“There is no favourable wind for the sailor who doesn’t know where to go.” This well-known phrase by Lucius Annaeus Seneca reminds us of the need to know where we are going, of having a direction, a course. Both for the firm and for ourselves. It might seem obvious, but we tend to overlook the obvious as we keep busy with the more urgent day-to-day matters.
Legal marketing guides the firm in its external and internal improvement
The firm should define its course based on factors such as its training, passion for particular legal disciplines, profile, talents and skills of well-selected professionals, attractiveness and profitability of the target market and the positioning of competitors, among others.
The fact is that there are numerous law firms out there, as well as other liberal professions, which go where the clients take them. From the outset, they lack a market strategy that would take them where their competency would accord them and turn them into a firm of reference for the right type of clients.
This lack of direction means having to invest a huge number of resources to achieve their goals; goals they often fail to achieve as most law firms, although competent, do not manage to attract the type of clients they want to have. There are many competent law firms; there are fewer competitive or benchmark ones.
Law firms tend to rely on what is easy or convenient, from a market positioning perspective. They fail to realize that word of mouth advertising and an online presence is no good without a detailed strategy behind it.
Word-of-mouth marketing is often a reflection of reactive behaviour: without a legal marketing strategy, firms expect clients to bring them new clients. In a market as competitive as the legal one, this expectation carries a high risk. Many firms tend to rely almost exclusively on word of mouth, out of habit or convenience in some cases, out of laziness in others. However, convenience does not usually work in the medium or long term.
Internet presence of the law firm
As for the Internet, it is important, of course, for firms and professionals to have an online presence, but always on the basis of prior preparation and strategy; preparation that is conspicuous by its absence. This is evidenced not only in those firms that use the Internet as just another form of communication, but also in those that make a firm commitment to creating new business models by taking advantage of technology. They often forget to invest in the most essential part: the generation of trust through a well-defined, communicated and positioned brand in the market, on the grounds that technology can ultimately be copied and cannot be a source of sustainable competitive advantage, with only some exceptions. Reference brand and trust are synonymous and are created through proper management marketing. The right marketing is the link between the firm and its clients. Innovation and marketing should go hand in hand.
In the business world, CEOs of large and medium sized companies value two skills above all else: business vision and the ability to delegate. We would add relationships with key interest groups. They value strategic foresight and a value-added mindset.
In the case of law firms and, by extension, other professional firms, it is often a different case scenario. Many focus on providing the service without a clearly defined course, neglecting their most important intangible asset and potential confidence builder: the brand.
The future vision of the law firm
What is important is having a direction, a brand and the organizational skills to achieve the established goals. A genuine challenge for those law firms that want to enhance their competitiveness in the market.
The market is relentless. However, you can improve your chances if you improve yourself first. It depends on you.
Thinking is a requirement. Think methodically about the market your firm is in or the markets you wish to enter.
Remember, small details make a big difference. Above all, as in the time of Seneca the Younger, keep focused on your direction, and, of course, the brand. Essentials are timeless.
© Francesc Dominguez, legal marketing and personal branding consultant Europe, Great Britain, Ireland, United States of America. www.francescdominguez.com