Branding has become a hot topic in all aspects of business in the last few years. In the past, a law firm focused on their reputation. Your reputation is now your brand. Your brand is what people say and think about you. How are you presenting your services and how the target client or audience see them is what makes up your brand. Your brand consists of your name, logo, and other materials that you can control and present to the public. It is, like your reputation, tied to your work product and client satisfaction.
Marketing is an action. It is what you do to leverage your brand or educate people about your brand and what you do. You should engage in marketing activities to sell your brand to attract clients. Marketing can include your website, advertising, sponsorship, and networking. It can also even include activities engaged in by you and other members of your firm such as writing articles and speaking on panels.
So, while branding and marketing work together, they are not the same thing. A cohesive branding and marketing strategy can help you build your firm reputation and attract more clients, which should be the goal.
Here are a few steps to help you streamline your brand and determine the best marketing strategy for you and your firm:
Identify your brand.
First, determine who your target audience (i.e., client) is. What is your brand message? What do you want your prospective client to know about you and what you can do for them? Then look at all of your current materials, including business cards, website content, etc. and assess whether those materials reflect your brand message. If not, it is time to update them. An important aspect of your brand message is to convey your why. Why you do what you do? Why should a client hire you instead of one of the many other lawyers and law firms in your practice area?
Create your budget.
Studies show that on average law firms spend about 3.3 percent of their annual revenue on marketing. To create your budget, determine what you monthly income is (if you do not have consistent annual revenue data) and determine what that amount is for you. Also, be smart about it. There are many marketing tools, including social media, in person networking, writing articles, that don’t cost a lot, but may take more of an investment of your time. Make sure you also calculate that. Many lawyers, especially solos and small firm lawyers, don’t have a lot of extra time. Think about how much you can spend both in time and cash and determine what activities will get you the best rate of return for the clients you are trying to target.
Develop a marketing plan.
There are many different marketing activities you can engage in and determining a plan that focuses on the channels that make most sense for your brand is key. Your plan should lay out the goals you want to achieve and what activities will best help you achieve those goals. For some lawyers, big billboards work. For others, networking and getting personal referrals is more effective. Think strategically about how you can reach your best audience. Depending on your goals and the applicable strategy you may want to raise or maybe even lower your budget.
Some Suggested Marketing Activities
ADVERTISING –It is expensive, but can be the best way to reach a wide audience.
WEBSITE & SEO OPTIMIZATION –Update your website. Make sure it clearly conveys your brand and is easy to navigate. Add SEO optimization to your website so when potential clients are online looking for someone with your expertise, they can easily find you. Attorneys have a tendency to be too wordy or speak in legalese, but remember that a potential client is going to be using layman’s terms to search for you. Then they want to be able to easily contact you to determine if you can help them. (Side note: Make sure your website is mobile friendly as a majority of people may look you up on a mobile device).
SOCIAL MEDIA – Social media is a great and absolutely free tool that you can utilize to gain more exposure. If you do not have social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, AVVO, etc.) for your firm or for yourself you should secure them immediately. If you do, you must assess how you are using each to market yourself, your firm, and your services.
CLIENT NEWSLETTERS – Newsletters are a great way to keep your clients abreast of recent activities of the firm and front of mind when something comes up. However, if you have a practice that focuses more on one off transactions (such as probate), then a newsletter may not be best marketing took because most clients only utilize that service once.
WRITE AND PRESENT AT CLE PROGRAMS – Writing articles and getting published gives you bylines and free advertising in many different platforms. Many bar associations and organizations have newsletters and blogs and are looking for content. In addition, these associations and organizations present programs on various topics and are looking for panelists who are experts to speak and present. These activities not only give you a chance to get your name out there, they help build your credibility and reputation by being seen as an expert in your field.
NETWORKING – Good old fashioned networking is still a time-tested tactic for meeting clients and getting client referrals, depending on the types of events you are attending. Since a lot of lawyers get referrals from other lawyers, general lawyer networking events are great to attend. However, if you work in a particular industry, you should attend events related to that industry where you can potentially meet prospective clients. Yes, if you are a real estate lawyer, you should attend real estate conferences or events.
EXECUTE! – Now that you have identified your brand, your target client, set up your budget and identified marketing activities that will give you the best return; it is time to put them all together and execute. Marketing is an ongoing activity. You must commit to it and put them time into it. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Focused and measured steps can be quite successful. Be strategic and consistent.