[IMGCAP(1)]When most accountants are asked, “What is branding?” they are quick to answer, “a logo.” And they are partially correct; a strong logo should be the foundation of your brand. But it’s so much more too.

 

Ultimately, your brand is your promise to your clients, and encompasses everything you do. It includes the way your office looks, the way you answer your phone and e-mails, the type of people you hire, the way you deliver your services—ultimately it’s who you are as a firm.

Therefore, you should approach your brand and logo as a very important part of your firm’s identity and reputation. It’s often the most consistent representation of your firm, and creating one should be approached with a level of seriousness and dedication.

Here are a few things to consider as you get started:

Yes, you really do need a logo. Many firms balk at the idea of creating an official logo, instead going with their firm name in a standard font, usually in a shade of gray or blue. And while I don’t think firms need to go nuts with their logo, you do need one. It is a visual representation of your firm, and a way for your clients and prospects to recognize your communications at a glance. It should also create a sense of stability, legitimacy and longevity. It communicates who you are and indicates that you are serious about what you do and committed to creating an image for your firm that will stand the test of time.

It creates your branding foundation. A good logo will help create a standard upon which all other marketing efforts are built. Ultimately, it will make your marketing efforts easier, because you’ll have a look and feel on which to build everything you do. So be sure you like the colors, fonts, and overall feel of the logo, because you’ll be seeing it a lot.

It is one of your most obvious differentiators. This is often the hardest thing for firms to determine–what sets you apart from every other firm out there. When working with firms to create a marketing plan, I’ve worked with many that often get truly stumped at this point of the process. And it can be hard. But a good logo is one way you can set yourself apart, at least visually. So make sure it doesn’t look like all the rest of the firm logos out there. Really think about your firm, what you do, what your clients say about you, and why you are in business in the first place. Then find someone who can help you communicate as much of that as possible in a very simple visual image.

Always be consistent. I can’t stress this enough. I once worked for a firm and within a week discovered that they had 35 different variations of their logo in file formats. There were multiple shades of blue, tan and gray. Some stacked the firm name, others had it all on one line. Some even used gradients of two colors on the bug. And they wondered why no one knew who they were! Once you have a great logo, don’t mess with it. Use the same one all the time, on everything you do. You’ll be surprised how quickly your firm will start being recognized and known, and ultimately how your promise will be understood by all your audiences.

Don’t be afraid of color. Since your logo is the foundation on which all your marketing efforts are built, it’s nice to add a bit of color to your look. A lot of firms stick with black to look “solid,” but those days are past. Don’t be afraid to step outside of the blue and black part of the color wheel. I’m not saying to make it look like a rainbow threw up on your materials, but the firms that are thinking outside of the box are really getting noticed. Remember, it’s a differentiator for your firm, so you don’t want to look like everyone else out there. Be creative.

It must be scalable and flexible. How many times have you seen a logo that looks awesome when it’s big, but becomes illegible when small? Look at your options both big and small, and make sure it works at all sizes. Also, keep in mind that you won’t always be able to print your logo in full color, so see how it looks in one color and reversed in white on a color background. It should look great all the time and in all formats. If it doesn’t, go back to the drawing board.

Create and stick to graphic standards. Most reputable marketing and design firms will offer a graphic standards manual for an additional fee. Please take them up on this and distribute it widely at your firm. Your graphic standards manual will help guide everyone in your firm on how to use–and not use–your new logo, color scheme, fonts, etc. It should create rules on how all your communications should look, including letter formatting, PowerPoint presentations, e-mail signatures and even envelope addresses. If referred to regularly and used properly, it will make all your communications consistent and further cement your brand for your audiences.

So with all this in mind, finding a marketing firm that can take you through the process of creating a brand strategy and well-designed logo is important. Whoever you choose should take the time to get to know your firm, your services, clients and goals for growth. So do your research and choose carefully. And no matter what you do, don’t hire your nephew in art school who is pretty good with clip art. It is simply not a good idea.

Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk is president of BBR Marketing (www.bbrmarketing.com), a firm that specializes in strategic planning and tactical implementation for professional services firms.

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