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Or perhaps all your project managers are PMPs. Not as distinctive, but also provable and relevant. This differentiator is focused on a characteristic of your clients other than their industry or role. They might be from any country, in any industry or any corporate role, yet you will have a competitive advantage. Here, the spotlight is not on the client as much as on the nature of the business challenge they are facing.

To work, it must be a challenge that is easily recognized and tough to solve without specialized skills and experience. Helping firms secure their first government contract is an example. This is a time-tested strategy that works very well. Many firms have been built on this differentiator alone. Add multiple high visibility experts and you will have a compelling and very valuable brand.

Cost leadership

Everyone in your profession bills by the hour, but you offer a fixed fee. A unique business model can be both meaningful and easy to prove. But be watchful. If it works well, you are likely to accumulate imitators. This is a very traditional differentiator that is losing some of its punch as technology and common business practices are making geography less important. But take heart, it can still work in situations where local knowledge or face-to-face interaction are still seen as important by potential clients.

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Sometimes, access to certain information can be very valuable to potential clients. Do you have benchmarking data that no one else possesses? Some firms have built very valuable practices around proprietary data not easily duplicated. While the previous differentiator focused on information, this one is focused on relationships.

Differentiation focus

Public relations firms have long used relationships with reporters and editors as differentiators. What relationships can your firm bring to the table? In most cases, offering good client service is simply the price of entry. Everyone does it, or claims to. So to become a differentiator, your level of service really has to truly stand out. Can it be done? Indeed, there are still some physicians who make house calls.

Having an impressive client list is a plus for many firms. But what if you take it further? Some firms differentiate themselves based on their client list. For example, if your firm serves the higher education market and your clients are Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, you have a differentiator.

What is competitive advantage?

We are the largest…fill in the blank. Size sends a signal that you are doing something right in the minds of many potential clients. This combines nicely with a specialization to show both relevance the specialty as well as success the largest. Find a niche and dominate it. A close relationship with a parent firm can be a limiter potential clients may feel like you cannot be objective about other technologies for example. But for other potential clients, it can be a big asset.

Who knows the ins and outs of the technology better? This same differentiator might also be applied to situations where your firm is a value-added partner rather than a subsidiary. Some firms can build a strong brand based on achieving a notable accomplishment.


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Firms that invented a technology or solved a highly visible problem for a very well known client are good examples. This type of notoriety can be leveraged throughout an industry and over time. Similar to number 9, where you focus on a notable business challenge, this differentiator focuses on a valuable result. The key difference is that you may need to overcome multiple business challenges to produce the valuable result. For example, you might specialize in turning average growth clients into high growth firms.

This could involve solving a wide range of business challenges, rather than a single one. Most professional services firms tend to look and act a lot like their competitors. Perhaps you have been in the industry for a long time. Or perhaps doing things very differently feels risky. We see this all the time. Well, a very different look and feel can be a powerful differentiator for this exact reason.

Combine this with other differentiators and you have the makings of a robust competitive advantage. There you have it, 21 differentiators that have proven to pass the three hurdles that every differentiator must clear. And remember, these can be combined in ways that make your firm unique in a way that no single differentiator can. Lee Frederiksen, Ph.

What is Competitive Advantage?

Who wears the boots in our office? That would be Lee, our managing partner, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day and drives strategy and research for our clients. With a Ph. September 19, Name required.

How to Identify Your Competitive Strengths for Your Business Plan

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    How Strong Is Your Firm’s Competitive Advantage?

    Add to cart. Second Edition by Daniel Marburger , Paperback. Be the first to write a review About this product. About this product Product Information Perhaps the most confounding characteristic of the competitive marketplace is that everyone wants a piece of the action. If a firm successfully enters a new market, creates a new product, or designs new innovations for an existing product, it's just a matter of time before competitors follow suit.

    And the influx of competition inevitably places downward pressure on both price and profitability. Whether you're an economics student or a manager with absolutely no background in economics, this book will help you make better decisions and learn more about the Five Forces Model, first published in by Harvard economist Michael Porter which identifies the characteristics that can help insulate a firm from competitive forces.