If you are a company offering professional services, you may find yourself struggling to differentiate your business from others offering similar services.

How do you make yourself stand out in the field? How do you land those ideal clients? The key is to focus on elements called differentiators.

Differentiators Make the Difference

Differentiators are what set your firm apart and make you appealing to the right clients. You can utilize multiple differentiators to suit your needs. It is important, though, to choose the appropriate differentiators to maximize their effectiveness.

You must keep in mind that, to be successful, a differentiator must meet some essential criteria. First, the differentiator must be true. You should never fabricate a differentiator. Next, it must be important to potential clients. Why bother focusing on something that isn’t appealing to your target clientele? Lastly, it must be verifiable. You need to be able to prove that the differentiator is, in fact, true.

Three Categories of Differentiators

To effectively differentiate your business, you should focus on three categories of differentiators: who you are, what you offer, and specific characteristics of your clientele.
There are a multitude of differentiators for each category. Try to find ones that are most suitable to your needs and make the most sense for your particular industry.

Let’s take a look at some powerful differentiators in each category:

Who are you?

What is truly unique about your firm? What is that special quality that makes a client choose you over the competitor? These are the differentiators to identify and highlight.

Here is a list of some specific examples:

1. You are a specialist in a particular industry.

Clients tend to highly regard firms that are considered specialists in their field. Specialists are often considered more experienced and more trustworthy. Make sure, however, that you are not specializing in too many fields as you may lose credibility.

2. You have a staff that all share the same characteristic or credential.

While every firm should be proud of their staff, that alone is not an effective differentiator. More useful is to focus on quantifiable qualities shared by all of your team members. Do they all hold PhD’s or industry certifications? Have they all attended a highly regarded seminar or training course?

3. You have one or more highly regarded experts in your firm.

When your firm can boast to having a top expert in the field, you have an automatic advantage over your competitors. Don’t be shy about highlighting that individual’s role in the company and the services they offer.

4. You have a strong relationship with a parent firm or partner.

While not always a positive attribute, many clients find a close relationship with a parent firm to be appealing. There is a sense of accountability and security when a firm is associated with a larger organization.

5. You look or act differently than other firms in your field.

Your firm can gain a distinct edge over the competition if it looks and feels different from your competitors. Being exactly like another company can be detrimental to you landing a potential client. Distinguish yourself and see results.

What do you offer?

Take stock of what your firm does differently from all the others. Look closely at how your firm conducts business and what you actually provide to clients.

Here are some specific examples:

1. You approach and solve client problems in a novel way.

By offering a unique process, you also offer a unique benefit to potential clients. This separates you from other firms.

2. You implement a unique business model.

This can be as simple as offering a fixed fee over hourly billing. A business model that is unique is demonstrable and possibly even meaningful for clients.

3. You allow access to information not otherwise available.

Some clients may be very tempted by gaining access to certain industry information. Your proprietary data may be the key differentiator you need to build your business.

4. You have an exclusive set of contacts or relationships.

Having unique contacts and relationships can give you a distinct edge and make you seem more valuable to clients.

5. You offer the highest quality client service.

To make this an effective differentiator, you have to make sure that your level of service well and truly stands out. Providing good client service is a given. Yours needs to go above and beyond.

Who is your clientele?

Oftentimes your client list can actually be used as a differentiator. Those characteristics that make a client appealing to you may also make you appealing to potential new clients.

Here are some ways to categorize those differentiators:

1. Your clients are all roughly the same size.

When the majority of your clients are of a certain size, you have created a differentiator. For example, perhaps you only service the largest companies in a particular geographic area or you only work with solo practitioners. Potential clients will be attracted to firms who are experienced working with companies similar in size to their own.

2. Your clients share a common specific characteristic.

This is a differentiator based on a factor other than your client’s industry or role. Rather, it is a specific characteristic held by all of your clients. For example, you might provide a variety of legal services but only for immigrants. This will inherently give you an advantage for a certain type of client.

3. You service a specific geographic area.

This differentiator is most effective in industries or locales where clients highly regard local knowledge or face-to-face interactions.

4. Your client list is exclusive or distinguished.

It is usually a plus to have an impressive client list, but you can also make that list a differentiator. Perhaps you service the fashion industry or you are a fashion blogger but only take clients who have shown at New York Fashion Week. That can become a differentiator.

Remember, whichever combination of differentiators you use, you must keep it true, appealing to potential clients, and demonstrable. Set your firm apart and watch it grow!

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