Written by: Katy Pultz
For most professional services firms, staying memorable in a crowded, unpredictable marketplace is quite possibly one of their greatest roadblocks to growth.
How do you get in front of new prospects while staying in the forefront of your current clients’ minds? How memorable is your firm’s brand? How do you boost its visibility? And why is it even important?
Let’s start with some definitions:
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?
It would follow that a firm’s brand strength is a product of its reputation and visibility, meaning the better the reputation and the greater the visibility, the stronger a brand will be.
Why does it all matter? A well-known, well-respected firm with a strong brand can lead to more referrals, better lead generation, higher billing rates, recruiting and retention, and firm valuation – just to name a few. And even better, when your firm’s brand is easily recognized, you’ll find yourself on a smoother road to growth and profitability.
Now brand recognition can mean two things:
You’ll recognize the first as the rate at which people in the marketplace can identify a brand when they encounter some aspect of its identity — its logo, its colors or even its tagline. This first instance applies more readily to consumer-facing brands that spend heavily on advertising to build widespread visibility. Think Apple.
But brand recognition is also defined by the general awareness of a company in the marketplace. If someone were to ask you for a referral to one of the industry’s largest accounting firms, who would you think of first?
This second definition is more applicable to professional services firms, where a brand is perhaps a firm’s most valuable asset, over say a computer or phone.
When viewed in this light, it is easy to see the value of a strong brand and why you would want to boost its visibility and build brand recognition.
Building brand recognition is often considered a strategic marketing priority because it impacts the growth and profitability of the entire firm. And to build the type of brand recognition that produces strong growth requires a more efficient and scalable approach – one that is built around something that professional services firms already possess: their expertise.
The most effective way to spread your reputation far and wide is to leverage what you already know.
This content-based approach to marketing involves providing a steady stream of useful information to potential clients or influencers. Think educational rather than promotional–and I’m not talking about employee promotion or award announcements. Content marketing relies on winning clients over by sharing something of value rather than trying to persuade or “sell” them. As such, it is a great strategy to build a brand as well as generate leads.
Over time, potential clients learn how you approach problems and develop trust in your firm. When they need assistance, your firm is at the top of their list.
How to build brand recognition
CONTENT IS KING.
So, start developing it: Blog posts (which are SEO optimized and written to attract new prospects); executive guides (which can be placed behind registration forms to capture new leads, research studies (which can build your reputation as industry leaders), books (which can generate valuable PR and credibility), and speaking opportunities for your experts to deliver at conferences.
PUT YOUR PEOPLE FIRST.
Don’t be afraid to put a name and face on your expertise. Attach the name of the subject matter expert that helped write your blog. We’re professional services after all. We’re not about products, we’re about people, what they know, and how their expertise can help serve others.
The beauty of this approach? The strength of your expert’s personal brand can transfer to the entire firm by virtue of a psychological principle called the “halo effect”. By deliberately developing one or more of these high-profile experts, a firm can dramatically increase the recognition of its brand.
SCREAM IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS.
After you create the content, share it with the world. I always say, a well-written blog doesn’t serve anyone well if no one knows it’s there. Promoting your content is perhaps one of the most important steps to content marketing so don’t shy away from promotion strategies. And consider the time and cost savings associated with an online approach, specifically, social media. Social media has become the perfect way to spread expertise and thought leadership content makes great fuel for online discussions.
Now of course, there are several other factors to facilitate a content-based approach such as having the right infrastructure in place so your educational content has a place to live (i.e. a blog on your website), or performing keyword research with an SEO strategy in place to make sure your content is being found.
Not sure where to start? Start small. Try blogging a couple of times a month or writing an executive guide or a white paper. Then little by little, get more of your team involved. Look for speaking opportunities, blog more frequently, maybe write a book!
The more you utilize a content-based approach with brand building, the more widely you’ll become known and the more loyal followers you will attract. Eventually those followers will begin referring to you. And when they are ready to buy services like yours, your name will be the first one they think of.
If you want to grow your business, it’s not enough to focus on your craft alone. You need to begin translating some of that expertise into broadly available educational materials that will enhance your reputation and your visibility. By addressing both of these dimensions, you’ll build brand recognition — and your firm’s revenues and profits will rise with it.
Related: 27 Content Distribution Ideas To Promote Primary Research