By Tony Tiernan and John Grace
How do you differentiate your business when what you deliver is an abstraction, such as advice? Words alone are unlikely to be the answer.
The default answer for many professional services firms has been to rely on the chemistry between individual partners or consultants and their client. This leads to two fundamental problems:
· The client’s relationship is with the individual Partner, not the organization
· Chemistry is an elusive concept and hard to scale.
Professional services firms generate well over US $1 trillion in annual revenues and represent a large and growing sector of the economy. Of the U.S. professional services sectors, IT consulting is the largest, followed by law firms and management consulting firms.
But if you look at the self descriptions and claimed differentiators from the websites of the top ten professional service firms in each of the eight primary sectors, you see “brand blur” on a staggering scale. It’s astounding how many of the same words and descriptions appear (see our Purple Paper on Differentiation for Professional Services Firms).
|Do You Help Clients To:||Are You:||Do You Have:||Do You:|
|Tackle their toughest, most
challenging, most complex
or most intractable
challenges or problems
A trusted advisorGlobal
|A holistic approach||Partner with your clients|
|Realize their greatest
|Deliver results or
|Survive and thrive in
an uncertain future
|Hire the best and
advantage, their goals,
|Avoid mistakes||Integrated||Deep insights||Understand your
|Deliver value||Experienced, proven
|A rich heritage and
If most or all of the above apply, then congratulations – you are clearly a legitimate member of the professional services club.The bad news is that there is no clear differentiation or reason for a potential client or talented recruit to select your firm over any other member of the club.
Our next post will explore how meaning is at the root of all powerful and enduring brands, and how to use story as a tool to create meaning.