Is your brand muddied by years of neglect or “remodeling” by a few industrious staff? You know, the niche leader who adjusts a logo for a sponsorship ad or the administrator who doesn’t stick to the branded colors?
Aside from wrangling internal staff to present a consistent visual brand, the biggest weakness and threat for professional service firms is often the outdated look and feel of their websites. The top offenders?
- Old font styles
- Cluttered home pages
- Content that is too focused on firm services rather than visitor needs
- Not responsive on mobile devices
Does My Firm Need a New Brand?
A rebrand is in your future if your brand is five or more years old. Also, if competing firms have already invested in updated branding, you can’t lag behind on first impressions. Most cold to warm leads today are creating a short list based on your website and online impression. You can’t afford to ignore your brand when your pipeline depends on it.
Branding is more than a visual image or color. A brand is the promise you make to clients and potential clients about what it will be like to work with you. Your brand promises a certain experience.
The promises of your brand are based on:
- Stories you and your staff tell about the firm
- Stories your clients tell about the firm
- Name of the firm that is easy to pronounce and memorable
- Strong brand positioning statement, key messages, and tagline
- Visual image of your packaging, including logo, font type, brochures, stationery, proposals, and website
- Your delivery of the client experience
- Your talent brand to attract and retain professionals
If everyone is saying something different about your firm, it’s hard to distinguish your value from the crowd through marketing messages or sales communications. It’s also not competitive to say that your firm delivers “quality service” or “seeks long-term relationships.” Those messages are table stakes that everyone says. You must dig deeper to your firm’s true value.
Why is Branding Hot?
The secret of good branding is in integrating what staff, clients and the public think and expect from your firm. The best branding gains a strong and permanent place in the mind.
A complete branding process in a professional service firm involves:
- Leadership research – Five or more leadership interviews to seek common themes
- Client research– “A” client phone interviews
- Competitive research – Research on three to five top competitors
- Community research– Current marketing materials, involvement and sponsorship/philanthropy review
- Create a positioning statement – a summary that distinguishes your firm within a target market or markets
- Create key messages – essentially the experience you promise to deliver in three to five themes that is different from other firms
- Gather feedback from leadership and key employees
- Conduct client focus group(s) to gather feedback on the themes
- Finalize competitive themes and positioning statement
- Train leaders and staff on use of themes
- Develop marketing and business development tactics surrounding themes
- Develop or refresh of visual branding kit, including colors, logo, stationery, website, etc.
How Long Does It Take?
This initial branding process can be completed within one to two months, depending on the availability of clients and leaders. But its value for getting everyone to speak the same language about your firm will pay dividends in the consistency and ease of promoting your firm going forward.
New Brand, Now What?
To the roll-out! Finalize your new brand program by scheduling a firm story/key message training and integration of the brand into everyday use. Make it fun for everyone to embrace the new brand. Change is hard, so get everyone on board early in your roll-out. Consider a small celebration internally before you announce to clients and the world through your materials, client communications and public relations.
Remember that good branding is not safe and not always pleasant! If there is controversy about the brand promises or the images used to portray them, it probably means the work is good. It often forces a culture shift. Not everyone may like it.
How Do You Know That Your New Brand is Working?
It’s working when it allows you to talk about your firm with confidence and explain how it’s different from the competitors. It’s working when people respond with affirmative nods and additional questions. Now you have an opening to share your unique story and build stronger relationships.