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What Makes You Unique

How Your Brand Positioning Affects Your Firm

After working with professionals for many years, we’ve heard a lot of the same promises. Most firms claim to provide great service, technical excellence or expertise, high quality, and so on. Words like “service,” “excellence,” and “quality” have lost their meaning. You want to stand out from the firm down the street. 

The branding process is a work in progress comprised of

  • What you say you are or aspire to
  • What your community knows about you
  • What your clients depend on
  • What your competition does not own

 

Our clients are focusing more and more on their brand positioning in the marketplace. When we create a set of themes to distinguish their firm from competitors, we start by listening to four audiences: the firm itself, clients AND prospects, the competition and the community at large. Addressing these four groups with brand research and objective interviews will lead to clarity about your firm’s competitive differentiators. The results may surprise you.

Brand Research and Client Messages

Sometimes the messages we hear from clients and from firm leadership are very different. For example, a CPA firm might focus internally on their knowledge and expertise in a niche industry, but this isn’t what their clients remember. For one firm we worked with, the firm’s most treasured niche client revealed that “I chose to work with Joe because he is always accessible, answers my calls promptly and clearly understands my financial situation. I know that, no matter how busy he is, I am his most important client.” As a result, we focused the firm’s new brand messaging not just on niche prowess, but also on responsiveness and paying attention to client details.

Client interviews should be conducted by an experienced brand consultant. This provides more objective and detailed feedback because the viewpoint is fresh. In addition, your best clients hold the key to discovering how to attract more clients of that caliber. Asking the right questions can bring out open and honest feedback, which helps you align your message with how your clients view you.

At this point you can also talk to prospects about what they’re looking for in a firm. You may know prospects who are willing to talk to you, or you can ask your brand consultant if they can locate prospects in your key industry to interview.

This phase ends with a list of all the feedback and messages about what your firm values internally, what your clients value and what prospects assume is your value in the market.

Competitor Messages

The second step in the brand positioning process is to conduct a competitive analysis. To do this, look at competitors’ websites, advertising and social media, as well as information that came up about competitors in the client/prospect interviews. You can also hire a secret shopper of your competitors to find out how they talk about themselves. Often when we’re researching competitors in an industry, we find that there are messages shared by multiple companies. For example, a recent competitive analysis found these messages flooding an industry: “agile,” “strategic,” “proactive.” Those phrases are from three different competing firms! Take these competitor messages and put them side-by-side with all the messages that came out of your firm leadership and client interviews. Eliminate any message that is already overused by competitors. This does not mean that you cannot use the phrase if there’s a value that’s strong for your firm. If you really do have exceptional customer service, come up with a new way to speak about the service you provide and how it thrills and delights your clients. Share some customer success stories to demonstrate this brand message.

Community Knowledge

Lastly, competitive differentiators show up in your community. Some firms are already known for a level of charitable participation, a landmark building, an outrageous personality or some other unique feature of their community involvement. If you’re working on your differentiation internally, you may already be aware of what your community knows about you. Is it consistent with the messages from clients and prospects and your leadership? Is there something new to add?

Using Brand Positioning

At the end of this process you should have a list of three to five elements that distinguish you from your competitors. State them as phrases that are easy to remember. The end goal isn’t to have some words that your people parrot out at networking events, but for each person to remember the core ideas that define the brand of your firm. For example, at Ingenuity one of our consultants might say, “We market people, not products,” while another might tell you, “I know that your ability to promote your knowledge directly impacts the growth of your firm.” These are two versions of the same idea – one is less personal but catchy and might be used as an introduction to a large group; the other version creates a personal connection. When you give people core ideas, they can customize these to fit the situation they’re in at the time. The same ideas can be represented on your website, in public relations and community participation and also in the ways your clients talk about you when giving referrals.

In an information-flooded world, the beauty of clearly stated key messages leads to consistent branding and client expectations. If you want to be positioned for growth, all of the people associated with your firm need those messages on the tips of their tongues.

Learn more about Ingenuity’s brand positioning services.


Rebranding? Tips for Brand Positioning and Roll-out

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.

Are you ready to rebrand? Check out our branding services.

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:   

Research

  • 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

Themes

  • 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

Tactics

  • 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.

Learn how to roll-out your new brand in this blog post.

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. 

See how we created an award-winning brand for Casey Peterson, Ltd.

 

 


 

firm-newsletter

How to Write Terrific Articles for Your Firm Newsletter

 

firm-newsletter“We want to start a newsletter because our industry associations say it is a good way to stay in front of people.”

We hear this from quite a few of the firms that call us. A newsletter is an excellent way to support your content marketing strategy and leverage your time by keeping your brand in front of people you do not see often, establish yourself as an expert and cross-sell your services or products to your client base. But ask anyone who has published a good newsletter, and they will tell you it is a huge commitment. Before you start publishing a newsletter, think about the following options:

Don’t do it at all. If you do not like to write and do not want to pay others to write for you, put your resources into something else.

Send out occasional updates or letters. Keep it Simple. A newsletter can have one article or multiple articles. It can be a success tip or quick, timely update.

