The word ‘brand’ comes from the ancient North Scandinavian word ‘brandr’ which means ‘to burn’. It was first used to describe the process of burning identifying marks into the hides of livestock, like cattle, with branding irons to distinguish them from other owners’ property. Pottery makers also used to engrave brand names or symbols on their products to identify them as the artists.
Brands were first introduced into the world of marketing in the late 1950s and consisted of a name, logo, and maybe a slogan. Over time, branding has become much deeper than just the visual aspects and it has evolved into what it is today.
Branding is often one of the most difficult things to do, especially for accounting and bookkeeping firms. Many firms don’t bother to go through a branding exercise, because they either don’t know how to do it, or they don’t understand the value that building a brand can give their business. This is an excellent opportunity for accounting professionals to get a step ahead.
What Is a Brand?
A brand is the promise that you make to your customer about the quality, service, and experience they can expect to receive when working with you. It is your reputation and what people think of when they hear your name or see your logo and imagery.
The visual brand identity includes the logo, the font, the colours, and the feel or emotions evoked by the visual material you use. Additionally, the words you use on your website, on social media, in your marketing material, and in your slogan all connects back to your brand identity.
What Is Branding?
We don’t always have control over our reputation. All businesses make mistakes, and sometimes the perception that people have about your firm is not what you would want them to have. But we have the ability to shape their impression through branding strategies.
This is crucial to understand: if you don’t implement a branding strategy, you have little control over the perception that people has about your firm and the type of client you attract, or those you do not currently attract which you may want to.
Branding is one of the most important things that you can do for your business. Without a good reputation, no-one will want to do business with you.
So, what is branding? These are the strategies that we implement to influence the perception of our business or services. Here are some branding strategies that you could implement:
- Product or service development: When deciding on the services you want to offer and how you want to offer them, ask yourself “Who am I targeting? What problems am I helping them solve? What are their dreams that I can help them achieve?”
- Messaging: Define the personality and voice of your brand. Your ideal client needs to be able to relate to you or your brand personality.
- Value proposition: What are the benefits of working with you and why should they care? How are you going to deliver on your promise and how is it going to be working with you? How are you qualified to help them?
- Emotional impact: Define the emotions you want to evoke when people connect with you – online and offline. These emotions will attract the right audience, and they will approach you when they need help.
- Visual brand identity: Define the colours, style, and typography you want to use. This should be used consistently in all marketing materials – your website, on your social media channels, and on your printed stationery.
The Advantages of Branding
The benefits of branding are not always tangible. It’s difficult to put a number on the success of branding or to measure its ROI. But here are some of the advantages you can expect when creating a consistent brand identity:
- It helps people to recognise your firm. They will remember you when they need a new bookkeeper or accountant.
- It differentiates you from the competition.
- It helps you to connect emotionally with your customers. For instance, if you are involved in your community, you will appeal to a community-orientated crowd and will win their trust. If you portray yourself as a firm who likes to have fun, you’re going to attract the people who want their accounting to be effortless.
- A consistent brand helps customers to know what they can expect from you.
- You can attract and retain top talent, which is important if you’re a new or growing firm. You’ll attract employees and partners with similar views, values, and attributes.
- Branding helps you to clarify your firm’s strategy and helps you to stay focused and not waste time on unnecessary tasks that are contrary to your brand personality. For instance, if you’re a tech-forward company, you won’t suddenly start to do tasks manually, or if your ideal customer is a startup, you won’t pursue established, corporate clients for which you may not have the necessary skills to offer.
When you achieve the above, your business will start to grow, and you’ll be on your way to achieving your own business goals.
Steps to Define and Develop Your Brand
Developing your brand personality and strategy won’t take just a couple of hours. It is something that will take a lot of time, research, and reflection before you get it right. It will also change over time as you learn more, see new gaps in the industry, or are introduced to new technologies.
To make it a bit easier, here are some of the steps you should take to define your brand identity and develop your brand story:
1. Identify the Core Values of Your Firm
First, define what the purpose of your brand is. What is the role you want your firm to play in business and society? To quote Simon Sinek, “What is your why?” According to Sinek, people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it.
2. Do Broad Market Research
Get onto the internet and find out what is happening in the accounting industry. What are the trends and developments, what are other accountants and bookkeepers doing, and what can you do differently? What are the needs that are not being met and which holes can you fill?
3. Do Specific Market Research
Interview some of your favourite clients. Ask them why they chose you over another firm, and why they enjoy working with you. What are their struggles and dreams and how do you help them achieve those? Not only will you be able to define exactly who your ideal client is, but you can also borrow their words when writing your brand message. The more people you interview, the better; you will start to see common trends in their answers.
4. Targeting and Service Development
If you’re a new firm or you’re changing focus, you may not work with your ideal client yet. That’s fine. Identify people you think you would like to work with and those who may benefit the most from your services. Interview them. Ask them to describe their struggles, what they need from an accountant, and what problems they need help solving.
5. Define Your Core Message
After you’ve worked through the above steps, you can finally create your core brand message. Here is a template you could use:
We help [INSERT IDEAL CUSTOMER] overcome [INSERT STRUGGLES] so that they can achieve [INSERT BENEFIT/DREAM] within [INSERT TIMEFRAME (optional)].
For instance, say your ideal customers are mums who work from home between changing nappies and picking up the kids from school. Their biggest problems may be a lack of time and not having the necessary bookkeeping skills. They want to make enough money to send their kids to college in 15 years. Your message can look something like this:
We help mompreneurs keep their business finances on track in just a couple of hours a week so that they can build a future for their kids.
Are You Ready to Revamp Your Brand Identity?
Branding will not offer an immediate return-on-investment. Instead it is a long-term investment in the identity of your business. It is a beacon for like-minded clients and employees. This is what branding can do for you.
It has never been this crucial to get clarity on your brand personality and differentiate yourself from other accounting firms to really stand out and attract the right clients – those that you absolutely love to work with and who are willing to pay top dollars for your services. This quiz will help you to identify where your gaps are and what you need to tweak, or redo completely, to define and create a solid brand.