This week I was pleased to attend the Management Consultancy Association SME event on the matter of sales, marketing and content.

Vast amounts of expertise and experience were in the room, tackling questions of how to define the specialist consultancy offer, reach new clients and hire better people.

For me, there was one big takeaway.

Your brand needs great writing. A clear point of difference, starting with the mission statement.

Businesses are so concerned with (a) getting it wrong and (b) maximising their audience, they end up saying ‘We do stuff for people’.

By contrast, one delegate reminded us that McKinsey‘s differentiator was ‘Grace under pressure’.

This is great writing. It suggests that they always deliver, it empathises with the fact that their clients are also under pressure, and makes Mckinsey‘s values feel aspirational. Here’s an excellent piece of research from Gallup scientists to decisively prove that margin and mission are not at odds with one another. And that in fact, the opposite is true.

If values are well aligned, smart graduates are now much more willing to join companies outside the big four. So it’s essential smaller management consultancies help them in that decision.

There’s plenty of evidence that a value-driven approach works. reports that if employees agree with and align with your values, they’ll work much harder.

And for management, there were these wise words: ‘The culture you get is the behaviour you tolerate’.

Just ask Bell Pottinger.