Why building trust and brand belief is key for consulting firms

22 January 2019 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

Over the years, big names in the professional services sector, such as the Big Four giants and strategic firms including McKinsey and BCG, have become even bigger. They’ve also become better at what they do, branching out into new arenas – think of the push into digital marketing, design or legal – while leaving the smaller competition in the dust. According to Peter Carr, a marketing expert at Propero Partners, consultancies can consider brand trust as one means of keeping up with the behemoths or risk fading into the background. 

In the professional services industry, it is all about trust. How a consultancy firm conveys this most intangible of qualities to its clients is often the difference between winning or losing a tender. That is because now more than ever, trust is one of the main reasons clients buy services, and the number one reason they don’t if a firm is deemed unprincipled. And because the B2B world is full of seemingly faceless companies essentially selling the same services, how a consultancy is perceived by a client is crucial as to whether or not they are a preference of choice.

Brand values

Similar to other segments where outward image is essential, such as in accounting or law, how a consulting brand is viewed, how it connects emotionally, and even how a company’s values resonate with a client, will affect clients’ choices. A prospect may have received a referral from a respected colleague and will consider working with a consulting firm, but if the client then goes online and sees that the firm is opaque in its dealings, then it is unlikely that a deal will be struck. Thanks to the digital age, this type of information is more readily available than ever on media sites and industry platforms.Trust is key in ConsultingSo transparency is key, which means having everything out in the open to build trust. If clients can see that a firm values integrity, purpose, and vision for the future, and there are no skeletons in the closet, then their trust in the firm can start to grow. Having company values that are aligned with the modern client – being ethical, sustainable, transparent, human, and charitable (tough crowd) – means they can connect with a firm’s brand emotionally.

Brand image

Another key trend in professional services marketing this year, will be the remodelling of brands to become instantly recognisable, visually appealing products that can, themselves, help to sell a firm’s services. In saturated markets like the consulting industry, the need to stand out and be memorable becomes a critical factor in a firm’s growth. The challenge then is to create the elusive and ephemeral ‘perfect’ brand to embody a firm’s values. 

But how can a brand be brought to life, when the written tone of voice and the visual execution is only part of the story? One key to success for marketers is connecting with their audience psychologically, by creating associations with imagery, words, and video that trigger emotional responses which are then logged and remembered. Getting in the mind of the client and figuring out how a firm’s particular service makes them feel is key. While it may be easy to think that a B2B audience might only make rational decisions based on facts, remember that in the end it comes down to a human decision.

If a consulting firm’s brand and content are relatable, then as humans, clients will engage with it. When firms demonstrate that their brand, and therefore services, can solve problems or alleviate pain points, through content or imagery, then clients can empathise and feel reassured that the offering will work for them.

But brands must be careful not to break that trust. Indeed, in 2019, professional services firms will be keen to not repeat the same, costly mistakes – both in terms of money and reputation – that companies like Cambridge Analytica (Facebook), PwC (BHS), KPMG (South Africa) made last year. As a result of these breaches, building trust and delivering on promises to buyers will again be a top focus.

At Propero Partners [a marketing agency for the professional services industry], we expect to see firms carving out more time in their marketing strategies for brand activity, since it’s one of the most effective and easily-actioned ways to communicate to their audience. All marketing is based on influencing intangible and abstract responses, and if a firm can connect with its target audience using positive emotional triggers while demonstrating authenticity and honesty, then half the battle is over. A consultancy can comfortably lead from the front by firstly delivering on the promises made by the brand values, secondly creating helpful and valuable content on whichever channels are use, and thirdly building trust and loyalty. 

Related: Consultancies lagging behind in the adoption of digital marketing.