Generally speaking, most small and mid-sized consulting firms (those with less than 100 consultants) are effectively positioned, but that is by no means always the case. If your firm is struggling with positioning, this post offers 5 examples of well positioned firms to help you see effective positioning in action.
Positioning Drives Differentiation
I generally consider positioning to be the most critical aspect of differentiation for a small- to mid-sized consulting firm (a firm with less than 100 people). If you think about the 4 P’s of differentiation, as we’ve defined them, I think of each element as a lever towards building a highly differentiated firm.
A highly differentiated firm is one that has the ability to attract the types of clients it really wants, to perform the work it finds most rewarding, on its preferred terms, while making more money doing it.
Some Quick Thoughts on Positioning
In the 4 P’s model, positioning is the most important lever of the equation. Identifying the right place in the market to compete is the first and most important decision. In a way, getting positioning right is probably akin to solving 60% of the differentiation challenge.
Done correctly, positioning simultaneously narrows the firm’s field of vision while reducing the readily available number of substitutes to the firm’s offering. In essence, a well positioned firm can actually make quite a lot of mistakes in terms of how it markets itself and pursues new client relationships because it has identified a space in the market that moves the firm from one of hundreds or thousands of choices to one of a handful of choices.
Five Examples of Well Positioned Consulting Firms
I’ve prioritized them from smaller to larger firms so you can see how smaller firms have the ability to be more narrow than their larger counterparts.
#1 – LifeScale Analytics
This small firm focuses exclusively on helping life sciences organizations make sense of the massive landscape of complex data and information in their businesses. I hear a lot of people talking about big data, but only find a handful that are applying it to this sector exclusively.
#2 – Pay Governance
This ~20 person firm specializes in advising companies of all sizes (both large corporations and middle market companies) and all types (public, private and non-profit) on executive compensation matters. Its services range from developing appropriate governing philosophy on executive pay to establishing award levels and designing executive incentive programs. They’ve extrapolated the concept of executive pay into a much more robust set of offerings than is likely viable in a more generalist firm.
#3 – The Partnering Group
Primarily a strategy consulting firm, the Partnering Group has ~60 consultants that specialize in working with CPG and retail companies.
#4 – The Larvol Group
This ~100 person firm provides competitive intelligence tracking for the pharmaceutical industry. Turns out there are a number of firms that do things like this, but it’s still a highly specialist place to operate.
#5 – RHR International
A ~100 person firm, RHR International, focuses on “the top of the house” — planning for CEO succession and transition, improving senior team effectiveness, and developing senior executives.
Wrapping It Up
Positioning is the first, and most important, aspect of differentiating a consulting firm. These 5 firms are all good examples of firms who’ve gotten positioning right. For more on this topic check out: