What makes you unique?

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Published on 2/26/07

A consultant who teaches the principles of networking, was conducting a seminar dressed as a clown. This was his way of "breaking the ice" when first meeting people. The costume gave him a topic to open the conversation -- "Why are you dressed like that?"

It seemed to me that he missed one point: he should have carried the theme further by having oversized business cards to hand out to people.

He could have taken this oversized business card from an oversized pocket on his costume and then handed it out to people as he left the conversation to go to meet the next person. The card, with his picture on it, dressed as a clown, would then have all the appropriate contact information along with something memorable about what he does.

This would be his unique selling proposition (USP), or what makes him different from others who also teach networking.

What makes you different as a lawyer?

Clients see lawyers as competent. Thus, the phrase, "I'm a good lawyer," no longer holds the same cache as before. Truth be told, clients can't tell the difference among lawyers -- once you have the law degree and the license from the state, you are as competent as the next lawyer.

While service is still the one factor that clients want from lawyers more than anything else (assuming competence), saying we provide personal service somehow misses the mark.

Finding the USP is not easy, but it is essential to communicate to clients and prospects why they should engage you rather than someone else. Your USP can offer something that your competitors don't or can't, or create something new that your clients need or want.

If you can't think of what makes you unique, you're really nothing more than a commodity to your clients. Just as important, you need to express your USP concisely and clearly. Develop what marketers call your "elevator speech" -- a 30-second summary that you could quickly give to a potential client next to you in an elevator.

One USP example that I suggested recently to a litigation client of mine was: "We provide solutions to your commercial problems -- We get you where you want to go faster!"

This may not yet be perfect, but it's a start to help him think about how to create a brief statement that will engage his prospective clients in a dialogue about how he can help them more effectively than another lawyer they might be considering.

The USP will help you stay away from the "price discussion." There will always be someone who will be willing to charge less. Once on this slippery slope, it is hard to get off ... and there is no winner.

A unique selling position actually helps establish higher rates. It shows that you offer value, not just represent cost. Providing solutions gets attention -- and gets rewarded. Merely charging an hourly rate, with nothing unique about it, tells your client that any other lawyer is just as good as you are.

Finding your USP will increase your revenues, will allow you to provide service to clients who truly appreciate the value you provide and will result in your receiving the types of interesting cases you want.

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