What Does Law Firm Branding Have To Do With Law Firm Marketing?

One of the greatest challenges lawyers face in building a law practice is time. I have yet to meet a lawyer or work with a law firm where time is not a scarce resource.  Billable hours, client demands, law firm management and administrative responsibilities are top priorities.  
 
As a result, many lawyers question the value and need for defining a law firm brand. " What does branding have to do with law firm marketing? "
 
To answer this question, I want to start with what branding is and is Not.
 
A brand is NOT just :
 
• a logo
• a tagline
• a web site
 
A brand IS:
 
 
An effective  law firm brand will communicate your uniqueness, express your  value, tell your story and create a memorable presence in your target  market. Your brand will not be for everyone.
 
A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined 
cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.
                                                                               –  Michael Eisner
A strong law firm brand will send the message about who you are and drive how you are perceived by the market and clients. Internally, it will set the agenda and create a common purpose behind your strategy.
 
Successful law firm marketing starts with exceptional value and service to clients. A common "brand promise and commitment" helps align everyone in the firm to deliver a consistent message and more importantly to provide a consistent level of service and value to clients.
 
In summary, your law firm brand has everything to do with marketing and is the foundation for an effective marketing strategy. Your brand should answer the following  questions:  
 
1. What is your firm's value proposition? 
2. How does your firm differentiate from other firms?
3. Who are you? 
4. Who are your clients?
5. What is your firm's voice? 
6. What is your firm's consistent message?
7. What is your firm's promise and commitment?
 
The answers to these questions will help you to leverage the synergy of your firm's expertise and talent. By clarifying and internalizing the answers to these questions, you will have the foundation for creating a marketing plan that produces extraordinary results.  On the other hand , if you begin your marketing plan without knowing the answers to these questions,  you may end up spending your valuable resources, including time, on a plan that produces average results.
 

Attracting Profitable Clients In A Post Recession Market

The recession might be over but the recovery has been challenging for some law firms and lawyers. How do you move ahead of the competition and position yourself for continued success in a post recession market?
 
There are many approaches to building a successful law practice, however, for lawyers who want to leverage their core competency and attract profitable and desirable clients, it is essential to build a marketing plan that is based on clarifying who is your ideal client.
 
Knowing the answer to this question will help you to create:
 
Positive word of mouth marketing about your reputation. This comes from satisfied clients who trust you and believe that you understand and know how to solve their problems. Different clients require different solutions.  For example, in divorce, the over 50 client who has been in a long term marriage will require different resources than the young professional who has been married for  a few years.  If your target client is the over 50 audience, how are you exceeding their expectations in the services you deliver and the resources you provide?
 
Content that attracts the right client. Clients will respond to articles, web sites and blog posts that are relevant to them and their situation. Different clients will resonate with different messages.For example, if you are a Family Lawyer whose target audience is professional woman, write about the problems and challenges professional woman face in divorce. Include your articles and published papers on your LinkedIn profile, write a press release demonstrating your expertise.Writing relevant content that emphasizes your expertise and placing it in front of targeted clients(Web site, LInkedIn profile, blog, etc.) is one the best ways for attracting the right clients and referral sources.

Consistent and relevant top of mind awareness.  Many people are experiencing information overload, too much information and too many choices can distract prospective clients and referral sources from paying attention to your law practice. Clients and referral sources will respond to what is relevant and visible to them at the time they have a problem.  Think about when most people start paying attention to which Universities their children will attend, usually it is when their children are in their 11th or 12th year of high school. The same is true with clients who have legal needs.  For example, one of my clients is a criminal defense lawyer who experienced an increase in calls for theft  cases after he posted a blog on the consequences for retail  theft after black Friday. His message was visible and relevant to the clients he wanted to attract to his practice. Since you don’t know when your prospective clients or referral sources will have a problem you can solve, it is important to maintain consistent and targeted visibility. 
 
 
You can create a successful marketing plan that attracts desirable and profitable clients by clarifying who your ideal client is and then building a plan that positions you as an expert at solving their most critical problems. 
 
What is working for you? Are you attracting the "right" clients to your practice? If not, what is one thing you can do today to start building a thriving practice that attracts desirable and profitable clients?
 
Many times it is difficult to create a marketing plan on your own, contact me if you have questions or would like guidance on how to create your client-centered marketing plan. 
 

 

Reinvention Is The Key to Survival For Law Firms

This morning CBS news featured a story on the demise of iconic American companies including Hostess and Kodak.

