et me ask you two questions;
Question one: How easily can you name your competition in your town?
As an accountancy practice, perhaps you employ between 3 and 10 people. Who is your competition in your local area? Can you name three similar sized firms that you would consider competitors? Five? Widening the geographic circle a little perhaps ten?
Was it easy to name those firms? If the answer to that is yes then read on…
Question two: What does your positioning statement look like?
Try saying it aloud… Does is sound a bit like this;
“We offer accountancy and taxation services to individuals and businesses both large and small”
Similar? In that case I bet you managed to quickly name at least four firms of similar size who do the same thing as you.
Repeatedly, professional services companies such as accountants who generalise in their services and audience - and have no strategy to demonstrate their unique expertise - face the same problem.
Their potential or prospective client will base their buying decision on price. Any why wouldn’t they? If you’re the same as the next accountant, and you can’t demonstrate otherwise, then the buyer could, in theory, get exactly the same service for less down the road.
So where does this leave you? Low loyalty, low fee paying clients that can become a drain on your resources, clients thats are … you’ve guessed it … indifferent to your indifference.
What is differentiation?
Consider then for a moment how you might differentiate yourself as a practice that offers a specialism. Consider how you might ‘position’ your practice to focus on attracting higher fee paying clients who simultaneously recognise your worth and seek your specialist area of practice.
As Wayne Morris points out in this article for Accounting Web, clients don’t want ‘an accountant’ they want expertise to solve a particular problem. It’s not what you are, it’s what you can do.
Or, to put it another way, it’s not your process or the nuts and bolts that matter to your clients, it's the outcomes that your expertise delivers. And, until you can articulate and demonstrate this, then you’ll be just like that other accountant down the road…
Differentiation is providing a specialism or service that is relevant and important to your client and that makes your practice an appealing choice - the only choice - for your target audience. You do what they need better than anyone else and make sure you clearly articulate this in you repositioning statement.
How do you do this as a firm?
There are several ways you can differentiate as a firm, and once you do your research and discover what your unique or specialist offerings are, you must work them into your positioning statement; that ten-second elevator pitch that tells your desired audience exactly what you do.
From there, depending on the factors you decide set your practice apart, you may find yourself positioned as either a horizontal, vertical of niche firm, and your positioning statement might sound like one of the following;
Generalist positioning (general services to a general audience)
We offer taxation advice and general accountancy services to individuals and businesses
Horizontal positioning (a specific service to a general audience)
We offer sales and acquisitions advice to businesses of all sizes
Vertical positioning (general services to a specific client niche)
We offer taxation advice and general accountancy services to architectural firms
Niche positioning (a specific service to a specific client niche)
We offer acquisitions advice to restaurants chains with an annual turnover of over £3m
What are the advantages?
As you work down from generalist positioning to niche positioning, there are several advantages that will present themselves. Consider the following three:
First, you no longer have to compete on price with your competition. This is obvious when you think about it and you could apply this principal to your everyday life as consumers. For your audience, the buying decision is now less about price comparison and more about your desirability.
Second, you have less competition both geographically and through your specialism. Why? Because YOU’RE the expert practice in providing X for Y. There’s only your practice that solves that particular problem, and your thought leadership and social content strategy demonstrates that across your social channels and website.
Third. Your target audience - those clients who have the sort of specific problem you solve - will find you a more appealing buying choice. They’re far more likely to come to you as you’ve already shown via case studies that you’ve solved similar problems for people just like them.