Branding is a key pillar of every marketing program. Attorneys may hold the perception that as long as they are good and win cases, the clients will come. Indeed, this used to be the case.
Today, however, a brand is critical to establishing your reputation and online presence. Consumers base what they think and believe about a firm on what they see.
Identifying Your Brand
A “brand” is not the same thing as a “logo.” Slapping a quick clipart image on a business card or letterhead will not build your brand. A brand is the collective impact or lasting impression from all that is seen, heard, or experienced by clients who come into contact with a firm and/or its services.
Marketers who specialize in legal firms’ branding have come up with a few ways to help lawyers identify their brand. Identifying a brand involves every member of your firm, and should be carried out by the principal and the senior attorneys to be effective. Your firm needs to be part of the effort so that your brand will reflect your entire firm’s image.
Your Mission Statement
Define what your overarching reason for existence is and why. For example, perhaps a low-cost clinic was founded by a lawyer who wanted to bring affordable legal advice to everyone. In that case, the mission statement would be, “Bringing legal service to those in need.” Whatever factor uniquely defines your goals and ideals also defines your mission and brand.
Describe Your Ideal Client
Many small firms say “everyone” when asked who they take as clients, but a properly branded firm knows exactly who they want in the office and targets their services to those customers.
Who will benefit the most from the services your firm provides, and how will you maximize your services to benefit them? Which types of clients produce the best return on your marketing investments?
Understand Your Core Values
All companies large and small have core values. Your core values are the ones you will not compromise, the beliefs that make your brand special and unique. Core values should always be integral to your mission and are usually the most easily defined parts of your brand.
Create Your Brand’s Voice
Your brand’s voice comprises your logo, the language used in your marketing, and the colors and images on your brochures and websites. It also includes the impression you make on all who come into contact with your firm. Your voice is what prospects and clients think of when they think of you.
Developing Your Brand
Once you have a brand in mind, it’s time for development. Brand development is part of your marketing package. It includes the creation of your firm’s logo and letterhead, marketing brochures, and website and social media presence.
You should have a site for your firm and your attorneys, and it should reflect all of the items above. If you have a formal mission statement, it should be prominently featured on its own page.
Part of branding is the appearance and navigability of your site. Site design should reflect the image you intend to project.
Online Legal Directories
Promote your brand’s image across Avvo, Lawyers.com, and FindLaw. These directories typically offer your firm just a few lines or words to describe itself, so it’s important to stay on brand. Maintain the same voice in your profile that you use on your website. A firm that is casual on its website should not be suddenly formal elsewhere.
Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook may be less structured than websites and listings, but your branding should carry over on these sites as well. Keywords and the names of your firm and principal attorneys should be highly visible throughout social media. These are great locations to spread your values and mission.
Visuals, Blogs, and Videos
Studies have shown that sites that feature visuals are more likely to be read and to get click-throughs than walls of text. Facebook and LinkedIn permit plenty of images, and all of these should link back to your website.
Blogs are a great way to spread your firm’s brand around the internet. If you are certified in a particular area or work in a niche field like special education or intellectual property, blogs let you reach out to both potential clients and referring law firms while offering useful information to the public.
Related to the blog is the “vlog.” A video blog can be posted in the same section as your blog. Vlogs are popular on both podcasting sites and Facebook. A vlog can be an excellent way to shed light on your areas of expertise and specific viewpoints.
Hints and Tips
- Check out other firms’ brands as you create your own: Differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack.
- Engage with your clients: Ask the people who visit your website and your firm what they think of your branding. Why did they come to your site? Did they find it useful? Do you live up to your brand?
- Be prepared to evolve: Because of the rapid pace of modern business, things change dramatically from day to day, and a brand that works now may not be effective in a year. Established corporations rebrand every 7-10 years, but smaller companies have to be more flexible. Listen to your clients and their feedback, and be ready to redesign at any time.