You’ve recognised you’re not quite ready to make a financial investment in your brand. You might not have the budget yet or maybe it feels too early in your business journey to make a £10k+ investment. Your current brand may not look and feel the way you imagined it. But make no mistake: you do already have a brand. Let’s explore what you can do now to get started while you are waiting to go ahead with your rebrand. This article will give you some practical guidance to get you ready and confident that a rebrand is worth the investment when the time is right, and actions you can take in the meantime to start crafting your firm’s brand.
Overcome the need for perfection and embrace where you are now
You might be feeling a little deflated at the thought of your ideal brand being a long way off. But you actually have a lot more control over the direction of your brand than you think. Almost every part of your business connects to your brand and so there’s things you can do now to prepare you for the branding process.
The most exciting thing about being where you are now is that you get to experiment. Trial and test things before you make a considerable investment and potentially a costly mistake. It’s important that you have clarity around what your goals are for the brand, who you are as a firm, who you serve and how you serve them. We explore all of this during Foundations so you can be sure when the right time to invest is.
As your business evolves and grows so will your brand and the most important thing to remember right now is that it doesn’t have to be perfect – you just need to start somewhere.
Don’t put marketing off while you wait for your brand to be “perfect”
Brand is a fundamental part of marketing. But if you wait to do that first and do nothing to move the marketing needle, you’re missing out on opportunities for your firm. New sales, growing clients, hiring team members, developing processes/systems… every part of your business will be impacted.
It is still possible to get clients with a brand which needs work/needs to be created in the first place. Your brand has so many different elements to it, including yourself as the owner so go with what you have, play to your strengths and use it as best you can. It’s harder to attract the right clients with no brand/brand that doesn’t fit, but it’s not impossible.
As you create content you’ll uncover things about your brand you might not have thought of. As you record video, write blogs and post on social media you’ll start to figure out what style and tone of voice feels right and reflects your brand in the best way. Your brand does not have to be perfect to get started marketing.
Don’t get hung up on your visual identity
Your brand does not begin and end with your logo, colours or design. Yes, you will eventually need a solid brand identity but for now you simply need something to get you started. Afterall your clients and prospects need a way to recognise you as they visit your website, social profiles and realise that it’s you sending a proposal (opposed to several others they may be receiving).
There’s a lot of strategy and careful consideration that goes into a full brand project. To go through that process and get the desired outcome you need to know your business inside out. You also need to know your ideal audience inside out and how to support them in the best way.
What you can do now to create the brand you want
Let’s focus on some actionable things you can do now that will help get you some clarity before investing fully in your brand.
Figure out what do you want the brand to be
If you’re not ready for the financial investment but want to take action the best investment you can make now is time. Use it wisely by learning all you can about your business and the accounting industry. Here’s some questions to get you started:
- What are the core values you make decisions in your firm by?
- What software do you work with?
- What services are most profitable?
- How can you increase profitability?
- Where can you see a need for improvement in the industry?
- Is there an industry or niche that you are more passionate about serving?
All these things will help you to understand what you want and don’t want your brand to be. It will also help you realise if the vision you have for your firm is realistic.
Are you capable of getting where you want to go? If the answer is yes… great. If not… what do you need to get you there? Before branding discussions it’s important to get clarity around the current and future positioning of the brand. Ask yourself:
- What makes you different from the firm down the street?
- How do you want to position our accounting services?
- Are you a highly service focused firm with fewer but larger clients and charge a premium rate?
- OR is your goal to have a high number of clients but have very streamlined service so they pay a little less?
- Do you need more education on software to deliver what your clients need from you?
- Do we need to improve systems to deliver a level of service that will be attractive to the type of clients we want to work with?
Knowing what your brand is and is not will help keep you clear in the decision making process in every aspect of your business. Once you have some clarity it’s easier to stay in your lane and not be tempted into something cool and shiny you’ve seen another firm do. When this happens, and it will happen, say to yourself: “that looks great and seems to work for them BUT is it right for our brand?”
Do some research and consider what you’ve seen other accounting firms do. You may have been part of another firm before starting up on your own. Think about what worked & what didn’t and use that to build the ideal vision for your firm.
It’s important to be aware of what others are doing but use it in a healthy way. Remain objective rather than playing the comparison game. Use it as a tool to understand what you do and don’t want for your firm.
Here’s some actions you can take to help you figure out what you want your brand to be:
Understand your position and vision
1. Write out the position the business is in now. Be really honest with yourself.
- What’s working?
- What’s not working?
- What would you like to change and why?
