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Brand: Brand, Differentiation and Positioning and their Impact on Clients

Synopsis

Brand, the sixth element of the Client Management Model™, explains the following points:

• describing the firm;

• brand creation and development;

• the importance of the firm's brand, the promise - examples of successful brands;

• branding;

• what's in a name?;

• how firms differentiate their offerings;

• how to develop a value proposition;

• the importance of positioning a firm.

THOUGHT STARTERS

• What are your brand values?

• What is your brand promise?

• Who manages your brand?

• Does your behaviour reflect your brand values and promise?

• How are you different from your competitors?

• How should you be positioning your firm with Clients and other groups?

Describing the Firm

One of the most recent marketing developments in professional services is the creation of brands. Many law firms still retain and use their full names, based on their unique tradition and history. As firms merge, their names often become longer to retain the identity of the merged firms. However some law firms, and many of the larger accounting and property firms, have simplified their names to become shorter and often more memorable, mnemonic, descriptions. For example, property firm Jones Lang LaSalle recently re-branded as JLL. One easy test of this issue is to call a firm with a long name and hear how its telephonists describe the firm - they often use a shortened form! What is more, Clients may do the same. Many of these names include the creation of a distinct emblem or logo. This trend is likely to continue as brand identity and ease of recognition become more important differentiators with Clients. Such branding style lends itself to today's technology and is highly visible in websites, blogs and social media channels. It also works well, and is important, in international markets.

The increasingly important roles and reach of marketing communications and information technology are having a marked impact on Clients. Now it is possible, especially with mobile technology, to reach Clients rapidly using a variety of channels and techniques. Equally Clients expect firms to respond rapidly to their questions and issues. In fact, as stated earlier, many Clients have access to a wider range of technologies than their suppliers. Just consider the power and speed of today's mobile 'smart' phones and tablet computers, literally in the hands of Clients.

Brand

Many professional services firms have invested considerable sums in researching and developing their brand. From an external perspective, your brand is what the Client or non-Client experiences, whether they are receiving information or meeting members of your firm. From an internal perspective, your people are the brand in the sense that their attitudes and behaviours to the outside world reflect the ethos and culture of your firm. Energising the brand through employees is one of the key challenges facing professional services firms.

The brand promise

Underlying the brand is the brand promise: what the Client can expect from your firm. This is often not explicitly stated, but is implied in all that supports the brand. It is vital that all members of your firm understand your brand, what it stands for and how they can impact on the brand's effectiveness and the firm's reputation with Clients and prospects. The challenge about 'living' the brand is that it is a daily duty of everyone in the firm, yet this is not always the practice.

It is also important to regularly research the relevance and position of your brand in your served markets, especially unprompted brand recognition, by asking the appropriate questions, for example: 'Name the first supplier that comes to mind for accounting/legal services other than your current supplier.' There are many available benchmarking surveys of professional services firms that are regularly conducted. A frequency of every two years is considered a good investment.

 
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