Two serious mistakes that your accounting firm can not make.

by Roberto Dias Duarte

“The art of marketing is the art of building a brand. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. In this case, the price is everything and the low-cost supplier is the only seller”. Philip Kotler

Philip Kotler has an extraordinary reputation. He was considered by Management Centre Europe as “the major specialist in the practice of marketing”. In 2008, the Wall Street Journal listed him as the sixth most influential person in the business world.

It is not possible to talk about marketing, the science of the market, without talking about Kotler. He is the personification of the definition of “branding”. Anyway, his personal brand is as related to marketing as Jacuzzi is to hot tub.

Jacuzzi, Post-it, Gillette, Velcro, Tupperware, Ping-Pong and Jet Ski are brand names  but are often used to describe a product category.

Jeff Bezos defined, in a simple way, something essential to any type of company: the brand! The Amazon’s founder said that “your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”.

The first thing you need to understand is that your brand is your promise to your client. It says what they can expect from your products and services and how what you have to offer differentiates from what your competitors have to offer. The promise should be the differential element that comes from inside your firm, and how you want to improve the lives of your customers. This should be experienced passionately by all of your employees.

A brand positioned in a strategic and conscient way adds great value to the company. In the end, this is shown when it comes to the prices, allowing you to charge a different value and your customers to pay without opposition, because they are confident about the benefits that your firm could bring to their enterprise.
A company’s brand, including its promise, name, logo, slogan and other visual identity elements make up the scope of brand management or branding.

The first steps

In order for you to start the branding process of your company, the least you can is answering the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of your company? Why do you wake every morning and go to work?
  2. What are the benefits and resources of your products and services?
  3. What do your clients already think about your company?
  4. What are the qualities you wish your clients would associate with your company?

Do your own research. Learn your skills, habits, desires and potential. Don’t trust what you think. Know what they think when you are not in the room.

In a world where 64% of the clients look forward to building relationships with brands based on shared values, companies need to identify branding strategies that can be projected in order to make people stop and just pay attention. In simple words, if you want to succeed, you need to learn how to create a brand that can become your clients’ best friend.

Branding Srategy

Essentially, a branding strategy helps to identify the kind of image you want to create for your clients, which means thinking about the feelings and expectancies you want your audience to associate with your company.

Do you want to be authoritarian? Sophisticated? Funny? Professional?

A brand is the fulfillment of all the feelings and intangible thoughts that are accumulated in the client’s mind when they think about your business. Branding strategies are a way of changing those perceptions until they become adequate to the company’s goals and are able to differentiate your services from your competitors.
Making money will always be important for any business, but the clients feel stronger connections with brands that want to generate more profits.

Impact of the customer’s experience on the branding strategy

It is almost impossible to separate the value of the brand from the importance of projecting experiences for the clients, employees and partners. Increasingly, we aim to plan and project the client’s experience. Experiences are unforgettable and hard to relive. An experience, unlike a material gift, stays in our memory and it is passed on with the same passion from person to person. The strategic planning of the experiences’ creation for the clients is called experience’s design and it can be described as a discipline applied to a design carried out by the interactions between your company and the people, brands, emotions and tasks.

This leads to the necessity of adopting a more multifunctional vision to project experiences and require a vision of the whole ecosystem in which the company will materialize itself.

When we talk about ecosystems, we are talking about all the elements that come together to create an experience, like applications, services, physical spaces, people, processes, etc.

The two capital sins

Presently, there are many people in the accounting field producing content. This can be seen in social media, videos and blogs. The big mistake that most people make is disclosing content without keeping in mind the branding side. Basically, this leads to the commodification of the content, of the brand, and consequently, of the services.

Many people publish content that corresponds to desires, joy, problems and author’s preferences. This is the first sign that the content was created without the concern for branding. It is imperative to exercise empathy with your target audience. To do that, the first step is understanding which niche of the market the focus of our publications will be. After that, study the persona, who is the representation of the ideal target audience.

The second sign is the lack of definition of the accounting firm purpose, which leads to the production of technically accurate content, but also pasteurized content. The technical and informative content is important, of course, but the purpose is the tempering. What is the message you want to pass on to your clients? What are the emotions they are going to feel while watching your video or reading your article? You can produce an article on Income Tax to coldly explain the important points, or you can moderate it with the purpose of helping the entrepreneur, clearly positioning him that way.

Before spending a lot of money, and time, with content, clearly define the cause you are defending. Obviously, this cause should have convergence with the yearnings of your target audience. For example, most of the time, creating lectures, courses, articles, videos about accessory obligations, generates a conflicting relationship with the main audience of an accounting’s firm: the entrepreneur. When you add the message of your purpose to the content, that conflict can be cancelled, and your audience can really feel that you truly care about them and that you’re not just a tax informant.

Capital sin #2

Another capital sin is linking your company to partners that produce cognitive dissonance with your brand and the experience of your clients. This occurs when there is an inconsistency between the attitudes and behaviors that your company conveys, and that you believe to be right with what is actually practiced.
When you stand with the purpose of helping the entrepreneur with their prosperity, reducing bureaucracy, the dedication to the clients is a complex and laborious experience, you have created a cognitive dissonance with your brand.

Branding and customer experience are inseparable terms. A high value brand is concerned with every detail of communication, in every point of contact with the client. Each e-mail, phone call, meeting, and especially the technological solutions provided for customer support speak about who you are!

A very common example is positioning yourself as an accounting’s firm that offers high value premium services but looks for cheap software partners. If you offer a cheap system, your client will believe that your services are also cheap. Moreover, what is the message your brand conveys if you use a tangle of generic tech extensions to integrate your customers into your firm?

Anyway, both capital sins in the branding process help your company drown even deeper in the price war and in the services’ commoditization.

A simple, easy and fast solution? It doesn’t exist! The accounting services market quickly walks towards professionalization and consolidation. So, take on the role of entrepreneur. And always ask yourself: what will my client say about me when I’m not around?