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The A-Z Guide To Professional Services Branding: How To Build A Reputable Brand For Your Firm

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Does your company’s messaging sound something like this?

  • “We care deeply about our customers”
  • “We are a results-driven organisation”
  • “Every client receives personalised service”

C’mon. Don’t you think these would be true for every company? While these values may be an important part of delivering great outcomes, the problem is they’re not enough to differentiate your brand.

At the end of the day, every other competitor is saying similar things to the same customers. From the point of view of your prospective clients, it all becomes white noise. If everyone tells them how valued they are as customers, how do they ultimately choose one over the others?

To stand out from the crowd, your professional services firm needs a strong brand – one that demonstrates the unique value you provide and resonates with your target customers.

This article is an actionable guide filled with tips and strategies to take your brand development to the next level.

It’s time to leverage all that makes your company great, from your talented people to your values and purpose, to build a unique brand that garners clients and stays relevant for years to come.

What Is Professional Services Branding?

Professional services branding refers to the process of creating and maintaining a consistent image and reputation for a company that provides services such as graphic design, accounting, or legal consultation.

Heck, even marketing consultants need branding of their own – just look at us! What do you think when you hear “Growth Gurus”? Everything you see here, down to the individual words, is the product of meticulous branding.

The goal of professional services branding is to build trust and credibility with potential clients and establish a company as a thought leader in its field.

Branding refers to a wide variety of marketing and communication tactics to promote a company and differentiate it from competitors.

It’s the collective system of decisions and creative elements that, together, convey a brand’s identity, personality, and values.

Why Is Professional Services Branding Important?

Branding for professional services is a different process than branding for other types of companies.

Unlike physical products, where customers can see, feel, or even taste the difference between one item and another, services firms are selling something much more intangible.

Consultancies, agencies, and practices of all kinds must figure out a way to sell expertise, creativity, and outcomes.

Without clear branding, it’s hard to package these abstract concepts in a way that speaks to new customers, demonstrates the value you provide, and leaves a lasting impression.

In case you still don’t believe in the importance of branding, let’s debunk some common marketing myths for professional services firms.

Branding Myths Branding Reality
“Professional services firms don’t need a strong visual identity because clients care more about the quality of the work.” A strong visual identity helps your firm stand out in a crowded market and conveys credibility to new customers who may not have worked with you in the past. Without having seen the quality of your work prior, prospects have your visual identity as their only frame of reference.
“All professional services firms need for a brand is a logo and a tagline; anything more is unnecessary.” Branding is much more than just a logo and a warm and fuzzy tagline. It encompasses a company’s entire visual identity, messaging, and voice. It provides a consistent way of being noticed in the market, regardless of the medium you use to interact with customers.
“Branding and advertising are the same things.” Branding and advertising are quite distinct. Advertising is a specific tactic to make an audience aware of your service, while branding is the overall strategy of creating a clear identity for your firm. You may have multiple advertising campaigns that fall under the same branding strategy.
“Branding is only important to the marketing department; consultants and advisors interacting with clients are not responsible.” Branding is important for all employees and departments within a professional services firm, not just the marketing department. If the way your employees deliver client work differs from the company’s identity that you’re signalling to the market, you won’t have a clear brand.
“Professional services branding isn’t needed because companies can rely on their existing reputation and customers instead of a brand.” Companies need to change to stay relevant in the marketplace. Referrals and repeat work are important, but attracting new clients in a crowded market requires a strong brand. Branding can also help you modify your reputation in case you want to deliver new services or adapt to changing tastes and preferences.
“Branding and marketing are only for large firms with big budgets.” Branding and marketing can be done effectively on a small budget. There are many free or low-cost marketing tools and strategies that can be used to build a professional services brand and reach new clients. The key is to be strategic and focus on the most effective tactics for the firm’s specific needs and goals.

A brand that looks and sounds like every other run-of-the-mill service provider is no way to build new business, sell higher-priced work, or retain your best clients.

A boring brand is not just bad for attracting clients, it’s also bad for attracting talent.

The war for great employees is especially important for professional services firms. A strong company brand attracts talented and motivated individuals who believe in your company’s vision and feel comfortable with the environment that it fosters.

The Branding Elements Your Firm Needs

Professional services branding should be thought about as a holistic system.

A brand isn’t one advertising campaign, font choice, or mission statement in isolation; it’s the collective message these components send together.

