I had the pleasure of hearing Peter Shankman speak at a conference I attended recently about brand loyalty. For most accounting firms, the term brand is an elusive concept. What does it mean and how do you create brand loyalty? After all, you aren’t Coke or Nike. You aren’t selling a tangible product. While there are a million ways you could describe a brand, the most succinct way to describe it is as an experience. Whether you want to believe it or not, your accounting firm has a brand and it’s the experience you create and deliver.
So why the need for brand loyalists? Brand loyalists market for you. They refer business to you, they value your services (read: don’t question your fees) and they help you grow your business. And, oh yeah, they also create loyal employees who will do amazing things for you.
Here are 5 rules for creating brand loyalty built off of Peter Shankman’s 4 rules.
- Be transparent
Transparency today doesn’t mean sharing what you had for lunch on social media. What it does mean is being honest and truthful about your business practices and internally about how your firm operates. We live in an information age. Transparency matters because with a lack of information, people make stuff up, Google it and generally assume. Today’s accounting firms can benefit from being more transparent with their clients by owning that information. Externally, it means owning mistakes or missed deadlines with clients and bringing certain items to their attention. Internally, it means sharing how the firm makes money and operates, and where it wants to grow.
- Be relevant
Mass marketing is dead. Your clients and prospects define relevancy and only want the information that is relevant to them. To be relevant, you must get to know the people you are communicating with. Find out what matters to them in their business and personal lives. Share only what is relevant to them. Also, spend some time finding out how they want to receive that information and give it to them that way.
- Be brief
According to Shankman, a recent Stanford study revealed the average attention span for someone you are trying to reach who has never heard of you is only 2.7 seconds. Whether you are marketing to your prospects or communicating with clients, brevity matters. Get to the point.
- Be top of mind
Whether it’s with clients or prospects, you have to consistently stay top of mind. That’s where marketing and communications play a big role. You need to proactively and consistently stay in front of your clients and prospects through various forms of communication. Once or twice a year won’t cut it. The noise in the marketplace today requires a significantly higher frequency for these communications.
- Be service-focused
Your clients don’t hire you to deliver poor services. They assume at a basic level you will do what you said you would do and when you said you would do it. To create brand loyalists, you have to go above and beyond the bare minimum. You have to do things that will get your clients talking, in a positive way, about what you are doing. Need a good example? Check out our recent post on What Accounting Firms Can Learn From Southwest’s Service Model.
While simple in concept, applying these rules takes focus, diligence and consistency. Have questions about branding in your accounting firm? Contact us today to learn more.