You’re considering a rebrand for your accounting firm, which means there are a range of situations you could be in right now:
- I like my firm name and logo, but I’m open to hearing whether it needs to be updated a little
- My firm name is traditional or dated and I’m wondering what the benefit (and costs) would be if I changed it
- I think my logo could be better but I’m not sure I want to spend too much money on it
- I definitely need to change my name, which means I’ll need to change my logo too, but it feels like a big expensive project
- I don’t understand what costs go into a rebrand and why it can be so expensive
When it comes to “rebranding”, the core concept is your brand itself – which is far more than your accounting firm’s name and logo. Your brand includes your tone of voice (the words you use and don’t use, the style of how your firm ‘speaks’), colours, fonts, imagery and design, your audience and who you serve, your team, and so many other elements.
But your firm name and your logo are often the two things which cause you to think, ‘It’s possible my brand needs to change’.
Considering a brand change means you’re considering spending money on a branding project: and this can feel like the most confusing spend of all, when it comes to marketing.
After all, when you get marketing materials or a PDF guide or a brochure designed, you actually get a file, maybe even some printed materials. When you get swag designed, you have coffee cups sitting on your desk or a T-shirt or hoodie to wear. It feels like you’ve spent money on a particular thing, you got the thing, and so you see the value of it.
A website is often much more expensive (and perhaps you’ve come to acknowledge a good, well-designed website could be very expensive indeed), but still you see it as something which prospective clients come to and download things and fill in forms and read pages and so it leads you to new business. So it’s worth spending money, perhaps a lot of money, on.
But…a new brand? Isn’t that just an icon or a word mark with a few colours? Don’t you just get a few files of your new logo and a list of the hex or RGB colour codes which you can use on the apps you set up for your firm? Why in the world does that have to be so expensive, and how can that possibly be worth it?
Or, even if I want to do it, is now the time?
These are really good questions to ask.
If you’re genuinely asking these questions, you’re beginning to suspect that there is value in a good, impressive, consistent brand…but you don’t understand quite yet how it works and whether it’s worth it to invest almost as much as you would in a new custom built website. Or maybe twice that much.
What do you already understand about what branding is?
The first thing to consider is what you already understand about a brand.
How clear are you on what it is, what’s involved in creating or updating one, and how long has it been since you’ve seriously considered your own? Have you ever properly considered it, or did you just throw it together when you started the firm?
When you understand what goes into a brand, it helps you see beyond simply “a name” and “a logo”. Ultimately, a brand is a summary of who you are, who you serve, and how you help them.
So it’s important that as you are discovering your new brand (or refreshing the one you have), you know what’s involved. This is far more than just a splash of new paint.
Your accounting rebrand involves:
An understanding of who you are:
Your values, your principles, what you stand for, why you started this firm, who you and your team are, what you’re building and why, your personal and business goals, your story, what you want your firm to achieve in this world.
An in depth review and understanding of who you serve:
Your target audience, specific enough so they can say “oh, yes, that’s me!”
Not just small business owners. Not just family owned businesses or creative agencies or “businesses making this much in revenue” or “having that many employees”. But exactly the kind of people you want to work with – right down to their personality, their values, their life goals.
Their issues, problems, concerns, successes, failures. How they feel on considering getting a new accountant. Why they might want or not want to get one. As well as their industry and revenue & profit targets and employees and all those things. The success stories of businesses or people like them you’ve served and helped and who have gotten the kind of results they want, and you want for them.
A description of how you (particularly) help them
This is not simply a list of services. Any accountant in the world could (and sadly often does) list out services they deliver. Bookkeeping, “compliance work”, tax returns, payroll, management accounts, financial reviews, cash flow forecasting, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Anyone looking for an accountant has a vague rough idea of what an accountant does, which is why they’re looking for one. But what your brand does is explain how exactly you, specifically, help them – so they can combine this with who you are and who you serve and feel like your firm is the one to help them. More than any other firm they are considering.
