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A Visible Expert℠ is an industry expert that is well-known in the marketplace. Your firm likely has individuals that are well-respected and are the internal experts on your industry. However, they don't provide the same level of impact that a Visible Expert does. In this video, learn more about Visible Experts and the value they provide for your firm's brand.
At Hinge we have been studying Visible Experts℠, people who have attained high visibility and expertise in their industry, creating a personal brand that is recognizable industry-wide. We study them because we want to understand how they attained that status and what we can learn from them. This profile focuses on Staci Riordan, a Visible Expert for fashion law.
Growing Up in the Fashion World
Staci Riordan learned about the fashion business at her family’s kitchen table. With a mother who made and sold children’s clothing, and a grandfather and great-grandfather who were also in the garment industry, learning the fashion business was as routine as eating dinner and doing homework. Staci could sew by the age of five, and was running her mother’s tradeshow booths by age 10. As a kid, “I learned to buy for the store, and how to talk to dealers,” Staci says. “I learned the business from the inside out at a very young age.”
Based on Staci’s background, it was not a big surprise when, as she was about to graduate from Emory University, her mom called and invited her to move to Los Angeles to help launch a new clothing business. Staci got her degree and moved west. Almost immediately, the fledgling company won a huge order from the retail clothing giant, The Limited. As excited as they were, they had to tell The Limited that they could only handle a smaller order, and then they scrambled to make it happen. The new relationship made their business an overnight success.
Becoming a Fashion Entrepreneur
The new business tapped into Staci’s entrepreneurial side. Working with her mother, Staci managed the business while her mom and her partner handled the design and development. Since she had grown up inside the industry, Staci found herself with the unique ability to understand both fashion and business. “In an industry like fashion, you will generally find people who can do either the creative side or the business side,” Staci says. “Most people can’t do both creative and business.”
By Chris Ourand
What comes to mind when you hear the word “brand?” How about if something is “brand new?” Or a “brand reputation?”
The term embodies many contexts, so the potential exists for firms to benefit if brand is used correctly, and to pay dearly if it’s not.
So what is a brand? It’s much more than a name and logo. It goes beyond a firm’s functional attributes to establish trust and create an emotional connection with an audience. Here at Hinge, we define brand as the combination of reputation and visibility. It’s worth breaking that down a little further so that management consulting firms can understand how to make the most of their brand.
Any discussion of brand needs to start with the fundamental understanding of mission and vision – the internally focused descriptions of why a firm exists and what it wants to become. Add to that the externally targeted concept of positioning – how you want your firm to be perceived, and why your named audiences should care. At Hinge, for example, our positioning is to deliver exceptional branding and marketing for professional services firms. It’s a short leap to the understanding that our expertise can help you succeed.
And let’s not forget differentiation and messaging, those critical pieces underlining how you stand apart from competitors and the proof points.
If your firm is living your brand well, then all your employees and contractors have a solid understanding of the mission and vision, and they demonstrate them and your positioning in all of their tasks. Taken together, these elements personified by your staff are representative of a “brand strategy,” an integrated set of activities for how you implement your brand.
As management consulting firms consider building out a brand strategy, many will include the tangible things like identity, logo, tagline, colors and usage guidelines and many other components. But firms need to go further. Is the objective to increase market share, find new audiences, displace a competitor, shore up brand reputation or offer a new service? All the tactics built into this strategy will need to reflect overall aims.
At Hinge we have been studying Visible Experts℠, people who have attained high visibility and expertise in their industry, creating a personal brand that is recognizable industry-wide. We study them because we want to understand how they attained that status and what we can learn from them. This profile focuses on Rick Telberg, a Visible Expert for the accounting and finance industry.
Keeping Pace with Change
Rick Telberg, President and CEO of CPA Trendlines, was introduced to the accounting industry more than 20 years ago when he helped launch Accounting Today magazine as Editor. Although his background was in journalism, he quickly became fascinated by his new industry. “There’s an interesting tension in finance between the forces of integrity and the forces of business,” Rick says. “It makes for a natural storyline.” He immersed himself in the world of financial media and never looked back.
As Accounting Today grew, Rick’s responsibilities also expanded. He took on the roles of Vice President and Group Publisher for Thomson Financial’s accounting media properties, including Accounting Technology, The Practical Accountant, and what is now accountingtoday.com.
Already a pioneer of digital publishing when the Internet boom hit in the early 2000s, Rick became one of the first to harness online media and marketing for his sector. Now, he says, “the accounting industry is still learning how to adapt to the online marketplace. But we need to remember that competition is what drives change, not technology itself. Who is using it best, first, and most effectively? The marketplace will notice that, perceive the threat, and only then will change occur.”
Developing a winning differentiation strategy is a huge struggle for many professional services firms. It just got a little easier with the release of Hinge’s new Differentiation Guide For Professional Services Firms
This is the latest in our Executive Guide Series. Each guide is focused around a specific topic within the professional services branding and marketing field. Their goal is to give a quick, easy to understand overview that helps you tackle an important issue.
Easy and useful are the watchwords of this series.
Differentiating your services from those of your competitors is not an easy thing for most firms. After all, most firms within a specific profession are capable of offering similar services. And many services are relatively easy to copy (even if performed with a much lower level of competence).
And even if there are huge differences between the competence levels of various firms, these differences are not intuitively obvious to potential clients. Most clients are simply not capable of judging the technical competence of your staff and the services they provide.
This has led some folks to conclude that differentiation isn’t possible or even desirable. Wrong.
In fact, our research shows that high growth professional services firms are three times more likely to have a strong differentiator than their average growth competitors.
A brand differentiation strategy is one of the most poorly understood pillars of professional services marketing.
Some professional services firms recognize that a differentiation strategy is the foundation of a solid brand. But others maintain the notion that it is not foundational, or even important in the professional services marketplace. Most firms in a given industry tend to all be the same anyway right? So what good is a differentiator? Furthermore, even once firms understand the necessity of a distinct brand, many struggle to identify what makes them unique. Often, they miss wide-open opportunities to make themselves stand out.
Our latest webinar helped shed some light on the whys, the hows, and the whats around formulating a differentiation strategy. You can check out the recording here. This post will review the key points we made around a differentiation strategy. Let’s start by exploring the basics.
The word is a self-descriptor. A differentiator is a characteristic, or small set of characteristics, that is true, provable, and means something to your target audience. It’s something your competition can’t claim. Otherwise, it doesn’t make you different. We’ve identified 21 types of differentiators that work best for professional services firms – so I’ll come back to those in a minute.
Simply put, a differentiator is the foundation upon which most, if not all, of your growth strategies are built. The essence of “who you are” is what helps define your market, your offerings, your recruiting strategy, and evolution of services you bring to market. But don’t differentiate just for differentiation’s sake. Make it count.
A strong differentiator, or a short-list of strong differentiators, sets your firm apart from others, particularly key competitors, in a way that is meaningful to your target audience, including clients, prospect, investors, or even future employees. We’ve seen from our own research that high growth firms are 3x more likely than average growth firms to have a strong differentiator. That’s a powerful case for a strong differentiation strategy.