The accountant’s guide to branding

9th Apr 2018
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PWC main office for Canada

Branding is an effective way to attract new clients and cut the cost of marketing – but what do you do if you haven’t got the name recognition or budget of PwC?

In theory, all of your marketing and sales problems could be overcome by superlative branding. However, even Coca-Cola, Sky and Manchester City (or their peers) have had to work hard to build the kind of brands that everybody in the world has heard of. In return, they hardly need to sell their products since a quick reminder of the name will elicit an immediate reaction, though sometimes it might be negative.

In our own industry, it would be great to have the name recognition enjoyed by a PwC but once again they have taken generations to build it up and probably spend tens of millions of pounds every year in consolidating their reputation as market leaders.

Having said all of that, on a smaller scale it may be possible for you to create a brand for your own practice that helps to underpin marketing and sales efforts, without spending a vast amount in doing so.

It might help to start by considering what you believe might be unique selling points. Realistically, you are probably not going to include providing a better or more comprehensive audit or tax service than (say) KPMG.

What you may be able to offer is something that might be even more important to your prospective clients. For example, if you are based in a market town and they want somebody local then there’s probably not going to be that much competition.

If you can get your name out there, possibly through the Rotary club, adverts at the local station and, my favourite, word of mouth, then very quickly, locals might believe that the accountancy practice that they want to use is yours. In this case, you might want to include the name of the town in your brand. Having selected the name, you can also build a website to consolidate and publicise it, along with project involving social media platforms.

The same can apply to those providing the services. This writer had the good fortune to be involved in selection panels for some of the Accounting Excellence awards last year. The biggest impression was made by some tiny practices who concentrated on a specific area of industry or service.

If you happen to have attracted a couple of orchestral composers as clients, then you should be able to present yourself as an expert in the field without too much difficulty. Having done this, you may well find that you can literally sit back and wait while other composers come knocking on the door and demand your services. This might be a limited field but cornering it will give you great pride and continuous business. This can then feed back into your brand. In this hypothetical situation, if the firm were to be christened “Symphonic Accountants” that might do the trick nicely.

As often as not though, a brand can come down to the reputation of a single individual: you. If you can build up a strong following over a number of years, thanks to the excellence of service then you will become the go-to for your own clients when they need additional work but, just as significantly, they are likely to recommend friends who will recommend friends ad infinitum.

Remember, if you can build up a brand that becomes known in your desired marketplace, this will bring in work and cut the cost of marketing and selling activity with very little ongoing effort.

For more on branding see:

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Ben Stanbury, Prosper
By Ben Stanbury
30th Jan 2019 10:49

Good article Phillip and I couldn't agree more with your comments about specialising in a certain area or for a certain type of client (i.e. positioning your practice vertically rather than horizontally). This type of positioning has - regardless of industry - many benefits and allows your expertise to deepen, as well as limiting your competition in your geographic area.

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