Your “how we help” page or content is less about a list of services and more about your business model. Your “way”. This unique process which has been crafted based on the people you’ve helped and the results you’ve gotten. Questions you’ve been asked time and time again, the issues you’ve faced over and over, the problems you’ve solved so often you’ve gotten really, really good at it.
This is your experience, your understanding, your expert advice, applicable to all businesses like theirs, and yet applied to their particular situation in a way that is truly unique. That’s part of your brand, too. Do you analyse things up front? Run strategy sessions? Get people using certain software? Train them in understanding their financial systems and how their finances work?
The more unique your audience is, the better you can apply this process to this audience so they feel like they’re not being churned through a machine. Yes, you have a ‘way’, a journey, a plan, a map. But this particular map has been crafted based on people who are like them, businesses who are in the situation they are, problems like theirs which have been solved. That’s what makes your brand yours.
There’s far more to your brand that even those three categories, but those form the basis of your brand. If you’re going to choose a name, or evaluate the message your current firm’s name is giving people, you need to go back to these things.
Who is it you’re talking to? What do you want them to know about you? What feelings will that name evoke in someone before they realise it?
Your firm name brings up feelings and emotions before they realise it
The name of your firm will bring up feelings and emotions and ideas and concepts to your target audience before they have any idea of how much is in it. Choosing a name is far, far more than saying “I thought maybe a one-word firm would be really cool, what about Elephant Accounting or Breeze?” Sure, I guess you could do that. But what do people associate an elephant with? What concepts does it bring up in their mind? How will it instruct your logo and colours and style and website? Or if you went with Breeze, is your team fairly relaxed, moving quickly, capricious, pleasant, quiet? If you’re picking types of winds, would you actually be more of a Gale Force or a Fierce Wind or a Quiet Breeze or a Storm?
The logo and all the accompanying elements are then connected to that name.
They exist to express visually and instantly (before the prospect even realises it) all of those things you’ve discussed. Your style, values, approach, people, worth.
This is where you begin to question everything, and remember it all has to come back to your audience. Because your brand is not for you. Sure, maybe you like the colour green, but is it the right colour for the kind of people or businesses you’re working with? Will it be appealing to them? What kind of messages will it give?
The same goes for fonts – the style, size, thickness all say something. And we haven’t even started on imagery or graphics or icons or wordmarks or where the logo will be used and how it will appear when blown up big or brought down to a very tiny image.
This may feel like we’re going way too far. Surely getting a logo is not this complex. Surely your prospective client doesn’t care if you’re called Elephant or Breeze or Red The Viking Accountant.
But the truth is: they do.
They care, immensely. Consciously or subconsciously, they get a sense, a feeling, from your brand before you know it. Before they even know it.
Everything combines together to give them that feeling, and despite everything we like to tell ourselves, emotion is a huge part of the decisions we make. Relationship. Connection. Trust.
It all comes down to trust. They’re trying to figure out 1) who you are and 2) whether you can be trusted.
Choosing someone to help them with their personal and business finances is big. For most entrepreneurs, their business is one of the most important things in their life.
Some of you will be working with businesses who are ready to spend a lot of money. Others will be working with smaller businesses or freelancers or those who aren’t spending much, but it could be more than they expected.
How you feel about the cost of branding depends on what you understand about the process
It’s vast. Confusing. Detailed. Full of more than they expected. And they’re not quite sure what they get for their money.
And, just as with someone looking for an accountant or accounting services, you could certainly go to Fiverr or some cheap logo design website and get someone to throw together a wordmark for you. I’ve even told accountants that if you aren’t clear yet on those things we mentioned above, and you’re not ready to invest in working with someone like PF to discover them, then maybe just throwing together a random logo is all you need right now. Because you don’t know who you are yet.
But for those of you who do have a sense of who you truly are – or are committed to discovering it so your brand reveals this subtly, swiftly, almost instantly to those who come across your firm – then a full branding project is worth more than you ever imagined.
It’s not just a logo. It’s not just a name.
It’s everything about who you are, compressed into one amazing, very small package, and then opened up again in a hundred different ways.
Patterns designed on your website which match the patterns in your logo. Edges and corners and pieces of your icon used in hundreds of different ways. Colours, consistent across every page, every social platform and post, every video, even in your own office and home and in the clothes and shoes you wear.
