#020 – Law Firm Branding
With over 47,000 law firms operating in the United States, the legal industry is a competitive one, and one way to stand out is by creating a recognizable brand for your law firm. These days, branding is a common way for law firms to inform the public of services, to generate loyalty from clients, and to attract new business. Although it may seem more tangible to check off other marketing strategies, brand building is the cornerstone of everything else you are trying to accomplish. If you have not yet created a brand for your business, this may be the ideal time to start.
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Hello, again. Are you excited? You should be excited, because today we are going to talk about something amazing, which is law firm branding. I love branding. I love talking about it. I love helping law firms with it.
Before we get into all of that, hit that subscribe button, if you’re listening on iTunes. I would really appreciate that. Alright, let’s get into it.
With over 47,000 law firms in the United States, the legal industry is a competitive one. I am sure you know that and I don’t need to tell you. One way to stand out is by creating a recognizable brand for your law firm. Can we please talk about the law firm websites that have someone standing with their arms crossed, looking really angry? What is up with those websites? I’m really sorry if that is you. I’m sorry. The truth is that a few years ago all websites started to look the same. It just got to the point where law firms realized that if they were going to compete in the online space, they had to differentiate themselves from other law firms and create a recognizable brand.
These days branding is a really common way for law firms to inform the public, not only of the services that they provide, but to generate loyalty from clients and to attract new business. It’s the same, right? It’s marketing. At the end of the day, it’s the same as different soda pop companies, and different athletic gear companies. Its branding. Although it may seem more tangible to check off other marketing strategies that you may have, building your brand is really foundational. It is the cornerstone of everything else you are trying to accomplish. If you’ve got a website, if you’ve got social media, if you’ve got an email list, if you have a YouTube channel or a podcast, whatever you’ve got, all of that has to look and feel like your law firm. It’s the cornerstone of everything.
If you have not yet taken the time to create a brand for your business, this is the time to start. Today is your day. You have found the right podcast to listen to. Let’s talk about law firm branding.
In particular, the essence of a brand is the perception that it builds are among consumers. It’s telling your potential clients, your previous clients, the people that are your colleagues and peers, in a concise way, who you are and what you do. Your brand of your law firm carries a message. Every time a client or potential client encounters your brand, they should automatically link it with everything they know about your business. The social media accounts, the website content, who your employees are, the services you provide, everything.
A law firm’s brand connects the emotional side of a business with the concrete experience. If that familiar brand evidence links to a positive experience, it’s going to translate into further loyalty. This is business and advertising one-on-one. It is so important for law firms, because branding really matters. We as consumers, not as law firm owners, but as consumers boost the reputation of a brand without even thinking. We do this all the time. We are totally loyal to certain brands. We share it right with other people, without even being asked, because it’s our jam or we love it or it’s just exactly what we connect with. We perpetuate the positive imprint that brands organically have without even being asked.
The same idea between brand loyalty for some sort of product that we love is the same for law firms. It’s the same and it’s crucial for several reasons.
The first reason is that law firm branding is going to help your marketing strategy. Your law firms brand is going to be foundational and it is going to support your SEO efforts. SEO is Search Engine Optimization. That is the way that Google’s search engine is looking at
who you are as a law firm, on your website, on social media, on Google My Business, on your reviews, everywhere. All of those are pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that are your SEO. It determines where to place you in the search engine rankings. Your law firm brand is supporting those SEO efforts, because it is telling Google that consumers recognize you and consider you as a reliable brand.
It also helps establish the all-important signals of E-A-T. That’s right. E-A-T; Expertise Authority and Trustworthiness. I’m going to go on a side break right here. What is this E-A-T? Expertise Authority and Trustworthiness is something that Google has created for certain industries. Law firms are one of those industries. Google has said that there are certain industries that require additional levels of expertise in order to gain traction in their search engine. For example, a lot of these are surrounding financial experts, medical authorities and legal authorities like law firms. You want to take your law firms brand and make sure that Google understands that you are signaling with your brand, the important areas of Expertise Authority and Trustworthiness, E-A-T. When a law firm carries these traits consistently and effectively through their branding, it boosts their credibility and rankings. When consumers, clients, potential clients, past clients, and peers habitually see your brand, they are going to be more likely to click on it and go to your website, because it’s familiar.
Law firm branding also outlines your law firm’s mission. Carried inherently within your brand is a sense of your law firm’s defined mission, who you are as a law firm. A brand outlines your mission, not only to consumers, but also to all of your employees, to peers, to other law firms. Therefore, when opportunities come along, people can filter each one by asking the question, “Does this connect with our brand?” If you are going to be working with a certain charity organization, “Does this connect with our brand?” If you are going to be sponsoring something, “Does this connect with our brand?” Law firm branding is really going to be pivotal in regards to your company’s mission.
