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Differentiating Your Firm through Brand Positioning

Mar 13, 2023 | Brand and Messaging

Differentiation in your architecture, engineering, or construction (A/E/C) firm in today’s highly competitive market is critical to ensure its success. With so many firms offering similar services, it can be challenging to stand out from the flock. One effective way to differentiate your firm is through messaging and brand positioning. 

Messaging and Brand positioning is the process of creating a unique image of your firm in the minds of your target audience. It’s about defining who you are, what you  stand for, and what makes you different from your competitors. Here are some tips on how to differentiate your A/E/C firm with your messaging and brand positioning:


1. Understand that table stakes are an expectation; Not a differentiator.

Table stakes are the minimum requirements needed to compete in the A/E/C industry. According to the 2023 SMPS resource; Positioning & Differentiation in A/E/C Marketing, “There are 11 key attributes that most firms claim: quality, sustainability, innovation, thought leadership, national/international reach, solving complexity, process, our people/expertise, local presence/knowledge, integrated approach, and collaboration.” While these attributes are certainly important, they’re not unique. They’re expected. To avoid confusing table stakes with differentiators let’s take a step back and determine what truly sets your firm apart from your competitors.


2. Spend time defining your firm’s purpose, mission, vision, and values.

There are many companies out there who can do what you do.  Some can do it even “better”.  So defining who you are, why clients should associate with you, and where you are going will make them choose you each and every time.  Let’s take a closer look at what each of these components entail:


    • Purpose: The ‘why’ behind your business – Why do clients want your brand?
    • Vision: The ‘where’ behind your business – What your company wants to achieve and how it will transform the world.
    • Mission: The ‘how’ behind your business – How you’ll deliver on your purpose.
    • Values and Behaviors: The ‘who’ behind your business – What core values do demonstrate through your behaviors?

3. Remember: The words you use matter!

Once your firm has established its internal messaging (the purpose, mission, vision and values previously defined) it’s time to move on to the external messaging. THIS is where the real differentiation occurs. As humans, we come together around shared values and when those values and promises are clearly communicated by your firm – THAT’S when your firm’s name will jump to the top of the short-list. Listed below, are the four external messaging pieces your firm must nail down and follow through with, to stand out from the flock:


    • Value Proposition: A differentiation statement that lets customers know what’s in it for them when they choose you.
    • Brand Pillars: These are a few, short statements supporting your value proposition.
    • Brand Promise: Short statement that communicates THE key benefit to your audience.
    • Brand Story: Pulls the previous three messages together to create a differentiating and emotion evoking story to unite both customers and employees.


Why is differentiation important?

Now that you have a rough blueprint of HOW to differentiate, it’s also important to understand why the differentiation matters: 

Alignment of values: Clients want to work with firms that share their values and vision for the project. When a firms’ vision and mission align with the client’s goals, there is a greater likelihood of success and a more positive outcome.

Trust and transparency: A clear vision and mission statement along with a strong culture, can help establish trust and transparency between the firm and client.

Consistency: A strong culture can lead to a consistent approach to project management and client service. Clients want to know what to expect from a firm and a strong culture can ensure that expectations are met consistently across projects.

Collaboration: When there is a mutual understanding of goals and values, it can lead to a more collaborative and productive relationship between the firm and the client.

Ready to stand out from the flock and have a seasoned professional hold your hand through the process? Contact Sarah Kinard of The Flamingo Project here.

Simply looking for more market research on ways to differentiate your A/E/C firm through your brand positioning? Be sure to download SMPS Foundation’s Positioning and Differentiation in A/E/C Marketing l 2023 here. 

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