Walk around any marketing conference and you can hear folks talking about brand. Typically much of the discussion centers around brand tactics: how to create a brand identity, how to build brand messages, how to test for brand penetration, and how to implement a brand, etc. The question I often get from company leaders is more along the lines of: what should a brand actually do for a professional services firm. In other words, “Why bother?”
In my estimation:
Brands increase sales effectiveness: If a potential buyer says, “I know your company– you have a reputation for doing a great job and treating clients well,” you’ll be in much better shape than if they say, “Now who are you again and why are you here?” Also, we all know that large buying decisions have multiple people influencing the purchase from the buyer side. When your prospect asks around and hears, “Yes, I’ve been following their research for years. They’re a leader in the space,” or “I’ve worked with them before–they’re as solid as they come,” it’ll be much better for you than if they hear a chorus of “Nope–never heard of them,” or worse.
Brands help generate leads: If a prospect knows and respects your company and reputation, they’ll be more likely to accept when they get an invitation to an event, an invitation to download a new white paper, or a telephone call to see if they’d like to have lunch and discuss business. If they’ve never heard of you, the messages can often go unnoticed and untouched. (Until the messages build up enough over time and they’ve seen them for a while, but then you’re starting to establish a brand–) Research supports this argument.
Brands create premium fees and pricing: It may be basic, but buyers are looking for services firms to do what they’ll say they’re going to do. If your brand and reputation a) creates a promise for what the buyer can expect from you, and b) supports the belief that you deliver on your promises, you’ll garner higher fees.
Brands help you beat competition: If a buyer knows he’s going to get top quality, high output, reduced risk, leaders and thinkers, or whatever your brand is they often value that over the lowest price. Without distinct criteria for them to evaluate what you will do versus someone else, or knowledge that what you say is, indeed, what they’ll experience from you, price often becomes a central factor.
Brands facilitate repeat business: When buyers know what to expect from interactions with you, that you keep your promises and that you deliver at and above their expectations, they’re less likely to switch or stop buying. Boil it down, and a brand is simply the degree to which a buyer prefers to purchase from you versus other options available to them.
Brands draw strong labor pools: In good economies and bad, services firms need to hire the best people they can possibly find. Brands are often a force in attracting the best job candidates and getting them to accept positions at your company versus the others.
Brands increase the value of a company: As discussed throughout, brands help create premium fees, new business leads, strong sales, strong labor pools, and other benefits. These are long-term financial advantages. These advantages translate into higher market value and company valuation, especially because of how long it takes to establish a brand from scratch. This point may only be interesting to the owners of a business, but, then again, they often hold the purse strings and keys to success for brand and marketing initiatives.