Your secret sauce
Every business brings something a bit different to the table.
Take Virtuoso Legal for example.
When I set up VL in 2007, I was determined to buck the trend.
We started with an all-female team (initially just me, and then also Kirsten).
We were dead set on giving innovative IP the focus it deserved ... rather than treating it as an afterthought in commercial or financial matters.
And most importantly...
We decided that the pomp and circumstance we'd experienced in big firms was for the chop. Our main objective was going to be our clients' success - and not inflating our own egos. Simply put, we'd seen more than enough of that over the years!
Since that time, despite being a modest-sized firm we have:
- Been listed amongst the top 2% of firms in the world, year on year in the legal directories
- Achieved fantastic successes for clients in the highest courts in the land and internationally
- Continue to support clients we worked with in the beginning of 2007. Partnering to secure their unique offering in the marketplace on a global basis
I believe the last one is a testament to the success of our original mission and how we set ourselves apart. It is the thing I am most proud of when it comes to what we do.
This is what Virtuoso Legal is all about - our name, reputation and brand remain synonymous with this.
Nurturing something special
As business owners, we all set out with a different take on how things should be done.
I don't think there is any business out there that sets out to be ordinary or run of the mill.
But businesses can easily become "also-rans" - either when business leaders lose sight of what makes them unique and homogenize themselves...
Or, when the marketplace sees what they're doing and absorbs that uniqueness.
With certain ways of working, it can be difficult to use IP to stop other people from bandwagoning. (Though there are ways to do this and I would be happy to talk to you about it).
The use of trade marks as an anchor for brand reputation means that when you become known for doing something different, it is you that becomes the first person people look for.
The actionable bit
So how do you go about doing this exactly?
Step one: identify what it is within the industry that grinds your gears
It doesn't necessarily have to be problems in your industry that you seek to be a remedy for.
It could be that having looked at how things are normally done - you work out a way to do it better.
This can be a case of questioning what's accepted and imagining how it would be done if you had unlimited resources to your disposal.
Look at the client journey and maximise "delight attributes" and minimise "pain points".
There are some businesses that do go above and beyond - and people really love them for it (think of Disney, for example).
Step two: identify what you stand for and change how you act as a result
This is all about "walking the walk".
Be consistent over time and weave your values into every part of what you do.
You'll find that insightful improvements resonate with your customers and clients.
This creates loyalty, as people can get what you're selling - but no one does it quite the same way that you do.
This part takes a bit of humility.
You must understand it’s not necessarily what you sell that's important (though it still has to be good!)
It is everything that surrounds it that matters the most in setting you apart.
Ultimately, unless you have a truly unique product - people can always go somewhere else for it.
How they feel about it is another thing entirely. Approached with care - that is something that cannot be replicated anywhere else.
Step three: tell the world
Finally, you need to let people know about it!
As important as it is to "walk the walk" (and definitely do that bit first) you also need to signal boost.
There is nothing more powerful than marketing aligned with a clear demonstration of your values.
Note: this does not mean posting your mission statement out again and again.
Instead, it's bearing your mission in mind when you communicate to stakeholders at any juncture.
Doing this creates a "feel" around your business that others can't replicate. Think Nike, Red Bull, Marks and Spencer.
The strong feelings we have about those brands are all because of how they act - and the products are only a part of that.
All the while, it is the brand that becomes the lynchpin of this feeling.
(And of course, protecting it with a trade mark stops people siphoning off your goodwill by emulating your look or feel).
So today, I leave you with three sets of questions (which, naturally, have some sub-questions):
- What is it about other businesses in your space that feels incorrect or wrong? Is there any way of doing things better that people just haven't thought of?
- Bearing the above in mind, what is it that sets you apart from everyone else operating in your space? What is your mission? What are your core values? How is this expressed in your business operations?
- Do your brand and marketing communicate this to your prospects and clients consistently? Have you taken steps to carve out this space and protect your brand so no one else can come close to it?
If you need any help with any of this - I would be more than happy to have a chat.
Just give me a shout the usual way.
Have a great week.