Many of the fantastic organisations we work with are service-based businesses: engineers, lawyers, consultants and coaches, to name a few. And something we notice time and again is that while they can talk about the nuts and bolts of their operations with mind-blowing skill and dazzling eloquence, when it comes to summarising their value proposition things get a little more .. umm … ahh …erm… shall we say… a little murky. 

The thing is, we know that organisations win when they can create a compelling brand narrative: when they manage to tell a story, one that is emotive, resonates with their audience, and speaks to the reader’s needs. 

For service businesses, the golden opportunity is to become an organisation whose story isn’t just heard but felt: creating not just a lasting impression but a significant competitive advantage.

But the struggle is real for so many service businesses: when an organisation focuses too heavily on the “how” and “what” of their work, the “why” – the deeper purpose and wider impact of their efforts – often gets lost.

Stuck in the detail

How do service businesses end up so mired in the detail of their work, and why is this a problem?

Consider a service business that’s deeply entrenched in technology. They may discuss their operations, processes, and methodologies in intricate detail. While their capabilities might be exceptional, the conversation is driven by specifics like the technologies used, the skills employed, and the processes adhered to. All of this information is no doubt important, but it doesn’t capture the whole picture. It misses the impact that these technologies or methodologies have on the customer’s life or business, and the greater ripple effect of those impacts, and so on.

Service-based organisations often become experts in the fine details of their operations. They know the ins and outs of their services like the back of their hand. They can describe the specific processes involved, the technologies used, the steps taken to ensure quality control – all with an impressive level of detail. This kind of knowledge is crucial for operational success, but when communicated to customers or prospects, the organisation’s unique value proposition – the real reason why a customer should choose their service – can get lost in translation.

The problem is that the “how” and “what” do not emotionally engage customers. Customers aren’t just buying a service; they’re investing in a solution to their problem, a way to achieve their goals. When an organisation’s communication overemphasises the details of how they work, it tends to neglect the customer’s perspective – the problems they face, the solutions they need, and how the organisation’s services can positively impact them.

The secret to “levelling up” your service business

So how do you and your team lift yourselves above the detail of your work, and communicate the REAL impact of what you do?

First we need to remember that when a customer approaches your organisation, they are looking for guidance, expertise, and a path towards their desired outcome. They want to understand the potential impact that your work can have on their circumstances.

Understanding this customer perspective forms the essence of your organisation’s Purpose. Your organisation’s Purpose is the deeper purpose that drives everything it does. It’s not about what you do, but why you do it, and how it changes the lives or businesses of your customers. Your Purpose is the heartbeat of your organisation, the belief that inspires your actions, but it’s also the value that you add to your customers’ lives.

When a business leads with their Purpose, they are essentially starting a conversation about the value and impact of their work. This conversation is far more appealing and relatable to customers. It humanises the brand, builds trust, and establishes a stronger emotional connection.

Similarly, creating a compelling brand narrative gives your business the opportunity to position its customer as the hero of the story, with the organisation acting as a guide to help them overcome their challenges and achieve their goals. This shift in perspective from the organisation to the customer can make a profound difference in how effectively the business communicates its value and impact.

So where do you start?

Changing the way your business ‘talks’ about its work takes time, and involves leadership, strategy, culture, brand and marketing. Here’s where you can start:

Unearth Your Purpose

Dive into the heart of your organisation and identify your core purpose. This is the ‘why’ behind what you do – beyond just making a profit. It’s your guiding principle, the compelling reason that motivates your work. Embrace it, live it, and let it drive all that you do. (You can read more about unearthing your organisation’s purpose here)

Listen to Your Customers

Understand your customers’ needs, desires, fears, and aspirations. Actively ask them what they are struggling with and dreaming of. The better you understand your customers, the more effectively you can communicate the value you deliver.

Craft Your Story

Create a compelling narrative around your purpose, values, and the impact of your work. 

Show, don’t tell 

Tell the stories of the impact your organisation’s work has made. In addition to listing what you offer, showcase how these services help. Make your customers the hero of your story: showcase their wins and talk about the challenges they face. 

Shift your perspective

Your organisation may be the guide, but your customers are the heroes. You’re there to help them overcome challenges and reach their goals. The focus should be on the customer’s journey and how your services contribute to their success. 

Invite your team on board
A company’s purpose really starts to come to life when it’s aligned with the purposes of its people. You can read more about how a purpose-driven brand can let your brightest people shine (and bring even the most lacklustre on board) here.