Small Business
Business INSIGHTS e-News for Professional Services
Defining Your Brand

You know what your company stands for. But are you communicating that message to clients?

Consider some of the world's most valuable brands: Coca-Cola, Disney, Microsoft, Burberry and Porsche. Although it may be difficult to put a price tag on a brand, it is possible. Using a mathematical formula, New York University Stern School of Business compared the brand value of Kellogg's to a generic cereal and calculated that Kellogg's brand attributed for 68 percent of the company's value.

You may not be selling soft drinks or luxury automobiles, but even professional services firms need to establish a brand identity. It can have a significant impact on firm valuation and can carry your firm over economic rough patches.

What's in a Brand?

Unlike its historical connection to branding a farm animal, today's brand is intangible. It's not a logo, mission statement, posh office or flashy website, but how your customers perceive your firm, services and employees. It includes your reputation, visibility and ability to attract satisfied clients who will make referrals.

The adage that the customer is always right takes on new meaning in branding. It doesn't matter how you view your brand. In fact, you may be projecting how you want the firm to be rather than honestly assessing how it is perceived in the marketplace.

The best way to find out how your clients perceive your brand is to ask them. Hold focus groups, send out surveys or simply call clients and ask why they do business with your firm, what's most important to them about your firm and why they would (or wouldn't) recommend your firm to others.

Beyond the Individual

For professional services firms, your brand is often intricately entwined with your employees. While your employees' expertise and quality of service promote your brand, your brand should extend beyond the value of individual employees. Since even firm partners and principals can leave, focus your brand strategy on the firm in its entirety rather than on the charisma of one or two employees.


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