Never underestimate the power of a strong law firm brand. Law firms that invest in creating memorable brands enjoy many benefits, including increased awareness in the marketplace and among their peers. This increased awareness often results in business development opportunities, enhanced recruiting visibility and stronger client relationships. In order to get the most out of your brand, you will need to invest in the discovery and development process, as well make a commitment to maintain your brand once launched.
Your Logo is Not Your Brand
There is more to a brand than a firm name and logo. Your logo is simply one way to create your presence in the marketplace. Your brand represents a promise to your clients and prospects, referral sources, law school recruits, laterals and your employees. It tells stakeholders what they can expect from your firm and your attorneys.
Building a memorable brand, therefore, is a vital tool for differentiating your firm from your competitors. That means you will need to invest both time and money on the discovery phase to identify your firm's key differentiators in the marketplace. It is not only important to interview key groups within your firm (firm leadership, rainmakers, practice and industry chairs, and a cross section of all employees, including administrative staff), but also that you take the time to understand how you are perceived by your clients, prospects, competitors and recruits. Employees and clients develop positive or negative feelings toward your firm based on how the firm represents itself and conducts its business. Clients and employees want to align themselves with a firm that they believe shares their values and beliefs. And the only way to learn this is through the discovery phase.
Before moving on to the development phase — where your firm's logo, collateral materials and website are created — you should identify the various platforms in which your brand will operate (print, digital, social, radio, etc.). Your marketing strategy and plan should evolve from the branding process.
Failure to Launch
For some firms, developing a brand is the easy part; execution is the challenge. After making substantial investments in brand discovery and development, firms either fail to successfully integrate the brand internally or to roll it out externally. Both scenarios can be avoided with proper strategy.
One common reason for internal failure is the tendency to view a brand roll-out as a marketing department task that is externally-oriented in nature. However, your entire firm — from the mailroom to the managing partner — must be on board for it to succeed. Make sure everyone is trained on your brand tenets and how to effectively convey them in their actions, whether answering the phones, building client relationships, updating a LinkedIn page or speaking at conferences.
Externally, brand consistency is indispensable to establishing and sustaining your firm's identity with its target audiences. Taking the time and effort to create and distribute a brand standards manual outlining approved usage of brand elements (including name, graphics, fonts and colors) in daily operations cannot be underestimated. Many brand roll-outs have gone south as the result of lack of consistent usage and monitoring.
The Evolving Brand
Don't forget to update your brand standards manual as necessary. Everything from increased expertise in emerging industries to the use of a new media platform merits that you revisit your brand and the assumptions behind it. If you want your brand to be effective, it should always be a work in progress. Without a strong, consistent, relevant brand, a law firm will struggle to differentiate itself in a sea of competitors.
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