Personal or firm brand? Brands and the professions don’t mix too well. Amongst the sophisticated firms, there’s confusion over whether it’s about reputation (past performance) or brand (future promise). Amongst the traditionalists, it’s all about visual identity (logos and design). And many partners will argue “It’s not about the firm’s brand, but about the individual partner and the relationship”. I don’t entirely disagree.
However, if every partner ploughs their own furrow there’s only a limited reach for their “personal” brand (BrandMe) – even if they are superb networkers, regular speakers and media darlings. And as a personal brand, there’s only so many clients and so much work one partner and his/her team can accept.
We are familiar with the “rock star” model of professional promotion. One leading light is known by all in a particular market and the rest of the team hangs onto his or her coat tails. The danger is that clients will only want to deal with the rock star so the opportunities for growth – and succession – are limited. However, with bigger teams it is more likely that a “constellation of stars” model – a number of individuals with strong reputations – will support the creation of a stronger profile and brand for the team and the firm overall.
Older professionals tend to sell using their personal brand, younger professionals must often rely on the firm’s brand. So both strategies have a role in a firm’s strategy.
Some of the most incredible success stories in professional services marketing are where a number of partners work together – either by happy accident or agreed strategy – to infiltrate and dominate a particular (niche) market. Between them they share the load of profile raising, service development, service delivery and networking. Together -with a campaign – it is quicker to acquire and serve a significant number of clients that accelerates them through the experience curve and establishes them as market leaders. As a team they can field the partner with the most appropriate personality, style or experience. Together they really do offer the “strength in depth” that so many talk about.
A personal brand lasts a lifetime. A firm brand can live forever.