How Gillian faced her fears of branding and focused on being herself.
Gillian Caughey’s first lesson was discovering she was getting in her own way. After leaving one of the Big Four, she felt drawn to serve independent, creative businesses with uniqueness, warmth and an edge. The trouble was her website definitely didn’t reflect that. Channelling some real 90’s vibes, it needed a serious facelift and she knew it. If she was looking to serve the creative, independent business owner, her homepage certainly didn’t look like it and she knew it was turning away the clients she wanted the most. Her website and brand were costing her business on many levels.
“I was embarrassed to show PF the branding that I had currently. I knew I had to step it up but was nervous about the judgement of where the brand was at.”
After connecting with the PF team in a Facebook group, Gillian joined the PF lab community and signed up for the Accelerator coaching group in an effort to understand how her brand and website fitted in with the rest of her marketing. It was during Accelerator Gillian realised she needed to dive deeper into her values and her mission. She had to do this to address how she was going to visually represent her values to the clients she loved to work with. This led her to booking her Foundations sessions which confirmed not only did she need a new website, she needed the full kit and kaboodle – a total rebrand.
The arch nemesis: a rebrand
Rebranding is the marketing strategy business owners often fear the most. It comes with existential questions like: Will I have to start from scratch again? What if the costs outweigh the benefits? What if my new brand doesn’t feel like “me”? Is it worth investing all this time and money in it? These are all questions Gillian struggled with and are totally understandable. The thing is, if you don’t do the work on your brand, you’ll invariably return to the same issues. If your values and mission don’t match up to what your audience is seeing, then you pay for it in other ways.
Focusing on things like socials, email communications or a website, before you’ve cemented what your brand actually stands for, causes more problems than solutions. When your brand doesn’t truly reflect you, your firm, your values and your purpose, it will bring in clients you don’t want (or worse, send the ones you do want, away). It will complicate the hiring process and align you with the wrong type of applicants. It’s often responsible for firms doing the type of work they don’t like. Whatever it is, things will pop up and challenge your decisions until you invest the time getting it right. That’s why it’s immeasurably valuable to make sure your brand fits your firm.
“I knew it had to be a slow and steady approach to get it right. The brand would last longer. I didn’t want to have to go through a deep soul search every 2 years.”
Gillian learned if she was going to do the work for a new website, then she would have to do the work on the brand first. She knew she had to bring in experts who understood branding for accountants and connected with what she was trying to achieve. She needed a team to help communicate her own expertise and her values so she could help the clients who benefited most from her experience and type of firm.
“I realised on the Accelerator that I didn’t have the discipline to go it on my own.”
The real hero: a rebrand
Because Gillian had completed Foundations, we understood who Gillian was and what she wanted her brand to say. Fearless Financials was going to represent joy, creativity and confidence and she wanted to pull the cool, independent business owner her way. Throughout Foundations, Gillian explained if you were totally yourself, and you were brave about it, you would ultimately build a better business for you and your community. She reinforced this belief throughout the process and it was clear early on it was going to become the centre point of the brand.
An obvious image for lack of fear would be a predator like a lion or a tiger but we knew that wasn’t going to jive with Gillian. Her image wasn’t about dominance and assertion, it was about courageously standing out. This conversation led to the decision the name would be the logo. We would use two colours to separate the words fear and less which gave the added benefit of emphasising themes of confidence and boldness.
Your choice of colours subliminally nudges your audience in different directions. Gillian and the team agreed they didn’t want to put emphasis on the word “fear” so the colour choices would have to totally complement one another, allowing for balance. After some trial combinations, the design team felt pink and purple made the right statement. It was bold and boldness was an important part of her brand’s message. Gillian was a little nervous about the pink, she had originally envisaged orange, but after looking at the two designs beside one another, it was an easy decision. She could see the two colours really worked together. They evoked the feelings she wanted her prospective clients to feel: enthusiasm, joy, confidence. And, because we incorporated orange into her secondary palette, the brand felt vibrant and full of energy. As we said, boldness is kind of her thing.
“If guys have a problem with pink then they’re probably not the type of guys we want to work with”. *
*Side note, it’s probably a good time to say this confirms you’re our type of client too, Gillian.
The colours you want aren’t always the colours you need. Remember, despite it being your brand, it’s not for you. You’re not the target audience. It’s your potential clients who need to love the design choices you make. It’s exactly this type of clarity that comes from a consciously developed marketing journey. It’s a process to uncover your goals, your values, your ideal client. One which brings your issues to the surface and folds it all beautifully into your brand. This is why good marketing is so transformative, personally and professionally.
Gillian was overcome with anxiety when she received her brand book
You know that feeling when you’ve been given a gift and the giver sits down to watch you unwrap it? All you’re thinking is, “Please don’t let it be terrible.” Well, this describes how clients can feel in the moments before they open their new brand book (your brand book is a document that lays out a business’ brand and defines the business through its colour palette, fonts, logo, iconography and more). What’s more, they’ve paid for the gift they’re unwrapping and this can make the prospect of not liking it even scarier. Waiting to see if our visualisation synchronises with yours can be a hugely daunting moment of truth. We get it.
Gillian felt “imposter syndrome” creeping in when presented with her brand book: it seemed too much like something a proper grown up business would have. As it turns out, she asked one of her colleagues to open it as she was too nervous, which made the next part even better because she saw their reaction first. Gillian was blown away by the transformation. Unique, edgy and professional, it was a quick flip from fear to total confirmation she had made the right decision. She knew her new brand was about reflecting who she and Fearless Financials truly were, and she saw this reflected in the brand book.
Client nerves regularly act as a reminder to us of what a privilege it is to work on something that’s so important to them. Gillian’s nerves were a testament to how much she cared about her business and how dedicated she was to getting her brand to reflect her true values. Brené Brown defines trust as, “what’s important to me is safe with you”. Your business is important to you, and we want you to feel safe with us. This won’t mean you always feel perfectly comfortable all the time, there’s some digging in and big questions, but we will always work through them together.
Fearless_brand book_gif by We Are PF Team
Fearless Financials: The truth’s in the name
Not everything leads to a rebrand. There are a huge variety of options to choose from when it comes to good marketing and you’d never start a project with PF until we’ve spent the time getting to know you, your firm, your goals, values, mission or team. That’s how we – and you, together – work out what you need. In Gillian’s case, she signed up for the Accelerator coaching group and then she did the 1:1 Foundations sessions before deciding she needed to make some big changes. If you ever have a gut feeling about your business, it pays to listen and it pays to have courage.
Great marketing starts off as an exploration. You’re going to suss out some deep-rooted values, who your business is really for and ultimately what you want to say in the world. That’s some big stuff. It’s a journey into what you believe is important, as the owner, and what you represent. It’s good for business but it always ends up being good for you too. Fearless Financials needed to be creatively directed in order to do justice to Gillian and the services they offer at Fearless. By being transparent and dealing with the anxiety of being judged by a team of creatives (we would never!), she came out with something exceptional. Now she can focus on what she does best: being a totally independent, utterly cool accountant for like-minded small businesses and charities.
If you’d like to talk about what your marketing journey with PF might look like, then fill out our Discovery Diagnostic and book a call with one of our creative team!