Brand identity can be a tricky thing to pin down, especially for law firms. Most attorneys and executives think of their brand as their logo or their tagline or their elevator pitch, but beyond that, they struggle to communicate their firm’s positioning. It’s almost as if they’re strangers to themselves. They know they work hard and achieve great outcomes for their clients, but they can’t tell you exactly what their brand represents.
Fundamentally, your brand is based on your strongest value propositions, not your favorite aspects of the firm or what you do. To truly grasp what your law firm’s brand is and then successfully deliver on its promises, lawyers need to distill their brand’s core elements by asking a few fundamental questions about what separates their firm from the competition. What does your firm bring to the table that your competitors do not or cannot offer? How do you communicate those attributes, and how does that improve your firm’s position? Remember, a brand is based on your firm, but it exists as a concept in your audience’s minds.
In this blog, we’ll discuss three simple questions that you and your partners should provide clear answers to before moving forward with any branding exercise. These questions should be examined carefully, brainstormed, white-boarded, debated, reassessed, and finally agreed upon. Only then will you have an accurate understanding of what your firm represents and how your potential and current clients perceive it.
Question 1: Is Branding Necessary?
Without naming any names, there are a few marketers out there who, in their attempt to appear radical or progressive, are steadfastly opposed to the concept of branding for law firms, which is misguided. Apparently, these confused souls haven’t been paying attention to the statistics.
For instance, according to the Content Marketing Institute, 89% of marketers say brand awareness is the most important goal, followed by sales and lead generation. How is this possible? Why would anyone in their right mind value brand awareness above lead generation, much fewer sales? Well, they don’t really. It’s more about adopting a common-sense approach to the order of operations for client intake. That is to say, brand awareness informs and accelerates lead generation, which then increases your number of new clients.
“89% of marketers say brand awareness is the most important goal, followed by sales and lead generation.”
Another interesting stat involves the frequency and length of exposure to branding elements before a potential client will begin to take notice. According to Pam Moore, founder of Marketing Nutz (business name aside, this woman knows her stuff), it takes at least 5 to 7 impressions before a potential client will remember your brand. So, to get them to remember your brand, you must remain visible across multiple digital and traditional channels. This is important because brand consistency leads to an average revenue increase of 23%.
In short, if your audience doesn’t remember your brand, your more memorable competitors are going to scoop up clients that should be working with you and your firm.
RELATED: Lead Generation for Law Firms
Question 2: Who Are We, and What Separates Us From the Competition?
Every law firm seems to grapple with this existential crisis: who are we? How do we differentiate ourselves from our competitors? These two questions form the basis of your brand, but they can be difficult to answer, especially for lawyers who have been practicing for a long time. It’s easy to fall prey to a myopic perspective of your firm’s key differentiators — or to miss them entirely. This isn’t to say your input and vision for the firm aren’t valuable; instead, they might be colored by your own role at the firm and day-to-day work.
Instead of relying on your own opinion of the firm, lawyers and key stakeholders should turn to the data. What are your primary practice areas? In those practice areas, where do you find the most success and in which demographics? What do your former clients say about your firm?
For instance, one of our clients is a personal injury law firm located in North Carolina. When we first started working with them, we didn’t have a ton of data to work with, so we put most of our emphasis on personal injury since that is what they self-identified with. Over time, though, we began to sprinkle in some content and paid advertising related to family law — a practice area they dabbled in but considered more of a peripheral specialty.
“What are your primary practice areas? In those practice areas, where do you find the most success and in which demographics? What do your former clients say about your firm?”
Eventually, we came to learn that their region was sorely lacking in quality family law attorneys, especially those who handled gay rights and same-sex marriage cases. The statistics showed that the more we focused on those issues, the more leads started coming in for individuals and families looking for this sort of legal assistance. Sure, they still do a great job with their personal injury audience, but they’ve discovered a need and worked hard to fill that particular gap. Their perception of their firm wasn’t wrong, but it wasn’t fully realized because they were too familiar with their own practice (and practices).
If you want to avoid wasted time and resources attempting to figure out your brand identity, the best course of action is to perform a SWOT analysis. It’s a common and proven exercise that forces key personnel and stakeholders to engage in a dialogue to discover their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, hence the name SWOT. Beware, though, the most important element of a successful SWOT analysis is honesty, so be prepared to take a hard look in the mirror to uncover truths rather than platitudes.
First, determine your objective. In this case, your goal is to understand and develop your firm’s brand identity. Create a grid divided into four sections and color code them for easier identification and differentiation:
- Top Left: Strengths – This might include things like experience, customer service, and digital and geographic presence.
