Eric Killian was serving clients as an accountant – but he had no real brand, logo, marketing or website!
He came to us having watched countless PF videos. He was keen to learn about marketing, and video was his favourite way of learning. “I think I may have watched every video PF ever put out – webinar recordings, videos from Karen and Col, everything I could find. Video is my preference for consuming content, because I can do it anytime and anywhere. I would watch videos while having breakfast, in between meetings, constantly.”
When he came to us, Eric was planning on using the name ‘Breathe First’. Eric had been working with yoga studios and a few other fitness businesses, and had an amazing opportunity with a large potential client in the industry.
Thinking about a name for his new firm, Eric thought, “I wanted to think about what actually mattered. It’s more than just accounting and numbers: it’s about life. And you need to breathe first before you step on the yoga mat, or do anything in life”.
Eric had built a presence over the last 10 years, with three qualified accountants (CPA’s) working for him – but up til now he didn’t have the need for a brand or website.
Now Eric had this massive opportunity on his doorstep (and other opportunities too). He saw that with no brand, website or online marketing, it would be difficult to position himself as the go-to accountant specialising in fitness studios.
He realised his current name, Eric Killian, CPA, focused solely on himself. It didn’t highlight the amazing team he’d begun to build, the bigger picture he was looking for, the impression he needed to give new prospects.
Eric loved his work, but wanted to also spend time with family and other things outside of being the firm’s owner. He needed to build a brand that could stand on its own without depending on him.
So Eric was ready to explore branding. The first step was an exploration of branding through the online branding workshop from PF.
Together with Karen and Col, our Head Brand Designer, we brainstormed the possibilities and the limitations of the name Eric was considering – “Breathe First”.
Would it show his expertise with a variety of fitness studios, or be too limiting to only the yoga studio market? Eric was open to other ideas but wanted to make sure his brand wouldn’t be confused with an actual yoga studio or gym – it needed to be clear that he was an accountant for the fitness studio industry.
Throughout the first workshop session, there were several name ideas thrown about, but none of them were really hitting the mark. It was then that Eric said, “I want to be the expert. The authority. How do I show that with my name? I don’t simply want to be a CPA who works with fitness studios – but THE one? The only one they would choose?”
We talked about authority, and even looked at The Profitable Firm, and our own branding journey of reviewing our company name. We discussed the fact that “THE” is an authoritative word, one that says there are many out there but this is the one for these things. Eric said, “What about THE Fitness CPA?” and suddenly everything clicked into place. The name made it clear who he was and what he did, and it made his niche focus absolutely clear.
During this process, we did encourage Eric to consider just how exclusive he would be. By branding himself as The Fitness CPA, Eric was saying no to other opportunities. He was nailing his flag to the mast. As a bold, enthusiastic business owner, Eric was up for this. “I want to be clear,” he said. “I don’t want to serve everyone.”
Armed with a bold new name, we moved onto the visuals, and building the brand itself.
The fun sketching process began! Col went to work sketching out various concepts. Eric wanted something that symbolised movement, whilst keeping the fitness niche top of mind.
There is a lot of sketching and background work done, but it’s ONE concept we present. Col presented the initial idea, and we all loved it. It resembled the shape of a barbell – but wasn’t too obvious. We shared with Eric that you want your brand to be slightly mysterious. Tell a story.
We all loved the new shape, and it had great potential – but together we decided the ‘badge’ concept wasn’t what Eric felt would get across the strength and power he wanted to show in his new firm.
We revisited earlier sketches and confirmed another concept we had reviewed in the beginning. This one centered around the “F” in ‘The Fitness CPA’, and still had the movement Eric liked:
Eric connected with the new concept and was beginning to see the potential. We initially incorporated the ‘barbell’ icon we can considered, but agreed it was too “busy”. A brand needs to be simple. Clean.
We made a few tweaks and settled on a “F” concept that stood well on its own, and Eric loved it.
Next up was custom building Eric’s new website for The Fitness CPA. A website had been on his to-do list for years, but kept getting pushed back further.
The brand was the first step – the foundation that identified who the firm is, what they stand for, who they serve, and what their core messages are.
