Consumer products and services companies have always understood the power of the brand. Just ask anyone how valuable are brand names like Nabisco, Marlboro, Coca-Cola, Nordstrom or The Ritz and you will quickly understand why brands are so highly prized and protected. But what of your own firm’s “brand?” Most small to mid-size firms don’t even realize that they have a brand, but every firm does. Your brand is not simply the logo on your letterhead or website. It is even more than your tag line, if you have one. Rather, your brand is your hard-won name the community, your “promise” of quality service and business acumen, it is what your firm stands for. Your brand reflects your firm’s unique culture, character and personality. Whether you are a solo practice or one of the “Big Four” firms, you have a reputation that goes beyond name recognition.
You do not need to have a highly recognized name such as Disney or McDonald to take advantage of a powerful brand in your local market. The key is to send a consistent message about the firm. We can learn a good amount about branding from our corporate friends. They understand that their customers’ loyalty is the true measure of their success, and they focus on building brands that generate long term relationships. Your CPA firm does the same, and much like the laundry detergent and toothpaste manufacturers, your “client satisfaction guarantee” is implicit in everything you do. Never lose sight of the fact that your brand is your reputation and it gives the community insight into your character, your values, the quality of your work and your commitment to employees and clients.
Branding the firm sounds expensive, and indeed it can be. The design work, graphics and logo you select will enhance your image, but it is critical to understand that real branding can only take place when you live your brand every day. The values you hold to, the way you deliver service and the relationships you nurture confirm your reputation and those are the real tools that enable you to create a meaningful brand.