On Black Friday (and this year unfortunately also on Thanksgiving evening), major retailers everywhere were hawking their goods, often at the lowest price of the year so far.  This is not news.  But there was something I didn’t notice when I went to Staples late Thanksgiving night (I’m sorry, but all printer ink was 25% off, and I got a case of paper for free).  There weren’t any law firms were offering a “BOGO” deal on divorce, which I suppose would work as “Buy One Divorce, Get Your Next Divorce at 50% Off.”  It could come in handy, as the second divorce would inevitably happen between anyone shopping Thanksgiving night who would also buy a couple of divorces on a BOGO promotion.  I also didn’t spot the local H&R Block offering an “Early Bird” on those who want to file for 2013 year-end taxes now.  Nor did I notice architectural firms holding “Midnight CAD-Madness” specials.

Looking at the Bright Side of Conspicuous Consumption

There are some things that the retailers get right during this time of year that could be applied tastefully to professional services firms.  First, clients have to know you exist in order to consider using your services.  A clear and useful website, offering tips and information instead of just your company’s “dating profile,” is a good start.  That same site optimized for major search engines is better.  Performing charitable services in your community (see my previous post, Your Professional Services Firm and Charity Initiatives – a True Win-Win-Win-Win Proposition) lets your prospects know you exist and you care.

Beyond the BOGO: How Can Your Firm Still Offer Something “Special” During the Holidays

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about a bargain.  Yes, I did buy printer ink on a Thanksgiving evening special.  But I bought ink that I use and needed anyway, for my printer model.  I didn’t buy an inferior or questionable brand they were trying to dump.  I bought from a firm I’ve known, used and trusted for years.  And I left feeling like they were actually rewarding me for already being a good client.  Saving money was a nice perk, but I’d still choose them first.  But the trip that got me in the door that night also got me to look around at the cool convertible laptop/tablet combos out there now.  I will likely come back to Staples for that computer when I’m ready for it.  I also peeked around at other new things, items I never knew existed that can better organize my office (unfortunately my obsessive-compulsive disorder hasn’t made me any neater).

Maybe a small firm is considering changing tax specialists, but the management team just hasn’t gotten around to it because they’re also looking for IT help, some outsourced marketing, maybe even some human resources assistance with a new employee policy.  Your accounting firm has something new, however, that this prospect doesn’t even know exists.  It’s a special service that not only provides the tax services that are desired, but through strategic partnerships the other IT, marketing and HR services are available bundled together.  Now that sounds like something a retailer would do – bundle products together to give a shopper related items at a discounted price and the convenience of going to only one place.

Quality Often Determines a True “Bargain”

As much as I would love a 60” HDTV for my tiny abode, I’m not going to buy the “Joe Blow” brand just so I can have one.  Its quality has yet to stand the test of time, there aren’t references from other buyers saying how great the TV is, and actually it doesn’t even look very nice.  I’ve found that really cheap stuff often costs me far more than the quality item in the long run.  Your firm may already be offering real value in the form of high quality service and employees and partner at market prices.  A lawyer isn’t a bargain if you lose the case; that school design will cost more than money if the design is faulty and causes a collapse.  Give your clients and prospects the gift of surprising and useful services that solve problems, sterling credibility and astonishing customer service.  Be the part of the holiday season in their interactions with you that doesn’t cause the agita that all this commercialism brings.  And a genuine smile doesn’t hurt.