Some of our clients are taking a long-term view of building a valuable Accounting business. And we’re helping them with brand strategy.
For starters, how do your clients view your firm? What about your potential clients?
Do they see you as proactive, business-focused, successful, innovative, dynamic, making a huge difference, influential in your industry, and likeable?
Or do they see you as ‘just like any other accounting firm’, reactive, slow, ‘missing the big picture’, unimaginative, and unable to support business owners beyond compliance?
This is really a question of BRANDING because brands drive the expectations people have of you.
So how do Accountants strengthen their brand? It takes time… and it’s more about what you do than what you say. Here are five areas to focus on and practical steps you can take.
1) Be a Business “for someone”, not “for everyone”
Think of brands like Mercedes, Heineken, and Microsoft. These businesses are successful partly because of their powerful brands.
However, their products are NOT for everyone. They are for very specific, well-defined groups (or Target Customers). And they clearly define their Target Customers in terms of location, gender, spending power, stage of life, prior purchase behavior, goals, interests, concerns, risk appetite, etc. The more specific they get, the easier it is to find and attract Target Customers.
Your Challenge: Think of your most successful client relationship. What attributes does this client have? What makes them a good fit for you? Size, ambition, the personality of the leaders, industry, reporting needs, growth rate, something else? Repeat this for a few more clients and your Target Client should be easier to define. You’re succeeding with these clients for a reason… and we need to get clear on what that reason is.
So we’ve defined the Target Client. Now we must get clear on their NEEDS, meaning what they are trying to overcome or accomplish. You are RELEVANT if you help them satisfy these needs.
What kind of needs are the most common? There are generally BUSINESS needs like revenue or profit growth, increased business efficiency, or value creation. Some needs are more PERSONAL such as working less or working differently, impacting the community, or creating wealth by selling the business.
These needs will change over time so you should frequently check in with your clients. In that way you can ensure you remain RELEVANT.
Your Challenge: Think of a client and describe their NEEDS. Look at this from the Client’s perspective, not what you want to do for them. For example, filing a tax return is not a need… but gaining peace-of-mind might be. Tax planning is not a need… but distributing more cash to owners might be. Now consider how you helped to address their needs. Repeat for a few more clients and if you find you are hugely impactful in helping clients address their needs, your RELEVANCE is high.
What your clients and partners say about you will influence your brand way more than anything you can say about yourself. Hopefully, your clients greatly admire you in which case we want to get that message out.
Your Challenge: Find three clients who will agree to have their name/logo on your website. Then find three more who will offer a brief statement about their positive experience with you (ideally with their name and a photograph attached). Then find one client who you can use as a Case Study, that is, a more detailed explanation of how you helped them. Finally, find one client who agrees to be interviewed (preferably on video) and will talk freely about working with you.
You now have some extremely powerful assets to support your brand promises. Repeat this exercise periodically because things change and we can never have enough positive testimonials!
No point in strengthening your brand if no one can find you and learn about you. This is the purpose of communicating through newsletters, websites, books, blogs, posts, events, guides, speeches, public relations, interviews, advertising, direct marketing, partner marketing, and so on.
You can get quite creative here… but your message must be consistent and high-quality. It’s better not to distribute ANY content than to distribute BAD content. That will damage your brand. Quality content costs time and money so get help if necessary.
Your Challenge: Come up with one content idea. What form will it take? How would you distribute it? Who would create it? Could it be repurposed into other forms? Most important, would this appeal to your Target Client? Why?
5) Being Aspirational
To be aspirational is to be someone people WANT TO associate with. There are many possible reasons such as your success, skills, influence on the community, connections, unique experiences, track record, and so on. Again, being aspirational to everyone is impossible… but being aspirational to a specific group (your Target Client) is much more achievable.
Your Challenge: Choose three businesses, people, or products you find aspirational. Why? Now think of your Target Client. Consider what they find aspirational. If you’re clear on this, you’re on the path to presenting yourself as a worthy and aspirational partner.
Once again, brands aren’t built overnight… but narrow the focus to these five areas and get started!