The next thing is that law firm branding distinguishes you from your competitors. It is going to set you apart in such a way that potential clients, past clients, peers, whoever it is, can see that you are different from your competitors. Hopefully better. Since law firms have a proclivity to sort of recite the same taglines and similar, “We are here to work for you. We will work hard for you. We will work tirelessly for you.”, because law firms have a tendency to do that; using the same taglines, and similar phrases. A solid brand announces that you are unique, that your core message is different and hopefully, better than your competitors. It displays what you have to offer that is unique.
There is an Estate Planning attorney that I know. She works specifically with younger clients. That is her brand. Estate planning is typically seen, historically, as working with older couples with kids and dealing with end of life issues. She has made it part of her brand to work with clients that are younger. That is how she differentiates herself from other estate planning attorneys.
Let’s talk about five steps to building your law firm’s brand. This can seem overwhelming, right? Building a brand is sort of like creating an empire. If you don’t know where to start, it can just seem a little bit overwhelming. I get that. It takes time to create a brand. You may pivot in different directions and that’s fine. It can be growing and evolving. It’s rare that someone creates a brand that never changes. I mean, even look at Coca Cola, right? They have changed their branding. This includes Pepsi as well. All of these major companies change their branding, ever so often. It does take time to create a brand circulated and then eventually see positive results.
One way that you can do this is to gather the people that you trust together; your colleagues, your employees, perhaps some marketers that you trust, to examine your goals. Before you begin, take some time, get some meetings together, to define your brand, and to ensure that it reflects your core mission. Now, if you are a solo practitioner, you get to do this alone, but don’t hurry in this step. You should condense your ideas, whether you’re working with your team or working by yourself, into a central brand message.
Then I want you to consider the following points as you begin to build your law firm’s brand. The first thing is listen. It is best to brand early. That may not be possible. You may already have a law firm that is established, or you may be considering completely changing your brand. That is fine. I will say that the earlier you begin thinking about a brand, the better. There’s that old saying that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.” The second best time is now. No matter when you decide to think about branding, thinking about branding is always better, than not thinking about branding.
The reason it is helpful to start early is because your brand really is foundational to many of the other choices you will make, such as the name of your law firm, your website, your domain name, how you will look on social media, what your colors in your brand will be, and what your logo will look like. All of that will be dependent upon your services, and your ideal audience. Your brand, as a law firm could be classy, it could be reserved, it could be aggressive, it could be edgy – these are all choices that you get to make.
I will say this as well. Law firms have come a long way. Please do not think that as a law firm you need to stick to navy blue or a dark green color with a little judge’s gavel or the scales of justice or something like that. You can really be innovative and creative with your law firm branding. Statistics show that being creative and innovative does really well with a lot of audiences. It certainly makes you memorable.
The next tip that I have is to define your target audience. This is important in all areas of marketing, but specifically with branding. Ask yourself who your ideal client is. Before you nail down your brand, it really is best to define who your typical client is, who your ideal client is, and where your true target audience is. Choosing a persona of who your ideal client is will tell you exactly who you need to reach with your message. Therefore, your branding will be more effective, because you’re trying to reach that perfect client.
If you are unsure of your target audience, think about who your best clients are currently, the ones that you love, the ones that love working with you, the ones that you produce the best results for, or the ones that are the easiest to work with. Examine what these client’s characteristics and needs that they have in common. This can help you formulate your law firm’s unique and typical target audience. You want to target those people. They are the best clients.
The next thing you want to do regarding your law firm’s branding is to summarize your core message. This is the key. Even if you have different practice areas, you need to condense the essence of your law firm. This is critical. It should reflect your company’s core message and personality. A tagline is a great example of this. It should grab the attention of a user on your website or on social media. It should be different than your competitors core message.
If your competitor’s core message is, “We have handled more personal injury cases in St. Louis than anyone,” your law firm’s message could be, “We handle our personal injury clients individually. Every case. Every person. Every time.” So that it sounds like you are offering a more individualized approach. Whereas they are just talking about how much they have done. It’s a difference in the core message and personality. Another example is, the person I know that’s an estate planning attorney, her message is towards single people or younger people, for estate planning. Again it is a different core message. It is a different personality. It should grab the attention and be different than your competitor’s message. However, that is one way to distill your law firm’s core message.
Another way of distilling your law firm’s message is by answering these questions:
- What is the story behind our law firm?
- What prompted us to start offering this type of legal service?
- How do we help our target audience?
- How do we do it differently?
- How do we do it better than our competitors?
- What do we contribute to the community that other law firms don’t?
- For what purpose do we exist?
