People often make purchasing decisions based on how a brand makes
them feel emotionally rather than based on quality or other objective evaluations.
If “Just Do It” strikes a chord with an athlete, he’ll buy
Nike; the decision may have little to do with quality.
This rule applies to financial services as well. A company with
a positive brand identity—something that creates an instant reaction in
its audience—will attract clients and maintain its client base, in good
times and bad.
Charles Schwab was just another stockbroker until he turned his
name into a brand and sent Wall Street reeling with discount brokerage services.
He understood a powerful marketing principle: differentiation. But more important,
Schwab saturated the media with his name, face, and company identity. Years
later, Schwab is perhaps the best-known name in finance to millions of Americans.
The following are the fundamental principles of building a brand:
- Differentiate yourself. Whether you choose to highlight your education,
your high-tech equipment, an aspect of your service, or your expertise, focus
on something that sets you apart.
- Create a position. Positioning is the place a product or service occupies
in the minds of prospects. A firm might specialize in a specific service or
focus on a specific audience. Decide what position suits your background,
abilities, and audience, then build the marketing plan around that.
- Be consistent and persistent. After determining the differentiator and
position, create the brand by advertising and promotion. Repetition in more
than one medium is key. Print ads, direct mail, radio, the Internet, speaking
engagements, newspaper articles—any available medium should be used
to communicate your name and your message to the target audience.
- Customize your services. Once you’ve built your brand, begin refining
your business to fit your identity. If the business is about personalized
services, qualify its identity by offering a specified amount of one-on-one
time with clients.
Case study. Margolin, Winer & Evens,
an accounting firm of 25 partners and 200 staff based in Garden City, N.Y.,
is a good example of a business with a focused rebranding campaign. According
to the Electronic Accountant, Margolin, Winer & Evens’ campaign
includes a new logo, new brochures, a revamped website, and a new motto: “Turning
vision into value.”
A cornerstone of the campaign is its advertising theme, “The
power of WE,” which incorporates the firm’s initials. Margolin,
Winer & Evens zeroed in on attributes that differentiated it from competitors
and what markets it wanted to be in, then appointed champions for each marketplace
to, in Selinger’s words, “go out and become known.”
Elements of a thorough marketing plan include the following:
- Budget. Plan to spend 15% to 30% of total income on marketing.
- Strategy. What are the company’s specific goals, and how will they
be achieved? Who are the firm’s competitors, and how do they fail to
meet the needs of the same target audience? These strategic elements of the
plan include broad objectives involving business growth.
- Niche. Consider the type of customer that would help the company achieve
its revenue goals. Ideally, this assessment will identify a single, exclusive
demographic and help focus the company’s brand on that demographic segment’s
needs and perceptions.
- Tactics. What mailings will the firm use? How will it distribute its brochures?
What publications or websites will it consider for print or online advertising?
Marketing Always Has an Effect
Marketing is rarely neutral. It usually either enhances a business
or makes it appear foolish or ineffectual.
Here are five tips for making the most of branding:
- Clone good employees. Hiring the right staff to perform revenue-generating
tasks lets business owners focus on building a business identity that has
equity and salable value.
- Watch competitors. See what other people in the industry do, then do the
- Names are important. Many companies with enduring value are built around
a persona, and a name can capture that idea better than anything else.
- Publish. Write articles, write a book, create a website. Having published
information available to the public enhances brand identity and increases
the business’ equity.
- Saturate the marketplace. Research shows it takes the average consumer
up to five strong exposures to a brand to even recognize and remember the
name of the person or product.
Peter Montoya is president of Peter Montoya Inc., a personal
CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed
publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and
other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal
is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information
and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and
executives in today's practice environments.
©2006 The CPA Journal. Legal
Visit the new cpajournal.com.