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Personal or corporate brand – a question of balance

Professional services firms need to balance the personal brand of its star talent with the corporate brand, writes Matthew Rowe, Head of Marketing at Rickard Luckin.

Professional services marketers were traditionally employed to market the firm. The individual lawyer or accountant was often left to their own devices to figure out how they were going to best build their profile and reputation, often with mixed results.  A brilliant lawyer or accountant doesn’t always make for a natural marketer.

Given that many, particularly in smaller firms, may not have received any formal training in marketing that’s hardly a surprise. The results were often mixed, both for the firm and for the individual. And in some cases, it resulted in an irreparable mess!

This lack of training wasn’t necessarily an oversight. People leave – and sometimes they take ‘their clients’ with them. Somewhat predictably, that led some firms to be hesitant to invest the time and resource in building the personal brand of anyone outside of the senior management team.

Thankfully, that short-term thinking is largely a thing of the past now.

Now, it is much more commonplace for a firm’s leadership team to encourage the experts in their firms to share knowledge and build a personal brand alongside the marketing of the firm. After all, what is the point in having daily access to market experts at your disposal if you’re not going to utilise their skillset for marketing and business development?

Intrinsically linked
Despite being viewed by some as mutually exclusive, marketing the firm and the individual is, in my view, intrinsically linked. Get it right and the rewards are huge for everyone – the firm, the individual and, arguably most importantly, the client.

By helping to establish credible personal brands through tactics such as thought leadership content, speaking engagements and PR, visibility amongst the firm’s prospects and clients is likely to increase. This activity, when executed well, will complement firmwide marketing initiatives designed to communicate the collective expertise of the entire team.

An obvious point perhaps, but if targets and intermediaries do not know what services your firm collectively provides then they won’t buy them from you. They may just go to a competitor and not come back.

The challenges
Despite the clear benefits, personal branding and firm-level marketing can present challenges when not properly balanced. Too great an emphasis on personal branding may overshadow the firm’s marketing efforts, hindering the establishment of a strong corporate identity.

Beware too the self-proclaimed ‘maverick’ lawyer or accountant! Additionally, clients may become too reliant on individuals within your organisation, making it difficult to transition or retain clients during personnel changes.

Achieving synergy
While there are challenges in achieving this tricky balance act, these hurdles can be overcome through a strategic approach. Here are some tips that may help you along the way.

Client preferences. It’s essential that you understand the target market’s preferences, needs and decision-making factors to develop an effective marketing strategy. Once an agreed approach is in place, it is somewhat easier to tailor personal branding and the firmwide marketing efforts to resonate with your target market and existing client base.

Complementary brand. Personal brands should complement and reinforce the firm’s positioning, showcasing specialised expertise within the context of the firm’s broader offerings. They need to align with the firm’s overall brand identity and values to have the desired impact.

Digital platforms. Established digital platforms have long presented an easy opportunity to seamlessly integrate personal insights alongside a firm’s output into a cohesive online presence. For instance, by leveraging personal social media profiles to amplify firm content and engage with the target audience. Additionally, firms now optimise their websites to feature personal profiles and establish connections between individuals and the firm’s service offerings.

Support. Develop internal programs to support professionals in enhancing their personal brands. Offer training, mentoring and guidance to ensure personal branding efforts align with the firm’s objectives and enhance the overall reputation of the organisation.

Succession planning. Establish a robust succession plan that safeguards client relationships and maintains continuity when key individuals transition. Encourage cross-selling and facilitate smooth handovers, ensuring clients’ trust extends beyond individual professionals.

The rewards
The rewards of achieving this balance are substantial. By navigating these challenges and implementing effective strategies, professional services marketers can position their firms as industry leaders, attracting clients who value both the expertise of individuals and the collective strength of the organisation.

Get it right and you should be able to simplify the noise around your brand making it easier for clients and prospects to understand your values and services. Consequently, you may just have a fighting chance of winning new business and enhancing existing client relationships.

Matthew Rowe is Head of Marketing at accountants Rickard Luckin.

Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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