Your brand takes all of this, all of who you are and who your firm is, and reveals it to your prospect so they can make their decision, fast.
They may still take days or weeks or months to decide they’re ready to work with you. May watch your videos and click on links and download guides and sign up for emails and follow you on socials and send messages and consider and consider. But all the while the question they’re asking is, does it all match?
Are they for real?
Is this firm who they say they are, or did they just spend money in a nice looking logo and website?
Are their values lived out in the lives of the people I’ll talk to? If they say they are friendly, will someone have a bored voice on the phone? If they say they are positive, will they be grumpy on a bad day? Will I feel stupid for asking a question I don’t know the answer to? Will my business be taken care of and get better and better? Will I actually finally earn the money I haven’t been earning or get the wins I haven’t been getting or take the time off I haven’t been able to?
Your brand will answer those questions, for you.
While you’re working away and sending emails and replying to enquiries – or taking time off or training your team or hiring new people – your brand will be working for you, on your behalf. It will be answering your prospect’s questions before they’ve even asked them. It will be reassuring them when they’re worried. It will be inspiring them or motivating them or moving them forward a few steps faster than they would have if your brand was tired or dated or didn’t know who it was.
Your prospect wants you to know exactly who you are, so they can decide if they like and want that. They may not, by the way. Your brand may show you to be a fast moving, fast talking, enthusiastic and high-value firm they aren’t ready for. So they’ll find someone else’s brand, which is quieter and more patient and works with smaller or slower-moving businesses.
That’s okay. That’s exactly what a good brand is supposed to do. Good marketing, and good branding, divides. It draws in those who are like you, and sends away those who are not. It is appealing to those you serve and want to serve, and is unappealing to those you don’t. That’s its job. It’s supposed to be doing all that for you.
And if your current brand isn’t doing that – if it’s bringing in some of the wrong clients or people who don’t understand your value or those who aren’t your kind of people or who make your & your team’s lives miserable…. If it brings you even one or two of those, it’s not fully doing its job.
Your brand is a lifetime project: it changes as your firm changes
A brand is a lifetime project. Even when you get a really good, really solid brand that summarises all of these things well, your firm will still be changing. You won’t stay exactly the same year upon year (at least I hope not), and so neither will your brand.
You may have noticed the big brands are constantly changing and slightly editing their brands. Sometimes it’s so subtle you hardly even notice, and you wonder why they went to that effort. But it’s subtle and a continued change because that’s how businesses, change, too.
I remember when I went to look something up on Google and stopped for a second and thought “something looks different”. I looked it up and discovered Google had recently changed its logo, just slightly, and they had spent hours and days and a lot of money and time on this. And all I picked up on was a tiny feeling that something was a little different.
Some logo changes are much more significant. When Instagram went from the vintage-style camera icon to a brighter, simpler, more modern icon, there was a bit of an online riot until everyone settled down and understood what it meant and what they were saying.
Fashion designers are beginning to re-evaluate their brands and go with a more simple, modern look rather than the more detailed or complex logo they used to have. Rolls Royce has recently changed its brand to work better in digital formats, and has included an element of its visual identity that has to do with the “spirit” of the brand. How you feel when you look at it.
The question is not whether your brand needs to change.
If your brand is the summary of who you actually are as a firm, then it HAS to change.
It is already changing, in itself.
Your style and tone and audience and attitude and experience and wins and processes and team are all changing: and that’s good. That’s right. That is how business and life works.
But if all of those things are changing, and your brand stays the same, then the message you’re giving to those considering working with you is, “We have never changed. We never will change. We are exactly the same today as we were when this name was chosen, when this logo was designed (or thrown together).”
And then the further message they’re getting is, “your business won’t change or grow, either, if you work with us”.
You may or may not change your name. Walmart, Apple, Cartier, Twinings, Levi’s… they haven’t changed their name since inception (or if they have, it’s been so small and gradual that they’ve simplified what the name actually is – for example, Apple” instead of “Apple, Computer Inc”, or even “PF” instead of “The Profitable Firm Ltd”!).
