(By Gil Gerretsen) I have conversations on a regular basis with the leaders of professional service firms and often the conversation turns to the issue of uniqueness. They are almost universally convinced that they are different and better in some way. Almost as often, they have great difficulty articulating that difference.
Most often, it comes across as bland and boring. "Blah, blah blah" is all that a prospect would hear. That's a certain death trap for any firm that has growth aspirations. If your prospects develop or hold the perception that your firm is fundamentally the same as the other available options, then the only battle front remaining is price.
So that's your red flag! If you are consistently pressed on the price of your services (or products), then your marketplace is telling you that they don't believe you bring anything special or unique to the table. Your services are perceived as a commodity and that one provider is as good as any other.
This can be a difficult conversation to have because the leaders hold deep opinions that their firm is indeed superior. In many cases, there are certainly notable distinctives, but they remain an unclear or inarticulate element of their story telling.
So what should you do? I often start from the client perspective. What do your current clients rave about? What do they value? If a peer asked them about your firm, what distinctives would they point out? Then, ask yourself if those are the opinions you want the marketplace to hold. If not, why has the marketplace not connected with what you think is actually most important?
If you are not hearing the answers you want to hear from your clients, or if you cannot even figure out for yourself what makes you unique, then sometimes the views of an outsider can bring them into focus. This could be a trusted adviser, industry collaborator or skilled consultant.
Just as some people need spectacles to see better, it can also be wise to admit some vision problems for your firm and go see an "eye doctor" to set the stage for relaunch and growth.