Last year we published a whitepaper that examined how B2B services firms can leverage the power of branding to stand out in an increasingly competitive industry. It’s fairly comprehensive in covering the process of building a solid and differentiated brand, from conducting internal and extensive research to identifying core brand attributes and developing a positioning and messaging platform. In this post, we want to take this a step further and examine how B2B services firms can maximize the value of their brands by leveraging their most important external communications channel: employees.
B2B services brands are built on reputation, relationships and intellectual capital – in other words, their people. Employees that have a strong bond and a clear understanding of the corporate brand can be a company’s most valuable brand ambassadors. But to generate this type of enthusiasm and unity, employees must feel a sense of shared purpose, a fundamental connection to the company’s mission, vision and values, and an understanding of how they contribute to the company’s success. And, they must be empowered with the right tools to communicate that brand externally – whether at a social gathering or a business function, through email, social media or a phone call. This is where employee communications and internal branding plays a critical role in maximizing the value of a brand.
So, how can your firm (re)invigorate these critical stakeholders? Here are the three T’s to success (because everything is better with alliterations).
Recently, we helped rebrand a national consulting firm looking to expand into new vertical markets. Prior to the official launch of the new brand, we led a series of in-depth brand training workshops with the firm’s employees. These included interactive exercises and educational sessions that gave an overview of the research findings so employees would fully understand the rational behind the brand strategy, an introduction to the new brand platform and a roadmap to how the brand would officially be rolled out. To help employees internalize the new brand, we focused on brand behavior exercises that reinforced the concepts delivered in the brand presentation and drove home the importance of “living” the new brand.
Whether your firm is launching an entirely new brand, onboarding employees or just refreshing existing employees, training is critical to ensuring employees truly understand what the firm stands for and are able to communicate that to external audiences in a consistent and compelling fashion.
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At launch, employees of the consulting firm received a brand book that communicated the company’s new position and key messages in a highly visual style, allowing employees to “see” the new brand in action and “feel” its impact. Environmental branding also provided an effective way to ensure that key messages were delivered consistently over time. A series of posters showcased the new positioning and messages. These were displayed in public areas of the firm’s offices where employees were most likely to see them.
Tools such as brand books, environmental branding and other documents that can act as a quick reference to key messaging empower employees to align their behaviors – what they do and say – with the brand.
Today’s increasingly digital and mobile centered world actually provides a great opportunity for professional services firms to sustain brand engagement with employees. Getting creative and proactive with social media, mobile platforms, online video, intranet, email and other digital channels is crucial to building a strong corporate culture and sustaining enthusiasm for the corporate brand.
Something as simple as an eNewsletter can keep employees informed and engaged. This was incredibly effective for the consulting client we helped rebrand. After implementing the new brand, they launched a quarterly eNewsletter that featured stories on brand, marketing and sales success stories, including examples of how different employees are “living the brand.” These emailers were successful because they gave employees an opportunity to hear from their peers and provided them with a fun and less formal platform for recognition. They were also a great way to disseminate best practices, giving employees a continuous education tool.
Building and Sustaining Momentum
As a result of this focused employee communications effort, employees were transformed into brand ambassadors who had the knowledge and tools to communicate core benefits, business logic and value-add opportunities to all constituents with clarity and impact. Importantly, these efforts have enabled employees to present a unified face to all external stakeholders as the company continues to evolve and expand into new markets.
Ultimately, the evolution from employee to brand ambassador is one facilitated by the firm. B2B services brands that take the time to lay the foundation, providing employees with the proper training and tools, and then sustain engagement overtime leveraging those platforms that employees are most receptive to, will get the most out of their branding and marketing efforts.