Next, we’re going to go through the following branding elements your firm needs:

  1. Brand name
  2. Logo
  3. Brand story
  4. Marketing collateral
  5. Website
  6. Social media presence
  7. Brand guidelines

While reading, don’t forget to consider how each of these can tell a consistent story about the value your company provides. Let’s begin!

Brand Name

A name is the first and most basic element of a brand.

It’s an opportunity to create a fresh identity and signal what is important about your company.

Ideally, your brand name should be:

  • Memorable
  • Easy to pronounce and spell
  • Unique
  • Not overly abstract

Often, professional services firms have the names of partners in their brand name:

Depending on the brand image you’re trying to create, this may signal the history and reputation you want, or it might be holding you back.

Logo

A logo is a visual representation of a brand, normally combining typography or imagery into a simple design.

A logo can transform a brand’s image to look and feel more relevant to an audience and convey certain values.

For example, Accenture’s logo suggests the company is:

  • Accessible (by using lowercase letters and white space)
  • Forward-looking (by having a minimalist design and tech-friendly colour choice)
  • Growth-oriented (by using the greater-than sign)

The logo also complements the brand name; the greater-than symbol’s placement about the letters evokes the look of an accented character, while its resemblance to an onward-pointing arrow evokes the progressive mindset of an adventurer.

A good logo should also be versatile enough to be used in a variety of contexts, including online and offline marketing channels and materials.

Brand Story

A brand story is the narrative that explains a company’s history, values, and mission. It helps customers understand a company’s purpose by demonstrating which problems it cares about and is here to solve.

A great brand story can serve as a Bat-Signal of kinds, demonstrating that your firm shares certain values with prospects and helping you attract the right clients. Much like Batman, your brand’s origin story is closely tied to its current mission and ideology.

Effective brand stories also help your company stand out in the market. They differentiate you in the mind of your target customers, giving them a reason to pick you over your competitors.

For example, a luxury chauffeur service whose brand story is about taking clients on a one-of-a-kind journey to their destination stands in stark contrast to other taxi or ride-share services that focus on just getting their customers from point A to point B.

This strategy is perfectly suited to their target audience of wealthy tourists and business travellers.

Marketing Collateral

Marketing collateral is the materials used to promote a brand and its products or services to its target market.

Collateral encompasses a lot of ideas that might take the shape of:

  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Whitepapers
  • Case studies
  • Business cards

Collateral is also useful outside the marketing department. It helps your salespeople sell more effectively and can give your consultants a leg up in delivering high-quality client work.

Regardless of what creative assets your company ends up needing, a consistent message and visual identity are important.

Website

A website is an essential element of a brand’s online presence and is often an important channel for acquiring customers.

Professional services websites have a tendency to be boring and overloaded with information about the services provided.

Rather than overloading your website with information, focus on creating a customer journey that matches the brand positioning you’re trying to create in the market.

A great website doesn’t just educate customers, but it also generates strong emotions in the minds of your prospects. Curating your prospects’ first impressions is a crucial part of the customer experience.

Social Media Presence

Social media is an important part of building a brand because it allows companies to connect with customers, share content, and solicit feedback.

Social media is also a great way to bring a brand to life online as long as the content remains consistent with your company’s visual identity and market message.

There are lots of social media channels to choose from, and each has its own best practices.

The best advice is to choose one or two channels where you think your ideal customers are most likely to hang out. That way, you can reach the right audience and still have enough resources to invest in building your brand’s presence on each platform.

Brand Guidelines

Brand guidelines are a set of internal rules and suggestions that a company uses to build a coherent image across all customer channels and marketing platforms.

This often includes details related to your brand’s visual identity, such as colours, fonts, and designs to use, but also covers your brand’s voice, such as the language and emotions to use in marketing messages.

What’s important is that your brand guidelines give employees instructions that ensure consistency in the way your brand is presented and protects your brand’s integrity.

9 Tips For Building A Strong Professional Services Brand

For most professional services organisations, the product being sold is really the talents and contributions of employees.

However, demonstrating the value of labour can be difficult, especially if you’re delivering creative work or domain expertise that sounds complicated to clients.

The shortcut is to develop a brand that creates a vision of the value your company provides and resonates with the type of clients you want to service.

Here are 9 tips for branding professional services companies:

  1. Involve the entire organisation
  2. Speak to your target audience
  3. Reflect on wins and losses
  4. Audit the competition
  5. Don’t be afraid to be different
  6. Remain consistent wherever you show up
  7. Start with “Why,” not “What”
  8. Collect proof points for your brand
  9. Measure what is working and what is not

Let’s unpack each of these in more detail.

