Branding and professional services have always had an uneasy relationship. On one level, there can be a feeling that an effective, talented organisation does not need to focus too much on its marketing - word of mouth and continued success should be enough to bring in new business, as should the prestige garnered by top firms such as Clifford Chance or Deloitte.
However, in recent years a more evolved understanding of branding has emerged within the services sector. The recent name changes of accountancy firms - from Ernst and Young to EY and PriceWaterhouseCoopers to PWC, respectively - shows that such companies are aware of the need to present a certain image.
But how does this impact on their hiring policies?
Recruiting for change
At EMR we’ve noticed a recent change in how top-tier accountancy firms hire marketers. Rather than simply cycling through the usual candidates from their direct competitors, they have been looking to the wider services market.
Such hires have experience of blue-chip branding and working within partner-led environments - however, they will also bring in different perspectives gained from time spent in different industries.
The key focus behind this decision is a developing realisation that from a customer-focused perspective, it can be difficult to differentiate between high-level accountancy firms' offerings.
As previously mentioned, their capabilities and credibility are not in doubt - but if the same can be said for their main rivals, it is going to prove difficult to stand out from the crowd without some form of brand differentiation.
What marketers are being asked to do is find a way to create an engaging, innovative brand that goes beyond the core services that clients will expect from a prestigious accountancy service.
This is why they are being brought in from different sectors - companies do not want more of the same, but are hoping to add to their marketing techniques and develop new ways of connecting with customers.
By creating an extra layer of prestige around their service, or highlighting the new offerings put forward by accountancy firms keen to develop their position in the market, marketing professionals can help them step ahead of their counterparts.
Advice for candidates
Marketers who have worked in the professional services sector and are hoping to switch to the accountancy field should think about what they have learned in this area that could appeal to potential employers.
Bringing fresh ideas and not being afraid to ask obvious questions can make a big difference - after all, it is often far easier to implement change on something you have seen from the outside rather than only as an insider.
While continuity is in many ways the order of the day - customer attitudes will be similar and partners tend to behave in the same way whatever the specific services area you're working in - it's important to stress the novel approaches you can bring to the sector when it comes to engaging marketing.
The whole reason behind bringing in fresh talent is to find new approaches, so in this instance it is wise to rock the boat as much as possible.