It is best to think before acting. This is especially true when it comes to legal marketing, which should enhance our capacity to distinguish ourselves and gain the market’s trust, in addition to attracting clients and building client loyalty.
There are two key questions in legal marketing: what is the current or potential client really hiring? and how can we go from being a competent firm to being a competitive one?
This article explores ways in which competent firms can become competitive, drawing on our book “Legal Marketing: from a competent law firm to a competitive one“.
Time to think. As one lawyer remarked in our LinkedIn profile: “although as lawyers we are usually aware of the importance of technical competence, we tend to ignore or undervalue (which is effectively the same thing) the basic principles that can lead to the successful development of a distinctive professional brand and, consequently, commercial success”. We must each dedicate time to defining our market strategy, as no one else will do it for us.
Where do we start? We start by believing that we can create or reestablish ourselves as a unique and top-notch firm. We start with confidence and a winning attitude.
A life dedicated to our clients. In addition to dedicating our professional life to helping our clients, we must also ask ourselves if it is worth “helping ourselves”; that is, if it is worth pursuing becoming the kind of firm we want to be.
Hard work. Indeed, we must work hard, but only if we know what it is we are working for. We should let our work be guided by the culture of targeted effort, by first defining what we want (and what we don’t want). We can then allocate resources to achieving what we want, in pursuit of long-term goals instead of instant gratification. The trust of the market is something that is earned over time.
Strategy and organization. A key factor in improving any firm is having a clear vision of what we want and adopting the right strategy and organization to achieve it. A firm’s organization should serve its strategy; that is, efficiency should make it easier to achieve the goals we have set. A lack of organization can undermine efforts to apply a marketing plan that will position the firm in the market and increase business. Some firms are organized to provide good service, even when this type of organization is not aligned with its business strategy (if they even have one to begin with). In other words, there is a clear “gap” between the firm’s internal functioning and its external image in the market.
Communication in the firm. It is important to have a message and know how to communicate it. This is something that is lacking in many firms. In fact, most firms send messages that are not really their own; that is, they do not communicate a concept of their own making. When it comes down to it, competition between firms is based on the messages that they send (and don’t send) and the perceptions they create in the market. A firm that manages its image well shall prevail. If we don’t say who we are, others will say it for us.
Brand image. We must know what our strengths or distinguishing characteristics are from the perspective of potential clients. Once we have identified these, we can define our unique message and communicate it effectively. Companies distinguish themselves using their brand image. That is why it is important to pay attention to all elements that make an impression on potential clients.
It is essential that the service experience contribute to the goal of creating a brand. It is easier to create a brand (and only honorable professionals can do this) if the firm provides outstanding service. Service does not persist over time, but our brand does.
Without a brand, we’re going nowhere. Without a brand (local, regional or national), firms can go nowhere, or at least not very far. A firm with a powerful brand holds a winning hand. A strong personal or company brand is a form of “professional life insurance”.
Promoting or selling the firm’s services. Instead of trying to sell services, which are, in essence, easily copied, it seems more reasonable to create new market niches at the local, national or international levels in which our firm can become leader.
Firms that distinguish themselves. Successful firms sell or provide clients with something they need. But outstanding firms not only sell people or companies what they need, they also sell them what they desire.
Commercial training. Most professionals believe that hiring professional services is a more rational process than hiring in other sectors. But in fact, the decision to hire professional services is an emotional one. People hire based on their perception or sense of peace of mind. Without emotion, without desire on the part of the potential client, there is no hiring. “No desire, no business”. Are we ready to “help” clients with an objective need for advising choose our services? We must train for this.
Talent. The solutions we bring to clients require talent. And talent comes with a price. We must learn to sell our talent for what it’s worth.
Fear and false professional beliefs. Our fears and false professional beliefs threaten to alienate our development in the market from our ability to lead a satisfying professional life. Who is our chief competitor? We are.
The key: knowing what the client is really hiring. A firm should be created to respond to the needs and, above all, the desires of potential clients, not because (as usually occurs) several professionals get together and try to promote their services. In the latter case, a lack of method in the firm’s creation usually results in its stagnation down the road. Lawyers, like economists and doctors, form part of clients’ “peace of mind” market.
Mentality. It is more feasible to successfully apply legal marketing in small to mid-size firms’ because of their less complex structure. However, small to mid-size firms mentality (or lack thereof) when it comes to marketing gives large firms an edge in this area.
Throwing money away. Most firms create a website or can be found on social networks without a specific brand strategy. This type of “investment” tends to become an expense in terms of both time and money.
The peace of mind we deserve. Laying out a solid market roadmap brings peace of mind. Lawyers should try to give themselves the same thing that their clients ask of them: peace of mind.
If we want to have a leading firm, we must invest. The decisions we make today are the results we will see tomorrow.
© Francesc Domínguez, legal marketing and personal branding consultant, www.francescdominguez.com. Original article published in Spanish in Thomson Reuters La Revista.