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Differentiation is difficult for most professional service firms. When you dig under the surface it doesn’t take long to discover their service offerings are largely the same. Their processes are largely the same. And their reason for being is vague or nonexistent.
These firms would benefit tremendously from having a clear Point of View about the world. What they believe to be true about the world. The difference they’re hoping to make. The reason they exist. Using language that galvanizes and inspires their professionals and resonates with prospective clients.
But this is challenging for most firms. They might engage in values exercises. A much smaller number articulate a statement of beliefs. But usually the edges get rounded off. Compromises are made. And the final document has much less force than it otherwise would.
A tool we’ve found that can help combat this is a manifesto.
Why Create a Company Manifesto
A manifesto is not just a statement of intent or a marketing gimmick. It is a deeply held set of beliefs, articulated clearly and succinctly, that tells the world—and reminds your team—what you stand for, the impact you aim to make, and why you are distinctly different.
The word itself packs a punch. You think of revolutions. Of zealots on a mission.
This is deliberate. We’ve found that calling it a manifesto can help the team get outside of their comfort zone, put a stake in the ground and state clearly and powerfully why they exist.
A manifesto is dual-purpose - it is as much for your internal team as it is for your prospective clients. Internally, it serves as a cultural cornerstone, orienting new hires and keeping the team aligned. Externally, it acts as a powerful marketing tool providing powerful reasons why clients should engage with you.
How to Create a Company Manifesto
Start with your values.
Your firm values are a fantastic place to start creating a manifesto. Two secrets help here. First, your current values are probably a little vanilla. You probably have something like “integrity.” Which is a fine value to have, but one that everyone else has as well. So, just for this exercise, pump it up a bit. Replace integrity with “we are impeccable with our word” or something similar.
Second, create some “we believe” statements to go with the value. These put some meat on them, make them real. These we believe statements can become the bones of your manifesto.
What do you believe to be true about the world?
Beliefs can be powerful sources of motivation for a manifesto. You can talk about macro trends in the world, shifts taking place in your market that necessitate a different way of doing things. Often these can be upheavals that are forcing your client out of their comfort zone and forcing them to rethink the way business is done.
If you can identify a trend that’s keeping them up at night and tie that to your reason for being you’ve created a powerful incentive for them to reach out.
A manifesto is as much about what you don’t do as what you do.
This can be scary. There is a temptation to take whatever work comes your way. And while this can be a valuable source of customer feedback, people lose trust in advisors that claim they can do anything and everything. So put a stake in the ground. What are you the best in the world at?
Words are sledgehammers.
Again, you want to use the most powerful language you can muster, consistent with your brand's tone of voice, in service of your manifesto. I had a mentor that used to say “words are sledgehammers.” When wielded artfully and expertly they can break people out of complacency and force them to take action.
We are emotional beings, and despite the rational facade of the professional world, decisions—whether to hire, retain, or recommend a service—are often emotional. A manifesto allows you to connect emotionally with your audience.
Powerful, resonant language stirs feelings that dry, technical jargon or generic mission statements can’t.
How to Use Your Company Manifesto
Your manifesto, once created, shouldn’t be a theoretical exercise. It shouldn’t be a fun activity you do during a team retreat and then forget about. It should become a touchstone in all you do.
Put it on your website. Show your prospective clients your personality. Help them figure out if they want to work with you. It’s okay if they don’t - your ideal clients will.
Use it during recruiting. Again, the people who resonate will be more excited to work with you. And the folks who don’t resonate will self-select out.
Use it in all hands meetings and celebrations. Reinforce it in team-wide settings. Samuel Johnson said, “We don’t need to be taught as much as we need to be reminded.” Remind them why they joined your firm in the first place.
Use it to inform the style and content of your Authority Marketing efforts. As you share your knowledge and expertise you can weave in elements of your manifesto to continually reinforce your why to prospective clients.
A powerful manifesto can be a rallying cry for your firm and a powerful differentiator for your brand. All it takes is a little courage to say who you are and who you seek to serve.