Professional services brands who today are highly visible, credible and reputable all have something in common; they took out time to craft a path into the buyers’ mind. Not just that, they have a well layout plan that have helped them to maintain their high-growth position.
They are simply the leaders of the industry.
This success of the big iconic brands has further reinforced the long-aged fact that building a lasting brand involves more than designing or redesigning a company logo. The success of some other select few who are yet to get to the Forbes list also shows that everyone of us – small and medium scale businesses can actualise that enclave of a built to last brand.
Within the professional services industries, many firms are yet to embrace the very fact that what is what doing, is what doing well. They are yet to agree with the fact that branding has left that stage where all it is about getting just a symbol to identify a firm.
Below, I share a checklist of how to build your professional services brand.
#1 Exclusively, your brand is not a logo, not a colour or your services.
Your brand is more than that. It’s a culmination of the entire feeling or perception people. It becomes paramount to build your brand bearing in mind, the what the people want. What are their values and what experiences do they want to go home with? Build your brand around their expectation, instead of just your logo or colour.
#2 Remember it’s customers first.
If the claims you make about your business and its offer don’t tally with customer experience, they will go elsewhere. A glance into the websites of many professional services firms will reveal such lines as “We value our customers”, “We have our customers at heart”, etc. But how many can truly prove that? Your brand needs to deliver on what it promises, and even more, that’s the only way to make them blind to your competition.
#3. What positioning are you occupying?
It is so funny how we want to be everything to everybody. Firms are just echoing each other. “We are known for quality service”, “customer experience”, “low cost” and that and that. While all those are ingredients that help to sustain a brand, they are not what being used for your brand positioning. Your brand positioning is your own-able space, that holy and undiluted space that you occupy. It is a popular belief that if you are not the first in an industry, you can’t own your own place. But this is not true. We all know that firms spring up every other day. And there’s good news; every business that comes into the market has (or should have) something unique they are bringing to the system. It is around such things that a brand positioning is built. That thing that is unique is your DNA.
Do you know your DNA?
#4. Develop the super power to listen to all and at all time.
The legendary story of the 9 blind men and the elephant leaves us with the lesson that a single story is subject to interpretations. Don’t assume anything. Find out what your customers’ association of your brand is. Brand Research and Brand Review is not just for those that sell products. The professional services too, who sell their expertise instead of tangible products need to be in touch with the general disposition of those they are serving. Find out what they currently think or say about your firm. That’s what a brand is, not what you say it is. There will then be a need for a change or re-alignment if their association of your brand is negative or somewhere out of track on what you want it to be. But first, you must learn to listen to the unspoken words, to know when to change your brand offer, re-visit your strategy or even review your entire business.
#5. Build your brand inside-out.
Involve your employees and other internal stakeholders with the branding process. Your employees for instance will have their own idea of what your firm is and should be. Most of them are closer to your customers and prospects and so are a haven for information for your brand. For instance, the contact person who takes business and inquiry calls for your firm will be a good resource when it comes to identifying your customers’ pain points. Aside that, turning them to your brand ambassadors will also be a healthy situation for your brand.
#6. Craft your brand messaging
Spend quality time on crafting your brand messaging or messaging architecture. Your brand message is your passport. It should be crafted around your brand personality and attributes. And that’s the most interesting thing as your focus should be on the qualities, values and experiences that you want customers to associate your business with. Without it, you will be not be able to avoid being a me-too brand. If you want to get away from the crowd, develop a messaging plan that “speaks” your brand. If you don’t know how to do it, seek professional help. That’s why we are here for you.
#7. Be Aggressive With Your Visual Brand.
Your visual identity goes beyond your logo into everything about the sense of sight and cognition, as it relates with your brand. Be intentional with design. What’s your overall identity? Is your brand bright and spicy? Use bright colours to represent that. Is it casual? Represent this with a choice of fonts that is not serious looking. Because you may not have the necessary skills, I advise you employ a great and not a good designer to help you.
#8. Implementation is a key!
Implement is a key that opens many doors. Don’t lose it, don’t cast it aside.
Your brand collateral is meant to be functional and not decorative. Your brand guideline/brand bible is not meant for the top of the shelf, or that place you have left it under the pile of files, at one corner of your office. It is your map to implementing your brand. Its place is the nearest corner of your table where you can easily reach it. If you have to stand up to pick it, then you won’t pick it. Let all your brand materials- print materials, annual report, signage, letter, business card – be put to work for the right purpose.
#10. It’s a Team Work.
Further on implementing your brand plan, don’t do it alone. Don’t work on your brand building alone, except you are a solo-preneur or a startup who literally can’t take in a new person. But I doubt if that’s the case here. So involve your employees. Explain to them, every action they should take and don’t forget to tell them the why. No one likes to be pushed around, so genuinely get them involved.
#11. Promote. Promote. Promote.
Don’t be ashamed to sing your own praises. It is not about who you know, but who knows you. We’ve already said it that you shouldn’t dump your brand assets at one corner of your office. Yet again, even if your company is a family business, your family members won’t bring you the return on investment. Content marketing, Sponsorships, Collaborations, special offers, PR and advertising are some of the ways to start with this. Let out your voice, let your audience feel your presence everywhere they turn their faces to.
#12. Review and Revise Your Brand.
If I was allowed to contribute to the classification of living things those days in college, I would definitely add brands among the class of animals and human beings. Yes. Your brand is living. Therefore, growth becomes one of its unalienable characteristics. And on the same couch with growth is change. So, to enjoy the great feelings that come with the growth of your brand, you must also enshrine into your game plan, the actionable steps to review and revise your brand as time passes by.
While the system within the professional services industries have drastically changed, due to a change in the way buyers buy, influx of competitors, technology and even political matters, a good number of firms are still at the top of the game in their individual industries. And you can too. All it will take is the right information and tools, and your firm will accelerate to your industry’s leader.
Leave your questions and opinion below, I would love to hear from you.