What can you learn from cell phone carriers?

Pop quiz: why are you a customer of your cell phone carrier? Take a second to answer. Got it? You likely gave one of these reasons:

  • Your carrier is the cheapest (price)
  • You’ve been with the same carrier forever with no reason to change (inertia)
  • Your carrier offers an advantage that others don’t (distinction)

Legal services are no different. If you’re competing on price alone, you’ll wind up in a race to the bottom, just like the carriers who have introduced their cut-rate brands to capture the cost-conscious market. If your clients are working with you simply because it takes too much effort to hire another lawyer, they’re ripe for the plucking.

But if you offer an advantage that others don’t, clients have a reason to hire you and to stay with you. Your point of distinction not only sets you apart: it establishes your value proposition, and as long as you deliver that value, your clients are less likely to explore other representation.

Points of distinction take many forms, but examples include:

  • Special knowledge (legal or factual, especially “inside information”)
  • Valuable connections and demonstrated willingness to make introductions
  • Ancillary services that are especially useful in conjunction with your legal services
  • Ease of working with you
  • Billing approaches that represent value to your clients

To return to the cell carrier example, I was with AT&T (and its predecessors) for many years—inertia—but then I began spending more time in Wyoming, where AT&T’s coverage was pitiful. Verizon offered much better coverage (their point of distinction), and so I switched even though Verizon is more expensive than other options.

What would make a client prefer to work with you rather than someone else? If you can’t answer that question persuasively right now, you have some work to do.

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