Previously I have discussed why tax firms should care about design and the value a good brand can bring, but how do you create your brand?
To begin with, let’s understand what we mean when we say “brand.” A brand is how a company, organization, or individual is perceived by those who experience it. This goes beyond just the name, slogan, design, or symbol – a brand is a recognizable feeling that a product or business evokes. Your brand is perception. Branding is shaping what those perceptions are.
There are four basic areas where your brand can really shine through:
- Visual – your logo, website, colors, etc.
- Voice – your blog posts, mission statement, website copy
- Values – the types of causes your company supports
- Personality – your company’s culture and customer experience philosophy
Looking at these four areas, you can start to see the impact your brand can have on creating perceptions to your current and potential clients. Taking the time to make sure you are branded appropriately helps build credibility and establish trust between your firm and potential clients. Branding also impacts pricing. Think about it – gas station coffee for $1 versus Starbucks coffee for $5. Why would you pay 5$ for coffee? Because of the brand. Same concept if you buy an Old Navy t-shirt for $10 versus a Gucci one for $500. Therefore, it is important to put in the effort into your firm’s branding.
So how do you build your brand?
Evaluate your current branding
Considering most of you have been operating for a bit, you have already created a brand – whether intentionally or not. This is a great opportunity to start with your current clients’ perceptions and use that information to refine your brand. Conduct online surveys to ask questions across your client base, asking what adjectives they associate with your brand and what they like or don’t like about your firm. You can then check out Google Analytics and see what terms people are searching in your area and which ones are associated with certain other brands (like your competition or brands you admire). Any social media your firm is active on also has a wealth of knowledge to evaluate your current brand. Based on what posts receive the most and least engagements, you can learn what your customers see you as an authority on and whether you have established credibility.
Establish your purpose
Start with your story. Why did you start this firm? What was your journey like? What does your firm mean to your clients? While we all hope to be profitable, that is not necessarily the purpose that is going to help establish your brand. Think beyond what services you offer. Your brand is not necessarily about filing tax returns; rather, it is about providing peace of mind through a collaborative working relationship with your clients. Dig deep into your story and your why, and you can truly define the purpose of your brand.
Identify your target market
Who do you want to work with? Perhaps you have a niche industry your brand is an expert in, or you want to focus on certain demographics like single-parent households. Identify who that ideal client is for you and focus your communications towards that audience. Your brand is not for everyone, and that is ok.
Since you now know who you are talking to, you need to ensure your brand’s voice speaks to them. Are you a traditional firm? Are you a young and hip firm? Is your brand funny? Your brand’s copy should reflect the right language for who your audience is. Firms that are focused on law firms are going to sound different than those focused on surf shops.
Now that you understand what your firm stands for and what you want to convey to current and potential clients, you can start to look for design professionals. There are plenty of sites to find yourself a freelance designer to help rework your logo, fonts, color palettes, and templates. Be mindful that this is not something that you want to take the lowest bid on. Look through portfolios and find someone who’s style works with what you want for your brand. Ask for references and examples of other brand identity work they have done. A solid designer will find ways to invoke the perceptions you want to portray, so splurge a bit.
Build it out
Now that you have your brand’s visuals and voice, you can share it with the public. Update or build your website, create or update your social media profiles. When your designer has completed all the visual elements for your brand, they will provide a brand guideline document. Share this with your team and anyone else that may be involved in website creation, social media management, content writing, and marketing. This clearly communicates how each person can stay on brand, the dos and don’ts regarding brand voice and visuals. Your designer can also go through and create all of your templates (letterhead, business cards, etc.).
Promote and find advocates
Plan a brand launch. A re-brand is a great way to communicate your why to the masses, show how the vision and mission align with your new look and re-connect with your clients. Create marketing strategies that get your existing clients to become brand advocates by encouraging customer reviews and incentivizing referrals. By getting others to promote for you, you being to establish your brand reputation.
Congrats, now your brand is out there alive and well! Your brand should adapt and evolve as your firm grows and changes. What works today may not work tomorrow, so your firm will not survive if you fail to adapt. Without branding, your firm is just another firm on a giant list of tax experts. With solid branding, you can choose your price point, build trust with your clients, and build a loyal following.