Differentiating your proposition from that of your competitors has always been THE marketing challenge for professional service firms. Their service offerings are very similar and when they do try to differentiate themselves, they tend to do the same things, so the attempts usually fail. Sometimes a new opportunity arrives to be ‘different’ – being in the first rush of something new for example. The problem is that as soon as such opportunities arise, others hop on the bandwagon. The Internet is a classic example. My firm got a really good new client in 1997 because we were the only firm in our area with a website. Nowadays, failing to have a website simply means you’ll fail to gain even new potential clients who are looking for you. The list of differentiators that have lost effectiveness is lengthy. SEO has been a busted flush for most firms for years and it takes real expertise to make Twitter or Facebook effective these days. So, how can you stand out from the crowd and be different? To answer that question, I’d ask another – ‘What is really different about you?’ The answer to that is, I think, ‘Your relationships’. Your people and clients are different from anyone else’s and they ‘stick’ because of a unique chemistry: your clients at least see you as different in some way, which is why they are your clients, not those of the firm across the road. One thing I am sure of is that it doesn’t have anything to do with any branding exercise – it is to do with the way you deal with the clients: your relationship. Here, I think, is the key to really being different as opposed to claiming to be as all firms do. If you concentrate on the building, preservation and nurturing of great relationships, you will be different. How – move your focus from the matter (this problem, right here, right now – TACTICAL stuff) to the client (their aspirations, future plans – STRATEGIC stuff) in your marketing communications and concentrate on giving the client as stress-free and enjoyable relationship with the firm as you can. I cannot overstress the importance of this. Lawyers (other than family and PI ones, anyway) routinely fail to give sufficient weight to the emotional impact on clients and how to reduce their stress levels and don’t talk nearly enough about where their clients are going and how they can help them get there. If you work this way, you’ll be seen as genuinely proactive and caring, not just another firm that ‘talks the talk’. Incidentally, it is one of the reasons I love The Link App…because it reduces the clients’ stress levels as well as reducing the volume of ‘What’s happening?’ calls. If you don’t think this applies to your firm, you are almost certainly wrong. If you don’t see what this means for the way you should do what you do, I suggest that you give me a call. There are two major differentiators between successful and unsuccessful smaller and mid-tier firms: successful firms concentrate more on having happy clients and manage themselves so they can make decisions and change fast. Increasingly, these are becoming existential skill sets. About the Author Joe Reevy retired after 14 very successful years as his firm’s partner with business development responsibility. He founded www.Words4Business.com in 1999, which supplies articles and newsletters to law firms across the UK, covering the core areas of high street legal practice and saving them both time and money as well as aiding growth. In 2010 www.LegalRSS.uk was added, automating web-based business development and web management capability. LegalRSS has been instrumental in the growth for more than 200 firms, and has an unparalleled reputation for ease of use, great value and content. [email protected] 01392 423607 https://uk.linkedin.com/in/joereevy

Originally published 12 / Jun / 2017