HOW CPAs Can Create a “Solid” Brand

July 18, 2018 | By Paul Latham

Does your CPA brand promise look like a “Coca-Cola shaped bottle”?

Most CPAs have a big problem when it comes to creating a “solid” business brand.

If a business manufactures a “product” (let's use Coca-Cola by way of example) branding is relatively straightforward. You can immediately visualize the brand image of a Coca-Cola shaped bottle in your head. However, if you are a partner in a CPA business it is more difficult to create a “solid” brand – in part because the service delivery is so intangible.

Creating an intangible service brand is hard – and ensuring alignment between your brand promise and how you deliver your “product” (or in this case CPA service) is even harder.

CPAs need their team to understand that the service they deliver is their tangible equivalent of the "Coca-Cola shaped bottle". How do you make the CPA service repeatable and consistent? How does it keep “coming off your production line" as consistently as a "Coca-Cola shaped bottle?

Basically CPAs need to use a rational and logical approach to both strengthen their intangible brand asset and deepen client relationships. To achieve that CPAs need to align:

Business Purpose

Brand Promise (or Value Promise)

Customer Service Framework

1.  Business Purpose

CPAs need to be able to clarify the main purpose of their business. They need to decide, what message will truly resonate with their people and drive them to perform. How will that message align with the business values and culture?

CPAs worry about attracting and retaining talent – but to achieve that objective they need to make it feel like a job worth doing. Their business purpose needs to be exciting. Most CPAs don’t bother to make their purpose exciting – and it is little wonder that their team respond in kind (they “don’t bother” either).

Remember the story of the cleaner at NASA in the 1960's? When asked what his job was he answered,  "I am part of the team working together to put a man on the moon". That team member was truly engaged in the purpose. Question – what would your team say in answer to a similar inquiry? Do your team see their work as “just a job or a “mission to be achieved”?

A team of Navy Seals is another analogy you might consider. Navy Seals understand their mission (purpose), they have strong values, they work as a team and they achieve great results. Does your team have a “Navy Seal” culture?

A clear purpose and values will sustain the efforts of the team when the "going gets tough". Clear values give everybody a consistent  "moral compass"; whilst a clear purpose means that your big business decisions can be made in their proper context. When you reach a “fork in the road” and the team has to make a decision it becomes easier if they can properly ask the question – “which is the best way to help us achieve our purpose”?

2.  Brand Promise (or Value Promise)

Why do your clients choose you? What is your CPA value or brand promise?

Do your clients really value the mechanics of the (metaphoric) "drill” you are selling to them - or do your clients actually not gave a damn about the "drill" itself and really just want to buy a "hole in the wall'? Does your CPA brand promise capture that subtle but essential difference in the perception of value?

Look on many CPA websites and you will see accountants pushing messages that their clients EXPECT from a CPA.

CPAs make so called “value promises” by prominently stressing words like “experienced”, “professional”, “timely”, and “responsive”. Question – would you ever choose a CPA who wasn’t experienced, professional, timely and responsive? Of course not – they are minimum client expectations not value items.

Instead CPAs should be striving to look different in their brand (value) promise. By way of example, CPAs should probably be advising their clients how to “clarify business direction” and “maximize business potential – grow revenues, profits, equity value . CPAs should be promising to help their best clients with things that actually matter – things that clients VALUE rather than EXPECT.

3.  Customer Service Framework – CPA Delivery of Value Promise

Finally, the CPA must put a consistent service delivery process in place. That process must ensure that the CPA team consistently provides the client with the value (brand) promised.

The CPA must not leave that consistent service (your equivalent of the "Coca-Cola shaped bottle") to "chance". CPAs need a consistent client service framework that drives (by process) the type of valuable service behavior that your clients want - and your brand promised them.

An illustration of the Elite Resource Team System™ client service framework for CPAs providing advisory services to high net worth business owner clients includes:

  • Step AStandard Value Proposition
    • Consistently delivered – CPA high level “Elevator Pitch”
  • Step B - Demonstrate Value Proposition
    • Here’s our process – what happens when you become a client
      • Help the client through the evaluation and decision making funnel
  • Step CCustomer Needs Evaluation
    • Here’s our process – Business Diagnostic / Benchmarking process
  • Step D Clarify Direction / Agree One Page Plan
    • Here’s our process – We call it a “Vision Workshop”
      • Clarify a picture of the business you want to build
      • Agree change priorities – Create One Page Plan
      • Agree team accountability for action
  • Step ERegular Meeting Plan – Implement Action
    • Here’s our process – its in 2 parts:
      • Helping your team to build action plans – we use a 4 step process
      • Helping you to drive team accountability – we use the “Accountability-Meter” tool to help us
  • Step FAnnual Review – Sustain Action Over Years
    • Here’s our process – its in 2 parts:
      • Looking back – review last year plan / progress
      • Looking forward – agree next year plan (loop process)
  • Step GClient Delight 
    • Here’s our process to ensure client is delighted ….

The outline of the above may be interesting – but what is really important in the context of creating a “solid brand” – is that by defining the service delivery steps – you have given your team an opportunity to succeed.

The Steps A-G made the intangible service to the client well defined - “more solid” – and in so doing it becomes possible to “package the service” – which makes it both possible to offer to clients (in terms of the value promise and value pricing) and possible for the team to deliver consistently.

In our illustration the steps A-G are “shaping your CPA brand” – and that becomes your equivalent of the “Coca-Cola” bottle.

That’s HOW CPAs can create a “solid” brand and HOW they make their brand promise look like a "Coca-Cola shaped bottle".

If you are an accountant or advisor and want to learn more about the Elite Resource Team System™ visit