It’s not about whether the name itself changes, although it’s always worthwhile considering whether the name needs to change. It’s about understanding what the name is, why it is that name, what it means to you and to those you serve, the story it tells, the images it brings up in the mind.
We’ve worked with firms who are over 100 years old and after review and discussion and strategy and considering all these things, have advised them not to change the name: but together we’ve agreed they need either a slight refresh to a dated logo, or even a full complete rebrand entirely.
Why does a rebrand have to cost so much?
So, you will consider a rebrand. You’re considering one now, while you are reading this. But now that you know everything that could go into a project like this, the question is still – why does it have to cost so much?
The cost is for the work that’s done, with you, yes. The meetings and the design work and the logo file creation and the logo guidelines documents.
But it’s also far more than that.
It’s the process and the experience to go along with it.
You may not be familiar with the experts in branding, but think of buying one of the best cars you know about. Or hiring the best contractor to create your new kitchen or even build your entire new house. You get not only their expertise and time and a high quality product, but the benefit of their years of experience and knowledge and who they know and what they’ll instruct you to do and who they’ll involve from their team.
It’s not “only” the name and logo, although I trust by now you see how much goes into that. But we haven’t even gotten to all the other branding elements such as logo files, colour codes, deciding font, choosing images, figuring out how the logo will show up on a big printed exhibition stand and also show clearly on a tiny website favicon. Our branding projects include time to review your name (whether or not you are sure yet if your name needs to change, it still needs to be reviewed and discussed and confirmed).
It includes considering whether the name of your accounting firm is right
If there’s any possibility you will change your name, the process includes research of other names, exploring what the names mean, brainstorming words and phrases and concepts which describe who you are. It includes considering Latin or Greek or some other language to reflect the best word or phrase. It may even include the creation of a brand-new word, one that isn’t even really a word, but could become yours and belong to you.
We go deep into how the name will be used. We look at other accounting firms in your area (and even those worldwide) using a similar name. Are there companies which aren’t accountants using those names? Could there be any conflict? Note, we don’t do trademark checks or IP reviews at PF – we aren’t the experts in that and it’s too important to get wrong.
For every renaming project – once we’ve chosen a name or shortlisted it to the top several names we will be choosing from – we require you to get a trademark lawyer to be sure you’re doing things right and not choosing a name you can’t use. A name which J.K. Rowling owns, for example. That happened to one of the firms we were working with in Australia, and it turned out the beautiful perfect name we all thought expressed the firm perfectly…couldn’t be used. Technically they might have been able to get away with it, since JKR isn’t an accountant, but considering her reach and worth and the lawyers she has on retainer, the advice our client got was not to go there.
So we had to start the naming all over. But they and we were thankful for the advice. Better to find out before launch, than to come out with it all in a new website and new everything….and then getting a letter from JKRs lawyers to cease and desist! And the other name they ended up going (Delante) with became so perfect we almost forgot what the original option was , which we were so disappointed not to be able to use.
After naming: website domains and social media usernames
Once the naming is confirmed and the name is chosen, we help you identify what your domains and social usernames will be.
We’ve learned from experience never to choose a name based on what website you can get – because your audience doesn’t really care if your website is theprofitablefirm.com or profitablefirm.com or wearepf.com. (And if they do care, they’re not your target market.)
Most people are linking to your site from a google search or a social search or an email link or a recommendation from someone. You want the right name, not a name you chose because it was available on a domain search.
You don’t even have to use .com or .co.uk, necessarily (some of our clients use .hq or .tech or some other domain extension). Some of our clients have managed to buy the exact domain they wanted for a relatively low price, considering how much it would be used. And your social usernames can become quite clever, too. We use @wearepf wherever we can, but if it’s already in use (by that one person who created the account in 2012 and posted twice and never used it again…sigh…) you can add underscores or other symbols or abbreviate (like @weare_pf, which is our Twitter handle).
Once the naming and domains and handles are looked at, it’s time for draft concept.
