Back2Basics: Four drivers of positive professional brand perceptions
by Mark Eardley (@mdeardley) Like any B2B enterprise, the success of a professional services firm depends on its ability to attract and retain profitable, long-term clients. To achieve that goal, it’s marketing’s task to shape positive brand perceptions that will trigger engagements.
The four drivers of brand perceptions
Positive perceptions are created when markets associate a professional services brand (PSB) with the four drivers in the following ways:
- Relevance: Your services support my role, responsibility and accountability
- Evidence: You have proof of successful delivery into my line of business and my organisation’s sector
- Difference: There are advantages produced by your services that distinguish you from my other options
- Prominence: Your track-record is well known to me, my organisation and my peers
How the drivers trigger engagements
In general terms, you are what your markets think you are. More specifically, and far more importantly, you are what buying-decision influencers think you are. Positive or negative, accurate or not, that’s your brand because perception is reality.
“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” —Anais Nin.
Engagements are triggered when influencers — the only people whose perceptions count — regard the brand like this:
- Relevance: It is obvious to me why I should consider engaging your services
- Evidence: My buying-decision risk is minimised by your proven ability to deliver the services I require
- Difference: I can qualify and quantify my selecting your services over and above your competitors’
- Prominence: Within my industry/sector, your reputation is clearly understood and widely respected
Marketing a professional services firm: four steps
“Don’t count the people you reach. Reach the people who count.” —David Ogilvy.
By bearing that pithy truism in mind when formulating your marcoms strategy, it’s obvious the brand should be promoted in the following ways:
Show you understand the specific requirements of everyone who influences the buying decision. In terms of segmenting and targeting — getting the right message to the right people — you need to identify all the influencers and then define the reasons why your services are precisely pertinent to them.
For each influencer, exemplify successful fulfilment of the outcomes they are seeking. This means providing proof to reinforce the credibility of your relevance and to validate the reality of your brand’s promise. Not only must the brand create client expectations, it must also substantiate client experiences. As another marketing titan explained:
“When prospective customers can’t experience the product in advance, they are asked to buy what are essentially promises — promises of satisfaction.” —Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business Review.
Compared to competitors, define how you are more empowered to achieve the influencers’ desired outcomes. In other words, how you are differentiated from the competition in terms of what you do, how you do it and the results you deliver?
Ensure ‘evidence of difference’ is routinely visible to your markets’ decision-influencers. This applies to both existing clients and prospects; the former need reminding why they chose you in the first place and the latter need to know why they should. When influencers are fully aware of your relevance, evidence and difference, they are empowered to confidently make accurately informed decisions concerning how your firm will advance their success and that of their organisation.
Three areas of brand-focus: results, results, results
For PSBs, results are the materials from which brand perceptions are built. It’s therefore essential — and entirely logical — to build your brand around the results achieved for clients. Here’s why. Results are the products derived from your services. They are the sum of what your firm does, how it does it and for whom. Everything that emanates from the brand should reflect how your firm advances clients’ success.
What’s so commercially potent about this brand-building approach is that, when they are classed as products, results may be categorised within the five factors of value. That’s mega-significant because these are the criteria that govern all B2B buying decisions.
Any professional service may be described in terms of the definitions for each of the five factors. And that’s important because it translates what your brand represents into content that addresses what decision-influencers are motivated to buy — and keep on buying.
Mark Eardley (@mdeardley) advises B2B companies on how to govern their marketing to attract and retain profitable customers; several of his clients have grown to become market leaders. He and Charlie Stewart have written Business-to-Business Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide (Penguin Random House), which offers practical, actionable advice on how to make marketing make money. His monthly “Back2Basics” column covers how B2B companies and their agencies should manage their marketing.
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