Establishing a brand that clients can relate to is integral to growing your practice and earning the trust and loyalty of your clients. Just as clients can readily identify with major consumer brands such as Nike, Coca-Cola and Apple, they should be able to recognize what you stand for.
Your brand will become the perception clients have of you, says Richard Heft, president of Ext. Marketing Inc. in Toronto. "The more you build out your brand," he says, "the more positively clients will see you.
"You don't have to be all things to all people," Heft adds. "Just be good at, and deliver, what you promise."
Here are five steps you can take to establish your practice as a trusted brand:
1. Determine your brand profile
Decide how you would like to be perceived by your clients and prospects.
"You have to make sure you know the brand image you want to project," Heft says.
First, analyse your purpose by asking yourself the following questions:
- What functions do I perform?
- What client needs will I be striving to fulfill?
Then, determine what sets you apart from your competition by asking yourself:
- What is my competitive advantage?
- What makes me better than my competitors?
- What makes me different?
2. Communicate your brand values
Become a trusted source of information and education in the area in which you are positioned, Heft says. And make your message consistent across all platforms.
"All client-facing material must reflect what you do and what you stand for," Heft says.
As well, he says, your employees should be your "evangelists" and be "preaching" the same message and conveying your intended brand image.
Never waver from your chosen position, Heft says. For example, if you are focusing on estate planning, stick to that area and become the expert in it.
3. Deliver a consistent experience
You must be steady and reliable in the services you offer your clients.
"People need to trust that you will deliver on what you say you're going to do," Heft says.
He cites one of the most successful branding exercises in the world: "If you walk into a McDonald's in Louisiana or in Toronto, you will expect to get the same experience."
Similarly, you must ensure that you always provide a consistent client experience that meets the expectations you set.
4. Get client feedback
Listen to your clients to ensure your brand remains robust. Ask them for their feedback and act on it, Heft says.
"Show them that their feedback is appreciated by starting a discussion with them," he says. Develop procedures to encourage interactions with clients.
5. Be transparent
You must be open and honest with your clients at all times. For example, regarding fees, make sure clients understand what they are paying and what they are getting in return. Such openness, Heft says, can go a long way in enhancing the value of your brand.
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