- Top Right: Weaknesses – This might include things like online reviews, lead nurturing and follow up, and internal communications deficiencies.
- Bottom Left: Opportunities – This might include things like pending legislation, community involvement, and cross-promotion.
- Bottom Right: Threats – This might include things like pending legislation (double-edged sword), negative reviews, paid search conquesting.
Once every box is filled to your satisfaction, you can take a more objective look. Find data that supports and/or contradicts the values you have in each category and reassign them as needed.
Then, you will want to translate your SWOT analysis into a brand position. Identify the key differentiators of your firm by seeing how your competitors are branding themselves. (Remember, if every competing law firm offers free consultations, saying you offer free consultations isn’t a differentiator.) In your positioning statement, focus on making the most of your strengths and opportunities. In your practice, look for ways to reduce your weaknesses and be proactive about threats.
RELATED: Intake Optimization
Question 3: Who Is Included in Our Target Audience, and How Should We Communicate With Them?
It’s impossible to create an effective law firm branding strategy without knowing your audience, which is why you and other key stakeholders at your firm will need to sit down together and create your ideal personas ─ fictional renderings of your perfect clients based on a combination of market research, empirical data, and your personal experience with previous clients who have generated lucrative cases. The final result is a collection of 3 to 5 brief narratives or fact sheets describing your firm’s ideal clients, their unique circumstances, and your process of helping them through the legal process
By developing client personas, you can determine who the perfect fit is for your firm before they ever call your office or complete an online form. This helps mitigate wasted spending, improves the user experience on your web properties, and allows you to zero in on your most beneficial client type. Personas aren’t intended to limit the scope of your efforts but instead identify the individuals and families who are most likely to seek out your firm for legal assistance. Once you know who these individuals are precisely, you can build your brand strategy around their key characteristics and use them as the foundation of your digital and traditional advertising and marketing efforts. In fact, according to Rob Petersen, the founder of BarnRaisers Agency, 3 to 4 client personas could potentially account for as much as 90% of a business’ total revenue.
For instance, if your firm specializes in workers’ compensation cases, you can develop personas based on construction workers, longshoremen, and other laborers who are more likely to injure themselves throughout the course of their occupational tasks. You can use their demographic information (gender, age, family size, income, online user behavior, etc.) to target them through paid advertising, email automation, content development, and even social media.
“According to Rob Petersen, the founder of BarnRaisers Agency, 3 to 4 client personas could potentially account for as much as 90% of a business’ total revenue.”
You can also sketch a game plan for nurturing the leads that come in from your marketing efforts, such as best times to call and email as well as helpful communication tips so that you can convey a genuinely compassionate and empathetic perspective when meeting with them to discuss the particulars of their claim and advocating for them throughout their case. One of the most important aspects of client-attorney relationships is developing trust, and adopting the proper voice and tone when speaking with clients about their legal challenges is paramount in earning and maintaining confidence and optimism.
Brand (or Rebrand) Your Law Firm With LaFleur Legal Marketing
At LaFleur, we cover the gamut of digital marketing strategies, from intake optimization to SEO, social media marketing and beyond, but helping law firms brand or rebrand their practice is one of our favorite projects and the one that gives us the best opportunity to show off both our creative and analytical skills. Our team is comprised of skilled writers, designers, and project managers, and we have substantial branding experience at every level of our organization.
If you and your partners or other key stakeholders at your firm are interested in branding or rebranding, we would love to hear from you! Please complete this brief form or give us a call today at (888) 222-1512 for a no-risk, free marketing consultation. Even if you choose to keep your marketing efforts in-house or go with another agency, we’re still interested in learning more about your firm’s goals, operations, and aspirations. Who knows? Maybe we can pass on a bit of free knowledge that will make all the difference!
Cook, K. (2017, November 14). 16 questions to ask before beginning a brand redesign project. Hubspot. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/questions-brand-redesign-project
Hagee, H. (2017, June 19). 25 branding stats and facts that will change your life. Lucid Press. Retrieved from https://www.lucidpress.com/blog/25-branding-stats-facts
Jain, R. (2015, May 1). Creating a brand identity: 20 questions you must ask before you start. SitePoint. Retrieved from https://www.sitepoint.com/creating-a-brand-identity-20-questions/
Petersen, R. (2016). 31 business building benefits of buyer personas. Business Grow. Retrieved from https://www.businessesgrow.com/2014/02/12/31-business-building-benefits-buyer-personas/