I write often about brand building, marketing and social media for start-up companies and businesses of every size, shape and industry. However, today I focus on the basics of marketing and brand building for attorneys. Whether you are an individual attorney or part of a rather large firm, it is imperative to remember that when preparing your marketing strategy you are not simply trying to sell your services, but are, in fact, building your own brand.
Brand building seems like a rather easy task for companies that offer tangible products, but as attorneys, all you have to sell is your time, so things can be a little bit different. You need to also factor in that in many, if not most, instances clients feel they are represented by an individual. Sure, the firm identity is important, but the relationship is with the individual. Thus, for attorneys it is especially important to always keep in mind that You Are Your Brand! As with any industry, you cannot simply create some ads, a website and some social media profile pages and expect people to come to you. Rather, clear goals need to be outlined and a strategy for reaching those goals should be mapped out.
Market & Image
To start, you MUST (and yes, I am purposely speaking in absolute terms) ask yourself some important questions, Start with “Who are my target market, What are their needs, How do I reach them, and What do I/we want others to think of when they hear my/our name?” Once you can answer these seemingly simple questions, you are well on your way to creating a successful marketing strategy.
1. What Is My Target Market?
This may seem like an easy step in the process, but all too often it is where attorneys make their biggest marketing mistakes. What types of clients are you looking for? Who is your “Ideal” client? Are they individuals, professionals, small businesses, medium businesses, fortune 500 companies, or perhaps even other law firms? What language do they speak? Do they speak English or maybe Chinese, French, German, Spanish or another language? What are the basic demographics you are looking for or do they even matter? Without having a defined sense of your target market or ideal client you may unintentionally seem to be all things to all people, which could send the signal that you are a Jack of all trades and a Master of none.
2. What Are the Needs of My Prospective Clients?
Step outside of your “Attorney” role and put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Knowing who your ideal clients are is an important first step, but now you need to know what they are looking for and what they will expect. Spending time to determine the needs and expectations of your ideal clients will go a long way to helping you stand out and capture their attention in a positive way.
Look at things from the client’s perspectives and ask yourself what is it that they are looking for in an attorney? If your firm has more than one practice area, which area do you think potential clients will need most, or which will attract them to your firm initially? Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your current clients to determine if you in fact met their expectations and what you could do (add, change or omit) to exceed their expectations in the future. After you build a rapport with existing clients you might learn that you almost didn’t land them as a client for a reason you never anticipated, or that they liked something in particular that you did. Chances are if they were nearly turned off, or were persuaded to use your services for a reason, others will have similar feelings/experiences.
3. How Do I Reach My Target Audience?
Think about where you will find your target audience and look there, but realize it may take some experimentation. Perhaps your preferred target audience is online, or whether they are in your local geographical area, or perhaps they they are spread across the United States or throughout the world. Once you know where your target audience is then you have a better idea how to reach them. Should you use print ads, radio ad spots, social media, your own website, the established website of another or a combination of these to reach your target audience? Likely it will be some combination, but the shotgun approach without having some idea where you will find your target audience can get extremely expensive and produce little in the way of results.
4. What Do I/We Want Others to Think of When They Hear My/Our Name?
This is especially important for attorneys because all attorneys have to sell is time. In essence, you are your product so you are your brand. What image do you want to portray, professional, friendly, approachable, consistent, and trustworthy? You must not take for granted that people will just assume these things, you need to project them. For better or for worse, people will judge a book by its advertising cover. If your look is stiff and boring, you feature only a resume style profile or you use too much legal jargon, you may seem unapproachable. If all you do is sell, sell, sell, people will run away from you like you are a car sales person rather than an attorney.
There is also a risk for firms that appear to have become too big, too flashy and too content are often deemed inaccessible, or even worse — unaffordable. This is especially crucial for well-established firms to keep in mind, particularly given the ever changing legal landscape. Now before you say you don’t need to worry as a well-established firm, think again. Particularly in the intellectual property space the venerable juggernauts such as Darby & Darby, Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, Pennie & Edmonds, Morgan & Finnegan and others have all gone the way of the dinosaurs. Are you a dinosaur?
Developing a Marketing Campaign
Now that you know who your target market is, what their needs are, where to find them and what image you want to portray, you can take the next step in developing your marketing (and not just advertising) campaign. Following are some key points to pay attention to as you prepare and launch any and all aspects of your marketing campaign strategy.
Consistency Is Key
I cannot stress enough that consistency is key to any marketing and brand building strategy. It is essential, especially in the beginning stages of any marketing campaign to be consistent not only in your message but also in how you deliver your message. All of your materials, both online and in print should have the same look and feel.
- Logo: Even if your logo is just your name or your firm’s name, you should only have one or two closely related versions of your logo at the most. This is particularly vital at the earliest stages of building your brand. You want people to see your mark and automatically associate it with you. The more you have, the longer it takes to ingrain this message into the minds of your target market. When creating your logo, use colors and fonts that are easy to read and not likely to be confused with the logos of others. On your website, keep your logo at least in one place, and in the same location on every page of your website in a place that is seen immediately upon opening any page of your website. If it’s to the left, top on your home page, it should not be on the bottom, right on the pages within.
- Colors: Choose colors that you like but that are also friendly and welcoming and be sure to use them with everything. Your logo, your website, and your print documentation should all have the same color scheme. Colors speak very loudly and can elicit either a negative or positive response almost immediately. In addition, the colors you use for your font and backgrounds should be vastly different. You can read more about colors in A Look Into Color Theory in Web Design and in A Psychology of Colors in Advertising and Marketing.
- Fonts: Generally you want to stick to one or two fonts throughout the writing on your website and print materials that are visually pleasing to the eye. The font(s) you choose will most likely be different from your logo, but that’s OK because you want your logo to stand out. Make sure that the fonts are easy to read keeping in mind font style and size. Fonts in size 12 or larger are generally easier to read. Arial, Calibri, Cambria, Helvetica, Lucida, Monaco, Symbol, Tahoma, Times New Roman and Verdana are some of the more simple, professional and easily read fonts to choose. Whatever font you choose should be used on all print and online material.
- Graphics: Using graphics can be great for catching the attention of your target market. However, you do not want to use so many graphics that your logo and perhaps even message gets lost. Too many graphics will confuse the reader, especially in the earliest stages of brand development.
Let’s Take Attendance. Internet? Present!
With today’s modern technology being ever present in homes, schools and businesses, having a strong Internet presence is vital to the success of any marketing campaign. Clients of all types have grown accustomed to searching for companies online. Without a strong presence your firm will surely be looked over. If you have not done so already, make sure you build a good website as soon as possible. And if you already have a website make sure you are getting the most out of it. You can get additional information on building a great website in my article Twelve Key Components to Building a Successful Website.
If you have time, create a blog or have someone within the firm create a blog, or team together with other lawyers to create a firm-wide blog. Perhaps the most successful example of a firm-wide blog is the Patent Docs, where Kevin Noonan and Donald Zuhn are the primary writers with others joining in from time to time. The blog can be a part of your website and will allow those within your firm to post helpful information that will likely attract new clients, or at the very least increase your reputation and standing, which can be parlayed into attracting new clients.
And don’t avoid social media. More and more people are turning to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter (my three favorites) and other forms social media to learn about those they want to work with. Having a strong web presence will help differentiate you from others who do not.