Is our brand right for the market?
This is a question I get asked often and one which you (or indeed anyone in your organisation) can answer, simply by asking yourself another question first: is your brand known for what matters most to your clients?
This, of course, may lead you to ask yourself: ‘what does matter most to our clients?’ And if you can’t answer this, then the answer to that very first question is likely to be a resounding ‘no’.
This would be unfortunate.
More unfortunate, however, is the situation in which a firm is convinced it knows what is important to its clients, when in fact it has no clue at all. Such firms are so confident in their view of the market that they never think to validate their assumptions with their clients. As a result, there exists a fairly large (and growing) cohort of firms whose view of the market is blinkered.
Firms plagued by this ‘blinkers syndrome’ are easy to spot. They typically harp on about being innovative, passionate and thought-leading. Most of their promotional materials are littered with phrases like ‘we are <blah>’, ‘we are <blah blah>’ and ‘we are <blah, blah, blah>’. That is, we is the operative word for these firms. Their focus is inward, on themselves – when it should be on their clients.
In my experience, this partial blindness stops a good firm from being great. Relying on instinct will only get you so far in any market. In contrast, decisions made with the market in mind – and as a result of knowledge gained from the market – are often the catalyst for a brand propelling itself to a new level of success. And case studies from Beaton’s annual benchmarking study support this observation.
So what does matter to clients?
In the case of professional services firms, responsiveness, reliability, ease of doing business with the firm, and the firm’s understanding of the client’s business and industry consistently rank highly in Beaton’s survey. What’s more, these attributes are far more important to clients than more fashionable ‘attributes’ like innovation or brand strength.
But no matter what industry you’re in, your firm would do well to ask your clients what matters most to them (and to keep asking) and then to make sure that your firm is built around and becomes known for these market needs. It makes a whole lot more sense than relying on some contrived – and potentially irrelevant – notion of what your partners think you should be known for.
By Candice O’Sullivan, Director and Head of Strategy at Wellmark. You can follow her insights into professional services and #NewLaw marketing @wellmark_psf. You can also follow her tweets on brand strategy, content marketing and related topics @candicepill.
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