What are the factors contributing to this defeat and how do businesses and law firms protect themselves from becoming obsolete? 

Factors that contribute to the downfall of business include, not staying in touch with rising costs, changing tastes or new technologies, not evolving and maintaining the status quo. 

Kodak originated the technology for photography and in the 1970's held 90% of the photography market, yet has lost market share by not leveraging this technology in a digital world. Hostess, the creator of Twinkies, was slow to adapt to the changing tastes of a new market.

Scott Galloway, marketing professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, said reinvention is the key for the struggle of survival.

Businesses and law firms that find ways to reinvent themselves are the most successful. Apple is an example of a company who understands the power of reinvention.

What is your law firm doing to reinvent your law practice?  The following are a few questions to consider;

* Do you use LinkedIn to build your network, make a contribution and stay connected or do you think LinkedIn is a waste of time?

* Does your web site provide updated content and value to your target client or do you have pages on your site that have been unchanged for 5-10 years?

* Do you stay informed on what is happening in your market by reading  high value blogs, following thought leaders on social media sites including Twitter, and participating in targeted LinkedIn group discussions, or are you too busy?

* Is your bio updated and informative about the value you provide clients and what distinguishes you or is it chronological description of your educational background and dates of employment?

* Does your service to clients include collaboration with other professionals or are you going it solo?

* Does your search engine strategy include writing relevant blog posts, informative web site content, useful YouTube videos and on-line press releases or are you relying on “key word stuffing” and outsourced “link building” and content writing to increase your on-line visibility?

* Are you listening to your clients, conducting client evaluations, and providing remarkable service or are you doing what you have always done?

* Does your firm hold law firm retreats to review its strategic vision and target market annually to align marketing activities with your most important goals or are you winging it and hoping you will meet financial and billable hour targets?

The above questions are not inclusive and are meant to stimulate your thinking about how you are reinventing your law practice to maximize your success for prosperous and continued existence.

What additional questions would you include in the list above? What strategies have you implemented to reinvent your law practice?
 
 

Family Law Marketing to the LGBT Community- Putting Strategies into Action

In my last blog post, I wrote about maximizing your law firm marketing ROI, in this post I would like to share an example on how to put these strategies into action.

Yesterday a family law firm called me because they wanted an ad for a LGBT magazine featuring families in the upcoming fall publication. They were on a tight time-line and needed the ad by the end of the week. The original plan was to do a one-time ad in the special feature on Families for the publication.

Before moving forward with the one-time ad, I wanted to learn more about the firm’s bigger picture goals. One of the goals for the firm was to be recognized as a family law firm knowledgeable about the important family law issues facing the LGBT market. Instead of putting an expensive one-time ad in the publication, limiting the firms return on investment, we created an integrated and targeted campaign to position the firm as a thought leader on family law for LGBT families. The campaign included the following strategies:

  • Write and submit an informational press release to the  editorial staff. Focus the release on a single topic relevant to the target audience and provide helpful, practical and valuable information. Note: Substantive and current information on gay marriage and divorce is a strong hook for the media given the recent change in gay marriage laws.
     
  • Develop a series of 3 advertisements targeted towards the interests of the magazine’s readers. Maintain a consistent ad for 6-12 months.
     
  • Include a call to action in each advertisement.
     
  • Create a relationship with the publication as an expert in family law issues related to the LGBT community.
     
  • Identify social media opportunities to leverage the campaign including re-purposing the press release for a blog post and putting the blog post on Face book, LinkedIn and Twitter.
     
  • Leverage LinkedIn groups to spread the word to the local LGBT community. Include a link on LinkedIn to the editorial article in the LGBT publication.
     
  • Update web site to include a section on LGBT partnership agreements.
     
  • Promote the firms focus on Collaborative Law as a beneficial option for gay marriage and divorce.

In summary, a one-time project with questionable “ROI” value was transformed into a targeted marketing strategy positioning the firm as a thought leader in the LGBT community. Your firm can increase your marketing ROI by executing the following key elements:

  • Align all marketing activities with the firm’s most important goals.
     
  • Implement an integrated marketing strategy to reinforce your message.
     
  • Avoid a generic “all thing to all people” approach and target your message to a specific audience.
     
  • Provide relevant content that makes a contribution to your intended audience.
     
