Here's Part 3 of my discussion on identity management in professional service firms.
In a recent post and separate article, David Maister comments on the challenges that professional service firm leaders have in sticking to their strategy. I've seen it happen myself: a firm determines a course of action, and then allows itself to be derailed when a "too-hot-to-pass-up" marketing opportunity comes along. Maister bemoans their urge to be all things to all clients.
I believe this problem stems from multiple sources. Professional service firms leaders have yet to truly understand that their "identity" is not the same as their "strategy." In the absence of a robust strategy, one that requires specific actions and can be evaluated afterwards, PSFs end up pursuing a "who we are" approach to their growth goals.
Unfortunately, many professional service marketers exacerbate this problem by urging their firms to coalesce around "identity," as if having an "identity" will help make real progress in the marketplace. Instead it's only a stand-in, and marketers end up watching helplessly as their firms careen from marketplace opportunity to marketplace opportunity. True growth is elusive.
A firm's identity should be secondary to its go-to-market strategy. Michael Perla wrote a good piece about the challenges and rewards of strategy on the MarketingProfs "Daily Fix" blog recently. He quotes Sun-Tzu, the well-known military strategist and author of The Art of War. "Strategy without action is futile, and action without strategy is fatal." Notice that there is no mention about identity here at all.
Maister provides great evidence of how professional service firms are mixed up between their identity and their strategy: it's the phenomenon of firms providing "full-service," or "total solutions." This is simply a smokescreen for a firm that hasn't had the guts to pick a narrowly focused set of services, a well-targeted group of targets and segments, a deep and differentiated value proposition, a well-thought-operational infrastructure, and an objective evaluation process to measure it all.
Geez, no wonder PSF marketers end up urging their firms to choose an identity! It's their only alternative in the absence of real strategy.
My question: what ammunition do professional service marketers need to effectively address this dilemma? Can they wean themselves from the temptation to let their firms wallow in discussions about identity, in the absence of a potent marketplace strategy?