Today’s design and construction marketplace are demanding, crowded, and getting more complex every day. In this environment, the importance of knowing who you are, what you do, and why it matters is not just a good idea, it’s imperative to being successful.

Challenge

A 175-person design firm with three offices worldwide wanted to understand how their brand was perceived across key markets.

Our client was engaged in a concerted effort to clarify its brand, both internally and externally. Their goal was to become a nationally recognized design practice in their two key markets: higher education and healthcare.

Having been around for nearly 140 years and still going strong, the company had also experienced some turnover in its senior designers in recent years. While it had filled some of the holes and was grooming individuals to fill others, firm leaders wanted to understand the impact of these changes. They had also opened a couple of branch offices and wanted to get a sense of their market penetration and perception in those locations.

The two relevant market sectors had become very crowded, with both regional and national competitors. The leaders were trying to understand what was unique about their brand and what clients’ experience told them about the firm’s brand.

Insight

Conducting a client survey can reveal a lot about a firm. It’s all about the insights gained by asking the right questions.

We had to get to know the firm well enough to customize survey questions that would address their particular issues and situations, keeping in mind we had a limited amount of time for the interview over the phone. The list of potential respondents was strategic – who to talk to, what level of the organization, and the level of familiarity with our client. We helped our client compile a group of target respondents that included owners, consultants, and contractors, across their three offices and then conducted the telephone interviews. Our focus was on getting candid feedback to find out exactly where our client stood in the minds of their markets.

We discovered the firm had a stellar reputation among its current clients, but it had become so busy, its former clients were feeling neglected. Prospective clients had an inconsistent perception of the firm, primarily from limited exposure. The good news was they were going through the exercise from a position of strength—their existing clients were utterly committed to them. The bad news was that the marketplace in their key sectors had become so competitive they would have their branding work cut out for them.

Action

Our client can now tackle the next step of brand messaging and graphics with knowledge and understanding.

Next came internal feedback. We worked with the vice president of brand strategy on the internal survey of employees to understand where internal perceptions of the firm’s brand aligned with the external view. The next generation of leaders led this effort. They embraced the process and felt empowered to carry the brand, giving the firm a good leg up as they define themselves in the marketplace.