How HCS transformed its brand for high visibility and ambitious growth
29 November 2021 | 0
In a cluttered market where a series of acquisitions were creating stronger competitors – HCS knew there was still open ground for growth if it could stand apart. But to hit that sweet spot, with new prospects who needed expert, tailor-made solutions in the prime areas of cloud computing and cyber security, it needed to transform its brand awareness, particularly in Dublin. Its communications at every customer touch-point would have to clearly define – and showcase – its expertise and value.
Founded in 1996 and with offices in Waterford and Dublin, HCS tailors business and IT services and solutions for a wide range of clients, a mix of SMEs across virtually all sectors from hospitality and agri-business to life sciences.
At the start of this year, even as it guided and supported their clients through a historic set of challenges ranging from the big shift to remote working to the sudden increase in security threat levels, HCS was looking to the horizon. With a very ambitious, five-year plan to double turnover and win at least 150 new clients, HCS needed to stand out and attract the right customers by delivering the right message, to succeed. And that’s where Totem, the strategic branding agency, came in – to pinpoint its brand issues, re-establish their sense of purpose and craft a new brand identity.
We have got to grow
HCS’ CEO Neil Phelan says his team started a serious conversation about a total re-brand as they looked to position themselves correctly to deliver their five-year plan.
“When we went to Totem, all of our existing marketing and communications had been done in-house and built piecemeal over the years,” says Neil. “It wasn’t clear and concise. We were just not selling ourselves effectively. We were not communicating our value, our depth of expertise and experience, our hard-won reputation”.
Colin Byrne, creative MD with Totem, says their starting point was to go deep and start looking at HCS strategically.
“Your brand, put simply, is your reputation. Your brand is that decisive first impression, it’s what your customers see at every touch-point. It’s what they say about you when you are not in the room” says Byrne. “So we went back and looked at the HCS foundations, their purpose, their ‘why’. What is their reputation?. When we work on re-branding projects for our clients we always start by looking from the outside-in, from their customers’ point of view, their needs. We encouraged Neil and the team to interview a range of their customers, large and small, to understand why they choose HCS.”
That feedback – and the views of the key team members within the business – would be crucial for the next stage.
“We began by leading a brand workshop to gain a deeper knowledge of HCS and their customers’ requirements,” says Byrne. “We discovered that the HCS team uniquely offer an incredible depth of expertise combined with a breadth of solutions tailored to each customer. As they succinctly say: ‘Big enough to know. Small enough to care’.
“It was also clear from customer interviews that the HCS team was always on hand to solve problems when they arose – a safe pair of hands who always had their customers back.
“This is what HCS do, and why it matters. We distilled its essence into a confident and reassuring brand promise ‘an expert in your corner’. It allowed their personality to shine through.”
HCS’ Phelan says: “The brand workshops provided much-needed clarity and the results were a new brand identity that captured their essence, who they really are, and a new shop window to deliver that message. Our website is our shop window. The first thing businesses today look at is your website, and we wanted prospects to go to our window and know ‘these are the guys we want to work with’.”
Phelan says everybody at HCS had to accept the challenge: “We were already talking about the need to grow and to get to the next level. One aspect of it that really worked was involving all the key players, not just senior management. That gave us a really wide range of feedback, taking us into areas and ideas we might not have otherwise explored.
“Colin and the team took it all on board, they were able to filter it down to a very clear concept of who we were and where we needed to go. That prep-work really helped us to get into it very quickly with Totem, it gave us clarity, focus and flow.”
Positioning for growth
Phelan says HCS needed to clearly define its values and worth if it was going to achieve the growth it wanted – doubling their business in five years.
“What the entire process did was bring the team, the company, together. It focused us all onto the one hymn sheet, on our core values, goals and how we communicate them.”
“That was one of the big things we got out of this whole exercise. If our team doesn’t understand it then they can’t communicate it to our customers with clarity.”
Phelan says HCS recognises this is not going to be a static process – the conversation around their brand will continue as they grow and evolve. For HCS, it’s been an invigorating experience.
“When we started working with Colin and Totem we just knew straight away that this was the team we wanted to work with. And to be honest, we just haven’t looked back, they’ve done a fantastic job.”
For Colin Byrne of Totem, working through a re-branding exercise as comprehensive as the one they completed with HCS has a clear goal.
“It was about positioning HCS for growth,” he says. “To do this, we needed to re-define its purpose and reputation, understand their target customers’ needs. And then align both.
“This will empower HCS to communicate authentically to attract the right customers, build loyalty and grow. The process involved very clearly defined tasks such as zeroing in on specific targets. We helped it focus on the need of its ideal customer who would deliver the growth,” says Byrne.
For Byrne and Phelan, HCS now has the clarity and confidence to move forward and achieve its ambitious goals by being ‘an expert in your corner’.