It's not the USP but the CVP
Instead of searching for their mythical unique selling point, firms should focus on articulating how they deliver value to clients, advises Douglas McPherson
Cards on the table: I don’t accept that differentiation or unique selling points (USPs) exist in a legal marketing context. I know this point of view is divisive. Many agree that, as the majority of law firms do similar things in similar ways, there isn’t one single thing that one firm has that absolutely no other practice can lay claim to. Others still think ‘it’ is out there and continue to hunt it down.
(That said, I do accept that the way firms provide their services can be used to gain a competitive advantage. However, is high-quality client service really unique? Not as prevalent as it should be, perhaps, but it’s not unique.)
So if differentiation or USPs don’t exist, how do you articulate how and why you are better than the other firms in your market? For me the answer is the construction of a strong and credible client value proposition (CVP).
Surely this is just marketing semantics? Surely a CVP is just a USP by a different name? Well no, it isn’t.
The standard definition of a CVP is that it is a promise of ‘the value to be delivered, communicated, and acknowledged’ and ‘the client’s perception of how that value will be delivered, experienced, and acquired’.
But that’s just marketing-speak. Let’s put it into a legal context and, more importantly, into plain English.
The majority of clients often find it difficult to tell one law firm from another (but have an underlying concern that every firm has a tendency to be somewhat expensive and don’t understand why), so your CVP gives you the answer to the age-old question: ‘why should I use you?’
Constructed correctly, your CVP will enable you to explain what you do, how you do it, and how what you do delivers a level of value far in excess of the costs involved. It is a straightforward promise that:
Clearly communicates the benefits a client will enjoy while working with you; and
Provides a consistent set of messages a client, contact, or prospect can easily grasp because they capture their professional requirements and the way they want to be served.
What a CVP isn’t is an ‘elevator script’, something for your fee earners to memorise and regurgitate robotically. Similarly it isn’t a slogan or strapline; it is a straightforward way to summarise the value you deliver.
Once you have created your CVP, you need to use it (it never fails to amaze me how many firms go through the process, use it on their website or in a new brochure, then forget it), and use it consistently. If it’s going to work, your CVP needs to come across every time someone has contact with your firm.
For that to happen, all of your staff need to understand not only what your CVP is but also why it is, where it came from, and when to use it:
1. In person
When you’re out networking or catching up with a client, contact, or target;
When you’re progressing an enquiry (you’ll always be asked in some way why they should instruct you);
In reception, as this is often the first point of contact for your clients;
In your fee earners’ language and attire; and
In both formal and informal pitches.
2. In writing
In how you write (e.g. if you’re promoting yourself as straightforward and down to earth, you need to write that way); and
In where you write (e.g. if you are positioning yourself as a cutting-edge practice you need to use the latest technology, not a traditional hard copy newsletter).
Does your website accurately reflect your firm firm in terms of design, content, and purpose?
Is your content in easy reach of the search engines and the clients you want?
Does your online presence show you are up to date? Are you using video, apps like Periscope, or remote conferencing to make interaction as easy as possible?
As you can see from these limited examples, your CVP drives every aspect of the external perception of your firm. It is this perception that cements the value you offer and helps your clients, contacts, and prospects mark you out from your competitors.
Douglas McPherson is a director at 10 ½ Boots and the author of Package, Position, Profit