The draft brand concept: just one concept (not fourteen of them to review)
This is where the project goes far, far beyond the time we take to sketch out ideas and discuss as a team and consider what would give the best visual for your firm and for those searching for you.
Yes, our team spends hours and hours of time on this: but they also involve their vast experience in branding. Our head of branding, Col, has over 20 years experience working on brands with all kinds of businesses from small to large, all over the world. He is a veritable mine of branding and design information, books to read, concepts that will work and not work, how branding is reflected online and offline, things to be aware of and pitfalls to avoid, ideas which sound amazing but just won’t work for you and your firm. He knows what colours mean and why they mean that and which slight variation can change everything for you.
And our team have a combined experience in research and strategy and naming exercises and design work that goes far beyond the creation of the brand, and looks ahead to how that brand will be used. How could this be reflected best on your new website? What kind of design possibilities does it have? What content can be created to tell the story about your name – either your original name or the new one you’ve developed which explains who you truly are?
The team by this point have already had several in depth strategy sessions with you, and we then move to concept phase.
This is where we spend time sketching, researching, looking, considering, drawing, brainstorming, throwing around ideas. Will an icon work best? A wordmark? A letter or a few letters? A personal signature? Will it be simple, or complex? What does this image or that icon or this sketch actually mean? What does it look like to the average person? (A very quick search on google will bring up a lot of horror stories of logos or tag lines or marketing materials that were clearly approved by someone, but then the rest of the world was horrified or laughing their heads off at how inappropriate it was.)
Once the initial sketches are put together, we begin choosing. Setting aside the ones that clearly don’t work and shortlisting the ones that do. Trying it with sharp edges – no, curved edges. Maybe a circle instead. Some lines? Let’s go back to this idea. We liked this concept as it makes you think about the story we discussed. It brings up these feelings and those emotions. Hmm, that one could work, except it might have this negative impact. Nope, let’s start over.
We do that for a few weeks.
This is all done in black and white – we haven’t even gotten to colour yet.
Once the final concept is pulled together, we present it to you. No, we don’t present you three options, or five options, or twenty options. The cheaper the designer (and the less experience they have), the more options they will give you. A whole list of options means your designer isn’t quite clear in their mind what you want, or who you are, either. They are leaving it to you to decide – as if the twenty logos with different styles and colours and shapes all give the same message, you just need to pick one you like best.
Instead, we present ONE concept, backed by all our experience and understanding of your firm and your audience and style and brand. It’s not full and final – it’s still in greyscale, and we might tweak it a bit. We might even make some more changes once we pick colours. But the reason we’re picking one concept in black and white is, we want you to truly understand the core message. The purpose. The heart behind it.
This black-and-white concept stage is amazing, to me. Anytime I’ve been part of a branding project where we present this, you can feel the client getting a little bit excited – or perhaps feeling slightly nervous. How will this look? Will it fully represent everything we are? What if I don’t love it at first?
That’s okay, we encourage you. Remember what a brand truly is. Remember how it’s not just a name and a logo, but everything working together in seamless harmony. It’s the feeling someone gets when they see your logo on a website page, with the right imagery. Or a series of photographs you’ve had taken of you and your team, which perfectly support the message of the brand.
Once the concept is refined, we move to colours and fonts
We keep going. Concept gets refined. Then we get to colours. What colours will reflect your values, your style, the message we want to get across about who your accounting firm truly is?
This is where we challenge you on colours YOU like, because your brand is not for you.
It’s not for your partner or your friend who is a designer or your mate who is quite creative. It’s for your target audience. So we are choosing colours which have meaning. If you say you’ll have any colour for your brand except red, where does that come from? What is it you don’t like about red? What message does it give? And – which red? Blood red, cherry red, the red-brown of clay, fiery red, sunset red, stop-sign red? And if we’ve agreed your brand is fierce, strong, direct, confident, assertive….you may need to ask yourself why red (at least some version of red) is not going to get that across, and which colour will.
From time to time we stick with black and white, because it’s so impressive that way, but we choose a complementary colour so things can stand out on your website and elsewhere.
Finally, we come to agreement. The concept, the draft logo, the colours, the fonts. We design logo guidelines. Create some mockups. Help identify style and tone of voice and imagery choices.