Purchase existing content. Ask to see at least four back issues to make sure you like the content. Geographic exclusiveness is probably a good idea to make sure your clients do not get the exact same thing from your competitors. Content should be customized to differentiate your firm and support your rankings in search engines.

Creating your own newsletter from scratch is time consuming but is probably the best way to continually show clients and prospects your expertise and philosophy of doing business. If you decide to go ahead and publish, here are ten tips for success:

Use “You” Instead of using passive language such as, “Participants in this process gain exposure and credibility,” use active second person language such as “When you participate in this process, you gain exposure and credibility.” Speak directly to the readers and involve them in the information.

Wrap the Facts in Stories Why do you think The Diary of Anne Frank continues to be popular? The story of what happened to one person is more emotionally powerful than statistics of what happened to millions. A good story lights up the statistics and makes them real and important. Rather than just telling the facts, be sure to include real or fictionalized stories about what happened to people when they do or do not follow your advice.


Give Advice
People read your newsletter because they want to find out what you think they should do. If they wanted the letter of the law or tax code, they could probably find it somewhere else. They want you to tell them what you think and share the wisdom you have developed working in the field. They read the newsletter because they trust you. Tell them what you think they need to know and do.

Call to Action Your articles should not only tell people what to do, but who to do it with: you! You can wrap this in a story with lines such as, “we helped this client by…” You can tell them about your expertise in the area and how you solved the problems. Always end the article with an invitation to learn more by contacting you and your contact information.

Be an Expert Always end your article with some brief information about yourself and/or your firm. While you might not want to mention your Harvard MBA in the body of the article, (“Back in my Harvard days, we…” sounds a bit like bragging), you definitely want to mention your credentials at the end. Make sure your bio extols your credibility, credentials, and includes a photo if possible.

Use Your Newsletter Strategically If you are passionate about opera or golf, you are welcome to mention it, but make sure the main articles are about services you want to sell. Having a dip in your personal injury practice? Make the case history of a client you helped be the lead story. If you create an expensive newsletter, make sure it works for you. Make sure it is targeted at your “A” clients. Make sure it brags about your accomplishments and achievements.

Be Allergic to Jargon Next time you have a group of your peers together, try to isolate words that are not used much outside your own field. Chances are you will not be able to because you are so immersed in your field. Have an outsider isolate the words that your audience will puzzle over and make you a list. Have the new employee in your office keep a list of words that are new. Sounding so smart that no one understands you is not a way to bring people in as clients; it is intimidating.

Hire an Outside Editor and Proof Even if you have great writers, a terrific proofreader and desktop publishing, you need an editor. A good editor establishes writing standards for the newsletter, helps authors learn to write better, keeps strategy in mind, interviews and writes articles you don’t have time for, nags nicely about the schedule, and always keeps the end audience in mind. Unless you want to do a terrific job on your newsletter, why do it? An outside editor is worth it. Make sure a great proofreader who has never seen it before proofs your newsletter last thing. When clients want to see you as an expert, perfect newsletters help them keep that vision.

Leverage Your Content Why write an article for just one publication? Could it also be submitted to your local newspaper, industry newsletter or talk radio station? Is there a website that publishes information like it? Once you have spent the time and sweat to create articles and a whole newsletter, think about who else you can send it to. Instead of only sending it to clients, consider sending it to:

  • Past clients
  • Past employees
  • Referral sources
  • Other tenants in your building
  • Targeted potential clients
  • Local chamber members and staff
  • Your local newspaper
  • Other media that might be interested in your areas of expertise

When people have been receiving your newsletter for a while, don’t be afraid to call them and ask for feedback or appointments. Use your newsletter as a basis for starting or continuing a conversation instead of replacing a conversation.

CPA Mutual was working with a Google AdWords rep to run online ads and sending a print newsletter to its 15,000 person database.

Click here to find out what happened when they started working with us.


What’s your firm’s story?

 

Think about a time when you came through for a client.

What challenge were they experiencing?
What solution did you provide?
How did you come up with a solution?
What was the outcome?

Now that you have a story to share, how can you share it?

You have a few options:

  • Create a case study for your firm website.
  • Pitch it to a local or trade publication.
  • Post it on your firm blog.

Once it’s published, how can you leverage the story?

  • Post a write-up on the firm website news page.
  • Add the article link to your LinkedIn profile to share with your connections and theirs.
  • Create a separate post with the article link to the LinkedIn home page as a status update. Provide an engaging headline with the article to explain why people should read it.
  • Use relevant articles to share with leads you just met or to bring to lunch or coffee meetings as a leave behind.
  • Add the article description (and link, if available) to your bio.
  • Repurpose the topics as newsletter articles or presentations.

Now, you have written, shared and promoted your story. Need more ideas or help? Contact us. 


 

8 Steps to Succeed at Niche Partnership Marketing

At Super Bowl LII, the makers of Doritos and Mountain Dew partnered up on dueling commercials while asking fans to share their own lip-sync performances on Snapchat. Their common fans agreed that the products go together and that the consecutive commercials made them want to buy both products. It was the perfect example of successful partnership marketing…and fun!

