♫ Zoom Zoom Zoom ♫
A Capoeira song performed by Jibril Serapis Bey.
When it comes to legal services, it seems that many law firms see price as the sole basis for competition. However from a marketing perspective, price is but one of seven criteria that make up the ‘marketing mix’ for services. Since legal services are ‘intangible economic goods’ lawyers have to sell the perceived benefits of their services and see how they match up against the needs of the clients. All other things being equal, clients evaluate services on price. But this assumes that you are delivering commodity-like services that are largely indistinguishable from those offered by the competition.
If you can distinguish your services from the competition and come closer to meeting the discerned needs of the client as compared to the competition, you are now engaged in a differentiation marketing strategy. This is based on Michael Porter’s work at Harvard Business School.
From this matrix, you can see that there are two major determinants of how you market your practice. The first is whether you appeal to a large target market or a smaller one. The second criteria is whether you choose to compete on price or on differentiating or distinguishing your services from the competition. The focused differentiation strategy seeks to market niche legal services to a target market. There is another factor at work here. Distinguishable legal services have a higher margin as compared to cost-focused strategies.
As you start to think about how to distinguish your services from those of the competition you move from thinking about the ‘reference value’ of your services (your price compared to the price of competing services) to the ‘differentiated value’ of your services (how the quality and method of delivery of your services compare to the competition).
When you start thinking of how this is done in other markets, for example in the automobile market, you see that autos can take you (and others) and transport them to new locations – that is their function and on this level they are commodities. Every auto sold does this. What distinguishes one auto to another can be neatly summed up in the phrase used by Mazda: “Zoom Zoom”….
In subsequent columns we will explore each of the 7 components in the service marketing mix and what they mean for lawyers.
–David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.