1. Involve The Entire Organisation

Building a strong professional services brand is a team effort. The executive suite all the way down to entry-level analysts should be involved in the process.

“Brand ambassador” shouldn’t be a term reserved for the marketing department only. Every employee should be carrying your brand’s message and purpose.

As a professional services firm, you might realise that your client-facing employees actually have an even greater influence than your marketing department. After all, they are the ones interacting with customers all day.

2. Speak To Your Target Audience

It’s easy to forget this, but a brand isn’t about you or your company.

Your brand should focus on what you can do for the client.

That’s why it’s important to make sure branding speaks directly to the needs and desires of your target audience.

Some professional services firms may notice they have multiple customer profiles, such as if you’re selling to both technology executives and specific technologists simultaneously.

In this case, your branding should be tailored to the specific client type, even if the broad message remains the same.

3. Reflect On Wins And Losses

Believe it or not, the customers you’ve already served can give you valuable insights on how to create better branding.

Let’s take a look at how past wins and losses can help your professional services company build a brand using a hypothetical example:

Client Type Client Behaviours Client Characteristics
Best clients
  • Leave rave reviews of your firm 
  • Stay customers for years
Small businesses with no expertise in the service you provide
Worst clients
  • Have poor service experiences
  • Low retention as customers
Larger businesses with in-house support teams

On the positive side, your best clients highlight which parts of your value proposition resonate with the market.

Conversely, your bad clients highlight where your branding is likely to fall flat.

With this information, you can further refine your brand based on the segments that work while reducing your marketing and messaging efforts on clients that have proven to be a poor fit.

4. Audit The Competition

When developing your professional services brand, it can be tempting to think that you’re one of a kind. But is it really true?

Sometimes, it’s surprising how similar the messages and brand identities of competing companies in the same sector can be.

Ideally, your brand should clearly stand out from the rest.

In order to understand what about your brand is either unique or indistinguishable from the competition, make sure to have a keen awareness of what your competitors are up to and how they present themselves.

5. Be (Very) Different

A brand that serves to differentiate your company needs to be different by its very nature.

You might think being too unusual in the professional world of law, accounting, or marketing can backfire, but it’s often the brands that stand out the most that succeed.

Everyone is exposed to thousands of advertisements each day, often hearing and seeing similar things.

So what happens when something new catches our eye?

We perk up and listen!

Obviously, your firm’s brand should be informed by what customers want, but don’t be afraid to inject personality and intrigue.

6. Show Up With A Consistent Voice

Inconsistent branding creates friction in the customer’s mind and harms your ability to attract and retain clients.

In today’s digital world, it’s likely that clients learn about or engage with your company in many different places, which creates the potential for trouble.

Imagine if your professional services brand appeared:

  • Casual and personable on social media
  • Professional and buttoned-up on your website and PR communications
  • Technical and detailed in client engagements

It’s not that one approach is necessarily better than the other, but your customer is bound to be confused.

Wherever you meet your customers, make sure to keep a consistent tone.

7. Start With “Why,” Not “What”

Professional services firms often start their branding process with a focus on what they deliver.

“We provide expert tax advice for small businesses.”

That’s a great start, but it says nothing about the benefits to your customers or the type of client your firm is seeking.

“We provide expert tax advice for small businesses who don’t want to worry about complicated financial matters and would rather focus more time on serving their customers.”

A brand mission like that says a lot more about why you provide tax services and inspires and attracts the kind of people that care about the value you offer.

8. Collect Proof Points For Your Brand

Strong professional services brands have lots of proof to back up their claims.

Let’s say you own a law firm that helps individuals win personal injury cases. Statistics and data that support your claim to be a leading personal injury lawyer make your brand that much stronger.

For example, you might look back on old cases to find:

  • Your firm has helped win cases for more than 1,000 individuals
  • Your firm wins 99% of the cases you take to trial
  • Your firm has won an average of $65,000 in settlement per client
  • The largest settlement your firm has achieved was $3.8 million for a client

Proof Points like these can be woven into advertising campaigns or marketing materials in ways that strengthen the brand you’re creating.

9. Measure What Works

We get that “building a brand” can be a bit abstract. A strange combination of emotions, values, messages, visual cues, and design choices.

But just because a brand is amorphous doesn’t mean you want to throw out all logic or analysis.

