As accountants and bookkeepers, we often struggle with branding, we don’t necessarily understand branding, and we definitely don’t understand marketing. However, branding is used within marketing to build trust and loyalty and marketing is critical to building the practices we want. As small business owners, we must first understand branding, and then identify, recognize, and embrace our own brand.Joe Buissink, a presenter on the main stage at Scaling New Heights 2016, dove into the topic of branding - a topic that is equally important today. I had the pleasure of following up with Joe during a Scaling New Heights Podcast episode. Here is a summary of our conversation.
You are the brand. It really is that simple. Many people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out their brand. Yet they do it without recognizing the simple fact that the most important part about what they do is who they are. Your clients may say they pay for debit and credit management, but they aren’t. They could pay anyone for that. Your clients pay for who you are rather than the work you do.
Your brand should be connected to your passion. If you’ve heard me speak, you probably know that our vision at Woodard is to transform small business. Our purpose is to empower small business advisors. We are intensely passionate about transforming small business. We have fused our identity with the difference we want to make and are passionate about creating in the world, creating our brand story.
We encourage you to combine who you are (your brand) with that one thing that fills you with passion. Only by doing that will you write a story that will resonate with the right clients and build the practice you want.
As you have built your practice up until now, you may have found yourself exhausted from giving so much time and energy to your clients. As a result, you may be looking constantly for the next new thing to motivate yourself to continue. You may look for a different type of client, a different type of project, a different anything. But none of those things will provide long-term motivation.
One of the things we teach in the Woodard Institute is that you can't fill another person's cup; you can only pour yours out. We often pour the water out so quickly that we become focused on trying to protect the precious water we have. Then we go out and look for something new to motivate us to grab another drop of water and slip it in. We try to put enough drops in to stay ahead of the pouring and evaporation, hoping that one day we will have enough to retire. How do you refill your cup intentionally? You follow your passion.
You should be passionate with specificity and originality. Your brand is who you are. However, branding should come with specificity - a deep specialization. When you build a compelling brand story, marketing really isn't your problem anymore. Our industry has a big problem. Small businesses tend to accept as clients anyone holding a check who knocks on our doors. But we don’t exclude those clients who don’t fit who we are and what our passion is. To follow your passion and keep your cup full, you need to limit your new clients to only those who fit the specialization about which you are passionate.
In addition to limiting the clients coming through your front door, you need to be aware of the trap of “past dependency.” American Express OPEN used to be a mail carrier. Walt Disney's greatest aspiration was to create a black-and-white cartoon character that would rival the popularity of Felix the Cat. Aren't we glad they didn't have past dependency? Make sure you are not dependent on your past.
You should be laser-focused on alignment with your clients. Recognize and embrace your brand, identify your passion, and create a specialization. Then you will be able to build a small business practice with clients who are aligned with you.
You can passionately do what you do and the client is going to benefit. Picture this. You start your day knowing that every client you work with fits your specialization. Every client respects you because of who you are (and not only what you do). And every client works with you because of their alignment with you. You finish your day knowing that everything you have done passionately throughout the day has created benefits for your client. That is a good day’s work for everyone.
Your brand is one of your most important, if not the most important, assets in marketing your business. When you brand passionately, specifically and originally, current and future clients know exactly who you are, what you do and how they benefit. In the end, the brand is you.