Effective law firm branding is critically important to generating new business for your practice both offline and online. While a strong, narrowly focused law firm branding strategy can distinguish your practice from the increasing legal noise, an unfocused, catch-all approach can lead to invisibility.
Referencing 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons from Marketing & Communications Professionals by Larry Smith and Richard Levick with Levick Strategic Communications, Legal Marketing Blogger, Tom Kane offers some insight to law firms developing their professional law firm brand:
The ones for today and tomorrow both refer to Starbucks. Today’s says:
“Coffee and Starbucks are synonymous. That’s the value of a brand. Customers visit Starbucks five times a week, spending money on something that costs much less if they made it at home.”
“Starbucks sells more than 30 different products, but it markets one thing – coffee. Focus your marketing efforts narrowly.”
There are two lessons in all this for law firms. The first is that obviously brands are still important, branding was not and is not a fad, and firms need to remember how key a brand or value statement really is.
The second lesson is that firms should not waste time and resources trying to promote all its practice areas. They should determine what they are really known for (their brand) and focus their marketing efforts narrowly on only one or two practice areas. Remember the old adage attributed to former President John F. Kennedy: “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Thinking About Law Firm Branding
Many law firms try to position themselves on a particular aspect of client service. Others try to identify and communicate their own unique personality. However merely having a brand is not the same thing as having brand equity.
To me, the key question is: With what can you successfully make your name synonymous?
When it comes to law firm branding, many firms aim for the stars. Sure it would be wonderful if your name was synonymous with lawyer, attorney, or (insert practice area) lawyer. They want to be synonymous with phrases like “hardest worker”, “most aggressive”, “most knowledgeable”, etc. Taking branding strategies like these is very likely to lead to obscurity and unrealistic expectations by clients.
Instead, you should think about tangible benefits at which you may actually be the best (or at least better than most of your direct competition).
Law Firm Branding In The Age Of Google
In addition to traditional law firm branding issues, the Internet presents some additional considerations. In Personal branding for lawyers in the age of Google Kevin O’Keefe, referencing Seth Godin’s thoughts on personal branding in the age of Google, provides some key considerations for lawyers who are working to develop their law firm brand online:
Who’s going to get hired when someone is comparing two lawyers who they’ve Googled?
The lawyer with the website profile, directory listing, committee membership, and 10k results? Or the lawyer who’s been cited by authorities in the lawyer’s area of expertise, quoted in news stories, spoken at industry and legal conferences, and who’s got enough command of their niche to regularly answer questions?
What does your personal brand look like on Google? What are you doing to build your brand so as to distinguish yourself from competitors? If you’re like most lawyers, you’re in trouble.
While, in my humble opinion, getting found in Google is more than half the battle, there can be no question that what Internet users see when they find you online, matters greatly. In fact, your decisions regarding with what you want your name to be synonymous should influence your entire law firm Internet marketing strategy, including search engine optimization efforts.
So how do you choose a strong branding message? Focus on what you know. Assess the competitive landscape (i.e. are there a lot of lawyers already doing that). Force yourself to be very specific. Avoid marketing on benefits like hard working and very knowledgeable and and focus on the tangible. Communicate your knowledge, skill, and experience without talking about your knowledge, skill, and experience.