For many professional service firms, brand management is an afterthought. When the brand is discussed it is often referring to the firm’s the logo. However, effective brand management is so much more than just determining if the logo needs an overhaul. When managing their brand, firms must consider name, the logo mark, brand positioning, brand promise and personality. Just as your website is your firm’s face to the world, your brand is the DNA of the firm. Think of your professional services brand as the product of your reputation and your visibility.
While there are branding tools that can help you build and refine your firm’s reputation or increase the visibility of that reputation, the best branding tools manage to do both at the same time. For many professional service firms, there comes a time when a brand refresh is the best option. But, how do you know if its time? Here are three scenarios when a firm may want to revisit its brand.
- Significant Change in Services and/or Markets: As client needs are ever changing, it’s not uncommon for professional services firms to adjust their service offerings or to expand their geographic or industry reach to include a broader client base. A firm that softens its focus, however, can have a harder time differentiating itself in the marketplace. Consider a firm’s brand positioning. Will a change in services or market help the firm position itself with greater authority? Or, will it dilute its positioning, making the firm sound like its competitors? A significant change in services, markets or geographic region can cause a well-differentiated firm to blend in with a host of unfocused competitors. From a brand management perspective, marketplace positioning lies at the core of future growth.
- Mergers & Acquisitions: The post-recession boom, mixed geographic economies and the upcoming elections — these are just a few of the dynamics that make this an appealing time for mergers and acquisitions (M&A). To stay afloat, some firms will be forced to merge with or be acquired. In other cases, well thought out and strategic mergers bring together firms with distinct brands. From a brand management perspective, there are a options for firms facing this second situation:
- Both firms keep the brand of Company A
- Both firms keep the brand of Company B
- Create a new brand – Company C — for the newly merged entity
- Both firms retain individual brands; Company A operates as subsidiary of Company B
- In the third option, this new brand highlights the best of the individual firms; it is a brand that is anchored on differentiators identified through brand perception research conducted with clients, prospects, influencers and internal staff so as to objectively recognize value, visibility and expertise. This kind of research informs a new brand’s marketing and an integrated set of messages:
- Corporate positioning and messaging is about the firm’s value proposition
- Market segment messaging backs up that value proposition and articulates the firm’s expertise in a market
- Decision-maker messaging answers the question “Why you’re firm?” and explains the firm’s relevance for a particular engagement.
- RPF/proposal messaging demonstrates specific expertise and capability at the technical level.
- Passing of time: How long has it been since your firm revisited its current marketplace positioning? It’s a good idea to revisit your brand positioning every 4-7 years. Of course, factors like industry competition, how well your firm is performing, and the overall marketplace atmosphere will help determine the extent of any adjustments you make. Sometimes, brand adjustments are also influenced by changes in leadership or firm anniversaries.
Thoughtful brand management for can be an asset when it comes to enhancing a professional services firm’s brand strength. It’s an investment that will pay handsome dividends.