A 10-step brand development strategy for your professional services firm
When your brand is arguably your professional services firm’s most-valuable asset, developing a stronger brand is your most important task. Let’s consider what a professional services brand is.
A professional services brand amounts to your firm’s reputation and its visibility in the marketplace. You can consider the strength of your brand as reputation x visibility; also important is how relevant it is to your target client audience.
Brand development is the process of creating and strengthening your brand. You can view this process in three phases.
1. getting your brand strategy right and aligned with your business objectives
2. developing the tools you need to communicate your brand, such as your logo, tagline, and website
3. strengthening your newly developed or updated brand
Your brand development strategy is how you go about accomplishing these tasks. Here’s a ten-step strategy for achieving this.
1. Consider your overall business strategy
A strong, well-differentiated brand will make growing your firm much easier. But what type of firm do you want? Are you planning to grow organically? Your overall business strategy drives your brand development strategy. If you are clear about where you want to take your firm, your brand will help you get there.
2. Identify your target clients
Our research proves that high-growth, high-profit firms focus on clearly defined target clients. The narrower the focus, the faster the growth. The more diverse the target audience, the more diluted your marketing efforts will be.
3. Research your target client group
Firms that research their target client group grow faster and are more profitable. Further, those that research continually grow faster still. Research helps you understand and anticipate your target clients’ needs so you can put your message in language that resonates with them. It also tells you how they view your firm’s strengths and your current brand.
4. Develop your brand positioning
Brand positioning is how you position your firm to be different from others so that clients choose to work with you.
A positioning statement typically comprises three to five sentences that capture the essence of your brand positioning. Make it real because you will have to deliver on what you promise; make it aspirational so you have something to strive for.
5. Develop your messaging strategy
This means translating your brand positioning into messages for your target audiences. Your target audiences include potential clients, potential employees, referral sources or other influencers, and potential partnering opportunities.
While your core message must be the same for all audiences, each audience will be interested in different aspects of it. The messages to each audience must emphasise the points most relevant to them, and targeting is therefore an important step in making your brand relevant to your target audiences.
6. Develop your name, logo, and tagline
Unless you’re a new firm, are undergoing a merger, or your name no longer suits your positioning, a name change may not be necessary. Even if you don’t change your firm name, a new logo and tagline may better support your brand positioning.
Remember, your name, logo and tagline are not your brand; they are a part of your brand identity. You must live your brand to make it real.
7. Develop your content marketing strategy
Content marketing works well for professional services firms. It does all things traditional marketing does but it does them more efficiently. It uses valuable educational content to attract, nurture and qualify prospects.
Remember that your brand strength is driven by both reputation and visibility. Content marketing increases both visibility and reputation at the same time. It is also the perfect way to make your brand relevant to your target audiences.
8. Develop your website
Your website is where your audiences discover what you do, how you do it, and who your clients are. Prospective clients are unlikely to choose your firm based on your website alone. However, they may rule you out if your site sends the wrong message.
Further, your website is home to your valuable content. This content is the focus of your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts so that your prospects, potential employees, and referral sources will find you and learn about your firm. Online content is central to your brand development strategy.
9. Build your marketing toolkit
Your marketing toolkit might include one-page sales sheets that describe your core services or your key markets. You might also create a brief pitch deck that gives an overview of your firm and an e-brochure that describes your offer. These will likely be digital rather than printed.
Increasingly a marketing toolkit also includes video. Popular topics include firm overviews, case studies, and meet-the-partner videos. Key services offerings are also useful. Done well, these tools support both business and brand development.
10. Implement, track, and adjust
A winning brand development strategy doesn’t do much if you don’t implement it. This means you should track both the implementation of your plan as well as your results. Ask yourself:
• did the implementation go as planned?
• what happened with your objective measures, such as search traffic and web visitors?
• how many new leads, employee applications, and partnering opportunities were generated?
Only by tracking the entire process can you draw the right conclusions and make the right adjustments.
News in brief
Russell Bedford expands its coverage in North America with three new CPA firms
Shajani LLP has joined the Russell Bedford network as its member firm in Alberta, Canada. In the US, PW Associates PLLC joins Russell Bedford in Texas, adding two new offices in Dallas and Houston, while Ryan, Geer, Field, and Rhodes PLLC joins as a member firm in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Top four firm Encinas joins Russell Bedford in Bolivia
Russell Bedford International has announced the appointment of Encinas Auditores y Consultores as its member firm in Bolivia. Encinas is ranked in the top four public accounting and audit firms in Bolivia. It was until recently the Bolivian member of one of the Big 4.
Russell Bedford sustains its annual growth path with a 17% increase
Russell Bedford International has released its annual Global Performance Report, revealing another incredible year that saw the network increase its global revenues by a remarkable 17%, up 4% on the previous year.
LGA, LLP and ALL CPAs announce merger
Russell Bedford’s Boston member firm, LGA, LLP, and ALL CPAs proudly announce a merger, effective 1 November 2021. The firm will operate under the LGA brand and maintain offices in Woburn and Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts as well as Salem, New Hampshire. Now with over 125 employees, LGA is expected to become one of the Boston Business Journal’s top twenty largest accounting firms in Massachusetts.
Russell Bedford International refreshes its strategic positioning
In an effort to build on the network’s many successes in recent years, Russell Bedford International embarked on a review of its strategy, examining why the network exists, what it aims to become and how its vision will be fulfilled. The review culminated with the publication of a strategic positioning paper, outlining the network’s vision, mission and values.
Zampa Debattista announces merger with Mint Finance
Russell Bedford’s Malta member firm, Zampa Debattista, and Mint Finance have completed their merger under the Zampa Debattista brand. The process first started in January 2021 when the partners of both companies began formulating the terms of this strategy.
Athens firms INTERLOG and iAspire join Russell Bedford as new members
INTERLOG Accounting Tax Consulting Services SA and iAspire Software & Business Solutions SA have been appointed as new member firms in Athens, Greece, alongside the existing member, Action Auditing SA. They offer a broad spectrum of services including accounting, tax compliance, HR and payroll, and financial consulting.
Russell Bedford appoints AM&A as member in Marseille
Amirault Mallen & Associés (AM&A) has been appointed as the Russell Bedford member firm in Marseille and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region in France. The firm joins existing members of the network based in Paris, Lyon and Nantes.
Austrian firm Hofer Leitinger joins Russell Bedford as a new member
Russell Bedford International, has announced the appointment of Hofer Leitinger as its member firm in Graz, Austria. Established in 2014, Hofer Leitinger is a tax advisory and business consulting firm, which has grown quickly to become a three-partner practice with around 60 personnel.
About the author
Dr Lee Frederiksen
Lee is managing partner at Hinge, a US-based research institute. He leads the firm’s unprecedented research initiative to understand how high-growth firms approach marketing.
With a Ph.D. in Behavioural Psychology, Lee left a tenured professorship to lead the Organizational Consulting Practice at one of the ‘Big 8’ accounting and consulting firms, before becoming an entrepreneur.
Lee attended Russell Bedford’s 2020 Americas Conference in Panama as a guest speaker, sharing his insights and knowledge on How to gain a sustainable competitive advantage.