Expanding by narrowing? I know, it’s counterintuitive. Positioning is more about what you don’t do than what you do. It’s how you let prospective clients know if they are a fit. In the end, you will be happier and so will they.
The fallacy of full-service
Unfortunately, it’s far too common to see professional service firms nearly devoid of any semblance of positioning. In fact, many brag of being “full-service”. This effectively says “we want to be everything to everyone”, which implies they are generalists. And, by definition, generalists are experts in nothing.
I would venture to say there isn’t a firm in existence that can actually fulfill every need. This premise of “full-service” or “wide-range” is most likely used because others incorrectly claim the same thing or due to the firm not yet knowing what it stands for. This issue is so pervasive the concept has even been trademarked as “The Stack Fallacy”.
Lack of focus costs dearly
Harvard’s Clayton Christensen calls out that it “is not just a lack of differentiation but dissatisfaction” when trying to offer every service a firm thinks a general list of clients may want. Essentially, by attempting to perform all things well, businesses end up doing nothing exceptionally well at all. Making matters worse, staffing up to address a wide range of services inflates operating costs and firm overhead. Doing so puts firms on “the long road to unfocus”.
Go deep, not wide
The saying goes “it’s better to be an inch wide and a mile deep than a mile wide and an inch deep” and that’s exactly what we’re talking about here. It’s an incredibly important question to ask yourself: what are we most passionate about and where have we been most successful? Once you’ve answered that question, it’s time to start asking clients that fit that pattern what they most value and tailor your services to better serve them. It’s not an overnight change, it will take time and having a solid strategy in place to make the shift deliberately is critical to your existing client relationships as well as the new ones you will build.
Meet some converts
It can be extremely rough to take the step towards a particular niche yet the rewards are totally worth it. The clients you’ll land will value your contributions more. Below are a few examples of firms walking that path today.
Blumer CPAs decided several years ago to double down on only serving design businesses, which allowed them to explore the particular tax challenges unique to those businesses as well as offer unique guidance throughout each year as they continued to grow.
SuperScript is a marketing firm solely focused on serving financial companies. They’ve invested in the knowledge unique to these firms so their services are clearly relevant and highly valued by some very well-known national brands.
John Chisholm Consulting
John Chisholm Consulting, based in Australia, is a consulting firm specialized in helping lawyers grow their businesses. They are hyper focused on the well-being of their client firm people given it’s no secret lawyers are often some of the most overworked people. Their services are highly tailored to issues and practices that plague law firms, such as time-based billing.
Now is the time
What does your firm shine at? Which clients do you like the most? Which do you want to run from? These are the questions that will liberate you and allow your firm to truly stand out from the masses. Clients will thank you.