Accounting firms and engineering firms often call us when they see a competitor suddenly showing up in their market space and winning bids seemingly “out of the blue.”
A closer look at the competition reveals that those firms have set up a strategy to target a certain buyer, market or industry and are now reaping the rewards of months of focused effort. They didn’t just show up. They’ve been there for a while.
When a competitor enters your market and begins to win bids, it’s time to look at your firm’s brand positioning.
What are your clients saying about you?
The first step is to look at what your clients are saying about you. We often find that what firm leaders think about why clients value the firm is different from what clients say.
You can find out what clients are saying by conducting client interviews. We recommend that these are done by an experienced brand consultant. This provides more objective and detailed feedback because the viewpoint is fresh. In addition, your best clients hold the key to discovering how to attract more clients of that caliber. Asking the right questions can bring out open and honest feedback, which helps you align your message with how your clients view you.
Who are your competitors and what are they up to?
You won’t know unless you do some research to find out who they are and what they’re up to. Invest in a competitive analysis that gives you a side-by-side comparison of key industry and niche competitors and where they’re gaining an edge — before they get the jump on you.
To do this, look at competitors’ websites, advertising and social media. You can also hire a secret shopper of your competitors to find out how they talk about themselves.
What are your firm’s differentiators?
What is it that makes your firm unique? How are you different from your competitors? Competitive differentiators show up in your community. Some firms are already known for a level of charitable participation, a landmark building, an outrageous personality or some other unique feature of their community involvement. If you’re working on your differentiation internally, you may already be aware of what your community knows about you. Is it consistent with the messages from clients and prospects and your leadership? Is there something new to add?
Developing your Brand Message
At the end of this brand research process you should be able to come up with a list of three to five areas that distinguish you from your competitors. State them as phrases that are easy to remember. The end goal is for each individual in your firm to remember the core ideas that define the brand of your firm. When you give people core ideas, they can customize these to fit the situation they’re in at the time. The same ideas can be represented on your website, in proposals, public relations and all your marketing messages. In an information-flooded world, the beauty of clearly stated key messages leads to consistent branding and client expectations.
Ingenuity has the tools to provide analysis and recommendations for preserving or expanding niche business and clients. Don’t be caught off-guard by a competitor creeping into your market.