When you have the right brand position, it becomes the driving force behind your firm, helping to inform your marketing messages, how your services are shaped, even the way you structure your pricing.
The concept of “brand positioning” first surfaced back in the 1960s when two successful Madison Avenue ad executives, Jack Trout and Al Ries, wrote a highly influential little book entitled Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. In it, they built a case for establishing a key feature or benefit for a company that, through advertising, would become closely associated with that business in the minds of consumers, helping turn them into customers.
Prime examples abound of robustly-effective branding strategies. FedEx built an overnight shipping empire based on when a package “absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Avis zoomed to the top of the car rental business because, more than the other rental firms, “We try harder” to satisfy the customer.
When you have a solid brand position, your firm gains a number of advantages. Conversely, when your firm struggles with closing new business or your professionals don’t know how to describe the benefits of working with your firm you are probably dealing with the symptoms of a weak brand positioning.
How can brand positioning benefit your accounting firm? Here are several specific ways:
1. It sets you apart from the competition
Brand positioning enables you to stake out a unique territory (an industry specialty or a very specialized services offering for example) for your practice into which no competitor will dare venture because they will become labelled as a “me-too” firm, an also-ran following in your footsteps.
2. It will help you focus on a specific target market
By laying claim to a particular feature or benefit through positioning, you’ll be forced to focus your services accordingly. This, in turn, will cause you to be perceived as an expert in those services, which increases your value to prospects. Specialists grow twice as fast as firms that describe themselves as generalists.
3. It drives further service development and pricing
Positioning your firm against the competition will help you decide what new services to offer and how they’re priced. Are you a higher-priced boutique accounting firm or a no-frills, low-cost provider? Which new services and pricing support that positioning?
4. It fuels more effective, creative decision-making
Once you’ve developed the core message needed to promote your brand positioning, you’ll have the insight to make more effective decisions throughout the creative process. Clear positioning drives clear communication.
5. It helps provide tools to win more clients
Positioning helps provide the persuasive sales tools your business development team needs to nurture and close more sales. Unique brand positioning boosts firm visibility and top-of-mind-recall for prospects to help shut out the competition.
Brand positioning, done correctly, can turn your firm into a marketing powerhouse. It can help focus your services, your marketing message, and your firm’s appeal to prospects.
Truth be told, most professional services firms are poorly positioned in their marketplaces. Their approach often boils down to “if a few prospects are good, a lot of prospects are better.”
But not everyone is a prospect and a general marketing message is too broad and too tepid to be effective.
Focused positioning enables you to build a strong, compelling message around a specific area of expertise that will greatly appeal to a targeted audience in need of your particular services. That’s why having a brand positioning strategy is so important. It provides value to your prospects, gives them something to get interested in, and will ultimately convince them to buy from you.
About Lee Frederiksen
Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.