Seattle Companies Capitalizing On Culture As A Differentiation Strategy 

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Differentiation is one of the most important aspects of effective marketing. Whether it’s to attract customers or employees, differentiation is the foundation of your growth strategy, marketing strategy, marketing plans, and advertising budget. As fundamental as it is, most companies don’t do it very well, but the ones who do win.

A recent study on the fastest growing professional service firms has identified the two most common ways to differentiate as; “our people,” and “the level of service we provide.” If it's common, than it's not an effective differentiation strategy. One uncommon strategy for differentiation that isn’t overused and does not seem to be slowing down is “our culture.” The reason for this trend taking off is two-fold: competition for talent and competition for attention.

 

Competition For Talent

There is a supply and demand issue. AICPA expects more than 75 percent of today’s CPAs will retire within the next 15 years. That’s one of the highest percentages of any subgroup within any other field over the same timeframe. But, they aren’t the only industry. According to ManpowerGroup's 11th-annual Talent Shortage Survey, 40% of employers globally are having difficulty filling positions. Topping their list are Skilled Trades, IT Staff, and Sales Representatives. 

 

Competition For Attention

The US has a known productivity issue. Research from Gallup has indicated for years that the vast majority of US employees are emotionally disengaged from their work. Moss Adams calculates this as a productivity loss of approximately $500 billion per year. Companies who can move the needle of engagement are ahead of the curve and poised for tremendous growth. It's an employee's market and value-based cultures are highly valued…and in high demand. 

Differentiating based on culture is a smart strategy, but it’s not easy to do. You can’t just say you have a unique culture, you have to actually have one that is attractive and valuable to potential employees. Here is a list of Seattle based company’s gaining attention for doing it right. 

 

Seattle Companies Capitalizing On Culture As A Differentiation Strategy

 
 

Microsoft

In a word: Listening

Microsoft surveyed their employees to see what mattered most to them in a workplace. They said that if given the opportunity, they’d like to work outside more. As part of their renovation efforts, they built their employees these super-cool, outdoor meeting tree houses.  Most notable as of late is their investment in a 500-acre campus overhaul in Redmond, Washington. Building little cities with affordable housing is a growing trend for employers. Both Google and Facebook have adopted similar means of improving the lives of their workers.

 
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Board and Vellum

In a word: Honor

Board and Vellum have rejected the traditional corporate hierarchy and embraced a flat organizational structure. That's quite a distinction from the traditional architecture firm. They believe that this encourages all employees to bring their whole selves to work each day. One employee was quoted in Seattle Business Magazine saying, “The level of respect for each other is unlike anywhere I have ever worked.” Listed as one of Seattle Business Magazine's 100 Best Places to Work - 2017.

 
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Bader Martin

In a word: Methodology

Bader Martin offers their new associates a collegial atmosphere and team approach that provides them the opportunity to work closely with the firm’s most experienced principals. This strategy it seems has the potential to drastically increase engagement--while at the same time--make the leadership succession much easier. That's a strong competitive advantage in the accounting industry because of the statistics mentioned above that 75% of accountants over the next decade. Companies who are pro-actively preparing for this are ahead of the curve. Listed as one of Seattle Business Magazine's 100 Best Places to Work - 2017.

 
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Artefact

In a word: Philosophy

Artefact's culture stems from a conversation about what it means to work in the 21st century. Their culture book is a manifesto that outlines how their values of autonomy, mastery, and purpose lead to their three main business objectives: quality, profitability, best place to work. An effective manifesto is a great attraction strategy to attract your tribe IF you have a clear dividing line between them and us. They do that well here: 

“Ignore what we know and shape behavior in a completely arbitrary and unplanned way.
(WE FROWN UPON THIS.)
 
Participate openly with declared and responsible outcomes in mind.
(THIS IS THE IDEAL AND REQUIRES ENLIGHTENED AND SOPHISTICATED CLIENTS AS PARTNERS.)
 
Quietly manipulate behavior.
(FOR PREFERABLE OUTCOMES THIS IS A PASSABLE OPTION.)”

Listed as one of Seattle Business Magazine's 100 Best Places to Work - 2017.

Is your company capitalizing on culture as a differentiation strategy? Send us a short paragraph that explains why and we'll add it here.