Your Brand Culture is Hurting your Bottom Line!

Here’s why and what to do to fix it:

ThinkstockPhotos-175945213Many construction companies find it hard to move from the realm of low-bid public work to negotiated/private work, no matter how hard they try. They blame it on their safety record, their (lack of) prior project experience, or how their Business Development [BD] team just doesn’t understand the market well enough. However, your Safety Director may not be the problem with your busted safety record, and your BD Team isn’t why you are struggling to enter new markets. It’s most likely a result of your Company Culture. Huh? You ask. Well, let me explain.

There’s a lot of talk and activity around construction company branding and brand marketing, today. And, of course, delivering a consistently great customer experience while making sure ownership and management fully understand your company’s unique value proposition is vital to your long-term success in today’s marketing-centric environment. We get questions from our construction company clients all the time about how to best utilize social media and other forms of online communication to help build their brand and brand community. However, in spite of traditional marketing strategists and creative firms telling construction companies about how they need to brand externally to compete better in their marketplace for the kind of work they want, it may be more important for some companies to focus on internal branding and brand marketing instead. Why, you ask? Because, if the entire company is not working from the same cultural touchstones then your brand disconnect is internal, and nothing you do externally will solve the problem. It is like worrying about your vehicle’s paint job when the engine is busted.

In our experience with construction companies, it is nearly impossible to launch externally-focused branding initiatives to engage the external brand community without first having established the values and behaviors internally that truly drive the company’s unique differentiation and operational culture.

ThinkstockPhotos-176883615Let me give you an example by using a heavy construction road and asphalt paving company we have worked with for many years. Most heavy construction companies are about the same in regards to what they offer. Their competitive differentiation is hard to establish when it comes to the type of equipment, the skills of their personnel, and the services they provide. Most of these companies also struggle with keeping a clean safety rating, which often prevents them from branching off into sometimes more lucrative negotiated, private or industrial type contract work. The company in question first hired us to help them rebrand themselves externally by consolidating their imagery and improving their external communications. We explained to them how important it was to share the same stories and news articles internally that they were working so hard to share externally. We also worked with their BD team to market the company to their employees as well as to the new markets they wanted to reach. During the process, we learned about how over the generations of company ownership, a wife of one of the owners had to take charge of the company. Her husband had passed away before his kids were ready to take the reigns, and she had to step in because her sons were still growing into their leadership capabilities. Even though she knew a lot about construction; she didn’t really know a lot about running a construction company, or so she thought. One of the things she brought to the table was a new values-philosophy. It was very different than anything this company had internalized before. Her philosophy involved making sure that all the employees’ families knew that their husbands/wives/parents/children were just being lent to them each day, and that it was the company’s job to ensure the employees were returned to their families at the end of each workday in the same or better condition than the company had received them. She also believed in annual health screenings and improved safety training, and thus she implemented programs to facilitate these initiatives across the company.

This philosophy, over time and in an organic way, became the basis for a uniquely differentiating internal behavioral values system that changed the company’s dynamic and character. By insisting on properly communicating, training, and reinforcing these values and traditions, employees with this company helped improve the safety rating. It became so good, at some point, that their business development team was able to utilize their safety rating to inquire about project work other than the heavy construction and road paving work they had always relied upon for their profitability. It opened new markets and new opportunities for this company!

With our internal marketing clients, once we have completed the Pre-Construction Discovery Process called “The ABC’s”, we are often able to help them identify the behaviors and values that make them as successful as they are as well as the challenges they need to overcome. This process allows us to pinpoint where the roadblocks lie so we can help build the internal brand marketing systems necessary for achieving their goals and objectives. However, even in the best companies, over time, it is difficult to continue to communicate the values, stories and traditions that facilitate success to new management personnel and new employees… in other words, without relentless attention, it difficult to keep employees immersed in the company’s brand culture. This is where the disconnect happens, and this is where The Brand Constructors’ systems work best. Once the internal branding culture has been fully established, most companies will need a system of continuous, repetitive, and relentless communication to keep these values, behaviors, and traditions in the forefront of employees’ minds and going from generation-to-generation. It requires on-going maintenance and attention. However, his process is how we connect your past to your future. It’s how companies achieve the next level of success!

So, if your company is struggling with poor employee retention, negative safety rating issues, disgruntled or entitlement-minded employees, then you probably have an internal brand culture disconnect. Maybe it’s time for you to bring in some experts who can audit the situation, get to the bottom of things, and build a system to fix this permanently.