After many years working with advisory firms, we’ve come to the conclusion that the best definition of your “brand” is the simplest.
Your brand is partly your reputation. It’s what people say about you when you’re not around. It’s how they feel about your firm and what they expect from working with you. But reputation alone doesn’t capture the full scope of a brand.
You must also add in the dimension of visibility. How well known is your firm in your target market? The better the reputation and the greater the visibility, the stronger the brand will be.
A well-known, well-respected firm has an easier time attracting new clients. New recruits want to join that firm. Potential partners want to be associated with it. You can charge higher rates and are likely to be more profitable.
When viewed in this light, it is easy to see the value of a strong brand. This definition also helps you understand how to shape and build your brand.
Building your brand
Some activities are consistent with your brand and will help build and reinforce it. Other activities might run counter to your brand (hurt your desired reputation) and should be avoided.
Similarly, increasing your visibility within your target audience will build your brand (assuming the activity communicates your reputation correctly). However, if that visibility doesn’t help communicate your reputation you will fall short.
That’s why advertising is so often a questionable strategy for a professional services firm. Visibility, absent the ability to communicate reputation, is of limited value.
To build your brand, you also have to deliver on your brand promise. You have to be who you say you are and live up to the expectations created by your brand. If you don’t, your reputation will soon reflect it.
For example, saying that you have exceptional people will fall flat unless they truly are exceptional. Unfulfilled promises will catch up with you.
When you understand that your brand is the way people perceive your firm, it’s easy to see that different people can have different views of your firm’s reputation and visibility.
Of particular note is the difference between how the outside world sees your firm and how the folks that work there perceive it. You might think of these as your external brand and your internal brand.
If these two perceptions are out of sync, you can easily make mistakes. You might assume that your target clients understand your firm’s reputation, when in fact they do not. Similarly, you may assume that potential clients appreciate a difference in expertise when it is not even on their radar.
On the other hand, if you understand your brand and communicate it clearly, good things happen. You start attracting clients who are looking for a firm just like yours. Ditto for employees and business partners.
Your Biggest Asset
A strong brand can bring you desirable new clients, great employees and premium rates. It’s an asset that has value, even if you move offices, change clients or replace staff. Your brand endures.
It’s hard to imagine another asset that contributes so much to growth and profitability. It’s certainly worth the time to understand and nurture it.