This strategy can be a great option for niche marketing. But we’ve seen too many examples of partnership marketing done badly, leaving one partner with success while the other gets a participation medal. To make a partnership marketing opportunity the best it can be, do the following:

1. Choose the right partner.

If you are a manufacturer, do not partner with another manufacturer unless your markets are complementary. Professionals, likewise, should partner with a strong referral source. You can even choose to partner with a media outlet if they offer programs in which they do all the marketing for the purposes of meeting new potential advertisers through the event or campaign.

2. Align your goals.

Make sure you are on the same page with the reasons for your partnership. If your partner is only interested in your clients and you get nothing out of it, it’s worthless. Talk about the potential audience and if that audience is beneficial to both of you. Make sure each partner is guaranteed some level of success with visibility, networking or sales leads.

3. Have a hook.

Why should people spend their time attending your event or paying attention to your campaign? What’s in it for them? You and your partner could play host to an attractive guest speaker or panel. We’ve seen instances where companies partner to host a popular author for a book signing. Others may co-host a charity outing. You must provide value to gain value.

Click here to read about our CFO Survey project.

4. Choose an attractive venue.

If your office is a terrible meeting place, do not force people to go there. They won’t. Choose a comfortable location that is set up well for mingling, listening to speakers or entertainment. Talk to a meeting planner about how to maximize attendance (e.g. date and time of event).

5. Promote heavily.

In addition to advertising, use your social media and direct invites effectively. People are busy, and they usually need to see something several times before they will pay attention and/or sign up. If your partnership campaign is a series of expert videos or podcasts, for example, continuous promotion will start to reach a percentage of your target audience. One announcement is not enough. Also, make sure your invite list is large. Things come up. Only a percentage of that list will commit and attend.

6. Position your company.

As a partner, your company should be central as sponsor or host. Create signage or have an attractive booth. Use your logo strategically online and at the event. Have people from your company positioned as greeters, experts or both to ensure that everyone knows or gets to know your business. This is not a hard sell situation. Through advertising of the event, campaign or product all the way through the marketing process, your company should stand out and get people to opt in to future communications.

7. Outsource logistics.

You don’t have time to worry about food, security, the sign-up table or the technology. Put your best vendors or people on key tasks to pull off a seamless partnership event. Your job is to mingle, educate and gather new contacts. If you are hosting an online event, have tech people on hand to deal with unexpected glitches or to facilitate live Q and A.

A great advantage to partnership marketing is splitting the cost of logistics with your partner!

8. Follow up with leads.

After all the work of conducting partnership marketing, do not forget to have a follow-up plan. Whether that’s a fishbowl drawing to collect business cards, an online contact capture tool or a related resource to share, be prepared to continue the conversation with attendees after your event.

A subtle type of partnership marketing is public speaking, particularly through niche marketing association events.

Click here to learn about our speakers bureau services as an outsource marketing option.


 

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Our Top 5 Favorite Articles from July

What have you been reading, watching or listening to by the pool this summer? Here are our top content picks from July.

Why Should Firm Leaders Be On Social Media?

Wendy Nemitz Founder of Ingenuity Marketing Group, talks about the value of a presence on social media. Plus she talks about ways to make it take up less time and effort

Watch this video.

5 Key Benefits of Marketing Automation

Has your firm started using marketing automation? If not, this article could make you a believer in streamlining and automating processes.

Read this article.

3 Things You Need To Stand Out In Content Marketing

How to stand out when 58.8 million blog articles are posted online each month.

Click here for more.

Build It… But Will They?

Ingenuity would be very interested in hearing about other firms that created a cultural shift through a built environment, like the one in this post.

Learn more.

How Millennials in the Workplace Are Turning Peer Mentoring on Its Head

Young people are training generation Xers and baby boomers in a concept called “reverse mentoring.”

Read the full article.

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Ingenuity wins awards
in accounting, AEC

We’re proud of all of the work we do, but now and then we’re recognized by industry organizations for outstanding projects. Read about our most recent awards in the accounting and AEC industries.

The Association for Accounting Marketing’s Marketing Achievement Award (AAM-MAAs) winners were recognized during the 2016 AAM Summit. The Doty Group won for its advertising print campaign, which had a total spend of $24,999 or less. We collaborated with the accounting firm on the concept and provided copywriting and design support. View the ads here.

The American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota presented the Distinguished Service Award to Ingenuity at the council’s Annual Meeting & Awards Presentation. The award recognizes individuals and groups for outstanding service and dedication to ACEC/MN and its members. It is a pleasure to serve the organization and we are grateful for everything that engineers do.

acecawardphoto

The five kinds of content your firm needs

Often in accounting marketing and A/E/C marketing, firms have created some content but aren’t sure how to use it. You might be wondering if you have the right pieces and how to fit them together.

Christine Nelson of Ingenuity Marketing Group explains the five key pieces of content used for professional services marketing and how they work together.