What do extraordinary law firms and legal recruiters have that other, less successful businesses don’t? A sustainable competitive advantage. A sustainable competitive advantage is an advantage that you have over competitors that cannot be easily copied and that can be maintained over an extended period of time. But how do you develop and keep this type of advantage using competitive intelligence? Below are a few strategies:
Some Types of Advantage
Location and Client Access: Are you the only law firm serving clients in a particular city/town? Or, do you have an in-point into a particular customer base (i.e. immigrants, ethnic minority groups etc.)? If so, then you have a competitive advantage that might be sustainable. Take a look at your most important competitors; have they left a door open for you to seize prominence in a certain location or community? Use competitive intelligence tools such as Leopard Firmscape to find competing firms in your city or region, and then investigate how deep their market penetration is. Did they recently open a new office? Expand to a new practice area? Or, encroach on your territory? Your competitive intelligence data gathering should help you uncover if you’re gaining (or losing) your competitive advantage.
Client Loyalty: Having clients who return to work with you repeatedly is a competitive advantage that’s not easily duplicated. Take a look back at your client relations, how many of your clients do long-term business with your company? If you’re a legal recruiter, how many employers repeatedly give you job orders? If you’re a law firm, how many clients repeatedly call on you for legal services or refer you to others? How loyal are your competitor’s clients? Using Law Firm Profiles take a look at current and past press releases and news items related to your most important competitors’ clients and find out how loyal their customers really are. If you find that you have an unusually loyal client-base, then you probably have a sustainable competitive advantage.
Information Access: Data is power, especially in a society that is becoming increasingly knowledge-based. If you have access to important but difficult to find information, this could be a sustainable advantage. This difficult but important information could be in the form of the attorneys you hire or even consultants you have special access to. For example, if there is an emerging practice area, you may develop a competitive advantage by hiring the most skilled attorneys in that niche. Using competitive intelligence tools such as Leopard Firmscape, try to identify which attorneys have skills and information that’s in short supply and consider getting them on your team to create a sustainable competitive advantage.
Unique Services: Providing services that are high quality can give you a sustainable advantage because it’s something that is difficult to do consistently. Identify how your legal or recruiting services exceed the quality offered by your competitors and then develop a reputation for excellence. While this type of sustainable competitive advantage can take considerable time to develop, it’s probably one of the most difficult things to emulate and therefore the most valuable. So if you can achieve a reputation for excellence you can develop an advantage few competitors will be able to emulate.
As you work to develop your competitive advantage, remember that it’s only limited by your imagination and the expectations you impose. Some of the best competitive advantages are those that no competitor has thought of before.