Professional services firms aren’t exactly known for their personality. In fact, except in creative services like advertising and graphic design, many firms seem to think their clients expect a grim-faced gravity from their service providers. After all, a lot of money is at stake.

But there is another perspective to consider: how does the buyer find the right firm in the first place? How does a prospective client choose among so many unappealing, serious faces? And how will your firm stand out from the rest?

If you stop to think about it, professional services buyers want to work with approachable professionals who can understand their plight and have the chops to fix the problems. They crave creative thinking. And personal interaction. And people that really, truly care.

The problem is that the vast majority of professional services firms are run by industry experts, not business experts. Usually, they understand their craft better than they understand their audience. They know how to deliver a great product, but they know little about why buyers choose one firm over another.

Fortunately, there is an answer to this problem: differentiation. And the personality your firm projects can really set you apart and make you memorable.

What is Brand Personality?

Brand personality is the outward-facing human component of your firm’s image. It’s emotional, rather than intellectual. And it promises that clients will have a unique experience. Personality can emerge naturally from your organization — especially when a firm has a vibrant internal culture. Or it can be consciously crafted to evoke a range of feelings about the company. Either way, injecting your brand with a little personality can affect the way prospects think about you.

So what are some ways you can project personality without sacrificing credibility?

4 Ways to Express Your Firm’s Personality

1. Humor — Judging by the vast majority of professional services websites, we professionals are a particularly boring, solemn bunch. Apparently, we’re so focused on serving our clients that we forget to be human and let our funny side show. But a little humor can attract people’s attention, get them engaged and help people remember you. Of course, humor is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s easy to take it too far. Here’s an ad from accounting firm Grant Thornton that balances serious and silly without crossing the line:


2. Custom photography — Today, stock photography is inexpensive and easy to find. It’s also one of the biggest reasons firms have such a similar look and feel when it comes to their websites and marketing materials. Instead of relying on stock, consider investing in lively custom photography of your team. High-quality photography may cost a lot more, but its impact can’t be beat. A great example is the law firm BD&P, who fills their website with compelling action shots of their attorneys doing the things they love. Custom photography showcases the human side of this firm, making their professionals more relatable, friendly and appealing.


3. Illustration — Another way to get out of the stock photography rut is to reach for illustration, instead. Inexplicably, illustration is rarely used today in the professional services. This means it offers a rare opportunity to do something that almost nobody else in your industry is doing. And illustration is an infinitely flexible medium you can use to portray your services and value proposition. While good stock illustrations are available for purchase, you’ll get even more impact from your investment if you hire a professional illustrator to create images customized to your firm. Here, a very clean illustration style gives this financial services website a calming appeal:


4. Clever copy — Writing with wit and style is a particularly effective way to break out of the professional straightjacket, project personality and engage your audience. For instance, law firm Pilgrim Christakis uses a series of clever headlines on their homepage to draw visitors deeper into their website and communicate that they aren’t your typical lawyers.


These are just a few of the ways you can showcase your brand personality. And it’s not something you have to do all at once; embracing even one of these approaches can get you off to a great start.

Firms today seem reluctant to express their personalities. Perhaps they see it as too risky. Or maybe they’re more comfortable fitting blandly into the crowd. Either way, today’s conservative, me-too environment provides a rare opportunity for you to differentiate your firm and start engaging with others on a different, more personal level.

So go ahead and express your firm’s personality. But don’t go half way. Embrace it heart and soul and differentiate yourself to distinction.