One of the most important things for an accounting firm is your brand (you can read more about why in Katie’s article here). Your brand is the identity of your accounting firm: it is how you communicate who you are, how you speak, how your firm looks. Your brand is the whole experience, and it will reflect your philosophy to your ideal audience.
Because it’s so important, you need to have a place where you gather together all the guidelines and details: these will be shared and discussed often with your team and any designer who is creating designs for your brand. It gives your team and your designers the ability to be consistent through all the communication across every channel.
Before you create your firm’s brand book, there are some things you’ll need to have figured out related to your brand. I want to help you build those so you’re ready to have your beautiful book designed.
A brand book collates all the details of your brand in one place. What does it need to include?
This brand book will be the perfect guide to onboard your employees on who you are as a company and teach them how your company communicates with your ideal audience. You will also share it with any marketing agency, designer, content writer, event planner or any outsource worker that would help you create things for your firm. This would be their essential guide to build any branded piece of written or visual communication for your firm.
Every detail your brand book contains is a way to attract the attention of the wonderful clients you love to work with and it is important that all the people that work for you have every detail of your brand very clear.
Based on this, your brand book would need to include:
Your values and/or pillars: Before you can even think about creating your brand book, you have to know what you believe, what you stand for and how you do things. And these are not just words, these are the foundations of who you and your firm are. So think, what do you stand for? If you don’t have them figured out already, here’s a blog to help you choose your values/pillars.
Tone of voice: Your values tell you why you do what you do, and say what you say. Tone of voice explains how to say it. It’s how you communicate you and your firm’s personality and the values you live by. You can read more about how to figure out your tone of voice in this blog.
Logo guidelines: Once you have the foundations (your values and your ideal audience) nailed down, you’ll have shared them with a branding agency to create your logo for you. Your logo is only a small part of your brand, and so your brand book will include your logo guidelines, which summarise all the details about your logo.
Whenever you need to create a design for your firm, you will need to provide guidelines to your designer. You need to inform them of how and where your logo can and cannot be used. These guidelines will include the following:
- The different versions of your logo, full colour, greyscale and b&w, stacked and horizontal.
- Restrictions (do’s and don’ts when using your logo)
- Exclusion zones (spacing around your logo)
Color palettes and color guidelines: You have a visual way to present your brand to the world, so you need to have your brand colours listed in hex code, RGB (for digital), CMYK (for print) and Pantone format.
Most brands will have primary and complementary colours. For example with Coterie:
Their primary colour is the first shade of purple. We’ve added some complementary colours of blue and yellow from their logo. These will then be used for buttons on the website, or places where it needs to stand out.
Typography: You need to know the font used for the words in your logo. These will stay exclusive to the logo as opposed to being used as headings or body text. Then you need secondary fonts (no more than 2) to be used on the headings and body text of your communications.
Also, remember there are certain software and apps which aren’t able to use all fonts, including custom or unique ones, so consider having a general font established for your brand (i.e, Arial) which is available on all platforms.
Imagery & graphics: Here you define your firm’s style in terms of imagery. Do you use more photographs, or vector graphics, illustrations, sketches, cartoons? How about in terms of icons, what style do you use? There’s a great deal of design expertise which goes into choosing the right images or designing the right illustrations for your brand, providing examples of the type of imagery will help you and your designers immensely.
Culture deck or Manifesto: Your culture deck or manifesto includes the values you stand by and where they came from, it may also include a history of the firm and why it exists. This helps anyone get to know more about what completes your brand and your firm, and also part of the concept behind it.
Now all of these are best summarised in what we call a “brand book”. Your brand book is the place where all these aspects of your brand are compiled.
Here you can see some brand book pages done by PF for Starfish Accounting, one of our clients:
Why is it important to have a marketing agency to create your brand book?
Everything I mentioned above is more complicated than what you may think. It is important to have the right knowledge to be able to create a beautiful book that really shows the identity of your firm. But more than that, knowing the foundation of your brand is extremely important to create a powerful brand. A brand that speaks for your company to your ideal clients.
In PF we don’t just create your brand right away. This is because in order to determine all of these elements, there’s a process to go through in order to get to know all these things about you and your firm. Here we dig deep into what was on your mind when you created your accountancy firm; or what it has become and the character it has now. The Foundations Workshop will draw this and many other elements of your brand out of your brain. The second session, Branding, is where you dig deep answering questions like who do you love to work with? Does your firm have the right name, logo and message which will appeal to your ideal clients? What defines you? What defines the people you serve?
In this workshop you will also understand why your brand is not for you (it’s for your audience) and decide what (if anything) needs to change so you attract these clients, the ones who are right for you.
After the four sessions of the Foundations Workshop and if you are moving forward with a new brand, all the valuable information that resulted from the workshop will be used by our designers to make all the visual and aesthetic decisions to bring your new brand to life.
So, don’t ignore the importance of having a designer on board to build your brand book. I would definitely recommend getting help to have a fully designed brand book and you can start by documenting as much as you have already before engaging with a designer to help you. Though, it is great to start by documenting as much as you have now to help your agency help you.
When do you need your brand book?
You need your brand book as long as your company exists as it holds all the details of your firm’s brand.
You need to share it with your team, so they can follow the guidelines described in your brand book for any specific communication material, no matter if it is internal or external.
If you would like to contact an agency, you can hand them your brand and logo guidelines within your brand book, and save hours and days of time briefing them on who you are and who your brand is. There they would be able to find any specific information related about how to create, design, and print your materials, as well as details like where to use and not use your logo.
Also, don’t forget about strategic partnerships! If you are invited to be a speaker at an event, the host would need to know all the details about your brand to create the materials that would be there about your company.
Everything that is in this important book is your brand’s life, so you need it for everything that is related to your company’s identity.
Brand consistency is a lot more challenging without a brand book
The first step to have a presence as a company is to build a strong brand that represents who you are and who your company is, but more than this, a brand that communicates properly what your clients are looking for. An identity is essential to be able to speak to the people you want to serve.
Then, you will need to set the basis of everything your brand is. All in one place. This is how you would start speaking with consistency, based on the thing you and your company believe and speak to the people you enjoy working and serving.
Without this, you won’t have a chance to show what you have to offer to your clients and your identity would be lost.
Building a brand book is important because it reflects the reason your accounting business exists. This matters because when you involve a great agency to help you create your brand and brand book, you have better resources which result in a better quality of clients for you and your team to work with. For example, you would be able to take portions of your brand book and use them as “stackable content”: small elements you’ve already worked through and confirmed as important, now ready to use in the rest of your marketing. So this could look like images from your brand book in different website pages, social media posts, videos, and resources. It could look like taking phrases and content from your brand book, and sharing them in live events or videos. When you’re hiring a new team member, you have a way to show who you truly are. When you’re getting a prospective new client, they can quickly see who you know yourself to be. This means who you are as a business, and the way you do things, is consistently shown in every communication channel. And this results in less hesitation and confusion when your ideal clients come through the door, because they are clearer and have all the information they need to make their decision to not only contact you, but ultimately choose to work with you over any other firm they’re considering. This decision won’t be based on price or a nice discovery call; it will be a match of values, a match of character, and a match of your approach to doing business and life.
A brand book isn’t a nice looking document you create because other companies create them. It’s the heart and soul of your accounting firm, and it works for and with you to connect you to others who feel the way you do, and do business the way you do.
To get started with your brand book, tell us about your firm by filling in this diagnostic.