can be the proof you need to help get across what your point is.

Those three things for you when you go in looking for your differentiators, Are they true? Are they relevant to your clients at the time they’re making the decision? And finally, Is it provable? Can you prove it? Good luck on finding your differentiators.