Brand – why you must embrace not ignore it
A firm’s brand is its whole identity and a reputable brand is regarded as a tremendous asset. In a digital world where people buy on reputation, it has become more important then ever, says Sally-Anne Rogers, specialist in reputation management and communication
It was not so long ago we had no option other than to seek the professional opinions of a lawyer, accountant or financial consultant if we needed specialist advice. How times have changed.
Today, thanks to the media and the abundance of helpful resources on the Internet, people are much savvier when it comes to choosing how to spend their money. Extensive online research before purchasing goods and services has become the norm and as a result, the new generation of consumers now feels able to make informed decisions without the need to pay for professional assistance unless absolutely essential.
Innovative start-ups have not been slow to take full advantage of this, utilising the latest advances in technology to introduce online sites, which many people now believe negates the need to seek professional assistance from experts.
You only have to cite insurance broking as an example of a once valued personal service that has almost been wiped out by online comparison sites. Former loyal clients abandoned their local brokers choosing to save money by buying directly from cheaper, primarily online automated options.
High street estate agents have also been feeling the pain from online rivals. These onlines reinvented the way we view properties, by removing the need to physically enter an estate agent to discover what properties were on the market. They offer a basic service costing as little as £500, no matter what the asking price of your property.
New consumers are delighted to have an alternative to the expensive, high street offering, where they struggle to see value for their money. Increasingly these vendors are shifting the market, and the popularity of the online cost cutter is again threatening a once captive audience.
Likewise, legal and finance professionals, once comfortably business confident, are rapidly realising that they cannot ignore incoming auto market trends.
The threat of the so-called ‘robo-advisor’ and other automated services is ever present. Currently these are typically accessed by low revenue, younger investors who are more comfortable doing things online. However, once established as custom and practice it will be hard to persuade them that a personal service would be more beneficial in the future.
Many financial services firms already understand this and the need to validate exactly why people should value their services. They also appreciate they have to market themselves more rigorously in the competitive arena. However, the issue is they are unsure exactly how to go about it in a world of client referral. This is where branding enters the arena.
Why is branding so important?
Traditionally, sectors constrained by stringent compliance measures have preferred to keep any branding and online content simple. Many were of the opinion that it was unnecessary to spend money on something that they believed was relevant to the retail industry rather than professional services where business is primarily gained through referral. However, the introduction of fees and the prevalence of online offerings are rapidly changing this.
To illustrate this, the following are a couple of examples of how other professional bodies have stamped their own mark using online communication channels.
Manchester’s JMW [jmw.co.uk] was one of the first boutique law firms to set itself apart from the usual staid approach used by the legal sector, introducing themselves as a friendly, approachable team offering expert advice.
Similarly, Liverpool accountants, Alexander Myerson [amyerson.com], have through staff profiles, news articles, social media and a very helpful app, cleverly stripped away the stuffy demeanor of the traditional accountant by injecting a people approach into their business, gearing themselves up to attract the next generation.
Building your brand
It’s a common misconception that branding is simply a logo and a few chosen colours. Today, in a world of mass digital communication, online retail and invisible services now are far more visible, the term brand has come to mean so much more. Your brand is your firm’s whole identity and a reputable brand is regarded as a tremendous asset.
To make a difference, your brand should encompass many facets: your people; your culture; and your tone – the way you articulate to your audience through the written word and imagery. This is even more relevant in a world in which advisers and other professionals are caring for their clients’ financial futures. We must never forget that amid the facts and figures, humans are at the heart of the business. It’s personal – after health, money and family are usually the most important things in clients’ lives. This means your people, more than anything else, represent your brand.
Get it right and your brand will give you instant recognition. It will portray your ethos, your vision, evoke trust and respect and be highly representative of your reputation in the marketplace. Not only will you stand out from your competitors and give reassurance to your clients, you will attract quality staff and continue to thrive in an uncertain global future.
From the ABR archive