Why Branding Is Important for Growing Professional Services Firms
A number of traditional marketing tactics do not easily translate to professional services firms, such as independent wealth managers, legal professionals, and others in highly regulated sectors. However, the fundamentals of brand- and trust-building apply across industries and should remain core aspects of your marketing mix.
What Good is Branding?
Because of the highly specialized nature of professional services, it’s fair to say many prospective clients are uncertain about how to evaluate your services. For that reason alone, your brand becomes an important way to establish credibility and trust. And, it’s important to note, regardless of how much – or how little – marketing you have done, you probably already have a brand, whether you know it or not.
Everyone has a brand.
The question is whether the market has defined you or if you are in control of your brand. Ideally, you want to control your message. To do so effectively requires planning, strategy, implementation and ongoing monitoring. In a market where people often lack the expertise to really know which provider is the best, and have more choices than they know what to do with, your brand makes it easier for them to narrow down and weigh their options. And, because potential clients typically conduct initial research online before deciding to hire you (or a competitor) it’s important to ensure first and foremost that they find something about you and your firm, and secondly, that what they do find reconfirms their initial impressions about your brand. This is equally true for your referral pipeline.
I would argue that branding is and should remain a key strategy for professional services firms, regardless of specialty, not only to stake your ground in an already crowded marketplace, but also to establish yourself in anticipation of more and new competitors or alternative solutions.
The stronger your brand and the more articulately and consistently it is communicated, the more likely it is that you will attract like-minded prospects, partners and referral sources. A solid brand also increases the likelihood that your clients will remain loyal and that they will become strong word of mouth advocates for you and your firm.
But Business isn’t Built on Brand Alone.
As important as it is to develop and promote your brand, branding alone does little if it is not paired with effective business development initiatives.
In short, marketing is about creating the demand, while business development is about closing business opportunities: both are necessary to grow your business. And in industries in which it takes a significant amount of time to build the level of trust and comfort necessary to sign a new client, the goal should be to develop a multi-faceted marketing campaign, including branding, as a powerful tool supporting your in-person efforts.
Below, some Brand Development activities I recommend for Professional Services providers.
Brand Development Activities for Professional Services Providers
o Position and white papers, e-books and worksheets, calculators
o Blogging, content curation, social media presence and relationship building
o Establishing yourself as a SME (Subject Matter Expert)
o Public speaking and writing opportunities
Business Development activities that build on brand and fill the pipeline often include:
In-person Networking and Event Marketing
o Active membership in professional organizations
o Attending and maximizing personal interactions in public events
o Hosting or co-hosting live events
There are obvious overlaps between traditional marketing tactics and those best suited for professional services firms. Striking the right balance, and finding the time to understand and manage all of the elements of a professional services marketing strategy is difficult. It’s especially challenging for many professional services firms to market themselves effectively while also growing the firm, since closing any new business relies so heavily on the personal relationship between the professional and the prospect.
Helping our clients strike the right balance by taking on the marketing management role (freeing up their time) and helping to select the best tactics to most effectively market their business so they can not only grow, but continue to provide their clients with the appropriate level of service, has been very rewarding for me personally. If you have questions about Business Development activities, Public Relations, or Branding for your professional services firm, please get in touch. I’d welcome the chance to discuss your firm’s marketing challenges and goals.