2. Write out/picture where you want to go
- Write bullet points on your vision. Immerse yourself into that future mindset by writing the statements as if they have already happened (This will help you to visualise and picture what is realistic and feels right for you and the future of your firm)
- Ask why 5 times – When something comes to you ask yourself why get the answer and then ask why again. This will help you get to the root of what it is you really want and need for the business to take you where you want to go.
Investigate with research
1. Make a list of 3 firms. Firms that you consider competitors or peers.
2. Ask yourself:
- What do they do well?
- What would you do differently?
Define what makes you different
1. Ask yourself: why do you exist? Why do you do what you do? (the why exercise above will also help you uncover this)
2. Define your mission as a firm
3. Make a list of the work you love (and hate)
4. Decide on your core service offering and how you will deliver that service
If you have a team involve them in these exercises from the start – this will help them feel invested and help create a culture where everyone is onboard, aligned on where you’re going and prepared and excited to help you get there.
Get clarity around your ideal audience and how to speak to them
Your clients are your business. We want you to attract and work with the very best clients and not just get more leads through marketing.
Clarity around your position and vision will help you determine what is important to you as a firm. When you’re clear on what you value it’s far easier to find clients that match these values and make working together a dream.
Use your values to help understand what tone you want to set for the brand and express those values as you go about your business.
- Get help on discovering your values and how to live them here.
- You can read more on how to figure out your firm’s tone of voice here.
- Experiment with imagery you feel represents your ideal client and your firm. Download this guide to nailing your marketing imagery.
To speak to and attract the best clients you need to understand who they are and then really get to know them. You might not be crystal clear on who your ideal audience is, especially if you’re just starting out. Your ideal audience will also change over time. That’s perfectly normal. Again just get started with what you know and what is clear to you now.
Once you know your audience and understand how best to serve them you’ll have a clearer picture on how the brand needs to be positioned to communicate and attract these clients.
This will help you find a niche and area of focus for your brand and all of your marketing.
Here’s some actions you can take to dig into your ideal audience:
Discovering your audience
1. Make a list of clients you love working with
2. Answer the following questions for each client on your love list:
- What are they struggling with, what do they need?
- What makes doing business with them EASY?
- What makes doing business with them HARD?
3. After answering these questions make a list of some patterns or commonalities between your love clients.
4. Describe your absolute best client, the kind you want more of all the time using these questions:
- What motivates this person?
- What frustrates the life out of them?
- What do they need help with?
- How do they make decisions?
- Type of business/industry:
- What social media platforms do they use?
Understand their issues
1. Use your ideal client list above and list all the things that make doing business with them easy.
2. List the things that make doing business with them are hard
3. What are they fearing?
4. What questions do they come to you with?
5. What’s the real root issue? Ie: what keeps them up at night?
Experiment and test
Flexibility is key when experimenting and testing. Understanding your audience and who you are as a firm is key to any brand. Being able to experiment and test without making any big costly brand mistakes is one of the most exciting things about where you are now. But that comes with some challenges and requires patience.
Once you have a clearer picture of your vision for your firm, your values and who you’d like to work with, use that knowledge to start crafting elements of your brand and see how clients and prospects respond.
- Pick the best colours for your brand with what you know. This article will help you understand what colours mean and make deciding a little easier
- Start to use imagery you feel would speak to your current ideal audience (this imagery guide will help)
- Take note of what you’re repeating to clients. Is there a tagline starting to emerge? More on taglines in this article.
- Pick a font family and use that consistently throughout your business and your marketing
Again, none of this needs to be perfect. Perfection is not what we’re going for here. It’s a flexible starting point, bringing in a little consistency while exploring what you want for the brand in the future.
Consistency builds trust. Clients expect things to be the same every time they interact with your business. So it’s important that you don’t change things up too often. Tweak your systems and processes slightly to see how they respond and take notes. Read more on how to live out your brand and how to engage your team in this process.
Once you have clarity on your audience and vision for the brand, it will also help you to qualify leads better. In a prospect call ask yourself: does this match my ideal client description? If you are considering an industry niche do some testing. Start to take on more clients within that industry. As you work with them, pay attention to how they are responding to the service delivery.
- Do they need extra education in certain areas of their business?
- Do they prefer a particular method of communication?
- Are they impossible to get a hold of and that makes working with them challenging?
These may feel like very general things to consider but all of these pull back to considerations for the brand you’ll eventually build with your ideal audience at the forefront.
It’s possible that as you experiment you realise that a niche you thought you wanted to work with maybe isn’t as ideal as you thought it would be. A realisation like this is great! Imagine you’d invested time, energy and money into building an entire brand around serving a specific audience only to find that they are exceptionally difficult to work with and not profitable.
