Rebranding Strategies: A Step-By-Step Approach for Professional Services
There are many reasons why a professional services firm might consider rebranding. Most of them are firmly rooted in a need to reposition the firm in the marketplace.
It could be as simple as the merger of two firms or as complex as a major shift in target clients or business strategy. But whatever the reason, a firm eventually faces the question of how to rebrand in a way that yields the desired business result.
That is what we are going to cover. What is the right strategy to rebrand your professional services firm? (For a more in-depth exploration of these issues, download our professional services rebranding kit.)
1. Start With the Business Reason. Any rebranding strategy should start with a thorough understanding of the business reason behind the rebranding. Is it driven by a need to accelerate growth? Does your firm need to compete with larger, more established competitors?
Some of these business cases are very easy to make, such as a merger of two firms. Others are more subtle, such as outgrowing your image. If you are not clear about the business reason driving the effort, you run the risk of wasting a tremendous amount of resources. We’ve covered this in more depth in an earlier post on choosing rebranding strategies.
2. Research Your Firm and Your Target Clients. When you are clear on the business case for the rebranding, the next step is to conduct independent research on your firm and your clients. If you are attempting to move into a new market, that research should include your new target clients as well. The goal is to have an objective understanding of your current brand perception and competencies.
Without this research, you will be operating from an internal perspective only. Our own research on professional services buyers and sellers shows that virtually all firms have blind spots and distort how the marketplace sees them. After all, we are all human. Without objective research, you will build a brand on false assumptions.
3. Use Positioning and Messaging to Capture Your Brand Strategy. As you develop your firm’s market positioning and messaging architecture, you will uncover the essence of your brand strategy. Your market positioning is a brief description of where you fit into the market space. Are you an innovative leader or a low cost provider?
This positioning will drive many of your subsequent decisions. But you can’t just make something up. It needs to balance who you are as a firm and who you want to become. You must be able to support your positioning or your brand will be hollow.
Your messaging architecture articulates your messages to each of your main audiences. These messages must be consistent with your overall brand and supportable. This is not marketing copy. It is the skeleton upon which marketing copy is built.
4. Build Your Brand Identity. This is the part of the rebranding strategy where you develop the visual elements that will communicate your brand. Think firm name, logo, tagline, colors, business card design, stationary, and the like. These elements are often described in a brand style guidelines document, which provides a set of parameters to ensure your brand is implemented consistently across all of your marketing materials.
Many folks confuse these elements with your brand. Your brand is your reputation and your visibility, not your firm’s name or its logo. Your brand identity is a sort of visual shorthand for your brand.
5. Build Your Website and Online Presence. Your website is your single most important communication tool. It is the place where you can tell a compelling story to each of your audiences. It is the first place a prospective client or employee will turn to learn more about your firm.
It is no exaggeration to say that a website and your online presence are the heart of a modern professional services firm. All rebranding strategies eventually involve your website. In a very real way, a website is built on the framework of your messaging architecture. Together with your remaining online presence (think social media, for example), it is the full expression of your positioning.
6. Marketing Collateral. At this point in your rebranding strategy, you will develop all of the marketing materials that you need to communicate your brand and services messages. Think pitch decks, proposal templates, brochures, one-sheet fliers and trade show booths.
These are the tools that you will use to communicate your message. They should be firmly anchored in your brand strategy.
7. Brand Building Plan. The final element of your rebranding strategy is to develop a plan to promote and strengthen your new brand. How will you launch it internally? In professional services, it is essential that your employees embrace the new brand. After all, they are your product.
It’s also important that you build the brand in a way that communicates your firm’s reputation and expertise, as well as its name. It must communicate your market positioning. Brand building is different for professional services.
Some rebranding strategies fail because they try to shortcut the process. Others fail because they picked the wrong partners to work with. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Start with a sound rebranding strategy. Find an experienced partner. Give rebranding the attention it deserves and the rewards will follow. A well-positioned firm that clearly communicates its brand is a formidable competitor indeed.