  • Focus press releases, blog posts and articles on current, substantive, newsworthy topics verses self promotion, announcement-oriented content. 

If you have questions on how to maximize your marketing investment, email me at eferris@ferrisconsult.com  

Should Lawyers Build Their Personal Brand?

 

Is building a personal brand an important strategy for growing your law practice or is it merely “an oxymoron, for a corporate practice, not a personal one” as  written by blogger Doc Searls in his post, The Unbearable Lightness of Branding.

In Telling Lawyers to Build a Personal Brand May Be a Big Mistake, Kevin O’Keefe responded to Doc Searls by  stating, “Today it's "Building trust and maintaining a reputation matter. Calling both 'branding' is a categorical error.”

After reading both posts and having worked  with lawyers for ten years on branding, I passionately recommend that lawyers  focus on both their personal and law firm brands. My suggestion is to re-frame the question from:

“Should I build my personal brand?”
to
“What distinguishes me and my practice, what do I stand for, and who is my ideal client?”

The answer to these questions define your “story” that is, how you express your value to potential clients. Your "story" will establish  the foundation for defining your personal brand.

Personal brands fail for the following two reasons.

  • When the brand starts outside of yourself.  Too often lawyers focus more on their external persona verses who they truly are and what they stand for. This can lead to disastrous results.(Think Tiger Woods, Tony Hayward, the recently demoted CEO at BP and Elliot Spitzer.)
  •  When the brand is about self promotion verses an authentic commitment to making a positive contribution to your clients, colleagues and community.

A brand is not a persona or a “logo.” It is about building a reputation and doing remarkable work, living your values and consistently delivering on your brand promise.

One example of a successful personal brand is Don Schiller of Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP, who has created a brand as A Gentleman in a volatile practice area.

His brand enhances and is in direct alignment with his firms brand for unparalleled excellence. It also  distinguishes him as the “go to” family lawyer for  high profile clients among  the influential, wealthy and famous in Illinois. 

In a recent article, titled The Gentlemen, Don was described as:

“In the field of divorce law, it’s hard to escape from name-calling. The amazing thing about Don Schiller is that even at the top of the divorce field, the name he’s most regularly called is ’gentleman.’

Don Schiller has successfully built a personal brand: He knows who he is and  who his clients are, and he delivers on his brand promise every day.

A strong personal brand is about being authentic, knowing what you stand for, and consistently delivering on your brand promise. This includes building trust and maintaining a reputation in alignment with your brand.

The more defined your brand, the more you will distinguish yourself in a competitive market and attract the clients who value what you do best.

 

Five Characteristics For A Successful Law Practice

Why are some practitioners successfully building their law practice while other practitioners struggle to attract desirable clients and are frequently concerned about, “where the next case will come from?”

I have been consulting with law firms, family lawyers, mediators and collaborative law practitioners across North America and Europe for the past 9 years and have observed the characteristics of highly successful practitioners.

The five characteristics that I have found consistent with every successful lawyer, mediator or collaborative law practitioner include, commitment, competence, community, communication and exceptional client value.

Successful lawyers and practitioners:

1. Know what they want, believe in their vision and are committed to achieving their vision. Commitment is defined as “The state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to a course of action.” The first step in building a strong practice is having a clear idea of what you want, internalizing the value for achieving this goal and committing to the “action” to realize your goal.

2.Have a relentless pursuit for competence. Excelling at handling client matters is what will separate you from the pack. This requires a consistent effort to master the underlying skills necessary for being recognized as the "best"in your field. What skills do you have or want to acquire that will position you as "number one" in your field?

3. Contribute to building their community. People will do business with those they know, like and trust. One of the critical requirements for consistent referrals is establishing a foundation of trust among professionals. The number one way to build trust is to spend time making a contribution to your community and showing an interest in others.

4. Effectively communicate what they do, who they do it for and the value of their service. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes a “sticky message” as one of the rules for creating a tipping point. Stickiness is a message that makes an impact, is easily understood and is repeatable. Successful practitioners consistently communicate a clear message about their practice so everyone knows what they do, the value they provide and who can benefit from their service.

5. Provide exceptional client value.Satisfied clients are the best source of referrals. Higher client satisfaction requires a focus on providing superior service. This means knowing the needs, interests and goals of your clients and meeting and exceeding expectations. The fastest way to grow a practice is through word-of-mouth marketing. This will happen if clients have a positive experience with your service.

Review the above characteristics and conduct a self-assessment of your strengths and weakness.

