by Kelly Tompson - Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Performance Based Group

Your ‘professional’ image needs to go.

Professional. It’s a word I hear used often and loudly in the construction and engineering industries.  When don’t you hear it? “We are construction professionals”. “We offer professional service”. “We are a professional team”. As someone who entered the industry as a complete outsider with a background in communications, it’s something that has irked me to no end. Here’s why.

You’re not the most professional, you’re just another professional

Marketing and branding don’t happen in a vacuum, its influenced by a wide range of internal and external factors. A successful brand isn’t just dependent on your marketing, but also how your marketing stacks up against your competitors.

So, whilst clients are looking for a ‘professional’ firm or consultancy, when you say your organisation is nothing but professional, you’re highlighting the ways you are exactly and boringly the same as your competitors, and not the ways you’re different. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s also a missed opportunity to speak to your clients about what sets you and your services apart.

Of course, professionalism is an important part of building a healthy reputation within any industry, however, the construction and engineering space can be a small world, and anyone can say they’re professional. The real value of professionalism doesn’t come from saying the words, it comes from acting professionally.

We’re saying professional, but what do we really mean?

The marketplace is littered with terms like ‘technical excellence’, ‘professional service’ or ‘professional team’. However, when we use terms like this we aren’t talking about uni degrees, association memberships or punctuality. We’re talking about trust. “You can trust our skills”, “You can trust us to act in your best interests” or “You can rely on us”. These are very emotive statements.

That’s a problem, because at the heart of professionalism is the concept of objectivity. No one wants a Doctor to cry with you at your bedside, you want them to solve the problem; professionally. In fact, many of the first professionals (doctors, philosophers and clergymen) believed that human emotion needed to be taken out of their day to day work to succeed in their role. So, at its very heart, professionalism promotes a lack of emotion.

Luckily, the value of professionalism doesn’t actually lie in what it says about processes, procedures or people. The value of professionalism resides in the emotional change a client feels when you act that way. For example, when we give our clients their documentation a day early, it’s not being early on the deadline that’s beneficial. It’s that our client feels less stressed by no longer wondering when they will receive it. In relieving our client’s anxiety, we’ve created an emotional connection. That connection builds trust, which in turn builds revenue and generates loyalty.

We’re now in an industry and at a stage where professionalism isn’t something you can just say. For those words to truly mean anything to your clients (and provide tangible results for your business) you need to prove it.  

So, professionalism is walking the walk, but then what do we talk about?

I’ve already mentioned that being the ‘most professional’ wasn’t the end of the world. That it was simply a missed opportunity. However, what if instead of talking about being professional you capitalised on that missed opportunity?

Instead of being professional, choose to be the most reliable, creative, ambitious, supportive or any of the 100s and 1000s of ways you can differentiate yourself. If you’re trying to gain your clients trust and foster an enduring relationship with them, you should take the opportunity to speak about what makes your service and people unique. Let your professionalism speak for itself.

Does professionalism still have its place in construction professional services branding and marketing? Is it a word you trust? Or has it become meaningless the more it’s used? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so join the conversation here.