Developing a clear and future-proofed brand strategy – and getting buy-in and commitment at leadership and partnership level – is the critical first step in taking control of a professional service firm’s brand.
Brand means business
Brand is often a misused and misunderstood concept within partnerships – often confused with names, logos and graphics – but is best understood as something closer to ‘reputation’. Your firm’s reputation doesn’t sit somewhere on your letterhead, it exists in the minds of your current and prospective clients as well as potential recruits when they’re considering their relationship with your firm.
What leaders of professional service firms all over the world are discovering is that they can invest time and energy in their brand to gain competitive advantage over their competitors and fuel growth, just as they can invest time and energy in strategy, client development, talent management, etc.
Shining a light on the path
Before deciding a brand strategy it’s crucial to first build a strong body of insight and knowledge about where your brand sits today and where you could and should position yourselves in the future. A combination of quantitative and qualitative research, conducted among partners and clients of the firm, sits at the heart of the discovery process. Additionally it’s important to canvas opinion and views from associates and staff as well as analysing the brand positions of your various competitors in different markets and areas of practice around the world.
Debate and decide
That insight is then brought together into a meaningful analysis that can be shared and debated with partners and leadership teams in order to generate a strong consensus behind the optimal core brand strategy before extending it towards implementation.
We would say this wouldn’t we, but this is where good advisors earn their crust. The nature of partnerships combined with the relative lack of deep experience in dealing with the topic among partners and leaders of a firm can be a recipe for compromise – or worse.
Make it count
The cornerstone of a powerful brand strategy is a strong idea – a concept that galvanises the strands of thinking together into a distinctive brand narrative. It should pass four tests: a BIG idea (that will motivate people and move the needle), a SIMPLE idea (that can be communicated quickly) a DIFFERENT idea (that begins to distinguish you from your competitors) and perhaps most importantly of all, a TRUE idea (that has credibility – albeit a stretch – in the minds of clients and your teams). If it doesn’t match this criteria it’s hardly worth going on until you have something that does.
Creating the blueprint
The blueprint of the firm’s brand strategy can then be built upon this core idea – extending it into the firms various practice areas, client sectors and geographical markets – without either getting lost in complexity or becoming entirely generic.
The activities and deliverables required for each engagement will vary but are likely to include:
Activities and deliverables
- Partner discovery interviews
- Client discovery interviews
- Internal focus groups (associates and staff)
- Internal electronic surveys
- Competitor/market analysis
- Brand strategy concept development
- Leadership engagement sessions