In what areas are you strong and which areas can you improve?

Create a plan today for making these characteristics an integral part of your practice. By mastering these characteristics, you will be taking essential steps toward growing your law practice and creating the practice you want, a practice that attracts desirable and profitable clients, produces exceptional value to your clients and brings fulfillment to your work.

 

Mission, Vision and Values: Do I Need All Three?

In a previous post I wrote about the importance of developing a unified vision for helping an organization to achieve accelerated and profitable growth. A lawyer from London who read the article asked:

"What is the difference between vision, mission and values, what does each component do and why do you need all of them?"

The terms mission, vision and values have become over used words and often are confused with old fashion strategic planning retreats where hours and even days are spent word-smithing a mission statement that is never looked at again. Many times the words are interchanged causing more confusion over the benefit for creating a mission, vision and value statement.

The Following provides a brief overview of Mission, Vision and Values and why you need all three:

Definitions

Mission: Mission or purpose is the reason for the firm or organizations existence. It answers the question, why do we exist? Another way to look at mission is to ask, what would happen if we disappeared?

Why do we need a mission? Mission is your raison d'etre, your "reason for being" and is what keeps the excitement and motivation in your work. Knowing the "why" behind the "what" is how you create focus, alignment and commitment in your organization.

We all want to be part of something that makes a difference and is deeper than making a profit. A strong "reason for being" is what allows you to achieve what others might view as impossible. It is what motivates ordinary people and organizations to achieve extra ordinary results.

Nelson Mandela comes to mind when I think of a person with a strong sense of purpose. His life has been dedicated to "the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities."

Similar to successful and extraordinary individuals, successful businesses also have a clearly defined mission statement. The mission of Google, one of the most successful companies in the 21st Century, is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Your mission statement will help your organization to attract the right clients, the right employees and help you to make decisions that are in alignment with your core purpose. Your mission will keep your organization focused on "why it exists" and provide inspiration, direction and motivation to pursue goals when inevitable obstacles get in the way.

Vision: Vision is a clear image of your desired future. Think Martin Luther King and his "I have a dream" speech. It is a picture of the future you seek to create. A statement of your vision shows everyone in your firm or organization where you want to go and what you will be like when you get there. Vision answers the question, what is the final result we want?

Why do we need vision? Vision paints a picture of what everyone agrees the organization will look like in the future. It gives shape and direction to the organization's future and helps people set goals and prioritize strategies for moving the organization closer to its desired results.

My favorite vision example is Henry Ford's vision to democratize the automobile. Ford wanted to build a motor car for the masses that everyone could afford. Imagine the power of this vision during the early 1900's when the primary means of transportation was horse and buggy.

Once you are clear on what your vision is, then you can make your vision a reality by focusing your plan on the strategies that are in alignment with the result you want to achieve.

Values: Values describe how we intend to operate, on a day-by day basis, as we pursue our vision. Values are best expressed in terms of behavior and are the guiding principles by which an organization operates. What do we do when no one is watching?

Why do we need to define values? Unlike a vision which can change, values never change and are the "rudder of the ship" helping an organization to make decisions and behave in a manner that is in alignment with what the organization stands for.

Imagine how different our economic situation would be if individuals, mortgage companies and banks defined and upheld the values that were most important. An overzealous vision without values can create catastrophic outcomes similar to Enron, Bernie Madoff, AIG and former Morgan Stanley executives jailed for stock loan fraud, etc.

In Summary, Mission is our "reason for being" and answers the question, why do we exist? Vision answers the question, what do we want to achieve? Values answer the question, what do we stand for?

Whether you are a lawyer in a law firm, a sole proprietor or a collaborative practitioner whose goal is to attract more desirable clients , knowing what your vision, mission and values are will lay the ground work for achieving extraordinary results.

I have been helping businesses and law firms to achieve extraordinary results by facilitating the creation of mission, vision and values for over twenty years. Please contact me if you have questions or would like more information on how to create your firms vision and mission.

Building a Successful Law Practice Requires Meaningful Work

Last week I had a conversation with a highly successful family lawyer who was telling me about what he wanted “more of” in his law firm. He said, “I want us to be a firm that is 100% committed to excellence, to provide our clients with the greatest level of value, and to be seen as a firm that consistently achieves the best results for our clients.”

There was a sense of excitement in his voice as he described what he wanted and why it was important for him and his firm.

