2010: Louis Allen Southern Africa
While the world was struggling to recover from the 2008 economic recession, DevCom’s strategic communication processes helped a small leadership consultancy to reach and achieve its growth targets.
Louis Allen Southern Africa (LASA) is the South African branch of a global leadership consultancy with a track record of over 50 years. It is acclaimed for the unique Allen Management System and methodologies that transform management leaders. Based in Johannesburg, LASA operates under licence in the sub-Saharan region in close cooperation with international partners.
By the time DevCom was retained as its communication agency, the present owners had had the business for nine years. It was a small company with 12 employees and a network of consultants and training facilitators, servicing about 50 clients. LASA had set out to aggressively grow the business with a three-year strategy as of 2010, projecting a 20% year-on-year growth rate. Communication was identified as a key requirement for success.
Prior to 2010, LASA used ad hoc advertising as its main external communication tool; internal communication consisted of a few staff and directors’ meetings per annum.
The communication audit DevCom conducted in May 2010 brought to light the results of this approach to communication:
- There was low brand awareness among LASA’s own stakeholders and in the general market.
- Existing clients had little or no connection with the LASA brand.
- Interaction with these stakeholders was irregular, limited to infrequent contact with selected decision-makers, and, at times, quite strained. They were also hardly aware of LASA services beyond those they were already receiving.
- A lack of measurement meant that LASA had little indication of the kind of communication required by its audiences.
- Conflicting, inconsistent, and confusing messages had led the market to associate Louis Allen with basic training, instead of high-level management and leadership development.
- LASA was losing business to competitors because it had not addressed stakeholders’ questions around the relevance of the brand and its training methodologies.
- The directors met infrequently, and employees spent more time at client premises than at LASA’s offices. As a result, there was little internal engagement with the LASA values and brand.
- Client success stories, of which there were many, were neither documented nor shared with other stakeholders.
- LASA had trained thousands of people over the years. Statistics showed that 80% of new or repeat business for Louis Allen came from alumni. Yet there was no alumni database, and no attempt to stay in touch with this group.
Based on the audit results, DevCom developed and implemented a communication strategy to help realise the company’s growth strategy. In total, we worked with LASA for 18 months.
Our strategy encompassed a variety of activities:
We started by developing verbal and visual communication messages that captured the essence of the LASA model from clients’ perspectives. By the end of our contract, 65% of respondents knew that LASA offered management and leadership development training, compared to 43% in the 2010 audit who believed LASA only offered general training.
Armed with our research results, we developed a full corporate identity around LASA’s new logo and applied it consistently throughout the company using several templates.
We set up a database that not only captured clients’ information, but also indicated their relationship status (Level 1 = poor; Level 5 = excellent).
Regular and continuous contact with stakeholders had to be established. To address this need, DevCom introduced a monthly electronic newsletter to communicate success stories, industry issues, and partnership information. We also designed a new company website.
We assisted Louis Allen with a multi-site event featuring leadership guru Jack Zenger in November 2010. More than 300 new contacts were established at these events. We facilitated a number of smaller events, including a meet-and-greet occasion when LASA moved into its new offices. This gave the team the opportunity to engage with the other office park tenants and identify potential clients on their doorstep.
To help build the client’s profile, regular press releases were issued, generating editorial coverage for the first time in the current owners’ tenure.
A cornerstone of our strategy was to establish relationships with LASA alumni. To this end, we wrote up alumni success stories into hard and soft copy factsheets, which we included with the training material and other marketing documents.
Employee engagement was improved with the launch of The Insider, a bi-monthly electronic newsletter that communicated important dates, information on industry topics and trends, and partnership news with LASA employees and consultants.
We conducted a follow-up audit in November 2011 to measure progress. Louis Allen’s business goal was to grow its revenue by 20% per annum. The company posted a 50% increase in revenue in 2010, and 25% growth in 2011, clearly exceeding its goal. The CEO attributed the significant growth in 2010 to the revitalised brand and focused communication strategy.
The main communication goal was to attract new and potential clients by focusing on alumni. Around 80% of the new business generated in 2010 and 2011 came from alumni references. Alumni also responded to the newsletters by sharing their personal success stories using the Allen Management System.
Particularly gratifying was the resulting increase in connections between LASA and its stakeholders. In the 2010 audit, only 4% of the database responded to the surveys and telephonic interviews. In 2011, the response rate was 40% and many respondents associated LASA with the communication messages we had developed and implemented.