Sometimes it can feel like it is impossible for a professional services firm to be truly different. Simply saying that you have great people or are very dedicated to client satisfaction can ring hollow.

So how can you go about differentiating your firm? What will make it special enough to give you a competitive advantage?

In the professional services marketplace, there are a variety of approaches to this thorny problem. The most straightforward technique is to specialize in a particular type of client or vertical: “We work exclusively with IT companies;” or “We do marketing for credit unions.” You get the drift.

If that option isn't available, however, you might consider a twist on that approach — specialize in a customer segment that your clients service. Let me give you a example. My partner Aaron Taylor pointed me to a Maryland-based interactive firm called Immersion Active. One look at their website and I knew they had nailed a clear and easy-to-understand differentiator. Here is how they put it:

“Today we're the only Internet marketing agency in the U.S. focused exclusively on the baby boomer and senior markets.”

Clear. Easy to understand. Conveys an obvious competitive advantage. Bingo.

But just saying it doesn't make a claim true or believable. Immersion Active goes on to back up their message with a video, a book (Dot Boom), flagship clients, case studies, special methodology, PR, and more. Everything points in the same direction and reinforces their positioning. Most important, it's a position that makes them unique.

Even though this agency's clients come from diverse industries, they all have one thing in common: their customers are Baby Boomers. Interesting competitive advantage.

So take a fresh look at your clients — and their customers — and see if there isn't a compelling new angle to play.