Decades ago, when corporations or individuals demanded legal services, word-of-mouth was probably the most common marketing approach for law firms and lawyers to build their brand and attract new business. Then came the legal directories and associated press which heralded a new era in law firm advertising, but the advent of the internet and it being increasingly used in business, really moved the needle in terms of marketing strategies in the legal landscape. Today, regardless of the firm’s size or international reach, all but a fraction have their own websites to introduce the firm and their lawyers and outline the types of services they provide. To make your target clients notice, identify, and recognize your brand, serving a factsheet of your firm is no longer sufficient to fulfil the purpose. Therefore, strategies will be shared in this article on building an effective online brand.
What is Branding
Branding, by its definition, means, “the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.” The literal meaning of branding in the dictionary solely emphasizes the importance of advertising and design, which is narrowly construed and constricted in its sense. Branding is a combined initiative of marketing and public relations, which leverages the benefits of each to their fullest in creating values for and making connections with target prospects.
Why Branding is Vital to Law Firms and Lawyers
People tend to do business with brands that they know and trust. Therefore, it is vital for law firms and lawyers to build up a strong brand. If your brand has sound market recognition, it will help you to bring in new business opportunities. When a corporation needs external lawyers for resolution of complex legal issues, firms with a high profile are usually at the front of the queue simply because people know and recognize their brand.
If you have positioned your brand right, the competitiveness of your brand will help you stand out from competitors. Despite some conservative views which may contend that there’s no immediate benefit from making brand initiatives, statistics from law firm marketers show that nearly 40% searches for legal services are actually brand-related. When a target prospect recognizes your brand and searches for your brand directly, you have successfully distinguished yourself from the competition.
Best Practices for Legal Branding
Firms use multiple online and offline platforms to promote brands and sell their services from time to time. Keeping a consistent tone and design in your marketing materials will create a sense of familiarity in your brand. Different colours, tone and taglines across different platforms decrease the likelihood your target prospect being able to identify and recognize your brand from one channel to the other, reducing the likelihood of being able to build a connection to your brand.
No brand can be built in a day or two. Building up a strong brand requires considerable time, money and perseverance. Conduct a comprehensive study of your market audience, ensure that you have a solid understanding of what your market audience is looking for and how you can best position yourself to suit that need. It is also good practice to do research on your competitors and make a thorough plan of how you can stand out from the crowd.
Branding is not exclusive to leading full-service law firms. Even if yours is a boutique firm which only focuses in a specialised area, you should be mindful of your own brand. You can tell your firm’s story from the start to begin engaging with your prospective clients. When a target prospect feels a connection with your brand, they will be more comfortable and confident to use your services, share your content, and refer business to you.
Consistency is key in all your marketing correspondence. You should ensure your website, blog, newsletter, LinkedIn page, other social media pages and advertising campaigns are aligned and consistent with your brand. Taglines and short statements may sometimes help your brand to stick in the minds of your prospective clients. On the other hand, keeping such consistency in your firm’s culture and interactions is also important. Everything in regard to the firm could be linked to the brand, which includes employee satisfaction, non-salary benefits, career guidance and life coaching, etc.
Firms should navigate multiple online and offline approaches to create opportunities for prospective clients and employees to come into contact and interact with your brand. Partners, lawyers and other support staff are also encouraged to take part in social and community events, host and participate in public legal seminars, and publish legal articles/commentaries on behalf of their firm on a regular basis. Pro bono work is a good example that shows the community values the firm is upholding.
No brand will succeed if it is only one-way communication. The best way to understand if your brand is recognizable and if you are living up to your brand promise is to listen to your clients. Effective communication is attributable to interaction. Many firms have started taking the lead in interacting with their clients, targeting prospects and the community via different social media channels.
To sum up, branding your firm successfully is not easy but ultimately rewarding. You have to be at the head of the market and be prepared for any adjustments over time. Build a solid core and adapt your branding strategies whenever the market shifts. It is a constant investment of time, money and manpower. However, it is worthwhile to build a brand story that corresponds to your firm’s mission and culture, and which transforms your brand from visible to recognizable.
Contributor: Austin Lee (Business Development & Client Account Manager, Hughes-Castell)