How important is brand image is to attracting new clients? Research firm JD Power just released a new study on financial services marketing. The survey sampled 7500 customers who have considered changing financial services institutions in the last 12 months. The results showed that a firm's brand image was a major deciding factor in 36% of the cases. Brand image even trumped such traditionally important factors as branch locations (at 21%). Word of mouth plays into brand image to be sure, but personal experience alone is only part of the picture.

What does this mean for professional services? The particulars in this study may not be relevant to all professional services, but no firm can afford to ignore the impact that brand image plays on buying behavior. Technical experience is important. Personal relationships matter. But in the end, these are factors that get translated into an overall impression — your brand. Your brand can be cultivated, enhanced and managed, or it can be left to chance. What will you do?