That may sound like an existential question to ask, but I guarantee you, if you spend time thinking about that, you will find who your law firm is at its core. At the end of the day, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself as a law firm is, “What do we want potential clients to know about us?”
After you’ve done all that soul searching, you need to then choose your design elements. You need to incorporate all of the hard work that you’ve done. Include what we have just talked about into the concrete design elements of your brand. It may help at this point to hire a design professional and someone who is very proficient with branding. You don’t have to, but a lot of times, they can see things or have experience that you don’t have. Some of the elements of a recognizable brand can include a brief, descriptive, catchy slogan or tagline, and a color combination that conveys the chosen feelings that you talked about earlier. Again don’t be scared to use colors that law firms are not traditionally known for. Use a logo that is versatile enough to be used anywhere you choose. This means a logo that is not so busy so that it can be used on letterheads, on social media marketing, in email lists, and on your website. Finally, to go along with that, use a font that coordinates with the mood and message of everything else. You want it to be different but you also want it to be readable.
Next, you want to get your brand out there. Now you’ve thought about your ideal client. You’ve answered all of these emotional and existential questions about your law firm. You have created a brand with colors, a logo, a website and fonts that all represent exactly the type of law firm that you want to show the public. Now you need to get your brand out there.
Marketing experts remind us that it is best to define and refine the brand before rushing out with it. Once you’ve gotten your law firm brand that you are in love with, get it out there early, consistently and often. Offer your brand to the world through your website, your logo, your social media platforms and everything. Providing a solid familiar brand is crucial if you desire your target audience to know you, find you, remember you and trust you. If your potential clients are familiar with your brand and they trust it, they will be more likely to hire you over your competitors.
Here are some final tips regarding your law firm branding. Before I continue, I need to mention that this should be a fun process. You are creating a vision and double impact of what you want your law firm to be in the world. Have fun with this. Remember these tips once you have created, refined and finally presented your law firm’s brand to the world.
Here are some helpful hints to continue to stay engaged with your audience.
You should always stay connected to your clients, colleagues and community. Keep in tune with the market. Continue growing. If you see that your law firm has evolved in some way, perhaps you’ve added a practice area or you’ve gained more lawyers or even added more locations, you can consider rebranding at that point. You should be consistent and ensure that however you end up changing your brand or staying with your brand, every ad campaign, every social media post, every community notice, and every website page you have, shows evidence of your brand.
The next thing is you want to let your brand soak into everything that you do. Your core message should shine in all of your services – your “About Me” page, your fact page, all of the articles you have on your website, your emails and in every client interaction.
The next tip is that you need to include your entire team in spreading your brand’s message. Now if you are a solo law firm, you still may have people that work for you – a virtual assistant that does your social media posting or someone who answers the phone for you. Whoever you have working with you or for you, should help you spread your brand message and help you communicate that to current clients, colleagues and potential clients.
The next tip is that you should keep learning and listening to your clients. Listen to the reviews that you get. Listen to the communication that they offer. Learn from this free and helpful feedback. You may hear something from your clients, that makes you pivot your branding in such a way that you get an audience that you weren’t expecting to get. Think about that as well. A lot of times potential clients give you the answers that you’re looking for regarding your branding.
The last tip I have is to always advance and grow digital marketing. All marketing is consistently moving, shifting and changing. As the market changes both online and offline, you may need to make minor or even major adjustments to your brand. Don’t be scared to do this, if after some soul searching you realize it is truly what you need to grow your law firm more. There will be growing pains if you need to pivot your branding, but if you know in your heart that’s really the right thing to do for your law firm, then I absolutely say you should do that. It doesn’t mean that you need to bend to every single little trend that comes along, but just keep watching for ways that you can change and adapt your law firm branding to the ever changing market.
Your law firm’s website, your law firm’s social media, everything that you do, is an extension of your brand. There is almost nothing more important than your branding, because before you can have a website and social media and do all of the things right, you have to know who you are. Know thyself. Know yourself. Again with over 47,000 law firms operating in the United States, you want to make sure that you stand out with a very recognizable brand for your law firm.
I hope that today’s episode on Legal Marketing Lounge has inspired you to consider your law firm branding and has given you some practical tips and steps to either change your law firm branding or tweak it in such a way that you can reach more potential clients, with a more recognizable brand that resonates with the spirit of what your law firm is trying to accomplish.
As always, I would appreciate it if you hit that subscribe button. If you’re listening on iTunes, I would love a review. Thank you very much. In the meantime, I hope you do great with your law firm branding. I’d love to see it. If you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, you can find me at Annette Choti there. I would love to see your brand. Just connect with me there. That would be great. I hope you got a lot of value out of today’s podcast episode. I’m so excited that you joined me here. Until next time, thank you for joining me in the Legal Marketing Lounge.