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5 Ways to Shape Your Firms Brand

     -     Sep 6th, 2013   -     Accounting Marketing   -     0 Comments

Branding is a mysterious marketing concept in most accounting firms. The attitude by most partners is that since the firm has a logo it has a brand. Of course many understand that this is simply not the case. It’s akin to asserting, “I have a garage, therefore I own the latest, greatest Corvette.” It’s simply not true. To help make branding less mysterious, below is a list of items to help shape your firm’s brand.

Tips for Shaping Your CPA Firm’s Brand:

Discover Who Your Firm is – If your brand were a person, how would you describe their personality? Are they the class clown, friendly and down to earth, or empathetic and introverted? Create an exercise – find or draw a picture of a person who embodies your firm brand. If you’re less than artistic, consider using stock photography. Once you’ve found the picture of an individual you think represents your brands personality then write a biography for that person. Write about their likes and dislikes, what kind of social life they have, what do they do on the weekends, and what do they do when they are at work? Don’t think about what your brand would say, but use the exercise to speak like that person would speak. Find the voice of your firm – is it bubbly, serious, vivacious, sarcastic, etc…

Identify Firm Identity – Does your firm have a logo? Does that logo embody the brand personality you recently uncovered? Remember, this simple icon represents your firm. In addition, do you have a theme or tag line? If not, consider developing one after you have completed all of the exercises in this article. A tag or theme line can help propel your brand with a simple statement about your firm. ‘Joe & Bob CPAs’ doesn’t say much about what your core focus is, but if you had a theme line like ‘Joe & Bob CPA’s – Houston’s Nonprofit Experts’ then you give the prospect visualizing your brand’s icon an idea of what kinds of services you provide.

Assess Authenticity – Does the firm’s marketing materials use stock photography? Do you provide client testimonials? Are head shots provided in partner bios? These are important questions because it makes the firm look and feel authentic. Make your firm authentic every step of the way! Credibility is built through trust, and trust is built through honesty and integrity. Are you saying you’re the leading expert in Nonprofit audits in Houston? Then show your prospects some evidence – include a list of your existing nonprofit clients, or show a map of Houston with a star on all your client’s locations, provide the number of audits you perform for nonprofits each year, something that gives your interested prospects some kind of tangible proof that you are who you say you are and you do what you say you do.

As an aside, it’s my personal pet peeve when CPA firms use stock photography to represent people at their firm. You will build so much more trust and credibility with your prospects if Bob and Joe have their actual head shots on your website and not some gorgeous ‘business’ model. I want to know the real people who will come out and work on my account. Consider that Google is a powerful place, and any misrepresentation can be observed with a simple search. Spend $300 and have a photographer come to your office and shoot for an hour. You’ll get some great shots of the office, your people in action, and you can get head shots for everyone – or at least all the partners.

Define Your Target Audience – Can you provide a profile of your target audience? Is it small business owners or CEOs of large companies? It’s important to define this to ensure messaging is properly matched. Further defining your target may help you to identify the core of your business. For example, if nonprofit audits have been realized as the primary service with the top ROI, your target audience may have shifted from ‘Anyone who needs tax and accounting services’ to ‘Nonprofit organizations ranging from $100k – $1M’. Identifying your target will help you make decisions about what kind of media outlets to leverage – Direct Mail? Email Marketing? Telemarketing? Webinars? Etc… and it will also allow you to create or purchase a list based on a very specific segment of the business population. You will see greater success in your marketing if you clearly define the specific boundaries of your audience and stick to them.

Respond to the Outside World – Being true to your brand, and being too much of a curmudgeon to change with the times are on entirely different sides of the branding spectrum. A message that worked for your firm in 1995 when the economy was thriving may not be the right message for the same audience today.

Be consistent in your messaging, but be willing to change it when appropriate. It’s key to identify that a change based on a trend should be avoided, while a change in message based on the evolution of your audience (age, economy, social status, etc…) will be key to helping your firm maintain its current customer base, and grow by acquiring new customers that are like the existing customer.

Be sure to consider how the culture of your audience has evolved – if your firm was offering financial planning for new families 25 years ago, it may be time to change the message to an estate planning focus. Just as your business will not stay the same, neither will your audience. They are evolving and it is your job to grow and change according to their expectations and preferences.

In Perspective
In the end, shaping and understanding a brand isn’t an easy task. It’s time consuming; it involves a great deal of blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, and “spirited debate” with the partners. It will probably drive you crazy, but at the end of the day you will be rewarded with less marketing risk, higher reward, a cohesive brand, and a marketing strategy you can easily implement.

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