chicken and egg

For many professional services firms, international expansion, especially in emerging markets, represents the greatest opportunity for growth.

Accounting Today recently published an interesting article pointing to different approaches that firms are taking to connect with international prospects – joining the right networks and associations, incorporating new services onto a company’s website, and leveraging social networks, such as LinkedIn, to connect with a broader set of prospects. All important channels for success.

But focusing on marketing strategy first is putting the cart before the horse. Simply adding a new section to your firm’s website about international capabilities is not enough to establish the credibility you need to engage international audiences.

The above channels are just vehicles; that’s a marketing strategy discussion. But first you need to make sure you’re communicating the right messages about your firm in a way that is both authentic and compelling to your new targets. That is a brand strategy exercise.

You may see a great opportunity for growth by looking abroad – but you need to determine if your current brand supports such a move. How does the expanded offering fit into your firm’s overall value proposition? And what makes your firm uniquely capable of handling the specific needs of international clients? These are all important questions to address before reaching out to prospects.

Remember a brand isn’t what you say — it’s what your most important audiences say and think about you. To get an accurate reading on your firm’s current brand, you need to conduct the right research. A brand audit can be an especially helpful tool for uncovering any gaps between where your firm’s brand stands today and where it needs to go in the future to resonate with new audiences. If your brand is a completely new player in the market, an audit of the existing landscape can help you identify the right positioning opportunity for your brand.

Keep in mind, too, that the positioning and key messages that helped build your firm may not resonate with new audiences – and this is not always an easy pill to swallow. But as your business strategy evolves, so too must your brand. As the Accounting Today article suggests, leveraging the right communications channels is critical for professional services firms looking to tap into the growing opportunities in international markets – but only when these outreach efforts are backed by a solid brand foundation. With the right positioning and messaging in place, these channels can work together in a synchronized fashion to help your firm foster meaningful dialogue with prospects and standout in a competitive market.