Professional services firms tend to overlook or understate the value of their brand, focusing more on the relationships that their professionals have with clients. Relationships are critical at the individual level, but powerful brands mean business—they provide the foundation of credibility. A brand is your reputation. It helps a firm and its professionals make the shortlist for RFPs and beauty contests. It is the introduction of a firm that enables an individual to initiate a relationship. A strong brand behind a consummate professional helps ensure that professional—and his or her firm—can command top dollar and capture high-value work.
So how do you know if you have a brand that means business? Brands are often thought of as tactics and tools—the company logo, its tag line, and so on. But brands are much more. They are the promise you make to clients—they communicate the truth about your organization. Other impacts of strong brands include:
- More customers will seek you out.
- You will spend less time developing business.
- You will be perceived as experts in your specialty.
- You will know how to talk about your firm.
To begin to define your brand, you must answer—in compelling ways—these questions:
- What do we stand for; what is our business mission?
- Who are our competitors? What do we do that is different?
- Why do our clients hire us? What is important to them? How do they talk about us in the market?
- What is our promise to our clients? How do we truly deliver invaluable service?
Once you have strong, compelling answers to these questions, you have the beginning definition of your brand, and you can begin to incorporate it into everything you do. And in professional services marketing, EVERYTHING you do is branding. Here are just a few points where your brand is communicated:
- Every office visit or meeting
- Every employee contact
- Every phone call
- Every voice mail message
- Every email message
- Every conversation with a client, prospect or referral source
Your brand message—the promise you make to clients and the experience they have doing business with you—is then captured in the marketing vehicles we tend to distill brands into, including:
- Logos and taglines
- Firm websites
- Social media presence—your firm page on LinkedIn, the consistency of your firm professionals’ LinkedIn profiles, firm Twitter profile (and firm and individual tweets), firm and individual blogs, Facbook presence
- Brochures, invitations, and newsletters (electronic and print)
- Seminars and educational offerings, including white papers, webinars, conferences, and individual speaking engagements
- Email signatures and voice mail greetings
- Elevator speeches and introductions at networking events
As we noted at the beginning, professional services firms tend to underestimate the value of their firm brand. Many don’t see the financial value of investing in their brand, whether that’s revamping their logo or website or coaching their professionals to sing from the same sheet of music when defining and describing the firm. But that’s shortsighted.
We’ve heard clients of law, accounting, architecture and other services firms say over and over that they hold a relationship with an individual, but that the firm’s reputation—what stands behind that individual—provides credibility and respectability to the individual providing the legal, financial, or architectural service. When clients hire professionals to help them, they’re taking a risk. Anything that mitigates the perception of risk—a strong, well-known reputation of the firm; industry-wide acknowledgment of the expertise they bring AS A FIRM—helps to hasten the hiring process and brings in new and higher value work.
In today’s competitive market, there is growing evidence that a strong brand, meaning a firm has a well-defined and differentiated presence in the market, means higher revenue, greater profitability, and is a leading indicator of future growth. If your brand isn’t resonating with your clients and prospects, your firm could be losing the race for mindshare (how much and how often clients and prospects think about you) and market share. Brands and business development go hand in hand; they need each other. A strong brand provides the backing your professionals need to effectively develop business in their face-to-face efforts.
Have you taken a look at your brand lately to see it’s doing as much as it could be to grow your firm?