Strong brand differentiation drives growth. And what is true for people also holds true for firms: those uncertain about who they truly are or what they want to be, have to figure that out before they can achieve significant growth. If your technology firm has grown by relying on word-of-mouth and capitalizing on whatever opportunities came your way, you may find yourself facing a bit of an identity crisis as you consider marketing plans to help you grow to the next level.
“We’re a full service tech firm, won’t we be limiting ourselves—and potentially turning away business–if we differentiate too specifically?”
It may seem counter-intuitive, but just the opposite is true. The more laser-focused your differentiators and positioning are, the easier it will be to gain visibility and credibility in your crowded marketplace. By not being everything to everyone and demonstrating what makes your firm truly unique, you also have the ability to be seen as the leading expert in your particular area of specialization.
How do you know who you want to be?
The first thing you will want to do is identify what your firm’s key differentiators are. Here are a couple of approaches you can use:
- Create differences: Your firm’s leadership may make a conscious choice about what direction they see the firm headed in, which will dictate what the firm’s differentiators will be and what its unique market position will be.
- Discover differences: Your firm may conduct brand research using a third party to uncover the services and characteristics that your clients and prospects see as most valuable. Results of the research, will often times uncover differentiators that your firm may not have initially considered.
Differentiators are not created equal
Once you’ve gotten together a list of possible differentiators for your firm, you have to sift through them to identify those that will strengthen your market position. A strong differentiator has to pass these tests:
- Is it true?
- Is it provable?
- Is it relevant to your audience?
Not only do your differentiators need to be true, they need to be such a significant part of your firm that all of your employees live by them everyday. They imbue what your firm does and how you do it. For instance, if you plan to differentiate around mobile field technology software, you must have a significant number of projects in that area or are in the process of expanding that part of your business.
While it can sometimes be tricky, every effective differentiator needs to be proven. If one of your differentiators is “on-time delivery,” back that up with a relevant proof point or statistic that will lend credibility to your statement. This is where conducting brand research can come in handy. Numbers don’t lie!
Not all differentiators matter to your audience. For instance, many firms believe that their “competitive pricing” is a great differentiator until their brand research reveals that their location or methodology are actually much more important to their clients than price. While you’re going through your list, it’s a good exercise to keep asking yourself the question, how can this particular differentiator help solve our clients’ problems?
The power of brand differentiation and consistent messaging
Once your firm agrees on what your differentiators are (should be between 3 and 5), you can then use them to develop key messages for your target audience(s) that will guide your marketing efforts. Both your differentiators and messages should be woven into your website, case stories you share, blogs you publish, and more. This message consistency will give birth to a strong brand making it easier for prospects to find, work with, and refer your firm.
- Our free Differentiation Guide for Professional Services Firms guides you through how to build a powerful differentiation strategy.
- Download a free copy of the book Inside the Buyer's Brain to learn how to build a well-differentiated brand to help your firm close more sales.
- In this post, learn Why Brand Differentiation is Essential for Professional Services Firms to Succeed.
How Hinge Can Help
Identify competitive differentiators that will help your firm stand out from the competition and build a brand that drives sustained growth with Hinge's Branding Program.