In a recent meeting about a company’s differentiators, the discussion landed fully on mediocre options. Yes, your people are always wonderful. Yes, your culture is top notch. The main challenge with this is that lots of companies can say this, too, and likely do. How can you really differentiate your company and still tell the truth? You pick an edge.

Selecting an edge is an approach that helps attract your prospective clients to you. As with most exercises, this isn’t about what you, the internal crew, likes or thinks. It is about what your target audience can latch on to, and get inspired by, in order to bring you in for a conversation. Your audience needs to find themselves in your differentiator so they can relate. This also helps you attract the type of work that you want to do; not work that is doable but lacks excitement.

So, what does it mean to pick an edge? You’ll have to ultimately decide what this means to your company. Here are a few parameters to get you thinking:

  • An edge is truly that – it’s got an opposite match on the other side. For example, cheap or expensive. Fresh or monotonous. When you think about your edge, what is the opposing side?
  • Make sure the edge you pick influences your audience toward the type of work you want to deliver. If you’re looking for progressive work for your industry, the message should say that. If you’re the best at keeping legacy systems alive, it should resonate toward that influence.
  • Keep it simple. An edge with an opposite by nature is straight forward. If you can select an edge that naturally brings the understanding of what you don’t want to do, that helps your audience find your strength. A few key words that clearly have an opposite to me include adventurous, complex and smart.
  • Stay relevant. This exercise can get you excited about your favorite projects, and that’s a good thing. Watch that fine line to make sure that work is profitable, relevant work for your company to deliver.
  • Validation. Whatever the edge you seek, make sure you have examples that validate your ability to deliver on that edge. As part of your story, you’ll want to have those supporting threads.
  • Give personality to your brand. Remember this is the message you want to use that attracts clients that you want to work with. Giving your brand a personality around your messaging helps deepen that message in a way that makes your message stick. This may need to be in your supporting messages vs your key phrase, and that’s OK.

Once you find a handful of thoughts, it’s time to play them out in real scenarios to ensure they’re a fit for your team to blend into conversations with ease. Typically, you want this to play out something like this:

  1. Your overall message that includes your edge,
  2. Supporting messages that back up that edge,
  3. Data and stories that provide details to your edge.

Here is a straight-forward example to get you started:

Key message:  We help clients innovate.

Your supporting message: We’ve helped over 100 clients drive innovation in their companies.

Data and Stories:  Case studies that showcase how a client wanted to innovate, how you gave them their roadmap and took them there.

If you want to build your muscle around helping client after client innovate, this type of message helps you push and pull with your language toward more work in this category. Pick your edge and really build your support around it to make sure you have the right message to help you find and attract the type of work you want on repeat.

When you put yourself out there in this way, yes, you may miss out on work that isn’t on your edge or that you may need to turn down because it’s not in line with the type of work you want to do. This is OK! You’ve got to say no to the good in order to say yes to the great. I’ve had clients ask, “if we only say we want to innovate will we miss out of working with people who don’t want to innovate?” Well, yeah. Maybe. That is the point, isn’t it? So, get out there on your edge and shout your expectations in your message. Your work happiness will soar and your employees will thank you.

Raquel Richardson is a practice lead with Centric Consulting.

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