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Value drivers - the key to brand differentiation

How are you seeking to differentiate your firm?

More importantly, how are your clients and prospects differentiating your firm?

No doubt your firm does many things well. But there are only a few areas where you can consistently standout as being better than most.

Achieving a standout brand comes from making a clear promise to your target market and consistently delivering on that promise, across all services and touch points.

Your firm makes these market promises every day. In directories, sales calls, social media posts, client conversations, and on your website. How your firm talks about itself sets prospect and client's expectations.

While every firm is different, there are only so many ways you can differentiate your brand. The colours, imagery and words may vary, but the underlying themes are consistent. This makes sense because they are the same themes that clients and prospects use for making buying decisions. We call these recurring themes 'value drivers'.

Value drivers are the common themes that:

  • Firms use to differentiate their brand from competitors

  • Prospects and clients use to evaluate those brands

Value drivers for law firms

From our work across professional services, we have identified 10 value drivers relevant to law firms. But the goal is not to be great at everything. That's the road to a beige brand or inconsistency.

Firms with standout brands focus on the 2 - 4 value drivers most important to their clients. For everything else, they choose to be good enough.

The 10 value drivers for professional services are:

  • Approachability - friendly staff and a welcoming office environment.

  • Responsiveness - our firm is proactive and responds quickly to your requests.

  • Peace of Mind - you can trust us to do what we say.

  • Expertise - the depth of our technical and sector knowledge.

  • Communication - we keep you informed of change and progress.

  • Personalisation - we understand your needs and are easy to work with.

  • Connectivity - we leverage our local and national networks.

  • Innovation - we incorporate new technology and approaches.

  • Value for Money - our price is a fair reflection of the work/service you’ve received.

  • Impact - we stay focused on your desired results/outcomes.

Your firm may use different language or place the emphasis somewhere different. But chances are your brand promises sit within these 10 categories.

What clients want

In a piece of research earlier this year, we asked Marketing Directors and Managing Partners to share the 3 value drivers their firm focuses on.

87% told us their firm stood out for approachability, 76% said personalisation and 69% said expertise.

So, in this What Clients Want research, we asked law firm clients which areas were most relevant to them. The 'outside-in' view was that communication (59%), expertise (52%) and approachability (44%) were most important. This is interesting because only approachability is in the top 3 for both clients and firms.

Finally, this research also asked clients to describe the experiences they actually have with law firms. Based on our text analysis, the top 3 value drivers were peace of mind (good, trusted, reliable etc), personalisation (easy, efficient, frustrating etc) and approachability (helpful, friendly, nice etc).

Create your competitive advantage

So, what does this mean for your firm?

Firstly, approachability is important, but it has become table stakes. It's important to clients and firms, and clients seem to experience it regularly. So, firms need to keep delivering on this, but achieving differentiation will be very hard.

Secondly, providing peace of mind is just expected by firms and clients. Neither highlighted it as important to their brand/decision, but it comes through strongly in the actual experiences. Again, firms must deliver on this, but achieving differentiation will be very hard.

Finally, communication is where your firm can create a competitive advantage. Feeling informed is important to clients, but few firms seem be proactive in this area. As a result, clients aren't getting a standout experience.

Based on the results of this survey, I believe that improved communication is the fastest route to a standout brand. Ask your clients how they want to be communicated with. Then consistently deliver on those expectations. It sounds too obvious, doesn't it?! But this research shows that asking about, and responding to, what clients want can still create competitive advantage.

If you're still not convinced, I'll leave the final word to one of our respondents. "Communication is the most important aspect of work for a lawyer".

This article features in our 2021 What Clients Want Research. For details on how to access the report click here:

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