One of the biggest challenges we face in life is to be ourselves in a world that is trying to make us like everyone else.
This is no different in business. To challenge conventional wisdom and stand out from the crowd you need to be bold.
Differentiation is key. It enables you compete on something other than price, which leads to a race to the bottom. If you can differentiate your services, the value you provide won’t compare to that promised by your competition. You shift your services into a league of their own.
Traditional law firms differentiate themselves by emphasising their experience, reputation, top talent and high profile clients, but if everyone is unique in the same way, then no one is unique at all.
Law firms that thrive in today’s market are those whose point of difference is the value they provide to their clients. In other words, it’s not about the firm, it’s about their customers.
How can you differentiate your legal services beyond experience and reputation? Here are 7 examples.
1. Provide an excellent service experience
Customer expectations are increasing. We all experience first-hand examples of good and bad service daily. We’ve come to expect top service everywhere and across all industries.
Being competent and delivering on time are the bare basics. To provide excellent service you need to do much more than deliver the basics.
Here are some examples.
Provide a fast, hassle-free experience and differentiate on ease.
Book Depository have a huge range, reasonable prices and fast and free delivery. I can buy books from any number of places, but their service is what sells them to me. They make the shopping experience so easy that I don’t look elsewhere.
Exceed expectations. Delight your customers by going the extra mile.
A common misconception is that “going the extra mile” comes at a big expense, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Resolve Estate Law give their clients an essential oil and tube of herbal tea at their first meeting. This is part of founder Zinta Harris’ “calm and caring guidance” approach to estate law. Zinta says:
“It is all part of my approach to have clients understand that they need support in every facet when they face their curveball moment. In giving them the oil and the tea I encourage them to take time out to think about what is most important to them, to picture what their “forever altered new normal” might look like – and to practice daily calmness. It empowers my clients to best survive what is a harrowing time.”
How refreshing to know that your lawyer is looking after your interests as a whole person, not just your legal matter. How’s that for exceeding expectations!?
Look for experiences that you find frustrating and do the opposite in your business.
We’ve all experienced the transfer between departments in a call centre, having to identify ourselves and explain our problem over and over. How refreshing is it when the person you’re transferred to knows your problem and just gets on with helping you? How can you emulate this in your business?
2. Serve a micro niche
You can’t be all things to all people and expect to do it all well. To stand out from the crowd you need to make yourself known for something in particular, not anything and everything.
You will be more successful if you focus your efforts on solving a specific type of problem for a specific type of customer. If you need brain surgery, do you look for a general surgeon or for the experienced neurosurgeon?
Aim for narrow and deep, not wide and shallow and you will become known for your specialist skills.
3. Create a unique methodology
Most customers are looking for a solution to a problem. They’re interested in an outcome or result. How you get there is up to you. Stand out by creating a unique methodology for handling matters. Owning a process makes it easier to pitch and differentiate your service.
Aptum Legal are an example, having developed a unique project management approach that sets them apart. Their methodology addresses the shortcomings experienced by client in litigation matters and enables them to clearly set themselves apart.
4. Share your customer feedback
What you say about yourself is one thing, what your customers say about you is another.
When we launched Flat Rate Settlements in 2010, we knew that our (then) radical pricing model would mean we’d be met with concerns about trust and reliability. Rather than shy away from this, we faced it head on by collecting and publishing testimonials. We now have over 800 testimonials on the website. It’s hard to compare what a competitor says about themselves with what 800 customers say about us.
5. Add value
Differentiation is about demonstrating why a customer should choose you over your competition. So how can you add value in ways your competition can’t?
Maybe you can provide training for your customers to help them avoid the disputes they pay you to solve. Perhaps your client functions provide a valuable opportunity for your clients to connect and build relationships with each other.
6. Advertise prices
Lawyers are reluctant to publish prices, but most other businesses do it. Would you buy a jacket, book a flight or hire a car without knowing the price? If not, why expect people to buy your legal services without knowing what they’ll cost?
At Birman & Ride, we created our first productised legal service in 2010 and were selling some services at fixed prices even before then. It’s easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking everyone does things this way, but not everyone does things this way. In fact, it’s still more common for lawyers to charge on a timed basis that on a fixed price.
So even though you might not see fixed pricing as something that differentiates your service, it does. Don’t just tell people that you charge fixed fees, show them. Go that extra step and publish your prices on your website.
7. Show your personality
Some of the most memorable firms I’ve come across are those who throw stereotypes out the window and are unapologetically themselves.
How many law conferences have you been to that are decorated with neon lights, blow up flamingos and rainbow and unicorn helium balloons? Clarissa Rayward’s The Club Retreat did. Clarissa will take a bedazzled, sequin-covered lamp and yellow velvet sofa in her law firm reception over a banker’s lamp and black arm chair any day. Anyone who comes across Clarissa quickly learns that she’s all about collaboration, colour, fun, vibrancy. What a way to stand out among a world of grey.
ElevateNext are another example. The personality shown in their website is enough to make me want to sign up – and I don’t even know what I’m signing up for. I just know I want to be a part of it.
Being different is a good thing
As Steve Jobs says, “You can’t look at the competition and say you’re going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it differently.”