Brand growth should be on every business owner’s mind. Your brand has a direct impact on your firm’s performance today and its growth into the future. This begs the question: how do you build a sustainable brand?
Many marketing professionals support the notion that their brand is the sum of a client’s emotional attachment and experience with their firm. However, this abstract way of looking at a brand is not going to help gain clients or recruit talented staff. Let’s take a look at what makes up a brand and how you can strengthen yours.
Here at Hinge, we conducted a study of 822 buyers and 533 sellers of professional services in order to understand how buyers buy services and what factors are most important to them. Through our research, we concluded that a brand is made up of two elements: your firm’s reputation and visibility in the market.
The Importance of Reputation
Figure 1 displays the top factors that tip the scale for buyers when they are selecting a new firm. At 21%, the top deciding factor for buyers is choosing a firm with a good reputation. Reputation defeats a firm’s existing relationship (18%) and is far above a firm’s expertise or specialization (12%).
Firms with the strongest brands have not just good, but great reputations. Because of this, others are more than willing to refer these firms and they see even more success over time.
Achieving a reputation for producing results is a great way to market to prospective clients. In our study, we found that 47% of buyers ranked a firm’s reputation for producing results as the best approach when marketing to buyers. However, this approach is only being used 0.4% of the time! So what does this mean? Using a strong reputation to gain referrals and market your firm is a valuable approach to consider.
The Importance of Visibility
While reputation is a key element in building your brand, it is not enough to reach a top-notch brand. You must also be widely known to your target audience by achieving high visibility. Your audience must not only know that you exist in the marketplace, but must also know how you can help them be successful.
Achieving high visibility is an area where many firms fall short. Many have excellent reputations to their existing clients, but their reputation does not extend further into their prospective target audiences. This becomes problematic when firms have too many target audiences. Reaching everyone is no easy task.
When thinking about visibility, take some time to decide exactly who you’d like to reach, and tailor your message specifically to that audience. Don’t forget to mention the ‘why’ when talking to your audiences either. You only make a first impression once, so make it a good one. Your audience will more than likely only remember one thing about your firm, why not make it your key differentiator?
Brand Strength Gap
Interestingly through our research, Hinge found that firms across all industries had a similar pattern in that they had very good reputations, but extremely low visibility. Figure 2 shows how technology firms have the highest gap, with a reputation rating at 63% and visibility at only 5%. Accounting and finance firms are not far behind, with reputation at 53% and visibility at only 13%.
What does this reputation vs. visibility gap mean? Firms will be missing out on gaining a competitive edge if they don’t start to focus on increasing visibility in the marketplace. Conversely, focusing only on visibility – such as in the form of advertising – is a questionable strategy when communicated efforts are not supported by a good reputation.
Increasing Your Visibility
So, how do you increase visibility? Here are a few key strategies to focus on:
- Create Great Content: Use content marketing to provide a stream of information to your audiences. This content should be educational rather than promotional. Creating great content will allow your audiences to build trust with your firm and will also position you as the experts.
- Cultivate Prestigious Partners: Partner with prominent organizations to take on important projects (think of well-known businesses, trade associations, and universities, for instance). Your relationship should be mutually beneficial.
- Dominate Social Media: Use social media resources to create a dominant presence on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. Leisurely participation is not enough. You must have a clear voice online to build your network.
These are just a few ways to increase your firm’s visibility, but they are an important start to growing your brand. The optimal strategy is to combine more than one strategy, such as combining social media efforts with a content marketing plan. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
If your firm can achieve both a great reputation and high visibility, you will be on the path for a sustainable, strong brand. You will see more clients refer your firm, fewer competitive bids, attract top internal talent, and build great partnerships. A strong brand will truly allow your firm to prosper. What are you waiting for?
About the Author:
Katie Sanner, Associate Account Director at Hinge. Combining Katie’s design, advertising and marketing experience, she is able to consistently assist her clients in brand building, improve their brand strength, and increase marketability. Prior to working at Hinge, Katie was a marketer for a Washington DC Top 25 Engineering Firm, Gordon and the Creative Manager for a nationally renowned advertising agency, Arnold Worldwide. Katie is an active member of the Society of Marketing Professional Services where she currently sits on the DC Chapter’s Board of Directors.