Why Employees Matter in Branding Accounting Services
The most important assets of any business are intangible: it's company name, brands, symbols, slogans, and their underlying associations like perceived quality, awareness, customer base and proprietary assets (e.g., patents, trademarks, etc.). In the professional service industry, the intangible assets are even more critical to the value of the firm. Strong brands generate word-of-mouth advertising, referrals and improve the value of your firm.
Companies that understand this put significant energy into every detail of their brand and charge enormous premiums for the brands they create. Over time, this premium is transferable to the next owner.
In the consumer world, brands like Mont Blanc, Tiffany's, MIKIMOTO, DeBeers, Rolex, Volvo, Nike, and Starbuck's have been carefully etched into your mind. These companies have persuaded you that their brand offering is not a commodity and justifies a higher investment.
In the service industry, branding is also very prevalent. Examples that come to mind are McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Nordstrom, Fedex, IBM, Marriott, Hertz, ADP, and NYSE.
In the professional service industry, your brand is all about people, relationships and creating a consistent message. That's why most premier professional service companies place a premium attracting superior employees and retaining superior producers. That's why companies like McKinsey and Goldman Sachs place so much emphasis on recruiting and employee retention.
Your employees are probably the most underutilized brand assets your firm has. Clearly, your employees understand your brand (or lack thereof) and can become messengers of your brand premise and message. Your goal is to define your brand premise, secure employee buy-in to the premise, and convert them into brand evangelists instead of ordinary employees. Here's why they need to buy-in and carry your message:
- Employees that understand and agree with your brand premise will execute a more consistent message.
- Employees will build your brand inside and outside the work environment. They talk to friends and associates about the brand with more passion and confidence.
Essentially, brand evangelists become human billboards communicating your corporate message to those around them. They will become more committed to your firm and stay longer if you provide them with a purpose. And, brand evangelists support the brand with more passion and pride, not for extra pay.
To engage your employees in this process and start promoting your brand, here are a few ideas to start the process:
- Survey your employees - Conduct a blind survey on the best and worst things about your firm. Insights into inefficient processes, client satisfaction issues and teamwork issues are key.
- Survey your clients - Conduct a blind survey to gauge your client's perceptions of your firm. Don't assume this. Most clients will appreciate your willingness to ask their input on opportunities to improve.
- Discuss the results with your employees and key action steps.
- Ensure the management team understands the "brand" and will carry the "brand flag" 24/7.
- Reward brand evangelists - Recognize those in the company that makes significant contributions to the success of your new brand. This reinforces the message across the company and rewards believers.
Branding is an art that can improve the effectiveness of selling your firm services and ultimately, the value of your firm. A little upfront planning and skillful management can deliver long-lasting results.
By Hugh Duffy
Hugh Duffy is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder of Build Your Firm, a practice development and marketing provider for accounting firms. They work with small and medium sized accounting firms and offer a free email newsletter. Call 888-999-9800.