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Is a brand something to start right away, or do I wait until I’ve been in business a few years?

You’ve heard about the power of branding and as an accountant you want things done right from the start.

You want the right logo, colours, style, and an amazing website. You want to impress people and you know brand is part of that.

But in the first few months of business, with a whole lot of start up costs, spending several thousand pounds on developing a full brand identity feels like a lot. More of a long term investment. With the small number of clients you have it may feel like a waste or just not the best place to put your funds.

Actually, it’s possible this is EXACTLY where you need to invest.

We’ve worked with startup firms who have invested big in choosing the best name, brand colours, imagery, domain, social media accounts….and it was the best decision they ever made.

We’ve also worked with firms who already have a logo that is clear and modern and isn’t going to hold them back, and we agreed that’s not the best place for their investment yet.

But it’s not about whether you need a logo or a brand yet: it’s about asking the question:

Do you know who you are yet?

Brand is more than the creative or your logo

 

Branding really is one of the most important things for an accountant to understand. We go into this in detail about why in this blog. You know your brand has something to do with your logo or name or colours. You know you want it to look good and want it to be something you share with pride.

The reason you want to feel proud is because your brand is the whole experience. It is your firm’s identity, it’s personality. It’s your reason to be.

The business is what you do, the services you provide. The brand is the personality behind the business and how you deliver that service. It’s what sets you apart from all the other accountants out there.

 

Developing a brand is a big investment, and it needs to be.

 

Because your brand is the deeper purpose and identity of your firm, it will cost so much more in the long run if you don’t get it right.

Yes, you need a logo and a way for people to identify your business. But brand identity doesn’t just help you differentiate your firm from another. It will show the personality behind the brand and position you to attract the right, most ideal clients.

That’s why it’s so important that you do the research and strategy before going to a designer.

You don’t want to end up spending a fortune on something that looks impressive but really doesn’t get you the people you want to work with or reflect who you are as a company.

Brands and businesses are supposed to change but you don’t want to end up having to go through the process all over again in a year or two because your business has evolved and changed so much.

 

If you are a new business, you may not be ready to invest in a full brand identity: not because of the money, but because you don’t know who you are yet

 

If you have zero to very few clients at the moment you just need something to get you started so that prospects and clients can differentiate between you and another accountant.

A great brand reflects who you are.

It takes time to figure out who you are as a business and if you don’t know yet, you will struggle with the brand process. And that’s ok. You just need more time or help to bring that to the surface.

If you need it, take the time to:

  • define why you exist
  • what your mission is
  • work with clients and different industries to understand who your ideal client is
  • decide who you really want to work with (and don’t want to work with)
  • discover what kind of work you love (and hate)
  • decide on your core service offering

While understanding who you are is important – don’t let this stop you from pushing forward with the dream you have for your accounting firm. It is possible to create an aspirational brand. By making a promise to your clients it can help you live into your brand.

The important thing is to just get started. Done is better than perfect.

It may be that you start with a logo, colour palette and fonts that you can use consistently. Taking on clients (or a few more clients) and serving clients will help you figure out the deeper stuff over time.

When you’re ready, you can always refresh your brand’s identity. We recently helped a lovely client Karen Kennedy decide whether she needed to refresh her existing brand or create a whole new brand identity. She started her firm in October 2020 and learned a lot about her business in just a few short months.

Karen joined Accelerator at the end of last year and wanted to have a chat with the team about her existing ‘brand’. After a call she realised she needed to go deeper and booked a foundations workshop.

During the workshop she uncovered a lot about the business and was able to think about the long term game plan. Values were new to her, and she was just digging into them. Clients were new. Her processes are being refined. Her style and tone of voice is still being developed.

Although she would have loved to do a full branding identity, we all agreed she had some more work to do.

After some deep work and strategy in her foundations workshop we were able to take her existing logo concept to the next level with a logo refresh, creating a brand new look and feel to attract Kennedy Accountancy’s ideal client. It’s a bonus that Karen LOVES her new logo and is excited to share it with the world. Here’s the result:

The branding process will push you to dig deep.

It’s important that you are clear or get clear on the things that are important to you and the way you want to operate your business. Who you want to work with and why.

It’s possible you may need to work for a while on your own to figure these things out. It’s also possible you’ve thought about it too much and just need some clarity. In this case you may need help from an agency like PF to help you dig deep for the answers and come to a decision.

 

Protect your time and money by only investing in a full brand project when you’re ready.

