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What we’ve learned by going through the rebranding process ourselves

Feb 17, 2017

PF new brand

Your brand is central to everything your accountancy firm does in marketing, and it is more important than ever that you address it.

At The Profitable Firm, we are in the midst of our own rebrand, and the process is teaching me and the entire PF team a lot about what a rebrand means – and how to manage it.

Read about why we decided to rebrand here.

A rebrand is one of the most exciting things you can do.  

This is seriously fun stuff.  You’re finally going to show to the world what your business is actually like. What you care about.

You’re going to have something that you are proud of, and your marketing will become so much simpler and cleaner.

Finally, all the things you have been dreaming of will begin to come together. It won’t happen straight away, but it will happen, and the brand is the beginning of all that goodness.

So be excited, and stay excited. Because….

Rebranding is also one of the most difficult things you can do.

Let me tell you: when you start the branding process, you will think that you have a pretty good handle on who you are as a firm, as a person.

Along the way, however, you will begin to wonder if you’re making things worse. If you would have been better leaving it as it was. And whether you’re ever going to get where you dream of being.

You will get there: especially when you’re working with the best (because, of course, you are – read on below).

But it’s a creative process, and that involves challenge.

Bumps in the road.

Confusion.

Failure, even.

All of these things band together to deliver great results in the end: so prepare yourself mentally for a good solid challenge, and stay optimistic throughout. You will get there. Stick with it.

The brand process will always take longer than you think.

This goes for everything creative – no, scratch that. It goes for everything.

Building a website.

Getting more leads for your accountancy firm.

Hiring people.

Launching a new service.

Creating systems to help your firm run better.

Learning content marketing.

Getting good at social media.

When we take on a new accountancy firm, one of the first things I share with them is that the process will very likely take longer than they think. Whatever you’ve got in your mind – “we’re going to get x more leads and £x more business by x date” – you may want to double, or even triple it.

It could happen instantly. I’ve seen firms literally get instant results from social media efforts. But there’s no guarantee, and that is the case with any area of marketing.

So prepare yourself mentally, share with your team, and settle in for the long haul. It will be worth it.

Don’t go through a rebranding process until you’re ready.

Be ready to invest both time and serious cash in this process, because it’s going to take both.

You’re going to need to invest your own time, but also that of your team. You’ll need to invest in a good branding expert. If you already have offices, signage, stationery, and branding everywhere, then you will also need to invest financially in updating these things.

And (rather like a wedding), it is very likely that the costs will mount up higher than you originally planned.

I’ve been amazed that for a company which is 100% virtual and remote, there still is so much to rebrand. The website, all our content items, every online system we use, videos, social media, and even a few printed things we use for conferences or events. The list is long and keeps growing: but we’re taking it patiently, one step at a time. As I’m always telling my Content Marketer members, our goal is “not perfect but done”.

Involve the team in your rebranding process

One of the most rewarding aspects of this process for me has been involving the entire team. The Profitable Firm is 100% virtual and remote, but we hold in-person team meetings every quarter so we can get together and actually meet each other and power through our own marketing and processes.

At one of our last in-person meetings, we brainstormed and drew pictures and jotted down ideas and each person shared what they felt we did well. Who we were. What to consider when rebranding.

No idea was a bad one.

I made it clear that if we’re going to truly be open and creative, we can’t cut off the creative process halfway through. If someone comes up with what we consider to be a “bad idea”, what could that bad idea have led to? (Except for the idea to use a cactus as our image. That one got rejected by everyone.)

In your accountancy firm, involving the team may seem difficult and even pointless. Some firms that we’ve worked with have team members who really don’t want to have anything to do with the firm’s marketing. In my opinion this is dangerous and can be a warning sign either of your firm’s future prospects, or those of that particular team member. Read why.

You want to involve the team, not because you will necessarily use every idea they have, but because the business includes them. Your firm would not be who or what it is without the team members who do the accounting and tax and payroll and other work within it.

So, tell them what you’re doing, and why. Show them logo drafts. Invite them to share their own sketches. Use team meeetings for brainstorming and input.

Eventually of course a decision has to be made, and “decision by committee” is a dangerous thing. But at a minimum they will have been heard, and at a maximum they will be even more keen and excited about where the firm is going, and their role within it.

Get a branding expert. Do not scrimp on this. 

One of the reasons I waited to rebrand The Profitable Firm was that I hadn’t yet found our ‘branding match’.

Being in the creative industry I knew loads of people and agencies that offered this service, but I kept hesitating – and it wasn’t about the money.

We were ready to invest in a rebrand, but I didn’t want to invest at a significant scale and then be disappointed.

I also was aware of how personally involved I needed to be, since The Profitable Firm has within the past year gone from an LLP that was jointly owned, to being 100% my own company. So building our new brand meant working with someone that I personally got on with and whose company I enjoyed.

We chose to work with Col Gray of Pixels Ink, located in Dundee. I originally met Col through the Content Marketing Academy, of which I am a member. It’s an online community (as well as in person events and trainings, and online videos), and it helps me to continue learning and growing when it comes to content marketing, so I can better help accountants do the same.

Being part of CMA – particularly the Slack group, which is very active – allowed me to see how Col worked, how he did business, the great ideas he had, and his skills in graphic design.

But even better, it showed me who he is as a person. And whilst choosing someone who has the technical skills and abilities is important, it is equally important to choose someone whose values align with your own.

