Building a brand can seem elusive and theoretical for many businesses. This is especially true for professional service firms, who rely less on a visual identity that does, say, an ice cream shop. A small accounting firm won’t use matching outfits with hats for their staff or brightly painted polkadot walls to set themselves apart.
But if you’re marketing your firm online, you have to pay attention to brand awareness. That’s because the Internet is crowded and loud. Even if you’re hitting a homerun in SEO and you’re on the first page for high-value keywords in the search results, you still need to stand out from the other first-pagers.
That’s the job of branding.
What exactly is your brand?
To bring the highfalutin idea of branding down to earth, think of it this way: it’s your content. It’s the blog posts you publish, your website, your emails to clients. In every piece of content you distribute, you’re showing your brand.
In other words, if you have a website and have ever written anything, you already have a brand.
The question is, how do you go about intentionally building a brand so that it serves your goals?
Follow these steps to build a brand
If your brand is your content, it follows that to strengthen and shape your brand, you need to focus on what you’re offering on your website, your blog, social media, printed materials, emails and newsletters. In other words, you need to tackle the question of your brand at the level of your content.
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Invest some time and effort into these three steps to help you produce the best content for your firm and arrive at a brand that’s working for you.
Step 1. Develop a voice
“Voice” is another term like “brand.” What does it really mean?
Your voice should be shaped by three things: your buyer personas, your unique value proposition (UVP) and your firm’s personality. Here is an example of how these interact to create your voice:
Buyer persona: Helpless Hal, needs you to complete his personal income tax statement
Your UVP: We take on jobs you don’t want to do, no matter how small
Your personality: We’re friendly and never intimidate
Resulting voice: Reassuring and Positive
Step 2. Decide on messaging
Everyone in your firm should be crystal-clear on which messages are always relevant. This touches on the type of language you use and the reason you’re in business in the first place.
Examples of messages from the Reassuring and Positive voice above would be:
"There are no stupid questions – ask us anything."
""We know you’re busy. We’re here to help."
"Working with us won’t break the bank. We can customize our offerings to fit every budget."
Step 3. Gather visual cues
What fonts, colors, and images best get your voice and messaging across?
For the firm above, you’d want inviting colors like blue and cream. Your font should be comforting rather than innovative – Times New Roman or Verdana, for example. And the images you use should project friendly efficiency and competence, such as stock images of professionals helping their clients, your clean and inviting office space, and your smiling staff.
Set it in motion – with these caveats
Once you’ve settled on the brand identity you want for your firm, you can increase its effectiveness by committing to three more steps:
- Use it across all your communications, every time
- Refine it based on which audience you’re targeting with a particular piece of content (sprinkle in more humor for younger clients, for example)
- Test it to see how it resonates and tweak it according to the results
There – building a brand, demystified. Now go forth and prosper!