Creating Brand Strategies for Your Professional Services Firm

By Katie Stern posted 06-12-2015 12:25


When you talk about the word, “brand” most think of the masters, Nike: Just Do It.; Energizer: Keeps going and going and going.; Porsche: There is no substitute. But branding is a lot more than a memorable slogan, especially for B2B firms who are selling services, not widgets. The concept of a brand and its value is a promise. Successful firms deliver on their promise, which is how they stay at the top in their industry.  My experience with branding over the years, in the AEC industry, has been pretty unique. Clients are more apt to change teams when they can relate to the new firm, hear a consistent, positive, message about them from others in the industry, and/or see a “never done before” approach that can make their project rise above the rest.

So, what should you be looking at when your goal is to create a Brand Strategy? Branding needs to involve all levels of the business. Here are a few questions to consider and thoughts on how to approach the development of your plan.

  1. Is your brand relatable? Too often companies complicate their unique value proposition (UVP) to be flashy or different. In their efforts to rejuvenate their brand, they complicate things that make it hard for brand ambassadors (your staff) to understand the strategy. To be identifiable and relatable in your industry, a brand must evolve and strengthen with the changing demands of the market. Make things simple – don’t make people “figure out” what your brand provides or what problem it solves. Be deliberate with your identity.
  2. What values do you want the public to associate your firm with? Are you reliable? Are you the concierge of a market? Family-oriented? Recognize that stimulating a new or existing client relationship requires the ability to educate, communicate, and excite the industry about your company – what it represents and what it stands for.
  3. What makes you different? This question should be easily answered by any of your staff. It is more-less your elevator pitch. While it does not need to be verbatim, it should have a similar delivery when given – in terms of the key points, connection, and impression it makes on the audience. In this day and age there are thousands of firms doing the EXACT. SAME. THING. – it’s simple, what makes you different? Which leads me to my next question…
  4. Is everyone on your team educated about the Brand Strategy of your firm? Your staff are the face of your brand. Each person interacts, whether in person, by phone, email, social media, etc., with a number of outside sources daily. One negative experience, or one confusing one, can prevent a relationship or business partnership from forming or growing. Make sure the staff understand the big picture – what’s your pitch? what makes you different? who is a target client or project? who are your experts for niche services? – all of these are important. Brand values, messaging, and customer service need to be a continual priority if you want your firm to grow.
  5. What is the industry perception of your brand? “You’re too big to do this project.” “You don’t work in that area.” “I didn’t know you did THAT.” All common remarks heard from clients/potential clients when talking business development. The only way to change these misconceptions – branding. Understanding your company’s publicity situation is imperative if you want to educate them and diversify your client portfolios. Branding presents a chance to adjust your image in order to attract your “dream” client or project.
  6. Social Media and the Big Bad Wolf (World Wide Web). I can’t stress enough the importance of your company’s social presence – whether that’s your website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. 85 percent of consumers are searching for local businesses online FIRST, before they do anything else. What’s the next thing they do? Search for your staff. The concepts of brand and identity are intertwined, especially from the mobile perspective. Managing this dual-identity is hard, but when done right, it can deliver breakout success for a Brand Strategy.

Your company’s business plan should include a Brand Strategy. This will outline how you will apply your brand strategically in the industry over time. A branding strategy does not have to be intimidating, and it can be a short as one page. It will depend on the service(s) your company is providing and industries you are serving, for how detailed your plan can/should be. The important thing is that you are discussing and answering these questions, and applying these techniques prior to implementation.

Interested in learning more about developing a Brand Strategy or discussing unique approaches for B2B firms? Contact me here.