What’s in a Brand?
You may not think of your legal practice as a “brand,” but let me assure you, it is. Just like Gap, Target, MasterCard, or Subaru, your business is your brand. While many law firms put a great deal of thought into their brand initially, most struggle to implement and maintain their brand — especially on every new social media profile, directory, web page, online property, and offline asset they create.
Long-term success with your brand translates to increased awareness, increased traffic to your website, and more potential clients reaching out to your firm. So how do you effectively manage your brand?
All successful brands share three common traits:
- Establishing a foundational strategy
- Acting in empathy
- Maintaining creative consistency
Below, we will discuss these three core facets of effectively building and managing your law firm’s brand.
Defining a Successful Branding Strategy for Your Law Firm
The first step to establishing and maintaining a successful brand is developing a comprehensive strategy. Begin by thinking about your ideal clients: Who are they? What are they struggling with? How can you help them? Using what you know about your clients, you can shape your brand to speak to and connect with them.
If you have browsed through any law firm websites lately, you may have noticed that many law firms fundamentally misunderstand the audience for their brand. They anchor their brand in the awards and accolades their firm and its attorneys have received. But, at the absolute best, the awards and recognition your firm and its members have received is a secondary concern to your potential clients.
Consider the data. Several surveys have been conducted on the topic of what matters most to potential clients seeking a lawyer. In a survey of over 1,500 people conducted by Casey Meraz, exactly 0 respondents indicated that awards were important, 0 indicated that recognition was important, and 0 indicated honors were important. Instead, some of the top qualities people are looking for included ratings, results, ethics, honesty, trust, and competitive price. Another survey by FindLaw discovered that the four most important factors for potential clients included expertise (such as your years of experience and your practice areas), recommendations, cost, and sense of trust.
In short, branding is not about how great you are; it’s about how great you are at meeting your potential clients’ needs.
Once you’ve spent some dedicated time focusing on your clients and how your services can make a tangible, positive impact on their lives, it’s probably time to call in the professionals. Working with an experienced agency to build your brand will help guide your conversations, keep you from getting hung up on the minutia, and establish robust and clearly defined branding guidelines. Plus, while they’re working on developing and refining your brand assets, you can spend your time on more important things, like the clients and cases you care about.
Understanding Empathy and Applying It to Your Law Firm Brand
Once your branding strategy is established, it needs to translate into action. Primarily, you need to walk the talk of your client-focused branding strategy, and that begins with empathy. Empathy, while sometimes confused for sympathy, is far more personal than its oft-mistaken twin. A brand needs to have empathy to be successful, which means that your brand needs to get into the muck with clients, not just feel sorry for them. You, your colleagues, and your staff need to truly understand what your clients are going through before you can offer truly life-changing service.
Great brands understand their clients at a deep level. Your clients reach out to your firm (i.e. your brand) in times of real need. Rarely does someone seek out a lawyer in a time of great joy. Time and again when we read and listen to testimonials from our most successful law firms’ clients, we hear, “he took care of me,” “she listened to me,” “he made me feel like I was his only client,” and “they treated me like I was part of their family.”
Ingraining empathy into your brand requires time and effort on the part of anyone who interfaces with your clients and potential clients — from receptionists to attorneys and from blog writers to social media managers. However, your law firm’s investment in empathy will help you build and promote a brand that connects with clients on a level that many other brands either won’t take the time to or don’t see the value in.
Creating Branding Consistency for Your Law Firm
Once you have taken the time to define a good brand strategy and worked with an experienced team to bring your branding to life through logo design; mission, vision, and value writing; website development; and more, you should have the look and feel of your brand down pat.
From there, you have hopefully also perfected the art of serving your clients (and potential clients) in an empathetic way that makes them feel understood and valued at every point of contact with your law firm.
Next, you need to keep your branding consistent. For established brands, this may mean a lot of catching up to carefully review all of your branded assets (publications, web pages, social media profiles, directory listings, letterhead, etc.) to make sure they are aligned with the branding guidelines established in your strategy and reflect the experience you are delivering to your clients. For new brands, any new branded assets need to be created in accordance with your brand guidelines as you expand your online and offline presence.
Below, we have some important keys to maintaining branding consistency.
Keys to Maintaining a Consistent Law Firm Brand
- Work in Campaigns: Campaigns have a consistent central message or theme that is reiterated in all assets, such as advertisements, content, etc. Campaigns are also planned in advance rather than assembled piecemeal so that the primary stakeholder(s) responsible for messaging can ensure quality and consistency.
- Spread the Word: With approved and consistent campaign messaging, you can conscientiously and strategically roll out advertising across various platforms: billboards, digital ads, website headlines, radio, newspapers, magazines, Facebook postings, and more.
- Follow Through: Whatever your campaign messaging promises, be sure that your firm is doing everything possible to follow through on your word. Put your brand’s mission, vision, and values on display in front of everyone at your firm to remind them of the brand promises you are delivering in your marketing and advertising assets.
- Follow Up: Once your client’s legal matter is resolved, it is not the end of their journey with your brand. Be sure to collect a positive review to post on your website, on social media, and everywhere else you can online. Additionally, whether through reviews, testimonials, or other methods, capturing true success stories about real clients will build brand equity faster than the best ad campaign ever will.
Consistent branding reinforces what you want to be known for no matter where the client meets you: in print, online, or even in conversation. When your brand effectively delivers on its promises time and time again to the people who interact with it, you will start to see the rewards of good strategy, empathetic service, and creative consistency. Those rewards include emotional connections, high-quality ratings, referrals from satisfied clients, a growing following of brand advocates, and — perhaps most importantly — trust.
- Legal Marketing Radio Episode 8 – “5 Branding Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make”
- The 10 Essential Elements Your Law Firm’s Website Needs
- Legal Marketing 101: An In-Depth LaFleur Infographic
Meraz, C. (2016, April 18). Hiring a lawyer: What potential clients really care about. Jurisdigital. Retrieved from https://jurisdigital.com/what-consumers-are-looking-for-before-hiring-a-lawyer/
Wilson, M. (2014, July 29). FindLaw survey: 4 factors clients look for when hiring a lawyer. FindLaw. Retrieved from http://blogs.findlaw.com/strategist/2014/07/findlaw-survey-4-factors-clients-look-for-when-hiring-a-lawyer.html