I was once told by a law firm partner, “I don’t believe in brands – that’s just a marketing gimmick.” This person drives a BMW and loves to mention the pedigree of his Italian shoes. BMW was just voted one the most admired brands IN THE WORLD. The shoes? Well, that’s another story.
Simply stated, your brand is what you say about yourself. Your reputation is what others say about you. Professional firms need to pay close attention to both.
You have a brand whether you recognize it or not. Just like you have a reputation. As a professional, you demonstrate your brand through your actions – how you conduct yourself, the clients you serve, your organizational aspirations.
A wide variety of people observe how you behave as a firm and form an image about you. The image shapes your reputation as people interpret your communications, client service and other ‘signals’.
How do some firms build distinct brands and reputations? Their deeds match their words. Their brand is delivered consistently, visibly and coherently both inside and outside the organization. In all aspects of operations, these firms signal what they stand for and where they’re headed.
If you communicate a distinguishable brand, they’ll remember you. If you cultivate compelling organizational values, employees will be be inspired to contribute to help you deliver your ‘brand promise’. Give opinion leaders ongoing evidence of your credibility, they’ll reward you with referrals.
Referrals come from a variety of sources – suppliers, employees, clients, community groups, government, media. If these groups find accurate meaning in your brand, the referrals they send will be appropriately aligned with your goals.
Focusing on your brand and your reputation means you’ll spend less on business development (win!), that you’ll increase the value of your practice (win! win!) and that you’ll have happier clients (triple win!).
Which should you focus on in the end, your brand or your reputation? The answer is “both”.