Sharpen Your Competitive Edge with Tangible Brand

By Mary Weisnewski

As consulting firms of all sizes know, what you’re selling is your people as much as your services. Along with the skills and experience, how your consultants interact with clients—the trust they engender, the expertise they convey, the level of friendliness and empathy they show—are all part of the package.

“In a very real sense, your employees are your product. They are delivering the experience, and it can be a huge differentiator in this competitive market,” says Laura Yurdin, chief communications officer at Point B Solutions Group, a national management consulting firm whose senior-level associates help clients execute on mission-critical projects. “That’s why getting all employees on the same page with walking the talk of your company’s core values is crucial. Clients expect quality—what they are surprised by is the unique and meaningful experience of the engagement with you.”

Brand tools become meaningful business assets that result in boosting the bottom line when rooted in the core values of your firm and your employees. The values are your guiding principles and drive the culture of the firm. Brand equity is then built by incorporating the brand into all internal and external decisions and communications for employees as well as customers. It’s a tool to align mission, operations, culture and actions. The end result: an ROI you can see and feel. That’s tangible brand.

The following are seven ways to walk the talk of your core values, and bring your brand to life:

1. Develop an authentic brand platform to keep everyone on the same page.

Auditing a brand involves understanding both the internal and external points of view. Talking to employees, customers and key business partners to find out what they experience and feel about your company. Out of this process are revealed the essential elements of the brand, from which to build your brand platform. This is the filter that everyone in the firm can use as a daily compass for navigating internal and external interactions and business decisions.

Point B was founded in 1995 on the principles of outstanding leadership and exceptional relationships. “These core values were organic, but needed to be better defined, verbalized and visualized as the company grew from three to seven markets,” explains Yurdin, who headed the company’s branding process five years ago. “Before we began investing in collateral development, we spent a lot of time and resources on making sure we laid the groundwork properly. We had a brand—we just needed help in articulating it. The brand audit provided the information we needed to create collateral that effectively connects our associates and clients with who we are and what we value.”

2. Use your brand as a guide for hiring, training and evaluating employees.

The brand roll-out is only the beginning—you have to use it or lose it. Employees must see that it is a guide for all of their actions from day one of being hired, throughout their initial and ongoing training, and in their performance reviews.

“Every employee who is brought into the company holds some element of the seven characteristics associated with our brand,” says Clint Morse, founder and CEO of The Mosaic Company, a business training consulting firm in Seattle that first invested in brand development in 2002. “It’s a priority for us to build on these traits. We consistently coach employees on how live them—whether as an individual or a team.”

3. Use brand consistently in all communications with employees and clients.

Starting with a tangible brand platform that successfully conveys your company’s core values can make the design process more cost-effective, time-effective and more powerful in the execution. These potent visual tools work hand-in-hand with the corporate culture. So, you can see and feel your brand as you walk through the halls of your firm, as well as in the collateral. When the brand is authentic to the true strengths of the organization, employees will embrace and champion it—they can feel their values are aligned with the firms.

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