When it came to building the site, Eric wanted one that made fitness studio owners feel ‘at home’ when visiting his site. That helped them think, “This firm gets it – they understand me!” His tone was direct and to the point in messaging.
We talked about how the imagery, wording and tone would reflect everything we had covered in the brand discussions. When discussing imagery, we wanted to ensure the site quickly and easily conveyed this was a firm of accountants working with fitness studios – not an actual fitness studio themselves! “I want someone to think, wow, that didn’t look like an accountancy firm site,” said Eric, “but I didn’t want them to be confused about whether it was actually a fitness studio! I saw other websites which were different, but confusing – and that was definitely not my goal.”
So we went to work, creating the layout and messaging for the home page first. A home page is like a “mini website”, so we wanted to make sure the home page addressed the specific issues facing studio owners, and also demonstrated Eric’s passion and energy for the fitness industry.
We had in-depth conversations about different aspects of the site, including:
“The best time to start on your brand and website is a year ago, the next best time is today.” Eric Killian
Once the custom website was fully built, approved, and launched, it was time to reveal it to the world!
Eric wrote three blogs specifically for the fitness studio industry as part of his website launch, and is already writing more consistently himself so the firm has a repository of content for his target audience to read. He’s involving his team, and investing in content marketing training so all the accountants at The Fitness CPA are creating original content that meets the problems and needs of their prospective clients.
With all this in place, Eric is now able to confidently position himself as ‘The Fitness CPA’ when going after new opportunities.
“I work virtually with my clients, but I don’t know that I’ve had one as involved as with the team at PF. At first I was concerned about making the investment because they’re located in the UK and I’m in the U.S., but working with PF made me feel like you can connect with people virtually and have a meaningful professional relationship – just like I did with them. I feel like I can toss anything to them and what I get back is going to be right on brand. ”
One of the things we loved about Eric (in addition to his enthusiasm and desire to learn and be personally involved in his marketing) was his willingness to understand new things that were different from his expectations. We agreed at the start the project was urgent, and set deadlines accordingly. But even with this urgency level, we encouraged him to understand that all creative projects have to have time for reflection and rest between each branding and website meeting.
“At first I didn’t like it,” said Eric. “I wanted to move fast, hurry, get things done right away. But because I respect PF and I know they have reasons for their process, I respected it and agreed to it.”
As time went on, Eric was able to see the value of the “creative pauses” we put into the project, having time to confirm the way forward and be sure he was going the right direction.
At the end of the project, Eric said, “Each time I waited PF came back with something amazing! New words that said exactly what was in my head, designs that were on brand and unique to my niche, and solutions to any questions or concerns I had during an earlier meeting. Surely that kind of creativity is something that is sowed and an investment that is reaped with patience for the process. So each time we met my impatience was turned into a sense of excitement of seeing my brand and website develop over time.”
After site launch, Eric saw the “Style sheets” we created for other accountancy firm and talked to us about whether he needed these. The idea was that he would create a mini-brand-book that explains The Fitness CPA way of speaking, writing, and communicating so it’s always on-brand.
“I originally did not feel I needed to do this project because my clients wouldn’t see it and since I ‘knew’ my brand why bother investing the money and effort? What became clear was that these docs are super valuable for my team’s recognition and contribution to our ongoing brand and it also solidified my brand and made me more confident around it. Sure I have the webpage, and sure now I have these docs formatted and ready to go to third parties and for internal use – but now the brand is on paper instead of in my minds eye. Now there is no question we have a solid brand around which to continue building and to stay consistent in our messaging. I think especially the tone of voice exercise and resulting document was more valuable than expected. And if you don’t have mission, vision, values (no, not the fake ones you stole from another accounting firm that include “modern” and “forward thinking” *bleh* ) then you need to get on that asap.
“I really appreciate the discourse and the final product. As usual, with some good collaborative efforts we have a final product that I think really hits the mark. The first draft was good, but this captures the essence of our firm tone of voice with splendid accuracy. I’m meeting with the team this week and am going to share with them.”
We’re excited to be working with Eric monthly in delivering ongoing content and design, along with monthly Co-Pilot and Tracking calls so he can measure results! Here’s to more great marketing for many years to come!