“Company culture” isn’t some touchy-feeling HR buzzword. It’s not about giving anyone the warm fuzzies. Real culture, the kind that starts with the people you hire and permeates the way you approach each and every challenge in the workplace, can be your best marketing tool.

Forbes recently had a great article on this very topic. While it mostly focuses on hiring (and introduced us to our awesome name doppelganger Roundpegg, a culture consulting company),  it also included this gem:

“[M]ost people in the organization value kindness: they see being kind to others as a key element of the organization they want. The organization has hired and promoted to that value for many years. And further, they believe that being kind means being positive and somewhat indirect – avoiding confrontation and tough feedback.”

How fascinating, to value kindness and treat it as a core part of your business. While the article clearly points out some of the drawbacks (being too wishy-washy and afraid of confrontation), think of the benefits. Think of a business of people focused on being kind, who are hired as much for their compassionate nature as for the skills on their resume.

How can that culture change your business? How can that change how you’re perceived at the world at large? Suddenly you’re not just “that plumber I called when my bathroom flooded,” you’re “that plumber with the amazing staff who really seemed to care about me.” Which one are you more likely to refer business to–one who came and did the job or one who made an emotional connection with you on some level?

This got us thinking at the ‘Peg about what our culture is. I asked our team what words they’d use to describe our culture–not the business, not what we do, but who we are as a business. The results:

Lorraine: Informal, Smart, Passionate

Allison: Quirky, Honest, Irreverent

Jenna: Food, Fun, Cats

Peter: Welcoming, Enriching, Sharp

Whitney: Laid-Back, Educational, Pet-Friendly

All right, a little all over the place (and a little tongue-in-cheek from Jenna), but if you look at the words we chose, there are commonalities. We’re people who don’t stand on pretense. We’re people who give you the truth, even if it hurts. We’re people who value learning and knowledge–both giving and receiving. We’re people who really like cats.

These aren’t just words about what we do in the office, they’re words about who we are as individuals, whether we’re on or off the clock. By beginning our culture building with our hires, we’re able to build not just an internal culture, but an external brand that shows people exactly what they’re going to get when they walk through the doors of our little white house, and what they’ll get from us that they won’t get from any other marketing company in Indianapolis.

Have you considered your company’s culture? If not, you’re ignoring a critical marketing strategy…and a way to build a great team.