Brands are reinventing themselves more often, and faster, lately. New logos, new names, new refreshed brand messaging, new websites, new explanations of who they serve and how. Some of them you instantly like or hate, some you didn’t love but got used to, some you barely even noticed because it didn’t affect you.

But usually you have some kind of opinion on it, because a brand tells a story. And when the story seems to change (a little or a lot), we notice. It makes us pay attention, which is what it’s supposed to do.

Your brand is supposed to get some sort of attention. Not necessarily from everybody: but definitely from the type of clients you want more of. That’s a brand’s job.

Your brand is not for you: it’s for the people you are talking to. The people you want to work with. It’s for your team. And that’s it. (Everyone else can have an opinion, but ultimately it’s the opinion of the people your marketing is talking to and wants to attract, which matters.)

Brands are reinventing themselves more often, and faster, lately. You regularly notice companies with new logos, new names, new refreshed brand messaging, new websites. New explanations of who they serve and how.

Some of them you instantly like or hate. Some you didn’t love but got used to. Some you barely even noticed because it didn’t affect you. 

But usually you have some kind of opinion on it, because a brand tells a story. And when the story seems to change (a little or a lot), we notice. It makes us pay attention, which is what it’s supposed to do. 

Your brand is supposed to get people to pay attention. Not necessarily from everybody: but definitely from the type of clients you want more of. That’s a brand’s job. Your brand is not for you. It’s for the people you are talking to, and want to work with. It’s for your team. And that’s it. (Everyone else can have an opinion, but ultimately it’s the opinion of the people your marketing is talking to and wants to attract, which matters.)

So, what can you do to make sure your brand is telling the right story? The full story? 

When it comes to branding, it’s very possible your prospects are missing some of the story. Would you say your prospects are seeing everything – as much of the story as it’s possible to see before they even meet you?

Or, are they pushing through words like “modern and forward thinking”, and blue and grey logos, and “we are friendly cloud accountants” – desperately trying to discover who you actually are, and if you’re the kind of firm they actually want to work with? 

When you start out as an accountant, you just pick a firm name (like Reyburn & Co or KLR Accountants). Maybe you got a freelancer or a mate to throw together a logo and figured you’d worry about it later. 

Just about everyone does that, and it actually makes sense. After all you don’t even know who you are when you’re starting (or even if you have a clear idea of who you want to be, it takes time to actually BECOME that), and you’re better off focusing your time on who you serve, and creating blogs and video and content for those people. Even if your logo or website are ugly or not quite what you want. 

I did exactly this when setting up PF, which is now defined as the creative agency for accountants. We called it The Profitable Firm because we were going to help accountants with marketing…and most accountancy businesses were called firms…and we wanted to help them become more profitable through great marketing…so, sure that will work.

I spent the grand sum of about five minutes on the name, we got someone to throw together a logo so we had one, and we ran with that for five years. Until I decided to focus on us being a creative agency and we did a full, proper branding session. (In which we decided to keep the name, but only after months of discussion and strategy and analysis.) And then another a few years later (in which we moved to the simplified “We are PF”), and now it’s a few years later and we’re doing another brand check in.

As an accounting firm, your process is similar. You started out to help people and businesses. To deliver accounting services.  So you picked a name and picked a logo and now, years on, you’re not the company you once were.

Your brand needs to be reviewed at least every three years: and that’s because, within that space of time, your accounting business will change. And within that period of time, it’s possible you’ve changed so much the original brand (your name, your logo, your style and tone, colours, messaging, audience) doesn’t fit anymore. 

You’ve taken on GoProposal and started using it within the firm. Your team are trained on it, and they’re delivering proposals without you, and you’re signing more business and figuring out more clearly who you work with – and who you don’t.

You’re not the same firm.

But if what your prospects see in your branding is the same old, same old…well, that affects how they buy. And it affects WHEN they buy.

(If your accounting business has not changed in that time, it’s a good opportunity to ask how and why it’s stayed the same. What you want to change. Where you want to go in the next three years.)

Brand is more than your name and logo (although those are included). It’s a whole story. And just as a story is made up of characters, a hero, a guide, villains, supporters, a plot, a journey, and all those other pieces, so too your brand is made up of many elements. 

Brand is the visible and the invisible. The things you can touch and the things you can’t. Your team, and how they talk and send emails and reply to texts. Your website, how it works (or doesn’t), and who it talks to and what forms they fill in and what the buttons say and the kind of images you use. Your firm’s name. Your logo. The colours you use. Fonts. Social media. Videos. 

The kind of clients you serve (or don’t). Your values, what you stand for (and don’t). Your journey (and the one your clients follow). Your process, your way. You. Your people. 