Lawyers who believe their work is meaningful are successful rainmakers, enjoy their work and have thriving practices.

One source of meaningful work comes from delivering a high level of excellence and exceptional value to clients. It is rewarding, worth the effort and results in increased revenue and profitability. Yet, many firms continue to over emphasize the billable hour as the primary message with associates and partners, a message that can leave lawyers less than enthusiastic about growing their practice.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, The story of success, he states “It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five, it’s whether our work fulfills us.”

In his book there is a chapter on lawyers, devoted to the concept of “meaningful work.” In the chapter he describes how highly successful law firms were founded by individuals whose cultural circumstances gave them belief in meaningful work.

According to Gladwell, having meaningful work was one of the hallmarks of successful people.

How meaningful is your work? Assess your practice and answer the following questions:

• What is important to you?
• What contribution do you want to make?
• Why does your practice exist?

The following is an email I received from a family lawyer who understands the value of meaningful work:

“I began to see the practice of family law as the service of guiding people through one of the most difficult times of their lives. I truly believe that is what we do, but when you “name it” you internalize it. In the past, when people asked me what I did for a living, I responded that I was a “divorce lawyer.’” Not anymore. I will proudly proclaim that I am a problem solver.” And I believe it.”

The lawyer who sent me the email has a thriving, profitable practice and is one of the top originators at her law firm. For her, meaningful work comes from knowing that she has the knowledge, expertise and resources to help clients achieve the best possible results. For others, meaningful work may be something different. In Outliers, Gladwell outlines the following 3 criteria for meaningful work:

  • Autonomy
  • Complexity
  • Connection between effort and reward

We all may define meaningful work differently, but what is universal is that meaningful work comes from a strong sense of purpose and typically goes beyond  a surface measurement like a “billable hour” quota. By focusing on why you exist and the contribution you want to make, you will attract desirable clients, increase your origination and build a practice that provides fulfillment ( and satisfaction) to your work. 
 

Why Strategic Vison and Mission are Key to Achieving Accelerated Growth

Last week I received a question asking me, "What is the best way to help people find the switch to illuminate the light bulb in their heads about the crucial need for vision, mission and values?"

This is a common question I receive from Law firms, Collaborative groups, and businesses. For some reason, the thought of creating a strategic vision and mission is counter intuitive to professionals who want to accelerate the growth of their practice in a difficult economic climate.

The instinct is to go out and start “doing” an activity or even worse to respond or react to an event of “special marketing offer” that requires an immediate decision.

Accelerated results come from the power of a group or firm to work in unison toward a shared vision. It is similar to an elite group of rowers whose power comes from the synchronicity of each person working together. Speed and power is achieved by rowing in unison in the same direction. If one person is out of sync the whole group’s ability to succeed is challenged. If a few people are rowing out of sync, the results can be disastrous.

This is true in organizations and law firms, for example, before I conducted a strategic planning retreat for a collaborative law group, the organization had 12 committees all working in different and sometimes opposite directions. Board members had different opinions of what were they thought were the high priority activities for the organization. This created tension among board members and even worse reduced the efficiency of limited and valuable human and financial resources. The organizations members were questioning the value of their membership and getting frustrated with the lack of results they were seeing.

The group participated in a in two day retreat that was preceded by interviews and targeted strategic assignments for board members. In the retreat, the board clarified the purpose of the group which put everyone on the same page as to “why” the organization existed.

This lively discussion allowed everyone to listen and convey what they believed was the reason for the organizations existence. The value from this process was not just in coming up with a great mission statement; the value came from the dialogue and mutual understanding of the companies reason for being.

Once everyone was in alignment with the purpose for the organization, they were able to move forward and create a shared vision about what they wanted the organization to achieve.

After defining the vision and mission, the group efficiently and effectively developed a plan to translate their vision into results. The energy of the group was ignited because the retreat discussion was focused on the organizations most important results. An action plan was created and is now used as a road map for prioritizing agenda items at every board meeting. The plan is being followed and the group has experienced breakthrough results.

It is difficult to answer the question about illuminating the light bulb on the value of vision. However, my response would be, it is not what the vision is... it is what vision does. Optimal results are achieved when everyone in your team knows where they want to go (clarifies what success looks like) and are in alignment on how to get there. In other words, they are all rowing in the same direction.

Let me know if you are part of a team that is rowing in different directions. I will provide you with some ideas on how to get everyone working towards a common goal.