Differentiating a product is (usually) easy. Differentiating professional services is hard.
Take an IT services business for example. They have employees with X years of experience (so do their competitors). They have demonstrated client success stories and referenceable clients (so do their competitors). They have people with certifications in key technologies (so do…you get the idea).
And yet—each professional services business, in IT, digital marketing, accounting, or any other function, is unique. Not generically “better” than competitors, but a better choice for certain clients, under certain circumstances.
In discussing this recently with Dustin Bruzenak, four questions emerged which help professional services providers separate themselves from their competition:
- Can they do the hard jobs? Anyone can do the simple things. The best service providers are those that can tackle the challenging, messy, thorny projects. In app development, for example, this may involve building apps that not only run on both iOS and Android, but also support multiple communication protocols (for IoT applications), are secure (for regulated industries like healthcare), and interface with legacy enterprise systems (for industries like banking and finance).
- Do they have a track record of consistent success? Any provider can tell one or two success stories. But have they produced consistent success over time? Casual baseball fans know that Don Larsen of the Brooklyn Dodgers pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. But serious fans know that he pitched for seven different teams, amassing a barely mediocre career record of 81 wins and 91 losses. The best service providers are consistent performers, not one-game wonders.
- Can they define their ideal client? Any service provider that says they can do anything for anyone probably can’t do anything special for anybody.
- Can they provide strategic guidance? Anyone can take orders. The best service providers not only bring your ideas to life, they make them better by offering suggestions based on extensive experience and then proving the value of those recommendations through data.
That’s the kind of company Dustin set out to build. Here’s the story behind Modern Logic.
Getting digital products to market is a tough business. There are plenty of unknowns and lots of ways to spend time and money and not accomplish your goals. Are you building what you think the market wants or what your buyers actually want?
Modern Logic works with startups and innovators at larger companies to get products to market and learn more quickly from their actual users so that they don’t fall into the most common pitfall of product creation: making something that no one wants.
Year founded: 2010
Funding rounds: Bootstrapped
Current size: 12 FTEs and growing quickly. More than half of those hires have occurred in the last year.
Webbiquity: What inspired you to work on a solution to this particular problem?
Dustin Bruzenak: I’ve been in this business in some form or fashion for twenty years, often as a founder myself. I’m inspired every day by the founders and innovators that we work with. These are people who want to change the world, and changing the world is very, very hard.
My goal is to help apply what we know to make that experience easier and less grueling, so these amazing people can focus more on their mission and less on the risks of product creation.
This job has me honestly the most excited I’ve been for anything in my entire life. I get out of bed every day thankful that I get to help others build amazing things that improve the world.
Webbiquity: What were the most effective channels or methods for you to get the word out to prospective customers when you first launched your product?
DB: For me, since I’ve worked in Minneapolis tech for a long time, I initially started with my network. Most founders are going to start there and it can be an incredible launchpad to have early adopters you know and trust.
Beyond that, there are a few good ways to expand. For a services business, I’ve found that getting involved in the community via attending events as well as sponsoring and speaking at conferences has been invaluable. This is time-consuming but works well for a locally operated business.
My other bit of advice would be to get to know and love LinkedIn and your CRM of choice (mine is Hubspot). LinkedIn is my primary social network and as a founder, it should be yours as well.
Webbiquity: Finish this sentence: “Knowing what I know now, if I were starting over today, what I would do differently is…”
DB: I would have focused much more on the business fundamentals and much less on being a good engineer. I have a very talented team and I could have stepped away earlier and delegated more. You don’t have to do everything yourself.
Webbiquity: What’s the most important advice you could offer to an entrepreneur starting out today?
DB: This is a marathon, not a sprint. Take care of yourself. Nothing is worth sacrificing your mental or physical health. Having a solid foundation of self care lets you take care of your customers and employees better and results in a business that you can sustain and that can sustain you in the long term.