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Don’t Define. Differentiate.

Why do your clients choose your firm over others? Is it just because you’ve got licensed professionals who come into the office every day and do their jobs? Probably not. So why do so many firms resort to these types of generic statements on their websites and in other collateral?

Over the last week, I jotted down some common examples of how not to stand out to prospective clients:

“Fully versed in all aspects of [insert field]” – That’s why you went to school

“We work/fight hard for you” – I should hope so, although Avis tries harder

“We promise personal attention and support” – Is there any other kind of attention?

“Timely advice, expert guidance and representation” – As opposed to the late, amateur kind

“Build trusting long-term relationships” – Translation: recurring revenue stream

Do these phrases sound familiar? They are to your prospects. Let’s assume the worst. Thanks to the wealth of information and alternatives available on the internet, you have about 5 seconds to engage those prospective clients. If you don’t succeed, they will continue their search elsewhere.

So how do you stand out in 5 seconds? Distinguish and dismiss.

Distinguish – Identify what truly sets you apart from similar firms – what you do that they can’t or won’t do – and put that message right on the top of the page and in headlines. Quantitative information is best.

Dismiss – Communicate that your differentiators should be a core requirement in the prospects’ decision-making criteria. Make it easy for them to choose you.

I won’t kid you. Figuring out your true differentiators takes some work. It’s tough to stand back and think about what your prospects want to hear rather than what you’d like to say. Here are a few ideas to prime the proverbial pump:

  • X years of experience, niche experience or certifications – Everyone sees through that “275 total years” line
  • Saved/made clients over $X or X% in [insert service] – Aggregate data
  • % success rate – Cases, settlements, meeting client expectations
  • Testimonials – Notable clients, success stories
  • Professional Leadership – Real awards, association leadership, seminars or courses taught


Of course, you’ll need to make sure that your professional and state rules allow each type of differentiating message.

Rather than attempt to differentiate, I often see statements that just define the services provided, or, worse-yet, present a laundry list of bulleted services. The true differentiators, if any, are buried. By searching and visiting your site, your prospects already have a general idea of what you do. They want to quickly learn how you do it better. While lists of 3-5 bullets make content easier to digest, a two-column list of 20 bullets overloads the page and overwhelms the reader. By the way, the search engines don’t like this either.

Once you engage your prospects, you can continue to educate and share your expertise as they seek more relevant and detailed information. Your differentiating points become part of the decision-making criteria by which everyone will be judged, making it very difficult to compete with you.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.SM

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