Accounting firms need good branding as much as any other type of business, possibly even more than other industries. A combination of stiff competition and money-based services means that accountants and accounting firms must build a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy.
And the best way to build a good reputation is to take every opportunity available to build the brand.
Starting Off With Your Accounting Brand
Most companies start their professional life with at least minimal branding. Even a simple step, such as designing an accounting firm logo, is a good start.
But there’s more to branding than just that initial visual. Yes, the logo does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of branding, especially when it comes to establishing the look of a brand. But more needs to be considered in order to send accurate messaging and establish the company as a reliable source.
To start with, it’s a good idea to establish a branding strategy before the official launch of the accounting firm or CPA business. Experts always advise having a clear idea of your target audience and the services that you will provide. It’s also wise to do some initial market research so you have a good idea of the type of competition you’ll face, as well as what they have to offer the client.
But that isn’t all.
What other aspects of branding need to be included in a well-rounded and effective branding strategy for an accounting firm?
Basically, branding can be broken down into three main sections. Each section includes specific areas, all of which require attention to detail.
- Visuals. The visuals for a brand include everything from the logo to the website to business cards and beyond. Branded visuals should follow a style guide that outlines fonts, colors, graphics, and styles in order to make sure that the visuals all act cohesively and send the right message about the company.
- Advertising. Advertising and marketing make use of the previously established visuals, but they also incorporate messaging. Especially in the case of accounting firms or CPAs, messaging is of top importance. An accountant needs to ensure that each and every piece of advertising and marketing sends the message that the brand is trustworthy, reliable, and dedicated to the client. Sending specific messages about the type of accounting in which the company specializes is also valuable within marketing, as is offering incentives for new clients. Anything that draws the eye and builds the brand is a good idea.
- Communication. Communication within branding combines marketing efforts, outreach to the target audience, and customer service. Communication is an excellent branding tool, because brands are about more than just what we see; every single interaction that a client has with a firm is a branding opportunity. Anything that the company leverages to make an impression contributes to the overall brand.
All three of these aspects need attention from the very beginning. For any new firm or individual CPA, it’s recommended that branding begins even before the official launch of the business. Build up the public’s perception of the brand, and it will make success and growth easier and faster as you build your client base.
Branding is also a continuous endeavor. Sometimes it’s a matter of seizing the opportunity, and other times it’s a question of defensive branding. What are some triggers that should cause an accounting firm to build on their brand?
The main trigger that leads to brand building is usually competition. There are almost 660,000 licensed accountants in the US alone and over 138,000 accounting firms. Competition is a very real and ever-present concern for accounting businesses.
If your firm has new competition popping up, it’s a good time to reinforce your branding. Make sure your messaging is accurate and on-target, and know your audience. Don’t forget about communicating your areas of specialization, and use branded marketing to offer extra value to new and existing clients.
Extra value can include experience and expertise, excellent customer service, good reviews, incentives for opening an account, expert advice, and more — all of which can be built into the branding strategy.
On the other hand, your branding may not be triggered by a need, but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out on any branding opportunities that come up.
Here are a few opportunities that all CPAs and accounting firms should take advantage of.
- Seasonal branding. Most accounting firms center their concerted branding and marketing efforts around tax consideration, but the pre-tax season shouldn’t be overlooked. Offering year-round services that cut down on the stress of March and April are an excellent way to build your brand as a reliable business with the well-being of the client in mind.
- Website branding. A company website is the home base of the brand, so make sure that your firm’s site is easy to use, appealing, and well-branded. If you are looking for help in this area, check out the web design services offered by Catdi.com.
- Expert advice. Financial questions rank high in the list of most-searched-for terms. Leverage your experience and take advantage of that to the benefit of your brand. Many businesses start blogs to utilize SEO keywords and position themselves as experts. This adds extra value to your brand, as well.
- Social media. Never miss a chance to engage with a client or potential client; make sure that your brand is easy to locate on social media platforms, obtain official status, and reply to every comment.
Good branding covers a wide range of issues and design decisions, but the most important thing is to start early, and never stop. Take every opportunity to build your brand, and you’ll be rewarded with growth.
Janil Jean is a top management executive who loves to write about graphic design, digital marketing, branding, storytelling, startups and small business management. She has been featured in Business2Community, Business News Daily, QSR Magazine, and SmartBrief, etc. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.