To effectively create and deliver your brand message, you want to be deliberate about your marketing spending and determine if the choices you’re making are reaching and resonating with your audience.

There are lots of ways to monitor the success of your marketing message, including:

  • Analysing social media data like followers, comments, or likes
  • Measuring email open rates, response rates, and unsubscribe rates
  • Reviewing traffic data to your website and behaviour once there
  • Conducting client surveys to solicit feedback on your marketing or service

Keeping an eye on the data can also give your company a chance to double-down when something unusual works. Does anybody remember when Wendy’s Twitter roasts went on to become insanely viral? That stunt quickly turned them into the premiere fast food chain for irony-loving youths.

5 Strategies For Growing Your Professional Services Firm Brand Reputation

Building a strong brand is a long-term investment that requires considerable effort and coordination across your entire organisation.

If you want to get a jumpstart from the beginning, here are some strategies to incorporate from day 1:

  1. Incorporate senior executive thought leadership
  2. Invest in content marketing
  3. Hire and develop subject matter experts
  4. Host or sponsor events
  5. Create clear brand guidelines for all to use

And, of course, if you’re breathing new life into an old brand, you can focus on any areas your company isn’t already doing well in.

1. Incorporate Executive Thought Leadership

The executive suite at your professional services organisation is in a great spot to help grow the brand.

Senior leaders have the ability to show up as humans and brand ambassadors in a unique way.

For example, have your CEO share interesting stories on LinkedIn that advance your brand’s mission and demonstrate their expertise on a relevant topic.

2. Invest In Content Marketing

Creating and distributing valuable and educational content to your target audience is a powerful way to grow your professional services brand.

That’s because content marketing like blogs, whitepapers, studies, and YouTube videos build long-term relationships with prospects.

Plus, marketers find that content marketing is more than 30% cheaper than traditional paid advertising.

You can save even more time and money by repurposing content on different marketing platforms as well. For example, you can turn winning blog posts into a series of social media posts, or vice versa.

In that way, content can be a great brand builder and business builder too.

3. Hire And Develop Subject Matter Experts

For professional services organisations, your professional services firm brand reputation hinges on the people that make up your company.

While we already discussed how a strong brand can help you attract great talent, you can also intentionally hire talent to build your brand as well.

Consider strategically hiring subject matter experts in the fields that you want your company to be known for – investing in talent that’s not only qualified but exceptional may be worth it in the long run.

For instance, Nike’s slogan, “Just do it,” which has been deeply entwined with its branding for decades, was conceived by one man: the late Dan Wieden. If a single individual is capable of propelling a brand’s success, will you be responsible for hiring the next Wieden?

4. Host Or Sponsor Events

Want to know one of the best ways to grow a brand quickly?

Host or sponsor an event that generates buzz from your customers and other players in your industry.

This might take the shape of a conference, a fundraiser, or even a live webinar.

Events drive new customers to your firm and generate awareness about your brand.

Events are especially effective for smaller organisations that serve a local community because of the stronger emphasis on more personal relationships between business representatives.

5. Create And Enforce Clear Brand Guidelines

Consistency is key when building your brand. This harkens back to the tip about maintaining a consistent voice: that applies not only to the behaviour of your employees but every facet that conceivably represents your brand.

Imagine an IT consulting firm positioning itself as a strategic and forward-thinking partner rather than a firm to which clients outsource routine functions.

Regardless of how modern the logo is or how much of a visionary the CEO may be, if the company website screams old-world, boring consulting practice, then the brand image won’t stick.

That’s why it’s so important to create and enforce clear brand guidelines to make sure all aspects of your brand work in harmony.

Your Brand Equals Your Reputation

Branding is important for professional services firms because it establishes trust with potential clients and differentiates the company from competitors.

Strong branding helps firms attract the right clients, retain customers, and hire amazing talent, which ultimately leads to revenue growth and higher profitability.

But building a brand is not a simple task. It requires focus and a clear understanding of the business to create an identity that’s memorable and consistent.

This guide has hopefully been a helpful resource for building a professional services brand on your own, but here at Growth Gurus, we know what a big lift it can be to rebrand a company or build momentum behind a new brand.

If you want to dive deeper with hands-on exercises and tools to hone in on your branding, we suggest you check out our free Brand DNA Workshop.

Or, if your professional services firm needs expert advice or support, give us a shout. We’d love to help.

Find out how we can help your brand reach new heights! Get in touch