What makes a brand successful? It’s a good question and one that more professional services marketers ought to ask. To answer it let’s start by defining what a brand is.
Definition of a Brand
In classical marketing a brand is typically defined as the sum total of all customer experiences and emotional reactions. While this is true, it turns out to be a cumbersome concept for most professional services firms.
Instead, think about your professional services firm brand as the combination of your firm’s reputation and visibility. The better the reputation and the greater the visibility, the stronger the brand.
The next obvious question is “How do you define a successful brand?”
Brand Success Defined
A successful brand will deliver the results you expect from a top-drawer firm. Here are some of the most important measures of brand success:
- High frequency of referred clients
- High level of self-initiated contacts from potential clients
- A high closing percentage
- Few competitive bid situations
- Premium fees
There are, of course, other impacts of a strong brand on a professional services firm. For example, recruiting new employees is easier, publicity comes more readily and third-party recommendations are more plentiful.
All of these factors make it more likely that firms with strong brands will succeed and prosper. Let’s now turn to what drives that brand success.
What Makes a Brand Successful
There are five key factors that make a brand successful. Some of them are directly linked to the very definition of a professional services brand. Others are driven by very practical considerations.
1. A well-defined target audience
While it’s tempting to think of your firm's visibility as universally important, it’s not the primary factor. It's far more important to have a clearly defined and well-understood target market. To be meaningful, a brand must “be for someone.” No brand can try to be everything for everyone and hope to be successful.
Many professional services firms are reluctant to specify a target audience. They do so at their own disadvantage.
2. An excellent reputation
A lot of firms have very good reputations. That’s a great starting place. But to be a really successful brand, the reputation must not be simply good, it must be great. Everyone (okay, not every single person) must view the firm in a favorable light.
3. Relevance to the success of the target audience
Your firm must also be seen as being relevant to the success of your client. It’s not enough to be nice people or even knowledgeable and helpful. Those fall into the “nice to have” category.
The real driver of a successful brand is your ability to make your clients successful. You aren’t just a bystander; you are a contributor to your clients' success.
4. High visibility
Are you widely known to the target audience? Are they aware that you not only exist but that you are also relevant to your clients’ success? Are they also aware of your reputation?
Our research shows that this is the area where many professional services firms fall short. They may have excellent reputations with their clients and be seen as driving success, but their visibility only extends to a portion of their target audience. This is particularly a problem when you have too many target audiences. It’s hard to reach everyone in multiple target audiences at the same time — and with sufficient visibility to make you successful.
5. A premium position
You can have all of the criteria we mentioned above and still fall short of your potential. To be truly successful, a brand must have something of a premium position. Without a premium brand perception, your firm will not be in a position to command premium fees.
While you can achieve a lot of success as an average priced firm, there are limits. If people perceive your firm as the most successful at solving client problems and the best place to build a career, you will likely need to be seen as charging premium fees. If your don't charge a premium, people may start asking questions. What’s wrong with your firm? If you really are that good, you should command a premium. After all, that’s what the most successful brands do.
How successful is your brand? With these five factors in place the answer should be “Very successful.”
For more resources on building a successful brand, check out this free rebranding kit.