Col fits very well with the Profitable Firm pillars. He is creative – he showed me what he was doing for a local charity and I was really blown away by the power of the new brand and how he managed to get so many concepts into such a simple design.  He is generous – someone would ask for an opinion on a graphic, and he’d put together a revised graphic with edits and send it to them, simply to be helpful.  I could see that he worked with integrity, and when he needed to take a rest he would. All of these things were a fit, and best of all I simply enjoyed his company. At first we had a hard time getting down to business because we blethered away about our own businesses, and life, and clients, and rum, and all those good things.

When you’re choosing who you will work with on your branding identity, be ready to invest serious money and time, and choose to work with the best. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of designers and brand experts (and so-called experts) and marketing agencies and freelancers, so the decision can be a hard one.

Take your time, evaluate the options available to you, and don’t choose based on price. Pick a branding expert who is talented and personable. You’ll be glad of it when things get challenging.

Do a rebrand when you have clarity about who you are and what you stand for

A branding process is not a time to try to figure things out like “what services will we offer?” and “shall we attempt to find a niche?” and “what is our mission?”

The branding identity, or the rebrand, happens when you’ve begun to realise that your existing brand no longer reflects who you truly are as a company.

You’ll begin to see it in multiple areas. I saw it not only in our logo and website, but in the way we presented ourselves, the connections we made, the type of clients we were beginning to attract.

Read more about why we chose to do a rebrand.

A brand is far, far more than a logo. 

This one I can’t emphasise enough. We spend an entire session of our Content Marketer programme on Branding because you must be clear in your mind that the brand goes far beyond your logo.

It’s central to every element of your marketing, and aspects of it will be used all over – on your website, signage, printed materials, emails, photography, videography, social media… everywhere.

I found it difficult to approve a logo option when I thought about it solely as a logo. But when I began to see the potential of how elements of that logo would be used on our new website, on business cards, within the sub-brands…that started to get really exciting.

For example, the ‘icon’ element of our logo is edged with yellow. It’s a little difficult to see when it’s made very small, as in a profile image used on social media. I dithered and hesitated for almost two weeks between two logo options which were identical except that one was outlined in green and the other in yellow. I asked for advice and got a solid 50-50 response. My favourite response was from Amy Harris at Futrli – who was also going through a rebrand at the time – and she said “I like this one – but hey, you’re the boss! You get to decide!” That helped a lot because you can’t please all the people – and it’s not right to try. (I ended up picking the other one. And she was cool with that.)

What helped me the most was our branding expert showing me how the brand would be used on social media, and giving me mockups of it. Instantly I went from “I guess it’s this one” to “I absolutely love it!!”  That’s the kind of response you want to have. Read on.

Not everyone will love the brand as much as you do. 

You cannot please all the people all the time.

You can’t please all the people some of the time.

I find it amazing you can even please some of the people some of the time.

The point is, this is your brand. Your firm. Your decision. The most helpful advice to me throughout the whole branding process was to trust the branding expert we had hired to work with us. I even told him at one stage that if I questioned him again, he was to remind me that “Col is always right”. Being the humble man he is, he laughed at that….but it came in handy a few weeks later.

When we got the first round of drafts of the logo, complete with colour (Col always designs brands in greyscale first, so you can agree the shape and message first), I asked everyone for their opinion. I showed it to my family, my accountant, a few friends, some clients, the random stranger on the street.

This can be very useful – and it’s great to get feedback. We had one draft option which looked remarkably like the Pinterest logo

Rebrand options

and another that the team insisted looked like it said “Profiteroles”.

Brand options

That helped us to reject those options.

However, asking everyone for their opinion can be confusing, too. Eventually, you have to decide: and as with most things in your business and in your life, you already know what you want. You’re just trying to get support for your opinion.

Be strong. Be confident. Ask for advice. And then make a decision already.

You must absolutely love it: but it may take you time to see how much you love it.

The logo we went with, in the end, was the very first one that struck me, and our branding expert’s favourite. He was very kind to take us through a fuller branding process than he usually does with his other clients – he showed me ideas and sketches and thoughts, which he assured me he never does with other businesses. It’s critical to get to know the client really well, and then come up with one solid design that you are confident in.

As he researched our company and niche, though, Col realised that it wasn’t as though there were loads of other businesses like ours to compare to. He looked to creative agencies and digital creatives, but with our focus exclusively on accountants, we were still a bit different.

Different is good of course: but Col decided to share more of his initial thoughts with us – and once we’d fleshed out some ideas, the very first logo option he shared with me was the one we eventually chose (after great effort, much thought, and probably a great deal of hair-pulling by Col at my questions).

I didn’t quite see it at first though. It took me time to consider where it came from, what it meant, what it could mean, and why it was so perfect for us.

Now, I love every part of it. I’m excited to share it, and I see new possibilities with our branding and new aspects of our brand’s “character” all the time. But it took time for this to happen.

You may not need to do a “launch” of your new brand

You have two options when it comes to a rebrand:

The “hard launch” – which is the typical rebrand that we think of, with a party and champagne to kick it off, and everything changing instantly, with nothing remaining of the old brand by the next day.

The “soft launch” – which means giving people the heads up, sharing a little bit here and there, and letting it happen more slowly over time.

We chose the soft launch option, because we’re not changing our company name. We’re the same creative agency you know and love, but with a new look. You’ll see it when you see it, and we trust you’ll love it as much as we do. Hopefully, though, you already love us for who we are. A launch won’t change that.

We look forward to sharing more with you over the coming weeks!

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