Strong differentiation #1: be faster

Strong form of differentiation #1: Complete the work or achieve the project goal faster.

Remember that weak forms of differentiation are claims that almost any of your competitors can credibly make. “We have a great process.” “We have a great team.” That kind of thing…

If you can actually complete the project faster, that means several very important things to your client:

They can start benefitting from your work faster. This might make them more money, save them more money, allow them to seize some time-sensitive opportunity, or improve some important situation more quickly. All good things from their perspective.

If you bill hourly, you know that benefitting your client in this way harms your revenue. Them’s the breaks. There are other ways to price your work, and you’ll have to move away from hourly billing if you want to differentiate your business based on speed.

It costs them less of their time and attention. All things being equal, the longer it takes you to create the desired outcome for your client, the more of their time and attention they have to divert to manage the project. I don’t know about you, but time and attention are my most precious resources. I’d bet money that many of your clients are the same.

Imagine two approaches that create the same outcome:

a) 1 month of full time work and your client agrees to meet with you for 4 full-day 8-hour planning meetings up front
b) 3 months of part-time work and you break those 32 hours of meetings out into 32 separate 1-hour meetings?

Which approach would be better?

For many clients, the latter option would be like “death by a thousand cuts” except it would be “death by 32 meetings” that could have been replaced by 4 days of intense work. Sure, it’s not easy to get 4 full-day meetings with a client, but if that’s what it takes to dramatically shorten the project I bet you can make a pretty strong argument for something like that. This particular example is just a hypothetical to help you think about how you might approach things differently so that you can legitimately claim to be faster.

Time for some tough love: if the stuff you build for your clients delivers no additional value if it’s completed faster, it’s likely that what you do for clients is a commodity service. In other words, if you can’t create additional value by creating the desired outcome faster, think about changing your business to focus on something that does associate speed with value.

Sure, there are times when the start of a software project needs to be delayed, or the project structured as multiple smaller projects so it can better align with some other process that’s naturally slower-moving or not quite ready yet. But your ability to get things done fast when that speed does deliver more value is a compelling differentiator.

You actually can do that. Change your business, I mean. You can make decisions now that are based on objective information that you have now to make your business dramatically better in 6 to 18 months from now. It starts by narrowing your marketing focus, which I teach you how to do in

Tomorrow’s email is about the risk differentiator.

Talk to you then,

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