We're bombarded with brand messaging every day, but sometimes principals/equity partners find it hard to understand the value of their company's brand. If you're among them, you're certainly not alone. Many professional services executives see their brand as little more than a logo, tagline and a few website pages. They don't focus on developing their brand beyond those elements because they fail to recognize how branding can directly affect their company's success.
In truth, your corporate branding is far more than a logo, or even the messaging on your company website. Your brand includes everything your clients - current and future - know about your company. You want that audience to react in a positive way whenever they encounter your brand. The goal is to elicit a reaction that leads prospects to select your services over competitors.
By strategically developing your brand value, you can foster strong relationships with clients and prospects and build a stronger path to new business. But to develop that brand value, you need to think beyond the logo and tagline.
Breaking Down Your Brand
Your brand's value is a measure of your company's reputation and visibility.
Visibility describes how your business appears to the outside world, both online and offline. Think of it this way - to elicit a reaction, your brand has to be present before your target market. This visibility can include displaying your logo prominently on the jobsite, at select conference/events, on your website, through social media and even in proposal materials. Recognizing where your audience is will help determine the level of effort required on this front.
Reputation is the way the marketplace thinks of your organization and the regard it holds for the services you provide. That regard will be based on the experiences those in the marketplace have had with your company and what others in the industry say about your brand. A prospective client might not directly interact with your company, but they may work closely with, for example, a subcontractor who mentions your high regard for job site safety, or an architect who describes how your team prevented cost overruns on a past project. In other words, the relationships and experiences you have with everyone in your industry can influence your reputation.
Of course, your visibility and reputation are rarely dictated by your own communications - not in today's world of social media. Your reputation is reflected in both online and offline communication - messages that are driven from inside and outside the organization.
These messages can take many forms: the testimonials you collect from satisfied clients (positive), online reviews written by unhappy former employees (negative), or a discussion by clients about your company's ability to meet deadlines (positive). While you can't control all messages, you can control how you react and turn even negative comments into a chance to demonstrate what your brand is truly about.
Ensuring Brand Consistency in Your Organization
Your brand needs to be more than a mission statement mentioned during annual meetings, it need to be reflected in everyday interactions.
One of the biggest challenges in developing brand value is ensuring that everyone in the company - from the executive suite to the front desk - understands your brand and conveys it in all business dealings.
While getting everyone on the same page can be a challenge, it's crucial because an inconsistent reflection of your brand can damage your organisation's reputation significantly. For example, consider my recent conversation with the CEO of a 35-year-old architecture firm. He was struggling to extract himself from day-to-day client management discussions, and while he was excited to lead all new client pitches, they left him no time to run the business. He was stymied because the junior staff, while technically excellent, did not communicate the brand's differentiators as clearly as he could.
Boosting Your Brand's Visibility
If you're looking to build your brand, don't focus on the reputation you have today - take a moment to explore what you want your brand to mean. What feelings do you want it to convey to the marketplace? Start with the perception current clients have of your company and where they perceive your business to be providing most value. Understanding this will help you to enhance your brand focus, both internally and externally.
- Internally - Begin by educating all employees on your firm's core differentiators. Make sure managers, technical professionals and salespeople alike can explain the company's value proposition and what sets it apart. The message shouldn't focus on how great your employees are, or even how terrific your work is. It should be about the relevancy of your business to prospective clients' most important issues and goals.
- Externally - Get to work raising your brand's visibility by demonstrating thought leadership. This can take a variety of forms; You might consider blogging on your company website or contributing articles to leading industry publications; You might explore speaking opportunities at relevant events that put you in front of prospective clients; You could boost your social presence with relevant materials, with a focus on enhancing your online community. Whatever direction you choose, building visibility isn't done with a single blog or speech - consistency and relevance are key. It's also important to ensure your message is clearly conveyed. After all, you want to leave readers, listeners and all prospects extending the reach of your message.
Once you've objectively understood the internal and external perceptions of your business and it's brand value, it's time to take that brand to the next level and win more business.
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