The more “commodity” your business is the more competition you face and it is also harder to differentiate yourself.
With more people entering the Consulting trade it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out what are the key challenges for differentiation is what is the benefit of being different?
Appearing different if they’re already slightly hesitant to hire a consultant may be a real problem for some. Even looking different enough from your competitors that you can gain attention , to some prospects may be too much. Occasionally clients just have very set expectations of what a consultant looks like, what they do and how they do it.
If you come up against a client like this most of the time you have two choices. You can accept their opinion and move on or change your entire way of doing business to match their expectations. Neither are particularly good though the second seems like a very unpleasant experience and maybe even a disaster in the making.
In any case being different needs to be tied to results. Being different just to be different is not going to do much for your long term success. Connect up your differences and the results you deliver and what that means to the client. This is the best way to prevent getting caught in the commodity trap.
It is easy to see the industry as a commodity as it has in the past taken steps to commoditize itself. Many of the bigger consulting firms have worked hard to build branded methodologies that they then turn over to some young recruit fresh out of business school. Off they go following the methodology and providing minimal value for maximal billable. When there are problems the firm just sends in a senior consultant who has a few years more experience in the methodology to set everything back on the rails. Where was the senior consultant before it all fell apart you ask? And why could they have just sent them to begin with? Can’t it is not good for keeping the billable up, beside they were busy putting out fires at another client.
Now I am not saying they are all like that but the actions of some do a lot of damage to the reputation of the industry . Besides some of the commodity problem comes from non-traditional sources like software companies who use consulting services to bulk up profits. But that is another story for another time.
So how do you deal with the whole mess. Well if you are a independent or small firm focus on the fact that you really do provide personal and customized consulting. You are not a bulk up the billings shop and work hard to build deep connections with the business.
Focus on what you do that gets results for that specific customer and how using a cookie cutter approach will only make the clients business more of a commodity as well. And that is not a place anyone wants to go.