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September 2018 Firm Management Channel

Building a World-Class Marketing Culture in Your Firm – Part II

This article continues the series on creating a world-class marketing culture in your firm. In Part 1, we explored the definition of marketing and its centrality in the life of a firm. In Part 2, we examine the firm’s brand—what it is, what it means to clients, and how you give it shape. Read Part I of This Series (


Let’s begin with a definition: Your brand is the impression and perception of your firm that people hold in their minds. As the late Peter Drucker said, “Your brand is what you own in the mind of the consumer.” Marc Gobé, author of Emotional Branding, takes it further by proclaiming that the brand is an emotional relationship with customers and prospects based on the cumulative effect of all interactions between them.

So, if your brand represents an emotional relationship between your business and community, it should not be taken lightly—especially in a profession that relies heavily on building strong, trusting relationships to survive. And to be clear, this isn’t just a reference to a firm’s aesthetics, such as name, logo, slogan, advertising, website and embroidered swag. While these elements are important brand expressions, it’s your staff who are the most powerful vehicle for expressing your brand. Every interaction your employees have with clients and prospects is a far more important and memorable touchpoint that contributes to that emotional relationship, Gobé identified.

Why is this? Your staff, at all levels within the firm, are a powerful expression of your brand because unlike ink on a static page or a sign bolted to your building, they are thinking, feeling beings who interact personally and dynamically with clients and prospects. Therefore, to assure that your brand is expressed and experienced accurately and consistently during these interactions, staff require guidance and leadership. Creating a shared understanding of your brand is at the core of a world-class marketing culture.

So then, how do you accomplish this? The following leadership tools offer a great start:

Mission/Vision/Values Statement: This is the doctrinal cornerstone of your business. It spells out for everyone working in the company exactly why you do what you do, what you want to become in the future, and how you conduct yourselves when working and interacting with others every day—both in and outside of the office. You’ll make a quantum leap in creating shared understanding and setting firm-wide accountabilities when you draft and adopt thoughtful language. The words of these statements will describe the collective beliefs and shape the collective behavior of your firm and will serve as the foundation for building your brand.

The Brand Promise: This is a straightforward piece of language that describes your ideal client, how you promise to serve them, and cites evidence or reasons they can believe your promise. Firms can use a basic formula to draft the brand promise:

“For [description of your ideal clients], [your firm] is the only [type of firm, e.g. accounting and advisory firm] that provides/delivers [unique benefit/point of difference], because we [reasons to believe.]”

In its raw form, this statement serves as an internalized frame of reference for training staff in client service. However, some firms also draft a client-facing version to share publicly. Before you share your brand promise with clients or prospects, you need to be certain everyone in the firm understands it and can be trusted to live up to the promises it spells out. Nothing devalues a relationship more severely than unfulfilled promises.

Your Example: Once you’ve committed the above items to paper, it’s up to you to propagate them within your firm and grow a culture around them. Set an example for everyone for how to live your brand every day. Brand building and leadership are inextricably intertwined. Be a good leader, and you’ll build a strong sense of brand identity and a strong marketing culture in your firm.

Building a strong brand doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes dedication to maintain it over time. Ensure that everyone in your firm understands the power of a good brand—one that helps build strong, positive emotional relationships with clients and prospects. And from there, make sure everyone on your staff is educated on and united in supporting your mission, your vision, and your brand promise.



Kristy Short, Ed.D, is Chief Communications Officer and a partner at Rootworks—the profession’s leading membership-based education organization dedicated to helping accounting professionals find
a better way of run their firms. Learn more at



Top Firm Management Social Media:

Marketing Personality Can Help You Earn More Business. Thomson Reuters blog.

What College Football Can Teach You About Project Management. AICPA Insights.

How to Grow Your Accounting Practice the Right Way. Firm of the Future blog.

3 Ideas to Amplify Your Business Development. Inovautus blog.

How to Get Online Reviews for Your Firm. BuildYourFirm blog.


Top Firm Management News:

Why the Future of Your Firm Depends on Hiring Women. The AICPA has projected that 75% of CPAs will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years, and most will be men.

Chicago Marks 75th Anniversary of First African American Female CPA. To honor the 75th anniversary of her becoming a CPA, the city of Chicago has officially declared Sunday, September 30 as Mary T. Washington Wylie Day.

San Francisco Firm Gives Back to Community. The staff of SD Mayer & Associates changed out of business attire and rolled up their collective sleeves to volunteer at the SF-Marin Food Bank.

Accounting Firm Sends Team to Rwanda. Warren Averett, LLC recently sponsored a team of employees to travel to Rwanda in partnership with Compassion International.

New Sage Program Gives Firms Roadmap to Support Future Growth. The SAN Client Advisory Services Program builds on the growth of Sage’s partner ecosystem across the U.S.




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