And you’ve got your brand. Or your rebrand. Done. Easy. (haha)
And from that point, many firms move to a full custom website build – because a website is the visual representation of everything we’ve just discussed. It goes into more detail and showcases it more clearly, bringing together content and design and strategy together into one. (But that’s for another blog post.)
How much does a branding project actually cost?
“Okay, okay, I get the point,” you’re saying. “Fine. It costs a lot. But how much? How much am I in for?”
As with all projects – and you’ll know this as an accountant, too – it does vary depending on your firm, its complexity, how clear you are (or aren’t) on these questions, and where and how your brand will be used.
But if you’re not ready to consider starting somewhere in the £8k to £15k range for a full branding identity, with logo files and domain name and mockups and a clear logo guidelines document (and maybe even a brand book), you may need to consider whether you’re actually interested in doing a “proper” brand, or whether you just want someone to throw together a logo.
And if you’re thinking that will be okay “for now”, please, we beg you: consider the cost of that.
Consider the cost of not investigating, not discussing, not considering your audience above all.
Consider the power and impact of a full, proper brand – with everything consistent from logo to website page to printed marketing materials to swag to office signage to wall murals to presentation templates to social media imagery – compared to a logo someone threw together for you which, you find out later, is remarkably similar to that other business. Or that other firm. Or it seems fine at first but is really bland and has no personality.
Consider the message your prospects are getting. Consider the fact that 48% of people who have been referred to accountancy firms leave, without ever getting in touch, because of the firm’s website (and, we would argue, the brand).
Consider how long it takes to go through a full branding project, and how much will continue to change in your business by the time you get started (if you put it off now).
And consider the impact of all of those discussions, all of that soul-searching, on every piece of marketing you put out. Every blog post, every Tshirt or mug or mask you get designed, every social media post, every PDF guide, every video, every website page. Consider how confusing it is right now to “get something designed” and how much cleaner it will be when the message is consistent across the board.
Some small logo refresh or modernisation projects have been in the £3k – £5k range. A few very small startup firms who already had a logo that wasn’t too bad had a small project to tidy it up and create some logo guidelines or recreate the design files. And then some major brand overhauls (from start to finish), for a large firm, have been in the £15k – £25k range.
Because when it comes to marketing, your brand sits at the heart of everything. When you know the answer to the thousand questions we’ve asked in this blog alone, and you’ve worked with an agency who has pulled that all together into one beautiful, almost seemingly-too-simple concept which delivers that message….every other part of your marketing becomes so much easier.
Every firm we work with who has a clear, documented, identified brand (with story and meaning and guidelines and colour codes and fonts and imagery and tone) – helping them with any kind of marketing is so much simpler. Bad design throws together random fonts or an image some other firm used which you liked. Good design sticks with what you know, who you are, and is consistent every step of the way.
Usually, a firm who is ready for this level of branding is one who knows who they are (as a person and as a firm) and wants to set the tone for excellent marketing which is consistent and impressive across the board.
Are you ready for a rebrand?
You’re tired of amateur, tired of that sinking feeling that the amazing website you had built a few years ago is now out of date or can’t be edited or isn’t as impressive as that other one you saw.
You know who you are, and you catch yourself wondering why it takes so long for prospects to get it (or you know fine well why it takes so long, and that’s why you’re here).
You’re willing to consider changes to your brand, because you know you’ve had changes as a firm.
If that’s the case, it’s time to let them see who you truly are.
Quickly, instantly, without even realising it. And they’ll love you, or they’ll go somewhere else because they aren’t your people. And they’ll pay what you’re worth and they’ll respect your process and they will be proud to have you as their accountants.
That’s what we want for you.
To start your branding project today, begin with a foundations workshop. We’ll explore your goals and who you are and who you serve and will make a start on all of these questions. If you end up working with us on a brand or website project (or both), some of your workshop fee will be applied to that project – because we’ve already started the strategy work. And either way, you’ll get the answer to your ultimate question:
Who are we anyway, and how well does our brand reveal that to the world?