If You’re Thinking of PEOs, Think About Your Brand, Too

When talking about why successful, established businesses should consider partnering with a professional employer organization (PEO), I wrote that businesses should use the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive ‘audit’ of their HR practices and benefits administration. Before settling on the right solution -- whether to have a PEO handle core functions like payroll and workers comp -- it’s worth reviewing whether your employees have the services they need, whether you’re meeting those needs at a reasonable cost, and whether there are any problems you can’t seem to address. The better you diagnose, the better you can treat.

That sort of wellness checkup should be done every year or two -- but it shouldn’t be limited to things like HR and benefits administration. You should be auditing your brand, too, and the HR aspect can serve as a model you can apply more broadly to your company.

You’ll talk to your employees and managers. You’ll check everything out from the top down and from the bottom up. You’ll go over relevant financials, weigh pros and cons, and make use of your professional network to choose the best solution for your needs.

Over the next few articles, we’ll look at how you can use your consideration of working with a PEO to evaluate whether your brand is projecting the message you want and driving the goals you’ve set for your business. First, we need to think about what it all means.

What Is a Brand?

Everyone knows what a brand is, but not many people know what a brand is. Think of it this way: for almost every product and service, customers have lots to choose from. Having a brand is what allows you as a company to be recognized and to appeal. It’s what differentiates you from everyone else and it’s what communicates your value -- and values -- to the potential customer. That can go both ways; brands can send the wrong message or they can create loyal lifelong fans.

Do you have a brand? If so, what does it entail? Ask yourself, ask your team, and ask trusted clients or customers. The answers may, and probably will surprise you.

The Three Core Elements of Brands

In Alina Wheeler’s “Designing Brand Identity,” David Hugh, the CEO of Brand Finance, breaks brands down into three segments: navigation, reassurance, and engagement. Each element is critical to understanding what a brand does and whether you’re positioned to support yours.

Navigation is how customers use information about you to make choices in the marketplace. The more information they have and the clearer it is, the easier it is for them to decide which choice they want to make.

Reassurance happens when your brand demonstrates its value to customers and then reassures them that they’ve selected a fit. If navigation is what initially helps them consider you, reassurance is what gets them to settle on you and feel good about their decision.

Engagement is about developing a customer’s personal connection to the brand. Whether that’s eliminating a pain point for another business or owning a tiny place in a retail customer’s heart, engagement is what drives clients and customers to come back for more and become evangelists for you.

Getting started is simple: sit down, consider these topics, and ask yourself hard questions. Then give honest answers. Do you have a brand? Is it what you want your brand to be? What do your employees think your brand is and is it something they’re proud of? What do your customers think of your brand, and what does the community think?

Once you start rounding up that information, ask everyone else to weigh in, too. Their answers will likely be different than yours. Ask them whether it’s easy to understand what you do differently in the marketplace. Ask them what they think your value is, whether it’s price, quality, reliability, or simplicity. Then try to gauge whether they actually care about your brand.

If you’re thinking of working with a PEO, you’ve already started the process of analyzing what’s important to your company, your staff, and your customers. Take that same passion for progress and apply it to optimizing how your company is positioned, perceived, and processed -- and then the specific extensions of your brand, from logos to marketing efforts, can fall right into place.

Rodney Steele