Curving right

Make it easier for clients by standing for something

Last week, the people of the United Kingdom made their quinquennial choice. The outcome was a majority Conservative government for the first time since 1997.

Curving rightFor some people (probably fewer than in previous generations), politics are easy — they cleave to the same party loyally from election to election. Parties have nothing to gain from courting these voters. The rest, whose choices are undecided until late in the day, need to be persuaded. This, as Dave Trott points out, is a marketing problem.

The point about marketing is, it’s not about what you want to say.

It’s about what your market (people) needs to hear.

What they need to hear are two things:

1) Clear and Simple

2) What makes you different

Bad marketing people don’t understand this.

Dave is discussing Ed Miliband’s promises set in stone. He shows that each of the six promises is neither clear nor simple, and none of them marked out the Labour Party as different from the competition.

What you are left with is a message “Carved In Stone” that tries to say everything to everyone.

It avoids differentiation in case it offends anyone.

It isn’t marketing, it’s just a list: a mind dump.

Thinking that a gimmick, like carving something in stone, is more important than what you carve in stone.

Many commercial organisations fail Dave Trott’s marketing tests too. Law firms may not be the worst offenders, but the legal sector as a whole has always struggled with differentiation. (We can leave clarity and simplicity for another day.)

The week since the election has been filled with navel-gazing. All the parties, apart from the Conservatives (who won much more convincingly than the pollsters predicted), the SNP (which won every seat in Scotland, bar three), and the Greens (who won many more votes than anticipated), are trying to work out what went wrong. For most of them, I think the answer is simple: either the electorate couldn’t tell what you stood for, or they could and they didn’t like it.

Much the same is true in commerce. Potential clients and customers need to know what they are buying. If you can’t tell them why your service fits their needs better than the other firms, they won’t buy it. You can’t even rely on existing clients remaining loyal. If another firm comes along that can say more clearly why what they do is better, your clients will jump ship.

Differentiation requires you to stand for something distinctive that clients are willing to pay for. You need to risk offending some people (by being too expensive or too cheap or too Lean or too bespoke…) in order for the clients that fit you to know that they fit. You might end up with a market share as small as the Greens, but at least you can be confident about its stability.

2 thoughts on “Make it easier for clients by standing for something”

  1. Mark, I’ve heard Dave Trott speak, and if only more companies and firms signed up to his thinking — less BS and more substance (that’s not a direct quote BTW).

    To be honest, you can talk about the How (the ‘USP’) until you’re blue…in…the…face but it won’t make a jot of difference. Law firms don’t lead they follow, and when they see someone slice up the market in a way they think they can replicate for a healthy profit then they leap on said modus operandi.

    What we need more of are brave leaders who are willing to have courageous conversations with their staff, clients and market but then take a stand (as you say) and to hell with the consequences.

    One thing that would mark out a law firm, which I’ve yet to see tried, is to say that they will be the most socially responsible firm on the planet, meaning they will not make directly or indirectly any negative impact on the planet or it’s species. This would mean, much like the Church has divested of the wrong sorts of assets, not just looking at the trophy clients but working with companies who share their ethos.


    1. Thank you Julian. I agree with your perception of firms as nervous followers. It’s odd though — firms have no need to satisfy external investors, and really taking a stand would work well for clients and employees, so what is holding them back?

      I love your suggested moral standpoint too. There are so many ways in which a firm could make its mark.

      (I’m not surprised you like Dave Trott. Your blog posts are as punchy as his!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.