 

The PF team has helped protect many new and start up firms, like Kennedy Accountancy, by starting with strategy.

We don’t design logos, create a brand identity, write copy or start designing websites until we’ve done the important groundwork. In our 1:1 foundations workshops we ask big, sometimes challenging questions. Together, we dig into your values, what you believe and why. Your process, your way, your business model.

Questions to ask to help you identify whether you’re ready for a full brand identity:

  • Do you know your values, and have them documented? Or would a process to dig into those values help you discover those fairly quickly?
  • Do you have a business model that works? Are you comfortable with your process (though it may need a few tweaks)?
  • Are you clear about your style, tone of voice, and the way you and your team “sound” in writing and messaging?
    Do you have a team (is it more than you)?
  • Has your firm been going for more than a few years?
  • Do you find prospects are coming to your website or marketing and then being significantly more impressed when they meet you, visit your offices, or meet your team? (This indicates your branding is giving the wrong impression, and is likely losing you business from those who never bother to get in touch at all.)
  • Do you find yourself saying “If only I could get them to a meeting I can win the client”? Again, this indicates your marketing and selling is down to you personally, and your brand isn’t getting that across for you (which is its job)
  • Do you find creating a new website difficult, because although it looks nice, it’s not truly reflecting who you are and how you do things?

If you’re answering yes to a lot of these, you need a full branding identity, and possibly some naming sessions to confirm your firm’s name, or consider a new one.

If you are unclear on all of those things, you may just need a logo refresh. Either way, start with a foundations workshop to dig deep into these and get the answers. We will never sell you a project you don’t need.

Our philosophy is to ask, “If we were in your shoes, knowing what we know about branding, what would we do?” and then suggest that to you.

 

If you decide to do the deep work yourself to figure out who you are, consider the following:

 

While it’s important that you love your brand and are proud of it, your brand is not for you, it’s for your clients. Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.

By not doing sufficient strategy / research work there is a chance you are working off assumptions and generalisations rather than fact.

Before you invest a lot of money in your brand – You need to understand your business.

1. Do you know who you really want to work with?

You might be saying to yourself “I want to work with small businesses” but what kind of small businesses? Is there a particular niche or type of small business that you could provide a lot of value to.

The idea of niching can be scary but it doesn’t necessarily mean picking one industry to work with. It might be businesses with a particular mindset or aspiration. You might change your mind later. And that’s ok.

Your business will change so you have to be prepared for that. After a year or two of being in business you’ll very likely need to adapt the brand as you learn more about who your ideal client is, and what they need.

You want to have the BEST clients, not just any client.

You want to feel valued and enjoy who you work with. The emotional and mental energy spent working with the wrong people can really impact the way you feel about your business. AND impact profits while you spent time going above and beyond for a particular client and not charging rates to match that premium service.

2. What are the real problems your ideal clients face? How do you show you understand them? How do you solve their problem?

When you establish who it is you want to work with it’s important that you take the time and do the research to really understand them. Ask yourself:

  • What issues and problems are they dealing with on a daily basis?
  • What’s stopping them from getting where they need to be?
  • What’s keeping them up at night?
  • What do they wish they were able to do with their business?

Then get really specific about how you solve these problems:

  • What sets you apart?
  • What makes you an expert at solving their particular problem?
  • How do you want your client to feel working with you?
  • What’s the ideal transformation after they’ve been working with you for a while?

3. Why does your business exist?

It’s tempting to look at other accounting firms and compare or mimic others. But you started your firm for a reason so it’s important that you establish and define your mission, vision, values and how you want to communicate or be seen.

What sets you apart from all other accounting firms? Why would your ideal client pick you?

4. What type of client experience do you want to create?

At the beginning of their journey we often see accountants starting out operating with systems, just to get the job done. As they grow and scale they HAVE to adapt to more efficient systems, which adds to the client experience

Knowing what services you will offer and how you deliver those services will not ensure that you are priced correctly but also make sure that your brand is positioned in the right way to attract the right type of client.

 

Whether you’re ready for a full brand project or not, there’s always something you can do to get started on your brand.

 

Done really is better than perfect. So don’t let the analysis paralysis get in the way. Your brand is supposed to develop and change over time. Yes there’s likely work to be done to figure out who you are / who you want to be but you’re not alone. PF is here to help!

A foundations workshop will help give you the clarity you need to make the best decision on your brand. Not just for where you are now but for where you want to go. Fill in our marketing diagnostic to chat to the team.