You wouldn’t go to a chiropractor for cosmetic surgery, so why would you just a “graphic designer” develop your firm’s brand? First impressions are lasting impressions – they are your brand, who you are and they are an integral part of your firm’s client experience. Make sure your firm communicates who you are with a brand that’s worthy of you are. It’s around when you’re not, it’s the first thing a potential client encounters and it will be something that they remember long after they’ve completed their case with you.
It’s important that you find a firm or an agency who knows what they are doing. It’s important to remember—this is an investment in the face of your firm and well worth every dime. It is also important to understand that a “brand” is more than just the “logo” (the visual representation) and it’s more than just the “tagline” (if you elect to use one). It is more than just the colors used. It is a message that communicates who you are as a firm and why you are different that all other firms. What makes you all different? Why should a perspective client select your firm rather than another?
Generally, most firms don’t “give their “brand a boost” more than one time during the lifetime of the firm. Why? Because, again, the brand IS who you are. And, that doesn’t usually doesn’t change. However, if the partners change, the name of the firm changes, etc. then, it is a wonderful time to “change your brand” and to give everything, especially your brand a boost. So, in giving your brand a boost you may also want to invest in giving a boost to your website as well. If your website is over 3 years old, it’s time! (not only because your brand is changing and the website should be synergistically tied to all of your client communication mediums, but because it is likely that you need to upgrade all of the technological aspects of your website as well to make sure that you are staying up to date with and ahead of the game with regards to connecting/communicating with current/potential clients).
Here are some things to think about when you start to consider “boosting your firm’s brand”:
Invest in Your Image
Too many law firms make it painfully obvious they don’t care about their “brand” by including a “logo” on their letterhead, business cards, envelopes and website that they created with word art, etc. in Microsoft Word or something similar.
Your brand is the first impression on your website, your Facebook page, your letterhead/envelope, your client kit, etc. so spending money on a brand is one of the most logical and important investments you can make for your firm. An impressive brand crafted by a professional firm/agency can make an average piece marketing material look impressive.
Your Target Audience is Not You
Many of my clients forget who their audience is. They are stuck in the mindset that they are building their marketing materials for themselves rather than for their prospective clients. You should love your brand and it is very important to communicate who you really are. But, it is important to remember who will be reading and viewing the message you are trying to communicate. What language do they communicate best in? What words are they the most comfortable with? Keep all of these things in mind as you use your brand and start communicating it to the world.
An important aspect of good marketing is creating campaigns using your brand that appeal to the largest segment of your target demographic possible. It’s just like painting a house a neutral color when selling. You want the home to appeal to as many buyers as possible and not turn people away with bright, trendy colors. You should adapt the same approach to a certain degree when you use your brand message to communicate to your target demographic.
This doesn’t mean your marketing campaigns can’t be flashy, original, and cool. Just make sure they are you and that they are designed in a way that won’t “hurt potential clients’ eyes” and make them immediately “turn away”. In most cases, this requires hiring a professional marketing firm/agency for their design expertise.
Do your clients get emotional about your brand? When it comes to your tagline you need to think about the feelings it evokes from your clients and potential clients. To differentiate your brand from your competitors it should bring out an emotional response such as trust, honor, humility, admiration or achievement. These emotions associate positive experiences with your firm. That emotional tie builds loyalty and inspires your clients to tell their friends about you and your firm and your services.
To make your brand memorable, connect to the hearts and minds of your target audience. Provide clients with emotional benefits by appealing to their sense of recognition or belonging. Tap into emotions such as joy, relief, sorry or even fear. Give them the facts, but don’t forget the feelings. No question, there are good reasons why the public has such a dismal view of our politicians in Congress today. They can be dysfunctional, lack credibility, constantly bicker and stubbornly hold on to extreme positions, especially the Republicans. But these same Republicans have mastered the use of words to describe their positions in a way that brand marketers can appreciate.
When arguing about abortion, Republicans favor a more evocative term, “life”, while Democrats refer to an abstract word, “choice”. Under George W. Bush, we had the “Patriot” Act, but Democrats created a mouthful to describe their new health care act, “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”. No wonder the “Clean Air Act” remains the law of the land, whereas the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” of 2009 (the cap-and-trade bill) crashed to defeat.
The differences should be clear. Great brands use succinct expressions loaded with powerful emotional connotations. Words should describe something that can be visualized easily, even to the point where one can draw a picture of it. Similarly, smart branding starts with understanding the pain points and dreams of the client, and ends with terminology and communications that consistently respond to these emotional needs while also describing who you are and why you are different to potential clients and referring attorneys.
The other practice used effectively by Republicans is sticking to a core, simplistic message repeatedly, until people are almost sick of hearing it again. And that’s about when it starts to sink in. This is also a worthwhile lesson for building brand equity. The core brand positioning must be reinforced constantly using the same basic value proposition and all relevant touch points available.
Just like in politics where people tend to vote with their hearts, great brands also must appeal to the hearts of their clients. But, as we have noted, they must first and foremost be true to who you are.
I always say, be approachable, get personal (but, not too personal J), let your clients and potential clients get to know you, let them see you – the real you. Why? Because people do business with people and people hire people. HH-EE-LL-OO! – You are running a business! (whether you like to think that you are or not). You want clients to hire you! Speak to them as though you are having a conversation one on one in everything thing that you do, every message you send out – this is your BRAND!
So, be serious about developing your brand. Do it once (or give it a boost once). Be contemplative and dedicated. Find a firm or agency who are masters at developing brands. And, be about discovering who you are. Then communicate it in everything you do. “If you build it they will come.” (and they will tell their friends!).