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Have you noticed that clients, employees, investors and the media increasingly cite the importance of a professional services firm developing a strong brand? Did you know that smart professional services firms are focused on driving revenue growth based on brand differentiation, new services, leveraging technology and exploiting niche opportunities? Did you realize that the once unspoken ‘B’ word is a proxy for something very much on the agenda of every successful management team in the professional services industry … the overall client experience?

Price may still be a critical factor, but a key differentiator for clients in choosing a professional advisor is the consistency of the overall client experience. What counts is how your people deliver across every touch point with clients from the top to the bottom of the organization. This is your brand ― not your logo or corporate colors ― it’s about your values, your people and their behavior.

Your professional services brand matters because it’s built on reputation, relationships and intellectual capital. Yet growing your brand value is a long road, with obstacles along the way. Just think of the world in which you compete. It’s characterized by a mind-numbing cacophony of sameness: features are commoditized, and product benefits are spewed forth in a dizzying, never-ending bulleted list. The “magic bullet” you have in your arsenal is your brand. Increase its value and your firm will rise above clutter.

This is not a new idea.  We can trace its origins back to Sweden in the middle age (roughly AD 500 to 1500) when the ruling economy was agrarian and Norse livestock herders burned a symbol into the flesh of their product in order to distinguish his/her goods or services. The Vikings most likely spread the word “brandr” in their … um, travels.

In recent years, the proliferation, availability and accessibility of information have overwhelmed customers to the point where their choices are no longer made on features and benefits but rather on symbolic attributes and how they feel. The result? The degree of trust a client feels towards the professional services firm becomes the tipping factor.

Today, branding is a strategic tool that helps professional services firms cut through the morass and connect with the customer on many levels and in ways that matter. A strong brand becomes the customer’s “shorthand” for making good choices in a complex, risky, and confusing marketplace.

An effective, innovative approach to growing your brand value offers an almost guaranteed path to differentiation from your competition.

Clearly, expectations for the modern professional services firm in today’s market have significantly evolved. Transformations in brand management are creating a hyper-competitive market where operational excellence and flexibility are critical to coming out on top. It’s an exciting time to work in this industry.

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