How do Compliance Consultancies Establish a Competitive Advantage?

Posted by Craig Thornton

Step 1 - focus on key QHSE market trends

If there’s one thing most small consultancies struggle with its standing out from the crowd.  

But the problem isn’t just because of poor marketing (although to be fair most small consultancies don’t exactly excel at marketing).  No, the real reason consultancies find it hard to differentiate themselves from their competitors is because there’s nothing tangibly different about them. 

Sure, they can talk about their decades of experience, subject matter expertise and exemplary approach to customer service but when everybody else is saying the same thing, it’s anything but unique.  In fact, rather than creating what marketers would call a unique sales proposition (USP), what they’ve actually created is a common sales proposition (CSP).  And that, unfortunately, can do more harm than good.  




The key to establishing a USP

Of course, there’s no shortage of free online articles about defining your USP.  However, most make the assumption that you already have a point of difference and it’s just a case of articulating it. But what if you don’t - what if you first need to establish a competitive advantage? Where do you start?

In my opinion the key to establishing a competitive advantage is to take the blinkers off and think about the key trends affecting the industry. The good news is you should already know what these are because you’re supposed to be telling your clients about them before your competitors do. So now all you need to do is turn this knowledge into power.    

Here’s the analogy I use to get the point across…


Anyone for a surf?

You’re a surfer – not the best but good enough to be out there with the cool dudes with their flash boards.  One day you turn up at your local spot for a quiet surf only to find out that it’s competition day. But rather than go with your first instinct to get back in the car and head over to the next bay, you find yourself signing up to compete. 

Next, you assess the conditions. They’re not great so you know it’s going to get tactical – especially since it’s so busy.   

Whenever a decent wave does come along, there’s going to be a mad scramble to catch it but only a few will succeed.  And you’ll need to use your local knowledge to pick the right wave as most look a lot better than they actually are.

It’s going to come down to your positioning out on the water, picking the right wave and then nailing the execution.

Welcome to the harsh world of consulting!


Big QHSE compliance trends - picking a winner

When you come across a small consultancy that has a genuine competitive advantage (and translated it into a strong USP), you know they picked the right wave and are currently riding it for all its worth.  Sure, it wasn’t easy but it wasn’t luck either. Instead, they used their experience and knowledge of the conditions to pick a winning wave.

Recently I’ve written about some of the big waves/trends we’re seeing in QHSE compliance – like changes to key ISO standards and the growing importance of integrated management systems.

I haven’t however written about software as a major trend – probably because it seems far too obvious from my vantage point. 

But there can be no doubting its growing importance with SME’s no longer prepared to use paper-based systems when there are software applications out there that can save them a heap of time and effort.

Of course software isn’t just a hot topic amongst end-user organisations – it’s also hugely important for consultancies. And for those ambitious enough to fancy a surf, it’s also a great wave to pick in order to create a competitive advantage. 

For a real-life example of how consultancies partner with Mango and the value it creates, simply watch the video below. 


The takeaway

Your USP is what makes your business stand out from the crowd and tells your prospective customers what’s special about you. It also needs to add value, be memorable and easy to communicate.

But in order to define a meaningful USP, first you need a genuine competitive advantage. 

Are you sure your consultancy offers something important that the other guys don’t? 


Tags: Compliance, Consulting