I need to be blunt here. What you think makes you unique and different is most likely not why your clients really choose to partner with you. Often when we’re working with clients, we ask them what makes them different from their competitors and they say things like “We really care,” “We’re a small firm with big firm experience,” or my personal favorite, “We provide excellent client service.” Yawn. Your unique value needs to be more than that and should be specific and memorable. Let’s dig into what you can do to truly understand your unique value as well as some strategies for communicating that value out to your clients, prospects, and referral sources.
Here are seven tips to help you determine and use your unique value to gain a competitive advantage:
- Ask your best clients
Your best clients are the ones who see your unique value clearly and they’re the ones you really care about. Make a list of your top 5-10 clients and ask them why they choose to work with you and stay with you. And even better yet, have someone else ask them. They will be more honest and forthright with someone other than you. Record their answers and then find the common attributes they all refer to when discussing your services. Take those and create your unique brand message.
- Research your competitors
Make a list of the firms you most often come up against, or search online for the most successful firms in your area. Notice the language they use when describing themselves and the value they bring to their clients. Make sure you don’t write with the same language when describing your firm. Also notice if there’s anything unique about how they describe themselves, which could inspire you in the way you communicate your value.
- Consistently communicate your value
From the research you’ve done with your best clients and your competitors, you should now be ready to create your own messages about your unique value. Spend some time really digging into words and phrases that speak to the type of prospect you want to attract. Speak in down-to-earth language – avoid using industry jargon as that turns people off. Also try to show your value more than telling your value. This can be challenging, but this is also where a professional ghostwriter can help, especially if you have research to share with them. When it’s finished – put that value out into the world! Make it into an elevator speech, include it on your LinkedIn profile and thread it throughout your bio, website content and blog.
- Know your ideal client characteristics
Quite often I hear professionals saying the same thing over and over when asked who they work with. I hear ‘high net worth professionals’ or ‘mid-sized business owners’ repeatedly. Those phrases are not memorable, nor do they show any competitive advantage. What’s more interesting and memorable is describing in detail the characteristics of your best clients – both their subjective and objective characteristics. A detailed summary of your ideal A-level client will perk the listener’s ear because it is different and interesting, so use that to your advantage.
- Create client service standards
If you take the time to create a list of your A-level client’s characteristics, next spend a little time developing the client standards your firm needs to put in place to really take care of those clients. More often than not, we all tend to get caught up serving the needy clients, which are also usually lower-level, less profitable clients. But in doing so, we drop the ball on clients who really matter. By being intentional with your client criteria and your client service standards, you will automatically differentiate yourself. And you will be memorable.
If you have done the work to create A-level criteria, then you should be able to put your finger on that list of clients. Review the A-level clients and determine if there are similar industries, professions, types of service, age of clients etc. that stands out. Then make sure you communicate these specializations on your website and marketing communications. The more you can specialize and stand out, the more memorable and unique you will appear. Also, use this information to know how and where to invest your time and marketing dollars.
- Look and act differently
Most accounting firms and financial advisory firms tend to look and act like their competitors. This comes from years of not wanting to be too different from their competitors because it feels risky. Before Google, it really did not matter – but now it definitely matters since everyone does online research. For this reason, you need to look and sound different from everyone else. Otherwise, you will run the risk of being forgotten.
So do your homework – and be different. This will help you gain and retain the type of clients that you enjoy working with and who are the most profitable to your firm.