The world of accounting is ever-changing. Your clients' needs evolve, regulators rewrite tax laws and accounting standards, and technology has made the accounting firm of today virtually unrecognizable from a firm of just two decades ago. Perhaps it's time your firm’s brand to change. Is your messaging and value proposition behind the times? Are you looking to offer new services or expand into a new market? Or have you outgrown your original branding and need to renew your firm’s status in the market? Sometimes depending on the situation, a full rebrand is required. Before you get started, here are five tips to remember when rebranding your firm.
There is never a right time
A serious rebranding - when done right - requires a significant investment of time, money and resources. From starting research to launching the new brand could take months or even years. It's tempting to say you'll put it off until after busy season, next year or even five years from now, but the truth is, nobody is getting less busy.
That said, just because it’s been a few years since you rebranded doesn’t mean it’s time to rebrand. Your firm’s messaging and brand could be perfect even though it hasn’t been updated recently. The time to rebrand is when you are failing to reach your target market. Rebranding can help a perception problem when your target market is ignoring you or unaware of what you’re offering. In this case, there is no time like the present to get started.
Here are some reasons you might choose to move forward with a rebrand:
- Expansion of firm offerings: ie Service Expansion, Market Expansion, Geographic Expansion
- Merger or acquisition
- Evolving with the market
- Brand becomes complicated
Give your brand a story
What makes your firm unique? Hint: it's not "service." Every accounting firm believes it's their service that sets them apart. By definition, if all accounting firms differentiate on the same point, it’s not differentiating anymore! Your excellent client service may help you retain existing clients, but service is not a unique selling position. How you deliver that service might be.
Really dig deep to discover the story of your brand. How do you work with clients? What is the history of your firm? What is your corporate mission? Does your branding represent what your firm does? Why do they choose to work with you rather than every other firm in town that promises excellent client service? If you have a unique founder, this can be a good place to start.
People want to work with brands that have something to say. If your brand isn't saying anything, why would anyone listen?
It's expensive but worth it
Rebranding your firm is not cheap. It takes time, money, various project teams and often outside experts.
Remember that successful rebranding requires a lot more than just selecting a new logo. You will need to perform research, interview key employees, obtain customer feedback, discover what sets your brand apart and develop your brand story all before even consider ordering business cards with a new logo. You’ll need to permeate all company communications, including the website, social media, collateral and signage with the new brand.
Rebranding is a financial investment, but doing it right requires hiring professionals with experience in rebranding professional service firms. Once you hire the right design team, trust their expertise. You will get to weigh in on every step of the process, but there will be times when you'll need to defer to their knowledge and experience.
Get your whole team involved
The work of rebranding a firm should not be solely the purview of the partner group or your firm's marketing department. Get everyone involved in the process! Your team can provide insight on what sets your firm apart from the competition and the qualities and characteristics they want people to think of when they hear the firm’s name.
Millennials can be particularly useful in this process. Millennials are the largest group of consumers in the US, and they highly value authenticity. Will your brand story appeal to Millennials or will they spot a dishonest brand a mile away? Run your ideas by them and by employees at all levels within the firm. Making them a part of the process will go a long way towards securing their buy-in on the changes you are trying to make.
Rebranding is not just a new name or new logo
Don't undergo a rebranding just to change your name or logo. In case you need proof that it’s a bad idea, consider the story of Radio Shack. In 2009, the retailer was facing intense competition from online retailers. They decided to rebrand, changing their name to The Shack. The problem was that everything else about their failing business model stayed the same. Customers would walk into The Shack and see the same products that they weren't interested in buying from Radio Shack. After intense backlash, the company reversed their brand. Radio Shack’s fortunes continued to decline, and the company declared bankruptcy in 2015.
To avoid such a catastrophe, make sure your rebranding coincides with some other change in how you do business. That change could be to service offerings or rolling out new technology that will improve your client's experience.
Make sure everything is consistent
When was the last time a new client found you via a phone book? It's likely been several years. But chances are many clients find you or check you out via the firm’s website. Make sure your website is not an afterthought of the rebranding process. Your website should integrate with every other aspect of the brand and client experience, including:
- Client portal
- Marketing collateral
- Social media sites
- Email signatures
- Promotional material, etc.
Launch the new brand strategically
Once you have some new logo branded gear in your hands, it's tempting to want to start showing off all of the work you just put into rebranding, but now is not the time to act without a strategy. Plan and communicate your new branding strategy with your team. Remember that this is not a one-day plan, but an ongoing process that will continue for months after your launch day. Look at your rebranding like an internal process that will change how your firm is externally viewed.
Make sure everyone in the firm is on board with the new changes, and turn them into your brand ambassadors. Do they know your brand story? Can they communicate it effectively or will they still deliver the same old elevator pitch? Get your team on board by sharing the new “story of us.” Let them take ownership of the new brand and help you spread the excitement and the message.
Rebranding a firm is not for the faint of heart, but neither is it something to be avoided. Take this opportunity to tell a new story, generate excitement, and rally your team around the brand. Once you’ve built your new brand, be consistent and persistent. If you want to be successful and rebranding, follow the strategies above and commit to your changes. Become that new brand, and eventually, people will follow.