What is a name?
We all have our favourite brands, don’t we? Ones that resonate with us, that speak to us and to whom we are loyal regardless of our “sensible” heads telling us that we could probably find a cheaper or better alternative elsewhere.
But why do we get so “hooked” on certain brands? Have you ever tried to analyse why something generates an “emotional” response when we are able to be very factual and pragmatic about other aspects of our lives?
I quite like this definition of a brand from Investopedia. “A brand is the collective impact or lasting impression from all that is seen, heard, or experienced by customers who encounter a company and its products and services. In creating a brand, a business is managing the effect that the product or service is having on the customer.”
In my younger days, it was always the consumer brands that shaped branding theory (although these days we have incredibly powerful business brands); then it was all about being a “bundle of wants and desires in the mind of the customer.” Either way as we know, it is so much more than the visual. What we talk about now is the “experience” that we, the consumer, have when we use the brand/s that we love.
What do we mean by experience? It is every single activity, online manifestation, printed brochure, customer interaction that had with every part of our product that will create that “lasting impression”; the “collective impact” we seek in a strong and compelling brand. It’s that “managing the effect” as the definition above articulates.
When it comes to professional services brands, what is being “used” or purchased is the deep technical, specialist, business advice that is customised to our clients’ specific problem. So, creating a differentiated brand in this case means ensuring every single point at which our customer interacts with us reinforces those special characteristics. This is really saliant when clients need advice and solutions from different parts of the network. Managing that experience for our clients across international boundaries and jurisdictions is hyper-important.
The word “Kreston” means “responsible, trustworthy” in ancient Greek, and our member firms take that very seriously. Our name is fundamental to the promise our brand offers our clients and the experience we need to give them.
Kreston: Our whole is greater than the sum of our parts
As a worldwide network of accounting and business advisory firms, Kreston advisers want to be compelling to ambitious, entrepreneurial, interesting clients who seek to expand their business operations around the world. These sorts of clients want to move fast, need on-the-ground support, and require local savvy business advisers who know how to get the job done, and the right business connections to make that happen. Independent, ambitious, and fiercely entrepreneurial, Kreston firms are ideally placed for clients like these across the world. The key is to manage that experience so that it is consistent and reliable for our clients wherever they are in the world.
Kreston has a powerful backstory that reinforces the drive and energy that exists in the network today. Formed in 1971 by 2 entrepreneurial accountants, one from our German firm, Kreston Bansbach, and one from an English firm, Finnie & Co, that is now part of BDO, these 2 accountants were early pioneers of both an international mindset and the concept of a network of firms around the world who collaborate to help clients expand overseas. Fifty years on, Kreston is an energetic community of like-minded people who love working together to help their clients succeed.
Five Steps to Building a Global Brand
We know from member surveys and feedback that building our global brand is a key priority for our membership.
As a network we have wide and varied audiences. Our people, our firm leadership, our firms’ clients, our potential clients, our potential future recruits and all the people involved in helping us deliver work and value as suppliers and referrers.
That’s a lot of people to try and influence. Which is why we are in this together and we are working on a 5-step programme to build that worldwide global brand.
- A shared vision and ambition – one brand worldwide
- A compelling proposition that unites us – a purpose that we all agree with
- A consistent experience across our people and our clients – online is now king
- A reputation and narrative that is compelling to our clients and our people
- Ambassadors and advocates who help create and spread our culture
There isn’t the space to go into the detail for all these steps now. But we already know our shared ambition is a strong worldwide brand: entrepreneurial firms united in a collegiate, collaborative, community-minded enterprise, fuelling ambition and walking shoulder-to-shoulder with our clients. Our members will hear more in October about our shared vision, ambition, and purpose at our first world conference for 3 years in the wonderful city of Madrid.
Let’s take a closer look at steps 3, 4 and 5 and how we work on these essential areas of the digital challenge, a strong narrative to clients, and engagement of our younger people involved in the network, so they feel a sense of ownership, pride, and opportunity.