Investing in your brand feels like a cost it’s hard to see a return on. The return you get feels vague, insubstantial….which is actually similar to the return on all your marketing investment these days. You do lots of different things in the same direction, which all begin to fit together, and more people see it and put the pieces together, and over time you get more of the clients you want. And even if you ask them, they’re not even sure how or when or where they first heard of you. Or they say “oh, someone recommended you”, but don’t mention that they went to your website, your socials, watched three videos, and emailed six other accountants too. 

So how and where do you invest in your brand so it tells the right story to the right people?

Because when your brand tells the right story to the right people, it is literally drawing in the right kind of clients for you, and sending away the ones you don’t want.

(It’s less about “good v bad” clients, or “right v wrong” clients. The client who is perfect for you might not be right for another firm, and vice versa. You work with sole traders…or you don’t. You work exclusively with dentists. You work with mostly creatives, but will take on other small businesses too if they’re the right kind of person. You only work with businesses making more than 250k in sales. And so on.)

Your brand’s job is to literally do the work for you, so you have fewer meetings. Shorter meetings. Better meetings. 

The person enquires (after absorbing your content and blogs and video and pricing info). You open up a new proposal and together select the services they need. You show them the proposal online and send them a link to it during (or directly after) the call. They sign it. Done and dusted. On to onboarding. 

That’s how the best marketing works. Rather than having lots of meetings, some of which go well and some don’t. Hours of talking to someone who isn’t right for your firm. A client who seems really great at first but later you find they’re not willing to follow your processes or won’t set up the payment authorisation. (Same for finding the right team members, too.) 

You don’t want any of that hassle: you want your brand to solve it for you. 

Reviewing your brand “properly” is always an option, but the best brand agencies will be asking you questions about these things anyway, so it’s a good time to start thinking about them. And making notes so you’re ready to evaluate what changes your brand needs to tell the right story. 

6 Questions to help you figure out what your brand actually is – and who it’s for

Here are some things to ask yourself about your accounting firm brand:

1.Who are you talking to, exactly? 

How clear are you about who you work with? Not just “small business owners” or “businesses with 250k – 1m in revenue”. That’s from YOUR perspective. Can you define the people so clearly that a friend or family member could say “oh, I know someone like that”?

Is this clear definition shared on your website and in other marketing? Is it easy for prospects of this kind to find these messages, and say ‘oh , that’s me?’

The more clear you are about who exactly you want to work with, the better you can build a brand which draws them in.

Kenny Mason, owner of Equibis, has a passion for creating equity in marginalised business owners and communities. He recognised that his firm name, Accounting Innovations, wasn’t reflecting his core values or attracting the types of clients he wanted to work with.

2. Does what you say & share match THAT KIND OF PERSON?

When you think about this kind of person or business owner, and then you look at your name, logo, messaging, colours, style- are all those things appealing to that kind of person? Would they help them to choose your firm rather than another one? 

Think about where and how you share the content you do create already.

Is it on platforms or in a type of media that’s easy for them to find and connect with? If they travel or move about a lot, do you have a podcast? If they watch video to help them in their job, do you create videos to explain how you work, rather than PDF guides? If they’re creatives, are you on Insta and TikTok? 

When you send your proposal, do the words and the extra designed pages appeal to that particular person? When you have them in mind in setting up your templates, you’ll get a better result (and likely a faster sign up)! Remember you can have GoProposal mock up a few pages based on your colours & logo, or PF can help you with strategising and fully designing these extra pages so they appeal to your audience.

Cheryl Sharp and her team at Pink Pig Financials strive to remove typical “accounting language” from their processes and that’s exactly what their manifesto is all about. Their language and branding appeals to their ideal clients – business owners who are running families too.

3. Are your values written out, and are they not-vague? 

Many accounting firms have values like “integrity”. Trust. Honesty. Friendliness. Ethical work. Experience. Accuracy. Those are a given (or certainly need to be) in the accounting industry. 

Your values need to help people say “ohh, I really like this approach: these are MY PEOPLE”. Or, it helps because they look at them and think, “Hm…that’s a little too weird. Or those aren’t my people. I don’t really care about those things too much.” 

If you have as a value a word like “trust”, go deeper. What do you mean by trust? What helps you know someone is trustworthy? What do you do to establish trust, and how do you know if you or someone else isn’t living up to that value? Why is it important? Do the same for all your value words and you will likely end up with words which are much more “you”, and less “Wordpress template” values.

Document these specific values in multiple places and in different formats: 

(Once you’ve got the values, make sure to review them with the team and clients regularly. There’s no point in values if they just sit on a wall or are in a PDF guide. They have to be lived out – and part of living them out means checking on a regular basis where they’re being lived out, and where they’re not.)

