New York (Oct. 3, 2003) -- When you buy Johnson's Baby Shampoo, the implicit promise is that your baby's not going to cry when you wash his hair. Similarly, accounting firms need to develop their own brand promises if they want to successfully compete in today's marketplace, marketing experts warned Thursday.

Speaking at Northstar Conferences' 2nd Annual Accounting Firm Marketing Forum, J.H. Cohn chief marketing officer Sally Glick and marketing consultant Marsha Leest stressed that firms have to extend their brands beyond the personal relationships partners have developed with their clients.

"A firm has to take on a life of its own and create a brand identity," Glick said. "What if that partner leaves the firm? You have to have an image in the marketplace, not just the services one person can deliver."

Glick and Leest recommend putting down on paper a client's "bill of rights" of the implicit promises you will keep as their accountant and business consultant as a way of developing your brand. And they noted that distilling a firm's core beliefs and values and what they mean to clients, can take time, and that branding is an evolutionary process.

Good branding allows the marketplace to easily understand what your firm offers, distinguishes the firm from competitors, and gives clients and prospects the chance to "associate themselves with your reputation and good name," Leest added.

-- Tracey Miller-Segarra

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