Debunked: Building brand awareness for your accountancy practice

Think about ten top accountancy brands. Or at least the ones you can remember. How many of those do you think your typical client would be able to name – or would even recognise?

Once you move outside of the accountancy and finance professions, brand awareness drops off very fast. Even the larger firms (beyond perhaps the 6 biggest firms in the UK) don’t have widespread brand awareness among the public at large.

You could argue that they don’t need to be household names. What’s important is that their target market recognises and rates the brand. I would agree. Firms also want to be well regarded among potential influencers and referrers.

Building brand awareness and loyalty is important for multi-partner firms. This is one way in which they can benefit from being a larger firm. Their investment in marketing and promotional activities helps boost the brand, helps generate brand awareness and helps open the door when new work opportunities arise.

Years ago I was headhunted to be a partner at BDO. It was great to feel that simply referencing this seemed to evidence my credibility. Years later BDO is still the firm whose name I mention to evidence I did quite well when I was in practice.

One top 50 accountancy firm with around 20 partners advertises regularly on one local radio station. I am sure this helps build their profile with the listeners. And, as they’ve been doing it so long I would hope that it’s proving a good investment!

What about smaller firms though?

I regularly come across accountants who have chosen unusual names for their firms. I applaud the founders IF such names make their firms STAND OUT and be more memorable. This isn’t always the case of course. I am also aware of far more smaller firms with less memorable names.  And I’m aware of plenty of reasons for and against using your own surname as the practice name.  That’s a separate issue.

Either way, few accountants will win new enquiries or business simply through the promotion of their firm’s name.

The point I am driving towards is that, as accountants, the name of your firm is NOT what gets you business (most of the time). Your clients either want YOU or they don’t. The only ‘brand’ you need to boost is your own personal brand. This is another reason why I encourage accountants to focus their attention on Linkedin rather than twitter.

Linkedin is an online business networking platform. On Linkedin, you have a personal profile. You post as you. You comment as you and  you connect as you. Not as your firm. Your profile photo is a key part of your profile.

Twitter is one of many social media tools. On twitter you can also have a personal profile. But, sadly, many smaller firms instead use twitter in their firm’s name. They hide the details of who is behind the firm. They don’t share their name or their photo. In almost all such cases this is a complete waste of time and effort. Barely anyone sees their twitter posts or wants to connect with a local accountancy firm that tweets occasionally. If you are going to be on twitter, much better to use it in your own name – and to only mention your accountancy firm in your twitter profile.

And, finally, your website. If it’s not attracting the new clients you want, think about adding in details of who is running the firm. Reveal the name or names of who the client will be dealing with. That’s one of the things they are looking for when they visit your website.  Who are YOU?

Of all the accountants I have worked with and advised in recent years I can think of only one who is the exception that proves the rule 😉

He runs a well established firm that used to have 3 or 4 partners. It’s now owned by the sole practitioner and still has over 30 staff. The local name awareness is such that local brand name advertising and promotions is all he needs to do to attract a continual stream of good quality new clients every month.

This is very much an exceptional case for a number of reasons.  Unless you can articulate similar good reasons in your case I would stress that you can waste a lot of time and money trying to build brand awareness for your accountancy practice. Focus instead on investing time and money in ways that are more likely to achieve your business objectives.

About the Author:

Mark Lee FCA is an accountancy focused futurist, influencer, speaker, mentor, author and debunker.

4 Comments

  1. Della 9th October 2018 at 11:10 am - Reply

    Rather unusually I’m going to disagree with you. Well, half disagree.

    I agree that sole practitioners can use their personal brand to build better connections than an anonymous logo.

    But, whilst a sole practitioner IS their brand, it could also hold them back. If you are more than a one man band then it is easier to delegate if clients see you as a business rather than an individual so there needs to be an element of a business brand too. If clients are comfortable dealing directly with your team it will allow you to grow your business or to free up more of your time or to make your business more saleable.

    It’s possible to do this by sharing news/photos of the team and their individual successes and attributes. Also including other team members on your website or introducing them to clients and prospects at events. Still keep it about individuals but under a brand/umbrella.

    Your team can be an extension of your personal brand way in a way which larger firms might envy.

    • Mark Lee 9th October 2018 at 6:35 pm - Reply

      Thanks Della. I always value your feedback and agree with your points. Indeed that’s partly why I encourage accountants to choose a ‘brand’ name for their practice rather than one that is based around their name.

  2. Phil 9th October 2018 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Agree with Della a combination of both works and has worked very well for me in expanding my practice. Clients want to work with me but have been attracted the fact we are a business and our branding has aligned us with businesses with a similar ambition.

  3. Peter Windatt 10th October 2018 at 11:05 am - Reply

    We went to great lengths, when “going it alone”, to avoid using our surnames in the new business name. Over time we will want to become ever more dispensible to the business and, we believed then, and still do, that if our names were part of the firm name too many people would be asking for Mr/Mrs X rather than being happy with whoever they are directed to. Brand names do count though, I’m ex C&L/Cork Gully and probably drop that fact into a conversation every other day – to be at such a firm for a reasonable period and to have secured a promotion or two whilst there is a tick in the box for too many people to be ignored (he says 24 years later).

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