Want a Strong Law Firm Brand? These Nine Attitudes Can Cripple Your Efforts
It would be easy to be flip and say that strong law firm brands aren’t possible. But that’s simply not true. So why are few law firm brands even remotely memorable? We could blame it all on the partnership structure, but that’s an easy out. The real answer is more nuanced.
How many of these characteristics may be hindering progress toward a strong brand at your law firm?
1. Branding is not considered a strategic issue.
A brand is the sum of who you are as a firm—the behavior of lawyers and staff, your service offerings, the way you work, your intellectual leadership and your place in the community. Look at your brand holistically and strategically to improve ROI.
2. Failure is not an option.
Not every idea works. But for innovative ideas to thrive, the culture must reward risk taking. As marketers, we learn a lot from failures. Make sure your lawyers’ risk-averse nature doesn’t stifle creativity.
3. Marketing and business development professionals are often treated like order-takers, not collaborators.
In some cases, this may be because the firm has not hired stellar talent. More often, lawyers feel their J.D. credentials trump the opinions of non-lawyers. When lawyers have a healthy respect for the disciplines of marketing and business development, we see better results. Marketers will find it easier to drive change and gain respect if they are armed with hard data, either from their own firms or from third-party research.
4. The brand project is underfunded.
In no other growing business would website enhancements be considered a once-every-five-years task, or $99 royalty-free images anchor an ad campaign. According to the Deloitte CMO Survey, most B2B service companies spend 7% of total revenue on marketing versus the 2-3% common in the legal industry.
5. Battles of personal taste are allowed to overrule thoughtful design strategies.
Over and over we’ve seen one vocal lawyer jettison an entire brand campaign because “it is not us.” When really, it’s “not him” or “not her.” Anchor your design strategies in external research so you can battle the naysayers. Also make sure the leadership supports what works for the whole firm, not just for one practice.
6. Generational differences are not taken seriously.
Very often the committees approving a new brand campaign consist primarily of people aged 55 and up. Since buyers are trending younger, be sure to include members from different age groups. They often bring a more current perspective to the process. The vertical-scrolling home page and hamburger menu can seem like alien structures to one generation but be standard to the 35-year-old legal buyer who primarily reads on a mobile phone.
7. Marketing and business development are pitted against each other.
This phenomenon is baffling. Frankly, some of the blame goes to consultants who manufacture this to create competitive tension between departments. Phooey. Put marketing and business development together on industry-driven teams to create programs that resonate and are easier to execute.
8. Organizational or budgeting structure dictates how you go to market.
Crazy right? However, it’s still happening. We see this most often in website navigation, but it can crop up in lawyer bios, pitch materials—pretty much anywhere. As one legal buyer recently said, “You need a code book to figure out where things live on a website.” Approach your strategy from the buyer’s perspective versus what makes sense internally. Just a tip – a little user testing goes a long way in this area!
9. You risk selling nothing by selling everything.
The biggest stumbling block for most law firms is the unwillingness to narrow what work is being targeted for fear of offending someone. When you can’t focus, messaging becomes so vague and budgets are spread so thin that nothing has much impact. Consumer marketing has the right idea. You don’t have to market everything you do. Focus on a few things, drive home that you do those things exceptionally well, and all boats will rise.
Innovation in legal marketing is not an impossible dream. Take Axiom, for example. According to the latest Acritas Law Firm Brand Index, Axiom’s brand awareness has almost tripled in the last four years.
With a few attitude adjustments, your firm could be next.