You’ve got a strong team with good skills. How do you translate that into a vibrant brand that your audience feels connected with?
Branding is a little touchy-feely for many accounting professionals to really grok. They may know it’s important and want to participate, but it’s so…mushy. Is there actually more to it than a recognized logo and a history of good professional performance? There is, and it’s a powerful determinant of success. But the doubters have a point too; strong branding is an elusive concept.
At its heart, it’s about building relationships between you and your clients. Branding is about the way those who know you feel about you when they see your name or logo. It’s more emotional than logical, although those emotions grow from concrete factors. So how can you create the positive feelings that represent strong branding? Angela Stringfellow gives a nice roundup of strategies to help you do just that for your accounting firm, writing in AMEX Open Forum.
- Know who you are as a firm. Branding needs to align very directly with true personality to be effective. That’s one reason that the fit between firm culture and new hires is so important: if the fit isn’t right, both parties will struggle to find happiness together. Spend some time figuring out what’s important to you as a firm. What’s important here are your answers, not a set you’ve seen in a book or website about fabulously successful firms. By keeping this set of values and beliefs in mind, everything you do as a firm can and should reflect them. And if you ever feel there’s a conflict or lack of congruence, take a very close look. That decision, client or marketing tactic may not be right for you. Consistency is the key to strong branding as well as business success.
- Make the world a better place – in your own style. One great way to build a strong brand also happens to be a way to build a stronger team: through philanthropic involvement. Pick a cause (or a few) that you can really stand behind. Then show the world what your firm can get done when you care about something. You’ll feel good, you’ll be achieving something that matters, your team will have a chance to come together in a new way and your clients can see another side of your firm.
- Use the people you have! Letting your team shine is absolutely fundamental to strong brand-building. Being professional doesn’t mean stripping out every sign of humanity from your firm. Your firm has the success it does not in spite of your people, but because of them! But you’re all funny-looking and a little weird? Awesome! So is the rest of the world. Your real people are wonderful. That’s why you hired them and value them. Show them off in your website, videos, blogs, tv spots and every other way you can. People connect to people. Let the people who make up your brand be visibly attached to it and you’ll get a much stronger response from your audience than you will with canned “stock” images or actors. Nobody wants to get to know them, however chiseled and beautifully coifed they may be.
- Tell your story. Sharing the pure facts about your firm’s good work is fine. You may have some very impressive figures. That won’t linger in your audience’s mind and trigger warm, fuzzy feelings though. Know what will? Your story. How did you get there? What was fun, funny and frustrating about the trek it took to get there? What drives your passion to serve your clients and what excites you besides accounting? Go ahead and spill those stories too – they’re a lot more interesting, frankly, than the fact that you saved your clients $3.6 million last year (which is pretty darned interesting).
Branding isn’t all that touchy-feely after all. It’s just another way to describe the flavor of your firm. Some people like one and other folks prefer another, but as long as you’re honest, consistent and working to make the world around you better, somebody’s going to think you’re delicious.