A brand can be seen as an asset to a business. It is important for businesses to create and maintain a strong brand in order to set themselves apart from their competitors and create customer loyalty.
Effective branding can help businesses to achieve higher profits and market share. Accounting firms are not exempt from needing to have a strong brand. Why? Because the accounting industry is extremely competitive and needs to show differentiation and perceived value and trust.
So, how can CPA firms create a strong brand? What branding strategies can they use to set themselves apart from the competition and build customer loyalty? Here are seven.
Define your potential customer
Let's start with the basics. Who is your target customer? This may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many businesses don't take the time to define their target market. Without a clear understanding of who your target customer is, it will be difficult to create an effective branding strategy.
List every attribute or characteristic your potential customer has.
- Are they male or female?
- What is their age?
- What is their income level?
- What are their interests?
- What’s happening that qualifies them to be good prospects for you?
- Why are you qualified to help your target audience?
- Are they entrepreneurs or employed by someone else?
- Where do they live?
- What do they need from an accounting firm?
- What are their pain points?
The list could go on. What matters is that you include as many attributes as possible so that you can create a customer profile. And the more specific you can be when defining your target customer, the better.
For example, instead of targeting "business owners," you could target "female business owners under the age of 40 who live in New York City and have a household income of $250,000." This is much more specific and will help you to create a more targeted branding strategy.
So, how can you get knowledge of your potential customers? Here's how:
Look at your competition
Start by researching your competition. What type of customers are they targeting? You can learn a lot by observing the competition, so be sure to take the time to do your research.
Examine your existing customers
If you have any existing clients, take a close look at them. What do they have in common? Use this information to help you define your target market.
Create buyer personas
Imagine your ideal customer. What do they look like? What are their needs and wants? Once you have a clear picture of your ideal customer, you can begin to create buyer personas. These are fictional characters that represent your target market.
Define your brand
Once you've defined who your potential customer is, it's time to define your brand. It's a journey of self-discovery that will help you to better understand what your business is all about.
Start with the creation story of your accounting firm. Ask yourself these questions:
- How did your firm come to be?
- When was it founded?
- Who are the founding partners?
- What was the original vision or mission for the firm?
- What problem did it set out to solve?
- What sets your firm apart from the competition?
After defining who you are, explain your purpose. Generally, what you do and why you do it. Next, what is your accounting firm's mission? For example, to provide quality service to clients or to help businesses grow.
Dig deeper. The more clarity and clearness you get on who you are and what you stand for, the better off you'll be.
Create a visual representation of your brand
The next step is to develop your brand's components. It's the time to build out or make the creative elements that'll constitute your brand identity.
So, what exactly do you need to create? Here's a list of potential components of your Brand identity system:
- A logo
- A color scheme
- Imagery and iconography
- Your brand story
These are just a few examples. Depending on your business, you may need to create other elements as well. But these elements should help strengthen the brand you defined in the previous step.
Work with a graphic designer to create these components. They'll be able to take your ideas and turn them into a reality. Additionally, since this step means creating a brand expression for consumers to consume, you want to keep the variations of these elements to a minimum.
For example, if the color green is a part of your brand identity, you should only use one or two shades of green. The same goes for typography. You want to maintain consistency throughout all touchpoints so that your target market will begin to recognize and remember your brand.
Establish your brand differentiation
Now it's time to establish how you want to be perceived in the marketplace. What makes your accounting firm unique and different from the others?
It's an important question to answer because it'll shape your brand messaging. Think about what you want people to say about your firm. Do you want to be known as the "friendly neighborhood accounting firm?" Or do you want to be known as the "go-to accounting firm for businesses in need of growth?"
The answer to this question will help you better craft your brand messaging. It'll also be a useful guide when you're making decisions about how to market and position your firm in the marketplace.
Also, ask yourself the following questions:
- What does your firm offer that others don't?
- What can you do better than anyone else?
- How can you make the lives of your target market easier?
Again, the answers to these questions will help you shape your brand messaging. But they'll also help you better understand your target market and what they're looking for in accounting services.
Build a brand strategy
A brand strategy is a plan that outlines how you want to position your brand in the marketplace. It's built on the foundation of your brand identity and differentiation.
It helps you grow customer awareness of your brand and what it stands for. Additionally, it'll guide your marketing efforts moving forward. A well-executed and well-defined brand strategy connects emotionally with your target market and drives conversions.
That said, think through the emotions you'd want to evoke in your target market. What kind of feeling do you want them to have when they think about your brand? For example, do you want them to feel happy? Relieved? Excited?
Also, define your goals for your brand strategy. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to increase brand awareness? Drive more leads? Win more clients?
Once you have a handle on these things, you can start putting together your brand strategy. But keep in mind that your strategy should be flexible. As your business grows and changes, so too should your brand strategy.
Establish your brand on various marketing channels
After establishing all of the components of your brand identity, it's time to start putting them to use. Build out your brand by putting your brand strategy out for the people to see.
And how can you do that? Well, first, design your website. Make sure it's reflective of your brand identity. Then, create social media accounts for your firm and populate them with content in line with your brand messaging.
You should also consider creating additional marketing materials, like business cards, letterhead, and email signatures. These materials should all be consistent with the rest of your branding.
Additionally, think about other ways to get your brand in front of potential clients. For example, you could sponsor an event or host a webinar. You could also write articles or create videos that show off your brand identity and what your firm has to offer.
The important thing is to be consistent with your branding across all channels. That way, people will begin to recognize and remember your brand. And that's the goal, after all.
Promote the brand of your accounting firm
Finally, it's time to promote your brand. Get the word out there about your firm and what it has to offer. There are many ways you can promote your brand. You could start by reaching out to your network of family, friends, and colleagues. Let them know you're looking to grow your accounting firm and see if they have any referrals for you.
Another marketing strategy for accounting firms is to take out ads in relevant publications or on websites that your target market frequents. Or, you could consider attending industry events or trade shows. These are great opportunities to promote your brand and get people talking about your firm.
Look for partnership opportunities as well. For example, could you team up with another accounting firm to offer a bundled service? Or, maybe there's an opportunity to cross-promote with another business that is complementary to yours.
Also, invest in search engine optimization and digital marketing strategy so that your website comes up when potential clients are searching for accounting services or a CPA firm online. Don't forget about social media marketing too. By having a strong online marketing presence, you will be able to attract more clients and grow your business.
There are endless possibilities and marketing strategies when it comes to promoting your brand. The important thing is to get started and keep at it. The more you promote your brand, the more exposure it will get. And that's what you're ultimately after.
Building a brand for your accounting firm is essential in today's competitive landscape. By following the seven strategies we've outlined, you can create an effective branding strategy that will help differentiate your firm from the competition and attract clients. Remember, building a brand takes time and effort, but it's well worth the investment for business development. Just be sure to develop a marketing plan that outlines your goals and budget, and be sure to measure your results along the way.