Sharon and her team at Kinder Pocock worked together to solidify their core values and they are lived out on a daily basis in their interactions with clients and within the Kinder Pocock team.

4. If you took the words from your website or proposal and sent them to someone text-only, would they recognise them as yours?

If your website and proposal include these kinds of words, you won’t be distinguishable from literally thousands of other accountants’ sites:

  • Modern 
  • Forward thinking
  • Technological 
  • Friendly 
  • Comprehensive
  • Bespoke 
  • No obligation consultation

Do a quick google search for “accountants in” and select your city or area. Look at about 10 or 15 sites very quickly. Then look at your own. I guarantee you’ll want to start changing the words. 

Changing the wording in your standard proposal within GoProposal is a good way to help people feel like it’s not templated or like everyone else. Try reading it out loud to see if it sounds like you, or feels comfortable to say. If it doesn’t, change it. 

5. Does your firm name give people a feeling about who you truly are?

The firm name doesn’t stand on its own – as we see, it’s combined with colours and style and imagery and video and messaging to tell a story. You could be called Reyburn & Co, but whether you have a dated look or a fresh style, will change the perception people have about you before they meet you. 

Choosing a new name needs time and attention. You will be tempted to think “When I see the right name, I’ll know it instantly”. That happens every once in a while, but actually it’s not the best way to pick a name.

You want your accounting firm name to be a reflection of all the things we’ve looked at above. The people you serve, the values you and they stand for, the way you do business, what you care about and why. Choosing a name is far more than just grabbing a cool word and seeing if you can buy a domain.

If you’re going to even consider a name change, go through a proper Naming Strategy first. You might even end up deciding to keep the name, but change other aspects of your brand so they fit together better. 

People may say they know your firm by its name, but actually they know it by everything the name stands for.

Ultimately they know your firm by its brand: so you can actually change the name, and not lose any of the impact or reputation you’ve built for so many years. You may find it helps people understand who you are even faster than they did before.

If you’ve made a good decision about your new name, and it’s supported by research and a clearer understanding of your firm than ever, hold strong.

Not everyone will like it, simply because we humans don’t love change at first. It can feel shocking or worrying, and we like the solidity of something or someone who is consistent. If your clients are shocked by the change, it’s an opportunity to talk to them about how you and your firm have changed over the years: and start looking at their business and how it’s changed. Maybe even an opportunity to review a new proposal with them and make sure they’re getting everything they need!

Richard Sykes, owner of Create, works with independent small business owners to help them create better businesses which give them a better quality of life. Richard has a passion for rock music and this is reflected perfectly in his branding: A ‘Rock and Roll’ accountancy firm with a record style brand book!

6. Are you creating and sharing your own, unique content regularly (at least once a week)? 

Generic content doesn’t work because it’s not possible for it to be on-brand.

It will never sound like you, because it’s not written by you or for the kind of clients you want.

Even if you share content about the same topics every other accountant is talking about – cash flow, management accounts, funding, bank accounts, software – you can give your opinion, your perspective, fill it with your values, use words you and your team would use. 

Consistency over time helps build the brand story: 

  • Being present & posting regularly on social media
  • Sharing consistent types of content – so if someone goes from your website to your social and back, they get same feeling from the colours, style, words, values in all these places
  • Videos from yourself and the team so prospects can get to know you before they meet you

Bringing your brand into your GoProposal app is one of the best ways to begin using words, messages, imagery, and content that sounds like you and reflects who you truly are. You could even start by changing your proposal templates before you move to changing your website or other more public marketing places.

 

To understand how brand fits into the whole marketing picture, and to get specific feedback on the content your firm is creating (your blogs, videos, even your proposals!), join the PF Accelerator. Accountants like yourself (many of whom are fellow GoProposal members) show up over a 12 week period to learn, consider who you actually want to work with, and begin to change elements of your brand so more of the right kind of clients find you. And every one else – the ones you don’t want, the tyre kickers, the ones who aren’t ready – go somewhere else. Without bothering you at all. It’s the dream! And it’s possible.

Karen Reyburn

Karen Reyburn

Karen has, all her life, combined two skills which originally seemed at odds: her creativity, and her skills as an accountant. As it turns out, the combination of those two skills has resulted in the creation and success of PF, the creative agency working exclusively for and with accountants. Karen is a qualified accountant herself, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She has worked as an auditor, a marketing manager in an accounting firm, a wedding photographer, and a consultant to accountants. She now leads PF, a virtual company with a global team serving accountants anywhere on the globe.

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