The cornerstone of any good marketing strategy is differentiation – highlighting how your accounting firm is different from your competitors. Differentiation creates a competitive advantage by positioning your firm as distinct from similar firms and worthy of closer consideration.
Unfortunately, many professional services firms go about the task of identifying and qualifying differentiators in a brainstorming session or two that typically yield low-value, me-too results that are mind-numbingly similar to their competitors: “we’re a valued partner,” “our firm is an industry leader,” “we offer world-class service.” You get the idea.
Three things separate true differentiators from ineffective, ho-hum marketing statements. They must pass these tests:
- True: Is what you’re claiming a fact and not just wishful thinking?
- Relevant: Is it valuable or interesting to your target audience?
- Provable: Can you support your claim with evidence?
As part of our recent Hinge Research Institute study of high-growth professional services firms, we surveyed more than 500 firms of various sizes and compared high-growth firms to their no-growth peers. One area we focused on was marketing strategy. We looked closely at differentiators used by high-growth and no-growth firms to see how they differed.
We found that no-growth professional services firms favored the following four differentiators the most:
1. “Our commitment to results.” This fails as a differentiator because it’s widely used and virtually impossible to prove. Besides, no one in his or her right mind would say, “We’re not committed to getting results for you.” It does not pass Test No. 3.
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About Lee Frederiksen
Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.