Does Your Firm Have an Identity Problem?

How do you know when your organization has an identity problem?

In the course of our work with professional services firms over the years, we have learned that certain events and symptoms are usually warning signs that your brand needs attention.

For example, if any of the following describes your organization, you might want to examine whether the business is really clear about what it stands for and what makes it unique:

▪       You spend a lot of time, money and effort attracting clients who turn out to be difficult, demanding and expensive to please

▪       You invest significant effort and resources attracting people who don’t fit and don’t stay long

▪       Your senior team members tell quite different stories about what the organization is or does, and why it is valuably different

▪       Your internal beliefs, behaviors and processes do not support – maybe even conflict with – the promises made by your external brand and marketing communications

▪       Your investment in thought leadership is episodic, hard to focus, and disconnected from your marketing process

▪       Your marketing output is high, but your firm is not “famous” for anything.

These are all chronic symptoms that the brand has not been well defined; that it is not being expressed through a clear driving brand idea; and/or that your key people may not share a common understanding of the meaning at the heart of your business.

Milestone events in the life of your organization also signal a need to re-visit your brand. Common triggers include:

▪       Merger or Acquisition – when two or more “tribes” need to develop a credible, common, motivating identity

▪       Rapid Growth – when you have an influx of new senior players, who need to weave their stories into your organizational narrative

▪       Prolonged Austerity – when morale is low, promises have been broken and the temptation to deviate from core values is strong

▪       Changing Value Proposition – when you add capabilities, offerings or markets that alter the organization’s promise to its stakeholders

These symptoms and events are all valuable prompts to re-consider what makes your business unique, and whether that is really well understood by your people and your marketplace.