The textbook focus for successful service providers is the impact they have upon their clients’ businesses. And quite right too. More often than not if your clients are flourishing, and you are contributing, then you will share the spoils.

You will be probably be ticking the two major boxes on how to drive growth – firstly by understanding (and meeting) your clients’ needs, and secondly by adopting relationship behaviour (neither, of course, anything like as easy as they sound).

But within this model lies an important element often overlooked in the rush towards clients and their corporations (or equivalent). How well do you know your own business? It may appear counter-intuitive but, in my experience of speaking to a wide range of clients, this factor can play a key role in establishing the rapport required for them to entrust their marketing challenges to you.

The logic is sound. If you cannot speak knowledgably and convincingly about your own enterprise (beyond ‘the work’, whether it’s ‘we create ideas’ or ‘we mine insights’) then what right do you have to demand the time for the wider, strategic, commercial conversation so cherished by senior relationship owners in all service businesses? In other words, if you can’t articulate where your business is going, why would you make a good partner to help me steer mine?

There’s never enough time for this, of course, but the basic disciplines we all advocate, particularly positioning and marketing planning, need also to be applied to our own companies. As Byron Sharp demonstrates in his excellent book ‘How Brands Grow’, it can be misguided to strive for absolute differentiation. He states, “…it’s surprising how many similar brands a market will support” and, undoubtedly, points of parity with the right competitors can be powerful motivators.

But, at the very least, the goal must be to define some memorable identifying characteristics and a compelling plan. Then enable everyone who represents the company to understand and describe this material clearly and concisely to clients, prospects, family and friends. I’ve known agencies which provide all employees with a laminated copy of the key elements of this narrative to have with them at all times.

The twin prongs of a successful service provider remain intact. Continue to focus on your client needs and prioritise relationship behaviour … but mind your own business too!