This week we have a guest blog from Ralph Ardill, the founder of The Brand Experience Consultancy. Today he’ll provide an overview on why a compelling brand is important for professional services firms. Next week he’ll look at his ‘8P’s’ of professional services branding framework. Ralph was involved with the recent Equiteq rebrand and specializes in professional services organizations.
The professional services sector is a crowded and competitive one. While consultancy growth was once secure if consultants simply did good work and kept clients happy, those days are long gone. Clients are becoming increasingly sophisticated about the way they use consultants to bring the most value to their business and many are developing their own in-house capability. Lower-cost challengers are also competing for work with established firms and many competitors are barely distinguishable from each other. This all means that managing a firm’s brand is not just a nice to have; it’s a necessity.
Branding is now being taken seriously in the boardroom and we are seeing the next generation of professional services brands emerging. Many people believe that a brand strategy is simply a visual identity or a logo but it is so much more than that. A company’s brand needs to encompass everything in a company: how the leadership team and employees behave both internally and externally, how the business communicates with its customers and other stakeholders and what the business stands for and offers.
Consistency in branding is also key. There are so many touch points in a customer journey – the website, newsletters, other collateral and the people in the actual business to name just a few – and for a brand to succeed it must be consistent and authentic across all channels.
The successful brands are the ones that convey a deep understanding about where they create value for clients. That create clear, compelling and relevant superior value propositions and maintain this all important consistency across all the touch points.
There are three overarching steps to consider when developing a consultancy brand that ensures cut through in your target market.
1. Start top down
It’s important for the leaders in the business to commit, engage and publicly support the branding process. This involves developing an internal ‘case for change’ to engage and involve staff. Leaders should co-create a roadmap for the project journey (process) and destination (outcomes) and anticipate and agree all resources, costs, outside help and investment required.
2. Let them in
Your people are your brand so involve and inform them throughout. Design your brand transformation project to encourage conversations from inside and out, but ensure there are clear processes for sign-off and decision-making.
Employee engagement, understanding and involvement in the process is crucial as they are going to be your brand ambassadors. Involve people from all levels of the organization in the design of the brand transformation process and clearly communicate what’s in it for them. By being part of the brand creation experience, they will be better advocates for the consultancy.
3. Listen before you leap
Talk to current, lapsed and new clients about their views and experiences, they will be able to provide valuable insight into what makes your consultancy different and their reasons for hiring, or firing, you. Balance these human insights against market and competitor insights and research.
Rebranding can be an exciting and invigorating process for a consultancy. While these are the three principal points to consider when undertaking a branding exercise, next week we’ll look in more detail at eight specific steps to focus on.
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