4 Simple Steps to Building a Best-in-Class Brand, Part 1 of 2 of Our Rebrand Your Way to Success Series
If you clicked on this article, congratulations are in order! You are one of the rare ones – a brave soul looking to level up your company’s brand. You understand that few firms in our industry excel at branding and you see the opportunity that creates for your own company. This 2-part series will help you start your journey to building a best-in-class brand. (If you want to learn about my company’s own branding journey, you can read about it here.)
The beauty of an EFFECTIVE brand is that once it’s in place it becomes a foundational element of your business. It roots you in your truth as an owner. It drives your marketing decisions. It empowers you to attract the right clients. It provides strength and form to your function.
But branding (or rebranding) for most of us left-brain-leaning, analytical-accounting-loving types is just so darn scary/hard/outside our comfort zone. Am I right? The good news is that we can break down this creative process into four basic tactical steps. This four-step process can be applied to either an initial branding effort or a rebrand.
Step 1 – Get Clear on Who You Are
The first and arguably most important part of your brand is YOU. You, the business owner. You, the expert. You, the human being at your client’s service. If that doesn’t resonate with you, you can stop reading this and go back to your CAS workload. Seriously.
It’s my experience that most accountants think that they are selling services.
Advisory services? Yes, we do that, you tell prospects.
Taxes? You bet. That’s what we do.
Bookkeeping? Sure, that’s our bread and butter.
The transactional nature of sales sets most of us left brainers up for failure in marketing. We falsely believe that clients buy a product or service because they need or want it, when the truth is that people buy from other people.
Don’t believe me? Ever heard of celebrity endorsements? Air Jordans? Do you think Matthew McConaughey really drives a Lincoln? What about the ruggedly handsome Dos Equis guy, “the Most Interesting Man in the World.” Do you think a light Mexican lager is more compelling than he is?
People buy from other people.
Humans are constantly looking for connection (yes, even when we are introverts) and to embrace that truth is to take your first step toward building a successful brand. If you can manage to insert a bit of your personality into your brand, you have a greater chance of attracting clients who are compatible. It’s a bit like dating or making a new friend in that way.
So how do you break down who you are into bite-sized brand pieces? Here are a couple tips I picked up last year during my company's rebranding to Blue Fox:
- Make a list of your core values and key personality traits. What are the words people most often use to describe you? Diligent? Kind? Smart? Thorough? Attentive to detail? Funny? List as many as you can think of. If you get stuck, ask a few people who are close to you for their opinion. Shoot for a list of at least 15. Write them down on a single piece of paper and put the sheet somewhere you’ll see it a few times a day.
- Pick your top three. This bit can take a while, especially if you struggle with the sensing, feeling side of yourself. But this choice of three is all up to you. It’s a gut-based choice. Which three of the traits from the list make you who you are? Which three, if reflected every day in your company, would motivate you to get up and go to work? And, if you really want to take this to the next level, which three combined make you unique in the world?
People buy from people. Customers buy brands that reflect personality and values aligned with their own. So go ahead. Be a human. Commit to communicating 3 key traits to your customers. Your brand’s success demands it.
Step 2 – Identify Your Niche
Once you’re clear on who you are and what aspects of your personality you want to bring to your brand, you can then turn your focus outward to your clients. Your brand is a projection of you that’s crafted to attract a specific clientele. With the right branding in place, you can position your firm to “get rich in a niche,” as they say.
Now, sure, you can take any and all business that comes your way, as we often do when we are just starting out. But if you attempt to cast a wide net for the long-term, over time you will dilute your brand. You can’t be all things to all people. You want your brand to appreciate not depreciate! (See what I did there?)
To identify your niche, think about:
- Your favorite clients
- Your most profitable clients
- The most satisfying part of your work with both
Again, I recommend that you put this all on paper. A poster-sized paper works well for this. If you’re feeling sassy, whip out those colored markers and some sticky notes, too. Your goal is a Venn diagram of sorts. And this takes us to Step 3.
Step 3 – Uncover Your Secret Sauce
With your Venn diagram in hand, you are now equipped to back into the recipe that is your secret sauce – your brand identity. It’s my philosophy that:
Ideal Client + Ideal Services = Brand Secret Sauce/Brand Identity
So now that you can clearly see the pieces of the puzzle, you are aware, informed, and empowered to explore things like:
Ideal Clients: What are their common attributes? Again, list as many as you can think of.
- Is there an industry or a location you can serve that is full of clients like these? It will probably be really obvious. Keep the clients you listed in mind.
- Are they service providers? Manufacturers? Creatives?
- Small? Big?
- Partnerships? S-Corps? C-Corps? Sole proprietors?
- Consider both their industry and their structure.
Ideal Services: What do you love to do that also meets a need for these clients?
- What types of services does this sector need?
- In what areas are they underserved?
- What have the clients purchased so far?
- What do they seem to find valuable?
- How can your services make these clients’ lives better?
Oddly enough, this step may be the easiest. By the time to run through this exercise, you probably have already internalized the answers you seek. At this point, you should feel some clarity and a sense of direction, and hopefully, some excitement, too! Your brand identity is coming together.
Step 4 – Set the Right Tone – Brand Rubber Meets the Road
Whether you are outsourcing your brand development or managing it in-house, this is the fun part! Just kidding – it’s excruciating for most non-creatives. But this is the moment you have been waiting for – the moment where all your soul-searching and ideas come to fruition in visual form. Your new logo and color scheme are just around the corner.
A few key things to note at this stage:
- Simple is best. Smart phones and tablets are ubiquitous. There is a strong trend away from desktop computing, so brand visuals must embody concise, clean lines and simplicity. Create for the mobile audience!
- No clunky fonts or logos. If someone looking at your logo on a phone has to scale it down or scroll to view it, STOP. That is no longer acceptable.
- Trust your gut, but still ask for feedback. Your creative team should give you a set of designs to choose from for your rebranded logo and graphics. Trust your gut BUT also send the designs around to trusted advisors and friends for their reaction. If you have solid relationships with your clients who represent your ideal clients or niche, ask them which ones they prefer. (This, my friends, is GOLD from a branding perspective.)
- Check the URL. If your rebrand includes a name change, you MUST make sure that there is a matching .com address available at a price you are willing to pay. This is CRITICAL. You can be clever, if needed, to make it work (our domain is yourbluefox.com), but make sure there’s something that fits available. And NO – you should not use any other domain extensions. (If I see one more .net accounting website from the 90’s, oy!)
After you’ve worked through these four steps, you should have both data and vision that points you in the right direction – towards a brand that positions you and your company for success, speaks to the hearts and minds of your ideal client, and provides your organization a form that encapsulates your highest function.
In part 2 of our series, we’ll talk about how you can leverage your brand or rebrand when its announced and set yourself up for future marketing and sales development efforts that are truly effective. Click here to read part 2 of this series.
So get to work – your own special sauce, your unique brand is right around the corner!