Why Digital is King in the Battle for Hearts and Minds
The Covid pandemic changed our lives fundamentally. We were becoming digitally adept, used to doing research online, fact finding, comparing providers. But suddenly in early 2020, that was the only way we could work – the only way we could buy – and the only way we could find out any information. And we haven’t looked back. Statista.com’s April 2022 analysis confirms “As of April 2022, there were five billion internet users worldwide, which is 63 percent of the global population. Of this total, 4.65 billion were social media users.” We will never return to a world where we are not “digital first.”
Although accounting firms may rely heavily on personal recommendations to grow business locally, growing a business regionally and globally takes a robust digital brand. 62% of businesses make decisions about who to do business with using just digital content to make their shortlists (Forrest Group, 2021). There are almost 2 billion websites in the digital landscape. Getting people to come to our websites is important – creating campaigns and stories that are interesting to read and add value to our clients’ research is critical. We have a great bank of client case studies that demonstrate the way that Kreston firms help their clients and regularly send our international clients update on tax, audit, and other international topics of interest.
Lynsey Thornthwaite, Kreston Global Digital Brand and Content Manager, gives us a view of our digital performance so far, “The Kreston Global website is growing rapidly; we have doubled the organic traffic in six months, and we could do that again over the next six months. Watching how users on the website clearly indicates that these new users are in that research phase, top of the funnel. They are navigating through the website, checking the “Doing Business In” pages, then navigating the country firms’ pages.”
“The traffic coming from member websites to the Kreston Global website is a great example of buyer intent in that research phase. The Kreston Menon website is the number one firm website referring traffic to the Kreston Global website. This is due to a combination of offline activity; there is an incredible amount of work going in to raising the profile of the firm – and the online activity, and a simple to navigate website that signposts users through the customer journey effectively. We can see that users from Kreston Menon are finding the journey fluid and the content meets their needs. The audience locations are not just regional, but global and the percentage of those visitors who return is third highest overall, a positive indication of interest and engagement.” Kreston Menon is part of our group of firms who really understand the power of digital engagement.
Understanding the “Interpreneur”
A professional brand stands and falls on the quality of its reputation and the way it shows how it understands its core client buyer. So, we focus a lot on enhancing our reputation with media and content creation. Our global group experts in Corporate and HNWI Tax, VAT, Audit, Transfer Pricing, Global Mobility and Corporate Finance write and publish expert advice to demonstrate our collective knowledge in these areas. This helps our reputation as a strong business advisory brand.
As well as topical and expert content, we have recently commissioned research across 6 main global markets to probe the way in which business owners decide to expand their businesses globally, what challenges they see as key and what are the characteristics found in successful “interpreneurs.”
We call these types of business owners/investors and directors “Interpreneurs,” and the results were fascinating, giving us real insight into what type of geographies, age and gender profile makes a more likely interpreneur and what they want from governments and advisers to help them success.
We will be running a series of podcasts with our advisers and clients looking more closely at the steps to success and have developed a web tool so that clients and prospects can see if they share the characteristics for success.
Ambassadors and advocates
Our culture is forged and strengthened the more our members interact with each in communities of interest. By building more ambassadors for Kreston through involving our younger people more in the network, we gain so much from their input and energy. It is so important that they can see Kreston as a network of opportunity for future career development, where they can work on interesting and ambitious clients and with enthusiastic committed professionals and peers from around the globe. All of whom are important advocates for the Kreston brand.
We are fortunate to have Kreston Menon in our network as they are true exemplars of what it means to have a strong, strategic brand focus – it is not by chance that they have a recognised “Superbrand” status in the UAE. They are energetic business builders in their own country of course, but through forging strong relationships with government bodies in the region, by investing in an international strategy abroad to get the most out of the network, and by being very supportive and involved in Kreston’s community building activities, they have gained a big following and strong relationships with colleagues across the world in the Kreston network.
“You have to invest to see a return” is the mantra of many business advisers when helping their client to think long-term. This is very much our attitude at Kreston Global – when our firms invest in the network and in helping us to build our global brand – like Kreston Menon – then together we will be stronger, compelling, and connected together by our shared ambition.