26 Jul Positioning pratfalls – common law practice positioning mistakes
Differentiate! Differentiate! Differentiate!
Law practices are getting the message re positioning, specialisation and differentiation, and more and more are making an effort to more clearly differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market.
But not everyone’s nailing it: here are some of the mistakes I’m seeing:
Going too broad
Broad positioning = no positioning. Risk-averse law practices are instinctively shy of reducing or diminishing their list of published and promoted capabilities as they think this risks losing substantial amounts of work. Increasing client sophistication, however, means that clients will walk away if you don’t give them a reason to choose you.
Aim to position yourself as specialising in an area that is narrower than your market. Your claim of expertise should be smaller than your capabilities. Although it seems counter-intuitive, this builds credibility and can actually lead to more work outside of your stated specialisation. You become a ‘go-to’ practice and clients actually want you to help them with work outside of your stated focus. So go narrow: get more of the high value work you love – but also expect lots of additional work to fall in your lap as a result of your high-credibility, ‘go-to’ status.
Getting too complicated
If you can’t communicate your unique value in one line, you’ve got a problem. Solicitors are analytical by nature, but complex positioning messages are rarely successful – even amongst sophisticated clients. Try to focus on one clear message only – with details to follow as required – but you need one clear difference to hit home.
Not understanding or identifying the primary drivers of client value
OK, so you’re (possibly) a bit different, but is that going to make people instruct you?
Is your difference really important enough to clients to make them choose you over your competitors? For instance, many practices continue to attempt to differentiate themselves on service/experience/pricing flexibility. These issues might make a difference if prospects see your offering as otherwise undifferentiated, but a service/experience difference isn’t nearly as powerful as an expertise difference in terms of influencing either choice or premium pricing.
Clients will select premium lawyers based primarily on unique technical expertise and industry sector experience, with service features coming in a distant third in terms of influencing choice. Invest in the client experience, absolutely, but don’t expect it to provide clear positioning and market differentiation.
No personal brand proof
Don’t expect people to trust in your claimed expertise without some proof. Personal brands within your practice – in terms of experience, expertise, activities, memberships, talks and publications – have to be consistent with your positioning or you will prompt client doubts and cynicism.
Effective practice positioning needs to be supported by continued efforts to build consistent personal brands in terms of expert status, community networks and related activity.
No content marketing proof
Similarly, sophisticated clients expect to see some proof of your specialist expertise in the form of content (blogs / guides / research / articles / videos). Content marketing is now a must have rather than a nice-to-have, and needs to be used to reinforce and refine your positioning messages.