In today’s business world, everyone is connected.  Professionals are tweeting, buzzing, sharing, liking, debating, and consuming information at a rapid pace. This connectivity breeds seemingly endless opportunity for brand engagement, and is available 24/7 at the fingertips of your target audiences.

Remember Newton’s third law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

This could not be more true when it comes to online brand engagement.  You might be familiar with some of these infamous brand engagement blunders.  If there were Darwin Awards given for boneheaded marketing blunders then these social media marketers may have been nominated. However, sometimes, it’s best to learn from the mistakes of others.

While these examples are on the extreme side of the scale, the lessons learned can still be applied to professional services firms: your brand positioning and messaging can either be an asset or a liability.

The best way to avoid hurting your online reputation is to get an objective picture of your brand through the eyes of your target audience, extracting what makes your firm different or unique, and then incorporating what you find into your brand positioning and messaging. This is a proven formula for a successful rebrand.

We know that brand research is important, but whose perspective do you need?  The answer depends on the reason you’re investigating your brand in the first place.  Are you a startup with a clean slate? Are you a well-established firm trying to achieve brand strength of the past? Or are you a marketing professional looking to validate the need for a rebrand?

Below are the types of individuals that engage with your brand during the buying process, and a description of their various perspectives.

1. Clients

Your clients’ perspective gives you an idea of how well or how poorly your firm is currently performing in the marketplace.  Think present tense.  How is the client experience, as it exists today?  Your current clients are best equipped to answer this question.

2. Past Clients

Past clients offer a unique perspective because they have a holistic view of the entire client experience, from start to finish.  An important indicator of your brand’s health that you can take away from this group is the ratio of those who have referred your firm versus those who have not referred your firm, and how that compares with your firm’s Net Promoter Score.


3. Prospects

Offering a forward-looking view on a potential engagement with your firm, prospects can offer a fresh take on your brand.  Their perspective is useful when analyzing what attracted them to your firm in the first place.

Bonus: The mere act of interviewing or surveying your current prospects shows that your firm values the client experience.

4. Lost Prospects

Also known as “got-aways,” this group represents those who were once prospects and chose another firm over yours, or decided not to give you their business for one reason or another.  Their perception sheds light onto what your firm can do to improve the conversion of prospects into clients, and what detracted them from selecting your firm.

5. Influencers

There are a number of forms that influencers in the marketplace can take.  They can be experts, members of an association, professionals who work in a complimentary industry, or even contributors to a popular blog, newspaper, industry journal or magazine.  This group either directly or indirectly influences the decision maker, so it is important that you maintain a relationship with these influencers.  Their perspective of your brand can come in handy when you want to generate more referrals.

6. Untouched Target Market

Depending on whom you ask, this group owns the hardest perspective to obtain.  These individuals are potential buyers that you don’t have any relationship with, past or present. Theirs is one of the better perspectives when it comes to assessing your firm’s visibility and reputation in the marketplace – two factors that make up your brand strength.

7. Your Firm’s Internal Audience

It’s important to get a pulse on the internal perception of your firm’s brand. This group eats, sleeps, and breathes your brand.  They hold the seller’s perspective and can shed light into client feedback, internal operations, and culture.  Additionally, this group gives you a baseline to compare with external perspectives.  This allows you to analyze gaps in perception and identify areas of your brand that are strong as well as areas that need improving.

Capturing the right perspective when conducting brand research is paramount in charting the right course in your rebranding efforts.  Stay relevant in the minds of your target audience, and avoid an inconsistent brand message.