19 April 2013
We’re delighted that Admap has just published an article on B2B branding by Brigid. This comes hot on the heels of another article on this subject, published in Market Leader last month.
Exceptional brands attract customers, staff and investors. Think Apple, IBM and The Co-operative. Ensuring the brand is the DNA for all decision-making is what really drives these market-changing businesses.
But most B2B and corporate businesses are slow to realise that creating a distinctive and meaningful brand is the magic ingredient that creates sustainable competitive advantage. And no matter if you define your business as B2C, B2B or corporate – in the end it’s all P2P (people to people).
Putting the brand at the heart of business takes big vision and ambition. You need to stand for something above and beyond transactional relationships. You need to ensure that everyone in your company understands the role they play in delivering your promise to customers.
Brand means far more than visual cohesion and integrated communications.
For a brand-hearted company, products and services are not merely presented appealingly, they are created precisely to ‘prove the promise’ to the customer.
In this sense, brand strategy is the means of executing the business strategy. It’s a way of translating strategy into a tangible, meaningful experience. In other words, putting rhetoric into real action and measurable performance.
Brand is the benchmark and inspiration that should guide and inspire all organisational, new business development, talent attraction and retention, innovation, new product development, and performance development plans.
Some enlightened companies go a step further, using the concept of brand to drive product and service innovation. A great example of this is the evolution and growth of three key brands in Balfour Beatty’s Support Services Division. These businesses have become more and more like consumer brands – all about human interactions, service, personality and autonomy. And each company uses the brand as a cut-through to strategic decision-making in different ways, with exceptional and sometimes surprising results.
Kevin Craven, CEO of Balfour Beatty Support Services Division, instigated the first of these transformations, the rebrand of Haden Building Management into Balfour Beatty WorkPlace. He used the brand strategy as one way to inform a new organisational structure and operating model to move this facilities management business into a more upstream positioning.
Balfour Beatty WorkPlace’s central idea ‘Freedom to perform’ helped drive a complete rethink of the company’s Leadership Framework, eliminating layers of complexity. This created the autonomy staff needed for mission-critical service delivery and has been fundamental in winning major multi-million pound bids.
Craven said: “When challenged or asked to adapt, amend or refine proposals or include new services or responsibilities into a contract, we are seen as noticeably more responsive, agile and decisive. We are able to trust our people because they have this brand-informed framework of ownership and empowerment, which means they are motivated to make the right decisions to deliver our promise ‘We work. You excel.’ to the customer. Our promise is always focused on ensuring our work is aligned to the customer’s vision. Our brand helps us determine how to make that a reality, daily. It’s this sort of distinctive attribute that can make all the difference in a very tight market when many other things are quite similar.”
Eighteen months post-rebrand, Balfour Beatty WorkPlace saw a 41% increase in revenue, a 33% rise in average annual value of orders, bid teams became 2.5 times more productive, tender conversion rates soared from 25% to 50%, and the average value of orders per person rocketed by 565%. Although the rebrand can’t be fully attributed to all this success, its role is unquestionable, since there was no additional marketing spend to support the brand’s relaunch.
For Balfour Beatty Living Places, defining and putting the brand at the heart of decision- making has been a key factor in a remarkable transformation from a traditional and narrowly-focused highways business into a lead player in all areas of managed services for Local Authorities and public sector organisations.
Having the purpose enshrined in the new name was a good starting point. And using the promise ‘Inspiring change’ to direct operations, service approach and attitudes has shifted the perception, confidence and ambitions of staff. It focuses their attention on achieving the customer’s vision and helping deliver to the community.
Terry Woodhouse, managing director of Balfour Beatty Living Places, argues this was a major reason to winning a £200million 10-year contract this year: “The new North Tyneside contract is the first genuine manifestation of a client buying into the new Balfour Beatty Living Places brand. The brand’s promise is at the heart of the whole contract’s raison d’etre. It embodies the idea of regeneration, of community-focused endeavours, of inward investment and all the things that make a community thrive – a living place. The idea permeates every part of business development and delivery processes. And it really resonates with Local Authorities. They realise that it’s so much better to team up with a values-driven, ambitious, forward- looking partner who can help them deliver their vision.”
There was also a surprising but significant by-product of this transformation. The Balfour Beatty Living Places teams now resent any restraints put on them. Even the most sceptical of staff who came from the tradition of “hairy-arsed road diggers” (as one of their clients elegantly put it) have been inspired to believe that any change is possible, now saying ‘why not’ rather than ‘not sure’.
The DNA of the brand is helping to transform the business from looking back down the road, to looking up at the horizon.
At just over one year old, Balfour Beatty WorkSmart is the newest addition to the Support Services Division. Its remit is to deliver business process outsourcing services such as accounts, payroll, expenses, HR, and IT to Balfour Beatty Group operating companies and their clients.
In creating a company from scratch, managing director Paul Milner immediately realised that it would be essential to define the purpose and qualities of this new company, especially since they would be recruiting hundreds of staff.
He said: “Our purpose and promise of Transform & Perform as well as our vision and values, are the main tools we need to drive the business. If something is not aligned to one of our main principles enshrined here, then it’s peripheral and we bin it. I now pathologically stick to the brand dashboard that is used in every part of the business and in every decision we make about service development, people development and customer relationships.”
And it’s already reaping rewards. In an industry infamous for high attrition rates, where 15% churn is considered not bad, Balfour Beatty WorkSmart is only at 4.8%. A large proportion of that is made up of people who don’t get past their three- month probationary period. Balfour Beatty WorkSmart uses the brand to recruit people and judge their probationary period. If someone isn’t able to demonstrate the brand’s vision and values during this time, they can’t stay. Given the business is under huge pressure to constantly recruit specialist skills, building a team of more than 450 in twelve months, this is impressive by any standard.
Other benefits of taking this approach include achieving ISO accreditation faster than any other Balfour Beatty Group company, and getting the highest score in the Support Services Division’s annual customer satisfaction survey.
And they haven’t stopped there – they are already back to the brand dashboard to refine and build on it, precisely to evolve ways the service teams can use it for engagement ideas with customers.
For many B2B and corporate businesses, brand is still felt to be outside of the organisation: the image, the presentation and the ‘spin’. This is a missed opportunity. Companies that put the brand at the heart of the business, outperform their rivals – because they connect better with customers and staff, they do things better and more efficiently, and they do things differently.
There’s really no good reason not to use brand as the business DNA – for influencing strategic decisions, for energising product and services teams, for inspiring the workforce’s ambitions, and for creating a culture that everyone believes in and with which customers want to fully engage.
Whether you’re a start-up, an SME, or a global company, building brand into the very fabric of your business and using it to drive strategic, organisational and operational decisions will transform your good business into a great business.
This article was reproduced with permission of Admap, the world’s primary source of strategies for effective advertising, marketing and research. © Copyright Admap