This column first appeared in this month’s Legal IT Insider magazine and as it received such favourable comment, I’ve now made it more widely available online. Incidentally, this column is aimed primarily at legal IT vendors but it is equally applicable to law firms… I recently had a meeting with the director of a legal IT services company who said their ambition was to “become the next Tikit”. This is not a new ambition. Over the last few years we’ve heard companies say they were going to be “the only viable alternative Tikit,” or “Tikit Mark 2” or else “like Tikit only cheaper and better” and even “like Tikit but with better biscuits on offer in their meeting rooms.”

OK, we made the last one up but you get the general picture. And, it’s not just services companies like Tikit that start-ups aim to emulate. Case management, cost recovery systems, digital dictation, DMS and CRM software vendors – we’ve lost track of the number of wannabe companies that have failed to become “the next” iManage or InterAction. Even consultants do it. “I want to be the next Richard Susskind” anyone? (And IT directors – “I want to be the next Jan Durant.”)

Now it’s great to have ambition but why publicly announce it in such a way that only draws attention to the competitors you are seeking to challenge? All you do is reinforce their reputation as the market leader and make it harder for you to differentiate your own products and services.

In fact every time you refer to your rivals, you remind people of their existence and prompt your prospects to check them out as a possible alternative supplier to your own offerings.

The competition have their own marketing departments so leave them to it – and certainly don’t spend any of your marketing budget promoting them to your customers.

Of course you need to keep an eye on what the competition is doing (that is sound market intelligence gathering) but primarily focus on the merits of your own offerings. Identify and carve out your own niche. And build up an identity that helps you stand out from the crowd.