"My God, I have never experienced that before!"
Hearing a client say that about your services is music to the ears. But what inspires a client to say that about you? What is it that sets you and your services apart from the competition?
Rich Durkin, a Business Development Specialist for Results Accountants' Systems believes that the answer lies in how you define and articulate your Unique Core Differentiator, that thing that really sets you apart from your competitors. He explained the process in a workshop on AccountingWEB this week.
There are three types of Unique Core Differentiators (UCDs):
- "Actual" - a service or a feature that you are offering that none of your competitors are offering. Examples: You are the only organization in town that offers an integrated technology and marketing consulting program for new businesses.
- "Created" - taking a service that is being offered and "raising the bar" above what the competition is doing. Examples: Competitors offering a money back guarantee? You offer a double your money back guarantee; Competitors offering 3-day turnaround service? You offer 24-hour turnaround service or it's free; Competitors extending their hours of operation? You intitute a policy that you'll come to your client's house so they won't be inconvenienced.
- "Perceived" - articulating a difference between what you are doing and what the competition is doing, even if there is no unique difference between them. Example: our staff enhances service to clients because of a rigorous 40 hour per year continuing education institute that we require everyone to go through.
There are a number of ways that you can identify and articulate your UCD. The key is to take the time to sit down with your team and with your clients to distinguish what it truly is that differentiates you from others.
Some examples of ways to do this include:
- Start by listing what your accounting practice offers. Then, look through the phone book, look through the paper, look on the Internet and see what every other accounting practice is offering. Is yours the same? If it is the same, get your team together and begin to brainstorm how you can make the service a little better (created UCD), or sound a little more exciting (Perceived UCD).
- Simply ask your clients two questions: (a) what do they really like about doing business with you; and (b) what are some key frustrations they and their business associates experience in dealing with CPA firms in general.
- One partner had all his best clients look through certain sections of the yellow pages and then tell the him which accountant they would pick based on the ad. Then, since he had his best clients (the kind that you would want) looking, he wanted to figure out what was different among those ads that his best clients constantly. Then he combined all the highest ads that were picked into one strategy for his ad, and he significantly increased the amount of good clients calling him, somehow he found a trend of what good clients look for in his area! He got rid of the price shoppers and focused on value shoppers.
The best advice for UCD's:
- Research the competition
- See if you and your team can brainstorm how to differentiate yourself
- Ask your best clients what they would like to see different