Tag Archives: branding strategies

How to Brand a Professional Services Firm

professional needing brandingAs a professional services provider, and having helped brand more than a couple of service firms, I know professional services branding is a unique proposition. So does Hinge Marketing.

For about a year now I’ve been following the web marketing created by Hinge, a marketing services firm that consults about “branding and marketing for professional services firms”. They practice what they preach and provide valuable guidance for professional service marketers, particularly those wanting to use the Internet to capture new business.

They just did a blog outlining five brand building strategies that deserves to be brought to everyone service provider struggling to differentiate their company. It’s entitled…

Top 5 Brand building Strategies for Professional Services Firms

Here a few excerpts.

1. Content marketing
Content Marketing involves providing a steady stream of useful information to potential clients or influencers. Think educational rather than promotional. It addresses relevance, reputation and visibility.

2. Develop Visible Experts?.professional doing business
Many firms have experts, but few of them go on to become well known and influential with their target client group. By deliberately developing one or more of these high-profile experts, a firm can dramatically increase the power of its brand

3. Cultivate prestigious partners
Partnering with prominent organizations to take on important projects is another proven strategy for building your professional services brand. Large, well-known businesses, trade associations or universities are all good partnering candidates

4. Seek high profile clients and case stories
There are many successful professional services firms that have been built on reputations made with a single name-brand client or a well-known case study.

5. Dominate the social media space
One of the most highly leveraged brand building strategies available to professional services firms today is based on the growth of social media. Businesses of all types are becoming regular users of social tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube

You can read the entire post here. And look around their sites for additional information they freely give to any professional firm.

If you’re looking to brand or rebrand a professional services company, I believe I can help. Just click here for more information.

Brand Management in smaller companies

Brand management need not be a full-time job in small organizations. Yet it is just as important to the on-going success of the business as it is in larger organizations with entire departments responsible for brand management.

Brand management a top staff function

The smaller the company, the higher up the corporate ladder responsibility for brand management should reside.

Brand management requires strategic perspective

That’s not only a matter of headcount, it’s a matter of vision. That’s because there’s so much more to branding than maintaining its exterior trappings. Almost every important decision involving employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders will have an effect on the brand, as will decisions concerning the business model, product development and corporate structure.

Every decision should be factored by this question: “How will this decision impact our corporate brand and our product brands?” The vision to answer this question comes only from the strategic perspective of the top executive.

So if you’re managing a business, I implore you to not delegate the corporate brand.

Corporate branding: not a marketing function

A common practice is to make the corporate brand a responsibility of the marketing department. In the old paradigm of product branding, brand managers were usually part of the marketing organization. And rightly so because their duties were to market the products they were assigned.

But a corporate brand is much larger and valuable than a product brand. It’s a long-range strategic asset that differentiates the company from its competitors by establishing and maintaining an attitude and personality to which stakeholders are drawn. It’s the corporate promise, its story, its demonstration of values and its consistency of action. These are not the elements by which marketing is usually judged.

One additional caveat: By no means allow a sale-driven marketing force – one in which a sales manager and a marketing manager report to a marketing VP – hold sway over the branding function, corporate or product. In my experience, sales people in this situation will out-shout their marketing counterparts and always opt for decisions of a short-sighted nature. I mean discounting, couponing and other tactics that might boost sales so they can meet this quarter’s goals.

Sacrificing the corporate brand is not worth it

This may seem to provide an additional responsibility to an already full agenda, but is there anything more important than building a reputation upon which your corporate growth will depend?

Remember, branding is a strategic process. It should be in the hands of the Chief Strategic Officer.

Branding an Internet service provider

Another BrandingWire case study – Keeping the Books

The BrandingWire, is a loose network of bloggers about brands and branding – we call ourselves “a posse of pundits” – who offer entrepreneurs and others a chance to ask for help concerning their brands. They provide a branding brief and allow us to comment, suggest, question, challenge, admonish, carp and pontificate concerning their branding needs. Actually, anyone can participate by going to BrandingWire website and commenting on the posted brief.

Today’s entrepreneur plans to open a bookkeeping service for e-retailers. His brief can be read in full at BrandingWire. My comments are listed here as well as on the BrandingWire site.

How is your business different from your competitors?

Like many – or should I say most – entrepreneurs, our bookkeeper friend has jumped the gun. He immediately wants a name, logo and tagline but has given no thought to how he will differentiate his business from his competition.

Ask yourself, is the market real?

I see no indication that our friend has determined whether there’s a real market for this type of service. He has not specified the geography of his business, but I assume he’s offering this service over the Internet to e-retailers no matter their location within the U.S.. Alternatively, he may be attempting to establish relationships with e-retailers he can service face-to-face locally.

I would be surprised if even the most dedicated e-commerce retailer would look to the web for accounting/bookkeeping help. Just like legal counsel, I suspect a trusted accountant is one with whom you want a personal and local relationship. (There were no web searches for “e-commerce accounting” or “e-commerce accountant” according to Word Tracker).

But let’s assume there is a market, and it’s one that a sharp person with a “crash course” education in bookkeeping can serve.

How do you differentiate that business?

You start by finding something potential clients want that competitors aren’t providing. At least competitors aren’t promoting and making their differentiating strategy. That’s why I suggested concentrating on the one thing that worries every entrepreneur: cash flow.

If your business can establish and promote systems and procedures that enable a small business to weather the storms of poor months, if you can offer solutions and advice that will help them become more financially stable, you will certainly differentiate your service from ordinary bookkeepers. If this is beyond your area of expertise, then find another way to make your service unique and valuable while also being different from your competitors. (Use the search box in the upper right for “differentiation” to see suggestions about this important subject.). But before using any differentiating concept in your promotions, be sure you can deliver.

So what about a name, logo and tagline?

They should evolve from the differentiation (positioning) strategy. The name is particularly important in this branding approach. It should be based on these criteria:

Allude to the differentiating concept without being descriptive or business-defining.
Be unique and fresh.
Be short.
Be memorable.

With the perfect name, a tagline shouldn’t be needed, but that’s seldom the case. The tagline, if needed, should also arise from the positioning strategy and should re-enforce the name.

A logo needn’t be a big deal for a small service provider. The name rendered in a unique but legible typeface, perhaps with some unique kerning or letter combinations, should do the trick. You may wish to “box” or reverse the type into a solid background as well. Choose a color you like and then use it consistently. If you decide on an icon to accompany the signature treatment, be sure it’s not just another accounting cliché because that’s the way your competitors think.

So, best of luck entering a business where the basic service is identical to you competitors, where most new business comes from referrals, and you’ll find many not believing they require the services you offer.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975