By Michael Alter
Branding your firm means putting your firm's reputation, people, expertise, and knowledge in front of clients and prospects. It means building new relationships and strengthening old ones, and working to keep your firm and services front-of-mind with clients and prospects.
Consider these tips as you continue to build your brand:
1. Know your strengths
Regularly assess your staff's expertise (which is probably increasing without your knowing it) to explore new niche service areas and to strengthen existing ones. Staff expertise can include professional knowledge, technology, or growing familiarity with a strong client, to name a few.
2. Participate in social media
Commit to regularly using social media, such as a LinkedIn group or Twitter feed, to invite client and prospect discussion and to promote your firm's expertise.
3. Study the competition
Think like a client - and especially like a prospect. Why should they use your firm? Study the wording and graphics of your competitors' brochures, websites, and business cards. Brainstorm ideas to differentiate your services or build and enhance what you have learned from others to stand out above the rest.
4. Develop your reputation as being "responsive"
Answer calls on the first few rings. Respond to prospect e-mails within a day and to client e-mails even faster. Those contacting your firm have needs they want met, and they will remember if you were not timely with your response. For example, consider a restaurant that takes longer than customers expected to deliver their food order. When service is slower than customers expect, they will likely complain or, worse, simply take their business elsewhere and spread the word to others.
Build an e-mail address database for customers and prospects. Use this database to send out a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter, containing information about services, staff, tax, or payroll deadlines, and provide links to state or federal websites.
6. Use traditional methods to promote your business
Do not completely abandon traditional methods of promotion, such as paper newsletters and brochures. Traditional and local media, including as radio, television, and display advertising still work well.
7. Stay flexible
Keep in mind that branding or marketing tactics that worked really well last week or last year may not work today. Stay flexible and open to trying different methods of getting the word out about your business.
About the author:
Michael Alter, payroll expert with an MBA from Harvard Business School, is a nationally recognized spokesperson providing thought leadership and sensible advice to help accounting and payroll professionals build deeper more profitable relationships with clients. Alter, president of SurePayroll, writes the Trade Secrets column on INC.com and is frequently published in Bloomberg TV, Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur Magazine.