Professional services firms are frequently faced with the need to update their brand. Here are some of the most common reasons why:
- A merger or acquisition forces change
- You need to reposition your firm in the marketplace to better capture a new market opportunity
- Your current brand is stale and out of date; you need to get into the right decade!
- You have outgrown your old image and need to tell the story of who you are today and where you are headed tomorrow
- You have a new product or service line that requires a brand new brand
Whatever the reasons, you are faced with one of the trickiest market challenges you will ever encounter. And it’s where many professional services firms stumble. Here are 5 tips to help you to do it the right way:
- Start with the right strategy. A good identity (name, logo and tagline) should reflect and embody your business strategy. When it comes to your brand, the relevant strategy should be reflected in your positioning statement. Where do you fit in the market relative to your competitors? How are you different? Do you own a specialist advantage?
If your strategy is weak, your brand will likely be weak. Our research on high growth, high-value professional services firms clearly demonstrates that high growth firms have a clear, easy-to-understand competitive advantage and well-defined target clients. If your competitive advantage is great people or great service and you have no way to prove it, you are in trouble.
- Find experienced partners. You improve your odds of choosing a great name, logo and tagline by having an experienced marketing partner that is used to rebranding professional services firms. Sounds pretty obvious, but you would be shocked by the number of firms that try to make this important decision using a freelance designer who also does restaurant menus and bargain basement websites. It’s like going to the school nurse for triple bypass surgery.
- Select a decision team and give them the authority to the make the final decision.Selecting a brand identity is not a matter of personal preference. Giving everyone in the firm (or even all of the partners) a vote will result in a bad decision. I repeat this is a rookie mistake. Do not do it. Why so definitive? People within the firm always, always, always have a different perspective and level of knowledge than their target audience. They are not objective. Remember the old saw, “a person who represents himself has a fool for a client”? If you have a small decision-making team of 3-7 people, you have a decent chance of walking them through a structured process to reach a great final decision. Remember this: great brand identities almost always feel uncomfortable at first. It’s only when they get built out and fully integrated that their strength shines through. Every firm wants the equivalent of the Nike swoosh. Rare is the group of partners that would have intuitively picked that mark while sitting around a boardroom table.
- Don’t ask any one element to do too much. A name can convey an emotion, or say what you do, or identify who you service or list the founders. But it cannot reasonably do all of these things. Ditto for a logo or tagline. But these elements can work together. A name and logo that conveys the personality of the firm can be paired with a tagline that clearly communicates what industry you serve or what you do. Or a well-chosen logo and tagline can inject personality into a firm with a generic name.
- Have a structured process and stick to it. All of these decisions build upon each other. So don’t be tempted to jump ahead or revisit previous decisions. While we are not advocating rigidity, there is a logical layering that happens. When you take shortcuts, you run the risk of ending up in a bad place or having the process become an exercise in impulsive decision-making.
I offer this advice based on real-world experience. When you go with a proven process and set aside your doubts, you vastly improve your chances of achieving a positive outcome.