Have you ever wondered how challenging it would be to measure the return on your brand investment? For professional services firms, it may be easier than you think.

Like all good marketing initiatives, brand tracking should start with a fundamental understanding of your buyers. Our research shows that when buyers of professional services are faced with a business challenge and want to learn more, they are more than twice as likely to do a general web search than ask for a referral. Google is quickly becoming the #1 referral source for professional services buyers.

Furthermore, the research shows that buyers are more likely to read an article or blog post, download a piece of content or listen to an expert speak than they are to ask for a referral (see chart below).

The digital brand of professional service providers is becoming more and more important. And while the latest marketing technology can be dazzlingly overwhelming, today’s marketing professionals have many of the tools needed to track their digital brand over time.

What is brand tracking?

Brand tracking is the process of measuring changes in brand perception over time. It quantifies a return on brand investment and supports brand strategy decisions.

With enough data and the right tools, you can measure this perception almost instantaneously. For example, consumer brands with large social followings can track their brands in real-time using social listening tools to measure whether chatter about their brand is positive or negative. Sadly, most professional services firms don’t have a large enough social following to make this kind of real-time brand tracking practical.

But that doesn’t mean professional services firms can’t do brand tracking.

Download the Professional Services Guide to Research- 2nd Edition

With a complex buying cycle and long lead times, firms have to approach brand tracking a different way. For instance, by setting up listening posts along the buyer’s journey, you can merge experiential data like Net Promoter Score with operational data like web visits and content downloads.

Mapping out the buyer’s journey is the foundation of a successful brand tracking program. To execute, it boils down to 5 steps:

  1. Establish baseline metrics
  2. Embed data collection at key milestone listening posts
  3. Analyze digital brand metrics
  4. Adjust brand strategy
  5. Repeat

Step 1: Establish baseline metrics.

Do you have a solid understanding of how your clients view your brand today? If you do, then you’ll understand what your key performance metrics are. If you don’t, consider conducting a brand study to audit your brand and identify key metrics to track over time.

Only by understanding how buyers see you — your strengths and weaknesses — can you know where to focus your attention. Brand studies are a balancing act of qualitative research and quantitative analysis. The data you gather allow you to establish powerful baseline metrics such as:

  • Relevancy – how relevant are your services to clients?
  • Value – how valuable are the services you provide?
  • Delivery – how well do you do what you say you will do?
  • Loyalty – how likely are your clients to work with you in the future?
  • Referrals – have your clients referred your firm?
  • Reputation – how good is your reputation in the marketplace?
  • Visibility – how visible is your firm in the marketplace?

Once you’ve completed a brand study, you’ll be able to see what are the key performance metrics make the most sense for your business to track over time.

Step 2: Embed data collection at key milestone listening posts. 

Capturing the right information at the right time is paramount to a successful inbound marketing strategy — and it’s equally important in brand tracking.

Many professional services firms leverage their website for lead generation. Potential buyers are willing to exchange an email address for premium content — a critical milestone on the buyer’s journey. Measuring content downloads is a good example of operational data that should be tracked over time at this milestone. But how valuable was the content they downloaded? A simple automated email follow-up asking if they found the content useful is an example of experiential data that should be collected at this milestone. Combining these metrics will tell us the quantity of downloads and the quality of the content.

This is just one example of how digital brand data can be collected at key listening posts along the buyer’s journey. But don’t fret if your firm doesn’t have sophisticated marketing automation capabilities for digital brand tracking. There are alternatives.

Brand perception can be measured just as well with a talented client-facing staff trained to poll prospects and clients at the right time. But while this human-to-human interface is powerful, it can also be costly and difficult to scale.

Download the Professional Services Guide to Research- 2nd Edition

Step 3: Analyze digital brand metrics

Data can be viewed in real-time, but the point at which you aggregate and analyze your brand tracking results should vary from business to business. Client experience life cycles are different for every firm. For some, tracking brand adjustments can take a few months. For others, brand performance should be evaluated on a quarterly basis.

Before analyzing the data, try to predict what the results will show. Then compare your hypothesis to your actual findings. Calibrating your understanding of your firm’s brand will help make future strategic branding decisions easier.

Keep your baseline metrics in mind. What areas improved? What strategic brand adjustments could be attributed to the improvement?

Step 4: Adjust brand strategy

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein, probably.

This practice of insanity can be seen every day in the professional services world. I see many firms cling to outdated or undifferentiated positioning and messaging hoping to build a stronger brand, or they treat social media as an afterthought yet claim they want to build an audience. Insanity.

By measuring key performance metrics, your brand tracking exercise should directly address the strengths and challenges outlined in your brand study. Have you maintained your strengths? Are you addressing your challenges? What changes should you make to your brand strategy?

Step 5: Repeat

Using the principles of the scientific method, brand tracking is a cyclical process of continual digital brand growth and development.

To compete in today’s fast-changing marketplace, you need to continually take the pulse of your target audience. Only knowledge will equip you with the information you need to stay relevant in their minds. Brand tracking gives you essential tools to collect and makes sense of these changes. It also offers a quantifiable way to prove return on the marketing investment.


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How Hinge Can Help

Nothing uncovers what motivates your audiences like brand research—and research is an integral part of Hinge’s powerful approach to marketing. Learn more about our research services or contact us to learn whether research makes sense for your professional services firm.

Additional Resources

  • Our Professional Services Guide to Research gives you the tools and knowledge you need to lead your firm through conducting research.
  • Understand your buyers. Win more business. Read the latest findings from, Inside the Buyer’s Brain – Second Edition, the biggest study of professional services buyers to date. It’s free!