Brand. Probably one of the most overused and misused terms in today’s business vocabulary.
Yet, it is has never been more important. For professional services firms, like so many other
service-based industries, business is changing, being disrupted by new technologies, increased
client expectations and new business models.
Why then, do so many firms continue to duck the challenge of investing in a distinctive and well-articulated brand – something that really sets them apart from their competitors?
Below, are what we consider to be the eight biggest challenges for professional services, and tips on how to overcome them.
1. Plan for success
The partnership nature of many professional services firms can make the development and management of the corporate brand notoriously challenging. Multiple business owners and internal politics lead to decision-making by committee, and that can result in a poorly-articulated, diluted brand. Make sure your designated team is small, representative of the business and has a mandate to properly develop and manage your brand.
2. Misconceptions about brand
Sometimes partners don’t have a common understanding about brand or the value of branding, which means it’s going to be difficult to achieve any meaningful consensus. Make sure you are clear about your process, objectives and deliverables at the outset of any branding project.
3. Invest in research
Understanding what the market wants and needs is increasingly difficult. To make the right brand decisions, always track your competitors, listen to your people and interview your clients. That way, you’ll understand what’s really important, how you are perceived and the (brand) experience of working with your firm.
4. Have the courage to dig deep
Evolving your current brand or creating a new brand is a big commitment and firms should take a brave approach. Think about making your brand really distinctive by identifying one or two things that you really want to be known for. Your brand will become sharper and you’re more likely to create something that will get you noticed.
5. Create values with real meaning
Brand values can help you find that valuable point of differentiation. But they are meaningless if people in the firm aren’t inspired and influenced by them. Instead of thinking about what you do, start thinking about how you do it. You might discover some things that can really set you apart.
6. Build an identity you can own
Your visual identity and tone of voice tells the outside world a lot about you, your personality and can give you ‘stand out’ in today’s saturated market. Your identity should be something you’re proud of and something everyone can use. There should be brand guidelines to help you make best use of your visual identity, but allow for some flexibility. Brands that really stand the test of time grow with the business.
7. Long-term brand management
There is no ‘start’ or ‘stop’ in branding. Your brand will need to evolve as your business develops. Be prepared to invest in long-term brand management to regularly review your brand, reinforce your values and help you adapt to meet ever-changing markets.
8. Take your brand digital
Love it or loathe it, digital marketing is here to stay. Social media, email, search engine and content marketing – all things your clients and prospects are using every day. So don’t think you can get away with the old ways of working. In the next five years, digital branding and marketing will be the difference between success and failure for many firms.
Richard Silberman is Creative Director and owner of Brand Remedy and one of the pioneers of branding in professional services. His sector experience includes legal, accountancy, wealth management, financial services, real estate and public sector.