Building a strong brand is being given increasing priority in the professional services sector. A cluttered market place, global competition and increased regulation surrounding privacy mean that brand stories must be well executed to achieve stand out.
For years many businesses, including law, accountancy and investment firms have based their success on the work, relationships and reputation of partners in the firm. The greatest percentage of new business will still come from word of mouth recommendation.
That said, three things are now igniting the need for these firms to invest in their brand as well.
Previously, the norm for partners was to work at fewer firms for longer and build strong relationships over time. Now there is a tendency to not only move across firms but also across sectors and industries, compromising long and nurtured relationships with clients.
Enter generation millennial, Z and the next and client search processes are constantly evolving across the board. One thing that is certain, is that they are all using the digital landscape to search, evaluate and take action. The look, feel and credibility of a professional services firm’s website and other digital content is therefore crucial.
With layer upon layer of regulation governing the privacy of individuals in their personal lives and in business, the power is shifting to the buyer to reach out. Businesses have their hands tied in many ways, so they must present an attractive proposition across the board to be approached by clients. In other words, the shift is to a strategy of inbound marketing.
The solution is end to end branding…
If this is to yield the right results, the process of branding for a law firm, accountancy firm or financial management firm needs to be as well researched and calculated as the services provided by any great partner.
The challenges in driving a thorough brand audit and brand development will typically be complex and cannot be underestimated, often due to multiple decision-makers. However, embracing the firm’s combined expertise and knowledge with a vested interest should be the goal.
With this understanding, an engaged approach and methodical process, firms in the professional services have a scope of opportunity to move forward by embracing business development on a new level.
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Whether it’s an initial branding exercise, evolvement of your brand or a website refresh choosing the perfect branding agency can provide you with that advantageous leap forward. However, it can be challenging when deciding which agency might be most compatible with you and your organisation. So to prioritise your considerations…
Do your research and look at the types of work produced by different agencies. Does the agency have an approach that will incorporate all the practical, theoretical and emotional backdrop to your brand? Do you see your brand designed with the same approach?
Identify agencies with similar values.
Select the agencies that will respect your aspirations (vision) and values. Are their values similar to yours? Will the agency you select understand your business in the way you want it to be perceived?
A team you want to work with.
Seems quite obvious but results are achieved through skilled people working well together. Who would be managing and doing your work? Are they easy to work with? Do they respect your work in the way they should? Are they the right people for the job as opposed to the guys the agencies wanted to allocate?
It is a good idea to think forward. There are huge benefits in building a good relationship with your agency over time. Your needs will fluctuate but the consistency through your brand should not. Your agency can take a pivotal role in your brand guardianship and with a good relationship will be far more able to add value rather than simply order take.
As all disciplines become broken up into micro-units of specialisation having those agency or partnership relationships becomes increasingly important.
Managing a rebrand or brand refresh can be tough for any marketing team. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first rebrand or the fifth – it can be a strenuous process from start to finish (if there is one).
Notable brands are at opposite ends of the spectrum in how often they have rebranded. In a previous article, Is it Time to Rebrand?, we’d taken note of this – Starbucks was at the low end of the spectrum with five rebrands since brand creation in 1971, whereas Pepsi was much higher with eleven rebrands since brand creation in 1898.
More of a recent example in the news has been the John Lewis rebrand – with promises of “re-inventing the high street” after seeing profits plummet to the lowest level on record in 63 years. When planning a rebrand such as this, where do you start? Here are some things to think about:
LAY OUT YOUR NEW IMAGE
An ideal place to start is laying out your new image. What are your company values? What expectations are you setting? What are your promises to your target market and current customers going to be? Assess these thoroughly and decide upon the set of promises that your brand can actually deliver to your target market. Staying customer focused is key to your rebranding campaign.
RESEARCH YOUR CUSTOMERS AND TARGET MARKET
Given the above mentioned it makes sense to research your customers and the target markets. Sadly this phase is often seen as a cost as opposed to a foundation to the investment and thus missed out. What do your customers expect from your brand? How does your target market interact with your brand? What challenges will you face from your target market?
Use research specialists or simply ask your current customer base for feedback – both positive and negative. Another option is to utilise professional social networks, such as LinkedIn. These platforms are great tools for identifying new target markets based on what people are interested in or speaking about. You can easily engage with your target markets, as well as identify any challenges that they may be currently facing that your brand may have the solution to.
IDENTIFY WHAT (IF ANYTHING) IS BROKEN
Not attracting new clients? Are there any current goals that the brand has failed to achieve? Identifying what isn’t working within your branding strategy is almost (if not more) important than identifying what works well. This review process will allow for your brand to put its best foot forward in terms of new brand image and successful marketing tactics.
BUILD YOUR BRAND’S NARRATIVE
Develop a compelling, memorable story to support your brand or in most cases just articulate it. The key, however, is to make the story both one that you and your customers can get behind and believe in.
If your brand’s mission statement needs to be revitalised, this is a prime opportunity to do it. Re-establishing what is important to your company and what it stands for is crucial to connect with your audience and to stay relevant in today’s marketplace.
Resisting the urge to revert back to the old branding can be difficult especially for founders and senior execs. The initial groundwork in research and vision become the vital objective references. Like everything, confidence in brand image is key and if developed through sound process it will evolve elegantly.