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Uncover Your Firm's Brand

     -     Jul 22nd, 2013   -     Accounting Marketing   -     0 Comments

Brand is a buzzword accounting marketing professionals encounter all the time. However, have you ever stopped to consider what it really means? Some think a brand is a logo (this is wrong by the way), others think it’s a set of colors, and others think it’s a website. None of these individual items create a brand; they are simply components that embody your brand.

Your brand is essentially a promise to your customers. You make promises of service, or product through marketing, and then your business must answer those promises by fulfilling the orders. Every time you make and keep your promise you are increasing your brand equity – every time you do not, you lose it. Step one in figuring out your own brand should be based on determining exactly what promise you will make to your customers that you can always fulfill. The answer to what you should be promising lies in the answers to these three simple questions aimed at finding your differentiating factor.

1. Who are you?
2. What do you do?
3. Why does it matter (to clients, referral partners and prospects)?

Questions 1, and 2 are often easy to answer – but unless the answers are concise, it may be difficult to determine the answer to question number 3. The answer to question number three is ultimately your brand promise to clients – it is the message that makes you stand out, and it’s what all of your branded materials should strive to communicate (ie. Your website, logo, colors etc…).

Consider the following firms who showcase stunning branding, and communicate a clear brand promise through their differentiating factors:

Peterson Sullivan: http://www.pscpa.com
Peterson Sullivan has recently celebrated their 60 year anniversary by completing an effort to rebrand. They have updated their logo, website, themeline and brand promise in an effort to reflect the accomplishments that have built their firm over the past 60 years.

Their new themeline, Confidence Earned, showcases dedicated ownership over the accounting empire they have built in Washington. Their ad campaigns run this year all tie back to the 60 year anniversary, as well as showing their confidence through trust generated over the past 60 years. Strong logo, colors, and website all contribute to the stability of the messaging.

Macias Gini & O’Connell (MGO): http://www.mgocpa.com/
MGO is a great example of branding through surprise. They have developed an identity based around the stereotype that accounting is boring. But they have delighted their audience by exaggerating the idea of boring accounting, is actually really exciting for them.

A brand is not something you can make up, or create from nothing; in fact a brand is created by your client’s perception of your business. Most people have too many choices, and most service providers have similar quality and features – so as clients our buying choices are typically based on trust. And trust is the result of meeting and beating customer expectations. A well-known author in marketing, Marty Neumeier, wrote that “reliability plus delight = trust,”. So if your answer to question #3 is to be believed, you must instill trust. If you are going to instill trust you must present your brand with charisma and reliability. But how?

  1. Be different. What sets you apart from all of your competitors? ‘Good Customer Service,’ probably not, almost everyone has that. ‘Variety of services,’ nope, I bet you can count 15 other firms that say the same thing. What really makes you different? Perhaps you are the only accounting firm that offers a money back guarantee? Maybe you pride yourselves on being BORING accountants (remember our above example with MGO http://www.mgocpa.com/), perhaps you only work with organizations run by moms? Delve deep and find out exactly what it is that you do, that nobody else does.
  2. Bring yourself into focus. The best test for how focused your brand is, is answering the three questions we discussed in the beginning of this post. Be compelling in your answers, and stay tightly focused on those messages alone. Good brands grow in value by reinforcing their focus. In other words, stay away from industry trends and keep in mind the original message for your firm
  3. Consider bringing someone else in. If you are completely stumped and can’t step far enough away from your own business to really see it, consider hiring a firm that specializes in branding and strategy specifically for your type of business (Ahem, Flashpoint Marketing!), it can be virtually impossible to see flaws in your own thinking and strategy when you aren’t impartial. Step back, and let someone else help guide you.
  4. Bring it to life. Be creative, execute these ideas you have about your brand, put them on paper, be creative and don’t be afraid to stand out for all the right reasons. The biggest hurdle in brand development is often that the strategic team is fighting with the creative team. You need to leverage both, without compromising either (Compromised creative + Compromised Strategy = Boring, Average, Less than impressive brand). Creativity it what makes a brand stand out, its what gets noticed, it floats above the boring advertising sludge and makes your prospects notice you for all the right reasons.

Jumpstart Your Creative Mind

Creativity can be really scary, especially for those who are analytical thinkers, but try using these ideas to jumpstart your creative mind:

1. Create an imaginary billboard, use 7 words or less to communicate your message.
2. Create a visual ad for your company; don’t use any stock photography, and only 1 headline.
3. Don’t use your logo in either ad.

Can you do it? A strong brand promise, and focus within your messaging will allow you to easily accomplish these tasks. Now go show someone what you came up with. Could they tell you who it was for without you helping?

This exercise will help you understand if you have truly established a brand, or if you still aren’t focused enough. Don’t be afraid to test it, or try different brand outfits on. Today’s brand is a character, not an entity. Shape, nurture and develop its identity, don’t pigeonhole it so it cannot evolve with your business.

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