Can social responsibility be a differentiator for your professional services firm?

Is your professional services firm struggling to generate qualified leads? Are you finding that you’re constantly competing on price? Does every new project require a major investment of time and energy just to get up to speed on an unfamiliar industry or subject matter area?

These problems all have the same root: lack of focus. Nothing holds professional services firms back more than failing to define a very clear, very narrow niche market and a specific set of differentiators that resonate with that market.

Nothing holds professional services firms back more than failing to define a clear niche and differentiators. Click To Tweet

When you think of your firm’s differentiators, things like client service, technical expertise, top talent and creativity might come to mind. And they’re all valid differentiators (if you can back them up).

But what about impact and social responsibility? Can a focus on doing well by doing good really set your professional services firm apart?

The answer is yes, but only if:

Your commitment to impact is authentic

Just like any other differentiator, a commitment to impact can’t be fabricated. Your firm has to truly live and breathe it. Your ideal clients will be able to see through exaggerated social responsibility claims in a heartbeat, and when they do, the fallout may go beyond their decision not to work with you. They may also spread the bad news that you’re using social impact as a branding ploy to their friends and colleagues.

Your ideal client cares

If your commitment to social responsibility and impact doesn’t matter to the types of clients you want to work with, it’s not a valid differentiator. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue your interest using your business as a force for good (you should). It just means you shouldn’t shove it down the throats of prospective clients who don’t consider social responsibility a key criteria for choosing a firm like yours.

That said, B2B buyer preferences are shifting right along with consumer preferences, and more professional services firms are finding that their target clients do care about social impact. According to Nielsen, 50 percent of global consumers say they would be willing to reward companies that give back to society by paying more for their goods and services, and those same preferences likely carry into their decisionmaking process when choosing a professional service firm to partner with.

More professional services firms are finding that their target clients do care about social impact. Click To Tweet

If your professional services firm is focused on working with nonprofits, foundations, causes or other changemaking companies, this one is a no-brainer. But it’s important to acknowledge that social impact can be a differentiator for less obvious professional services target markets, too.

You can back it up

Every differentiator needs proof points, but none more so than social responsibility. That’s why some large companies spend so much time and energy on CSR reporting.

But as anyone who has read a few CSR reports knows, they’re often little more than a poor mask for questionable business practices.

To truly back up your claims of impact and social responsibility, you need outside accountability. That’s why we’ve elected to become a B Corp, but that’s not the only path. Depending on the specific areas of impact you’re focused on, you might choose other certifications or designations, from Minority or Women’s Business Certification to L3C.


It’s also crucial to show rather than tell when it comes to backing up your commitment to impact, and one of the best ways to do so is through your case studies. While working impact into your case studies might seem strange at first, it’s all about asking the right questions in your case study interviews, and our free resource 20 Questions to Ask in Your Next Case Study Interview can help.

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If you’re still considering establishing impact as one of your professional firm’s key differentiators, congratulations. Your future is bright, and it’s getting even brighter as more companies begin to consider the impact of their potential partners when making professional services buying decisions.

Alyssa is the President and Co-Founder of Prosper Strategies, and is obsessed with helping impactful organizations achieve their goals through marketing.

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