If you are looking for new ideas to brand your professional services firm, consider these two facts:
- Professional services are different. What works for branding a car dealership or pizza restaurant can be a total waste of time and money for your firm.
- The world of professional services is changing. The new professional services buyer expects to be educated and informed. This has led to the rise of content marketing.
What’s needed is some new thinking.
Branding ideas defined
What do I mean by branding ideas? They are simply a way of increasing the awareness or visibility of your professional services brand. To many firms, this sort of branding has involved sponsorships (golf tournament anyone?), trade show exhibits, branded clothing (hand me that polo shirt), space ads in trade publications and the like.
Here’s the rub. While these approaches may increase awareness, they say very little about your firm or why someone would want to work with you. “Wow, what a great polo shirt. I think I’ll have you develop our strategic plan.” “Love that logoed golf ball. Why don’t you do our taxes?”
Not doing it for you? Instead, consider trying one or more of following branding ideas to build credibility and awareness:
1. Develop an award series
Identify a type of award that is relevant to your area of expertise — one that highlights best practices within your target client audience. For example, Helios HR is a human resources consulting and outsourcing organization. We helped them develop the Apollo Awards to recognize excellence in HR practices. This program has become very popular in their region and has elevated the Helios brand, driving very strong firm growth.
2. Write a book
I know it sounds like a lot of work. But for the same investment you might put into a single trade show you could develop a piece that establishes credibility, visibility, and fully explains how your firm approaches problems. At Hinge, we wrote a book on high growth marketing techniques, and it has become a tremendous asset.
3. Conduct a webinar series
Find an important emerging issue that is very relevant to your target audience, then explore it from various angles. Each webinar can tackle a different aspect of the issue. You may even want to invite a notable guest to join you in each webinar. It's great a credibility builder and gives you audience a direct taste of your expertise.
4. Do a research study
Find an important emerging issue and do a study that shines some real light on the subject. That’s what Hinge has done on several issues. For example, we recently released a study on online marketing for professional services that showed how firms that receive 40% or more of their leads online grew 4X faster and were twice as profitable. A study like this speaks volumes about your firm’s expertise.
5. Develop a popular app
Develop an app that is really useful (or fun) for your target audience. It will demonstrate that you understand their needs and will keep your brand in front of your audience. Sure beats a coffee mug.
6. Develop profiles of leaders in your target client group
These can be audio, video or written profiles of top decision makers and influencers. Profiles serve two purposes. First, they will likely be of wide interest to your target audience, so they will draw attention to your brand. Second, you will establish relationships with these folks. Both your visibility and reputation will increase.
7. Partner with a trade association
Anyone can write a check to sponsor a trade association. There is nothing very special about that. How about doing a special project with them instead? Take any one of the ideas on this list and partner with a trade association that serves your target clients. Often this sort of project falls outside an association's core competency. So you provide the resources and do most of the work. Then you share the credit and harvest the credibility. It makes everyone look good!
8. Build an industry-leading blog
Forget about your typical, ”I’ll do it when I can get to it approach.” Commit to making your blog a must-read for your target audience. The content should not be all about your firm. Instead, it should focus on the industries you serve. Over time, you will gain visibility and creditability. It is a proven model that has been widely used in many industries.
9. Write a series of case studies
Think beyond the typical client case studies. Instead, write about firms in your target audience that are doing interesting or ground-breaking things — even if they aren't your clients. These case studies will provide benefits similar to idea #6.
10. Film some videos that really stand out
I’m not talking about your standard talking head here. Try something humorous, such as this parody of “Kyle the CPA” produced by the accounting firm Brown, Smith, Wallace LLC. Or use an unexpected spokesperson, like the one in this video by Digital Accomplice. Another approach is to create a compelling high-end signature piece like this one from Quinn Evans. This architectural firm was able to convey their brand in a compelling, unforgettable way. The key in each of these efforts is to be distinctive and memorable.
These aren't your father's branding ideas. They're different, and they say much more about your firm than traditional approaches. And that’s exactly why they work so well.