Jun 23, 2010

Branding Professional Services: Making the Intangible Tangible

What separates one professional service firm from another? Its people. But how do you know one firm’s people are better than another’s? The brand!

The challenge of selling services is they are intangible. You can’t touch, smell, hear or see them. Which means you have to work that much harder to make an intangible service tangible for your buyers.

Brands mitigate buying risk

At its most basic level, a brand forms trust. It provides customers an opportunity to experience your firm, and get a sense of its values, expertise and personality.

There are 3 key aspects to developing a service firm’s brand:

  1. Value proposition: Clearly articulating what your firm does and the results of its services.
  2. Buying experience: Providing buyers opportunities to experience your firm’s personality, values and expertise.
  3. Differentiation: Creating clear points of differentiation so buyers can compare and contrast their options, and select your firm based on its unique approach, offerings, expertise or personality.

Product companies can offer their customers a “test drive.” They can let their customers try the product, and make their own judgments on quality and functionality. Services firms don’t have this luxury. That’s why their brands are so important. The brand is a primary experience point, or “test drive,” of a service firm’s capabilities.

Developing a service firm’s brand

As you consider the above aspects, examine your firm’s brand:

  1. Does it have a brand personality? If so, what is it? What does it communicate?
  2. What is your value proposition? Is it clearly articulated? Could you explain it to a 5 year old, and they’d get it?
  3. Is your offering unique? Does your firm stand out, and differentiate itself from the competition?

The more clarity you can bring to each aspect of your brand, the easier it will be for buyers to choose your firm.

Measuring your brand’s performance

When you boil it all down, your brand has one primary purpose: drive sales. By creating experiences that mitigate buying risks, you are making it easier for customers to buy your services.

There are 3 key levers to monitor your brand’s performance:

  1. Price premium. Are customers willing to pay a premium for your services?
  2. Lead volume. Do you generate more leads?
  3. Buying velocity. How long does it take a customer to make a buying decision (or how long is the sales cycle)?  Are customers making decisions faster, because they trust the brand?

Monitor each measure on a quarterly and annual basis. If any of these measures fall, it is a signal to examine the brand and make adjustments.

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