It’s hard to overestimate the value of a strong brand for a professional services firm. It can help you win new clients, command premium fees, and attract and retain the very best talent. But how do firms build strong brands?
In this article, I’ll share the best brand building strategies for professional services firms – many of which we use with our clients. Let’s start by defining what a brand building strategy is, then we’ll describe how it works. In addition to this article, don’t forget to refer to our complete Brand Building Guide for Professional Services Firms.
Brand Building Strategy Defined
There are many formal definitions of a brand. Most define it as the sum of all the clients’ interactions with and perceptions of a firm. But as a practical matter, we can simply think of the strength of a professional services brand as simply being the firm’s reputation times its visibility within its target client group.
There is one additional dimension of a brand to consider: its relevance to the target client group. A firm that is not seen as offering services that are relevant to solving important client issues will tend to have a weaker brand.
When viewed in this light, an effective brand building strategy will help firms improve their reputation, increase their relevance and increase their visibility to the target client. The best strategies do all three.
Top Brand Building Strategies
Here are our top five strategies for effectively increasing the strength of your brand.
1. Commit to Content Marketing
Content marketing involves providing a steady stream of useful information to potential clients or influencers. Think educational rather than promotional. It addresses relevance, reputation and visibility.
Over time, potential clients learn how you approach problems through the content you produce and develop trust in your firm. When they need assistance, your firm is at the top of their list.
Content marketing relies on winning clients by sharing something of value rather than trying to persuade or “sell” them. As such, it is a great strategy to build a brand as well as generate leads.
2. Develop Visible Experts®
Many firms have experts, but few of them go on to become well known and influential with their target client group. We call these professionals Visible Experts. By deliberately developing one or more of these high-profile experts, a firm can dramatically increase the power of its brand. In fact, in our research into these experts and purchasers of their services, 61.5% of respondents said that Visible Experts help to build their firms’ brands. How?
The strength of a Visible Expert’s personal brand transfers to the entire firm by virtue of a psychological principle called the “halo effect”. In the same way as a university becomes more prestigious when it has a Nobel Prize winning faculty member, so too a professional services firm benefits by having a nationally known, high-profile expert on its team.
3. Cultivate Prestigious Partners
Partnering with prominent organizations to take on important projects is another proven strategy for building your professional services brand. Large, well-known businesses or trade associations are good partnering candidates. The idea here is to find partners that have a similar audience to your firm, but don’t provide competing services.
By partnering, we are not talking about simply sponsoring events. While sponsorships are frequently thought of as brand building strategies, they cost more and are less effective than a project partnership and consequently don’t make the list.
Instead, consider conducting a research project together or starting a special educational program. An innovative, high-profile project is more distinctive than your logo on a crowded sponsorship banner — and is a far more powerful brand building strategy.
4. Seek High Profile Clients and Case Stories
There are many successful professional services firms that have been built on reputations made with a single name-brand client or a well-known case study. But if you systematically seek out high profile clients and invest in producing dramatic results that can be widely shared, that’s a great brand building strategy.
Of course, everyone wants prestigious clients and great results. But surprisingly few firms do the planning and investment to turn that desire into reality.
For example, a firm may land a high-profile client, but if their contract prevents them from promoting their work a brand building opportunity is lost. Or similarly a firm may focus on staying within scope rather than investing in the engagement to produce exceptional results. If you make results a deliberate brand building strategy those mistakes are less likely.
5. Dominate the Social Media Space
One of the most highly leveraged brand building strategies available to professional services firms today is based on the growth of social media. Businesses of all types are becoming regular users of social tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
There’s a real strategic opportunity here because many professional services firms still haven’t fully adopted social media as an integral part of their marketing strategy. It is still possible to become a major online voice within many target client groups. Many small firms and solo professionals are managing to establish strong online brands in this way.
While traditional face-to-face networking is still important, consider the time and cost savings associated with an online approach. The strongest brands are everywhere your target client looks, and they are respected by everyone they talk to. A strong social media presence is a great strategy to make that happen.
The Best Brand Building Strategy
In most cases, the best overall brand building strategy is one that combines several of these top strategies. For example, a content marketing strategy is a natural fit with a strong social media presence. Social media becomes a perfect way to spread the content, and the content makes great fuel for online discussions.
How Hinge Can Help
The best brand building strategies help your firm connect with its buyers, builds your reputation, and increases you marketplace visibility. Check out Hinge’s Branding Program to build a brand that drives sustained growth. If you already have a well-established brand, check out Hinge’s Visible Firm program to learn how to make your firm more visible, attract new talent, and increase revenue.
- Uncover your firm’s true differentiators in Hinge University’s course, Differentiation, Positioning & Messaging.
- Develop a stronger and more valuable brand with Hinge’s Brand Building Guide for Professional Services Firms.
- Dive into Hinge’s own research into what motivates professional services buyers in the free book, Inside the Buyer’s Brain (Second Edition).