n our personal lives, we’ve all likely heard the phrases “actions speak louder than words,” “prove it” and “walk the talk.” They all seem to imply that simply saying something doesn’t hold as much weight as taking an action or behaving in a certain manner that demonstrates and supports a claim. It does make sense after all that it is far easier to make a statement than to behaviorally stand behind it – and truly prove that we mean it. Personally, it’s our reputation and identity that’s at stake.
In business, it’s basically the same except we’re referring to the collective reputation and identity of an organization – the brand. A company’s brand is its identity, and it is one of the most valued components of the business. The company can influence the brand, but at the end of the day, it’s what our clients recognize us to be and hopefully what our competitors wish we weren’t.
Company branding has always been an essential part of marketing a company’s products and services. But how many times do we see an organization making claims that are not backed with actions and behaviors? It’s easy to state that we’re “client-centric,” provide the “best customer service,” “truly listen to our clients,” are the “biggest and broadest,” are “leaders in our industry” or are “experts on a topic.” It’s yet quite another to prove it with evidence. And believe me, it’s hard to do, a long walk and often a heavy lift!
The challenging questions are what actions and behaviors should we take, and how can we ensure that the ones we choose are true to our ourselves, our company values, and are authentic? Start by comparing your company’s ideology – your vision, purpose, and core values – with what it is that you do and how you offer value and differentiation to your clients. Do they align? Does it truly set you apart from the competition? The answers to these questions will help you better understand how your organization should be behaving; what actions you should embark on; and ultimately how you wish for the outside world and your clients to see you – your brand.
For example, at our previous company Atrion, our vision was to be a “Top 1% Firm” in our industry. Our purpose was to have a “positive impact.” And our core values as I remember them, were “teamwork,” “people,” “client-centric,” “integrity,” and “excellence.” What stood out to me with Atrion, is that our ideology was woven into everything from hiring practices, to internal collaboration, company messaging, client communications, and yes – how we behaved and how we acted.
We were seeking to be a top 1% company, make a difference, and be extremely client centric. These weren’t just words spoken or displayed on our website or collateral. It was truly who we were as our authentic selves – our brand. I would even go as far as to say that our clients often shared the exact same values as we did, and our alignment made for mutually beneficial and unbreakable relationships.
A couple of authentic company behaviors at Atrion that stand out to me as I reflect are our Client Advisory Board and our AlwaysOn Symposiums – Leadership in the spring and Technology in the fall.
Because we truly were client-centric and authentically wished to be a top 1% company having a positive impact, we wanted to engage our clients in a co-create and collaborative manner – listening more than speaking – and discussing what’s going well, needed improvements and ideation for new services that might help. Our Client Advisory Board was an extension of our Atrion leadership team, and we created, managed, and engaged it with the honor and respect it deserved.
Our Symposiums were founded in the reality that CIOs and Directors of IT back then were struggling with being and becoming a relevant strategic leader in their business. Business strategy, goals and outcomes were far more important than technical widgets in a network, and technical leaders needed to transform and demonstrate strategic value to the business, versus simply representing required “utilities.” Our annual Leadership Symposium focused on leadership, strategy and soft-skills, and our annual Technology Symposium focused on technology, but from an angle of how one strategically leverages select technology to make a major business difference in their companies.
Both our Client Advisory Board and annual Symposiums served as evidence supporting what we said about ourselves – supporting and standing behind our ideology. We “walked the talk” in an authentic way, always remaining true to our core values. Yes – they were both extremely heavy lifts from a marketing and organizational perspective, but they were engaging, fun, challenging and rewarding in so many ways for our clients, our company, and our brand.
So, how do you wish for your brand to be viewed? What does your organization stand for, and what tangible actions illustrate that you behave and act in a manner that aligns and stays true?