Here’s some actions you can take when testing and experimenting:
Figure out what’s working and what’s not working
1. Every time something feels like it’s not working or like you need to make a change take note. Document what’s working and what’s not
2. Create a spreadsheet where you can write out things you tried and record hard client situations. Create columns for the following:
- What happened? (which wasn’t meant to / isn’t ideal)
- Why did this happen?
- The system we have (which works) is: -OR- Our system needs to be adjusted in this way:
- When can we implement the new system or make an adjustment?
Get feedback and refinine
Knowing what is required for success is a process. It’s also not going to happen overnight. Use this time to get clarity around what’s really happening and needs to happen in your business for your brand to do what you hope it will.
Encourage feedback and pay close attention to how prospects and clients respond to your sales process and when they sign on as a client. Positive or negative. Ask yourself: Are they responding in the way you thought they would?
Here’s an example of how you can experiment during the sales period:
Scenario: You meet with a great prospect. You get on well. You can provide a lot of value and they really need your help. BUT they still haven’t signed the proposal.
What you can do: Take the time to figure out why
Keep following up with them. It could be that they’re super busy and meant to sign but it could also be that they’re still missing a piece of information to make them feel 100% comfortable and confident.
- Send them an email as you think of them to prompt further questions and insight into what they need to help them make a decision.
- Address their specific concerns and write down questions or concerns that come up during communications. Tip: create a spreadsheet or doc that the whole team can access and add questions and make a note of your response (written or video).
- Create content to bridge the gap and help other great prospects come to a decision more easily. Reduce the time it takes for a prospect to sign.
How this connects to your brand: Improves the prospect’s experience as they interact with your firm.
- The prospect is attracted to your firm because of the marketing you’ve done or maybe they’ve been referred to you. But the experience and feeling they have interacting with your brand is the reason they say yes.
- When everything aligns, trust is built. Showing prospects that you really do know them, understand them and the questions they will have makes them feel seen and secure.
- First impressions are everything and they want confirmation that they were right. They may have been attracted by a message in a social post or liked what they saw on your website. The experience interacting with your firm is what tells them what they thought was accurate and they trust themselves in their decision and you.
The experimenting and refinement doesn’t stop when they sign up. Your new client needs to see and feel that what they have been promised will continue through the level of service and support they receive.
Here’s a few examples of how to refine your service delivery while helping you make some decisions on the direction of your brand:
Onboarding is a perfect opportunity to continue trust building.
Even if you have all the elements of a great onboarding process for your accounting firm, pay attention to how new clients respond during the process.
- Take note of questions that come up
- Identify things that could be missing from the process
- Look at what needs further explanation
- Record videos, write blogs, send emails to improve communication
- Show new clients exactly what you need them to do and explain how this impacts them
Service reviews and check-ins are a great opportunity to suss out how the relationship is going.
Plan and schedule this quarterly or twice a year. Use them as an opportunity to:
- Address scope creep, adjust services or raise prices
- Minimise dispute over fees
- Pinpoint what you need to help communicate your value
- Identify where more training is needed
- Look for opportunities to deliver more value profitably
- Improve systems and processes like qualifying and onboarding
You’ll likely have many things that need tweaked or completely overhauled. Get comfortable with the idea of making tweaks and changes as you go along. This is all part of getting to know your firm and audience inside out. A crucial step towards your future rebrand.
Testing and refining does not mean changing things up every other week.
Be aware of the little things going on in your business so you can start to build some consistency in the way you and your team begin to craft your brand.
Your one goal with feedback and refining is to get a deeper understanding of your ideal clients and your firm. Get all the feedback you can and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out the way you’d imagined the first, second or even third time you try something. Adopt a mindset of gathering data. Everything is a learning opportunity and getting you closer to brand clarity.
As you do this keep these two questions at the forefront of your mind:
- How do we want people to feel as they interact with the brand?
- What impression do we want to leave with clients and prospects?
Again, you’re not looking for perfection or nailing in all the answers; they are simply to help guide your decision making process as you adapt your systems and processes to serve your clients.
Rebrand when ready
With most things in business if you need to take action in an area but are not ready to make a financial investment you’ll need to put in the time investment. And it will take time to gain some clarity in the right direction for your brand.
Following the actions above is a great place to start and can help you prepare till you have the time, clarity and budget to be able to make the level of investment that will eventually be required in your accounting firm’s brand.
If you know you need a rebrand but aren’t ready for investment and need a little more guidance on what actions to take for your firm, fill in this diagnostic and select the “Yes, absolutely, would love to” book a chat at the end and a PF team member will be in touch.