A powerful image isn’t about finding the right words. There’s no such thing. It’s not about figuring out how to convince prospective clients that your firm is right for them. It’s never going to be right for everybody. It’s not even about having the budget for the most prestigious address, the prettiest graphics or the fanciest programming.
It’s about law firm marketing that will do justice to the good work you and your team do every single day of the job.
What’s the greatest moment your law firm has ever experienced? You know, when you were just about on fire in court, when you put an end to conflict that caused your client significant anxiety, when your writing just about sang with clarity or when your very presence garnered attention, respect and anticipation.
Would someone who witnessed that shining moment see it in your marketing?
Not sure? Flat out no? You’re not alone. Nonetheless, each and every time your message misfires represents another lost opportunity to deeply connect with exactly the market you wish to serve, sight unseen.
So, why aren’t more law firms making it a priority to align their firm’s image with their deepest, truest strengths?
Lots of reasons. To name a few…
- Figuring out how to define a single or a short list of strengths on which to hang one’s hat can raise bigger questions about how the firm gels as a single, cohesive unit.
- Big statements that resonate deeply with one market, generally speaking, will turn away many others.
- To most law firms, the process and the resources required to implement a powerful image, as opposed to a traditional marketing program, aren’t well understood.
- There’s a lack of objectivity when it comes to assessing how the market perceives one’s own message.
- There’s real doubt that such difference in strength actually exists from firm to firm, never mind within one’s own firm.
- There may even be skepticism about the value of the marketing exercise itself.
Now, while there may be nothing new about this line of reasoning, there’s plenty new about the way individuals and businesses purchase legal services.
Gone is the day when prospective clients were dependent on their immediate network’s personal experience for a trusted referral. In the age of the internet, buyers are empowered.
But just because the purchasing process has changed doesn’t mean that referrals are history. The process begins the way it always did, with the prospective client (let’s call her Judy) asking for referrals. Referrals in hand, Judy jumps on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to tap into her extended network, because it’s that easy. Only once she’s got her complete list of referrals in hand, does Judy start to get serious. She researches each and every firm to decide for herself if she agrees with her friends’ and colleagues’ recommendations. Along the way, she surprises herself by learning a thing or two about her own preferences. This prepares her for the last step of her research, her independent search. At this point, she’s not looking to add new options to the list just for the sake of it. She’s focused on closing any gaps she discovered between the list of firms referred to her and her needs and preferences. She’s exploring whether or not she can find an even better fit.
So, contrary to popular belief, the real clincher in this relatively new buyer’s behaviour, isn’t the fact that Judy conducts her own research. It’s that she starts favouring her most recent findings because they most closely reflect her wants and needs.
While most of us are at least somewhat familiar with buyer empowerment, there’s another significant level to this new behaviour that doesn’t get much attention. Judy’s feeling of empowerment doesn’t leave her once she’s made her choice. Every time she comes across any information, ideas or advice that reminds her of her current legal issues, she rethinks her decision all over again, wondering if she landed in the right place.
We live in a browsing economy. We don’t just browse, land and go home happy. We never stop browsing.
Today, image isn’t just about capturing attention. A powerful image must also have the ability to recapture attention, again and again.
So, whether law firms acknowledge it or not, the stakes have changed, and image matters.
What’s a firm to do? What works?
A powerful image rests on an idea, a vision, a promise, a story that’s meaningful to a very specific audience. The more focused it is, the more powerful. But how does one get there?
Developing a powerful image involves three key steps:
- Understanding the market to the point of genuine insight. This process necessarily goes beyond the typical questions about geography and income and delves into motivation, perception and lifestyle.
- Understanding one’s own firm, beginning with strategic planning exercises like the SWOT analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat). This process involves probing for the seed of a big idea, one that’s driven by what’s actually working in the practice. Here we’re searching for an idea so deeply ingrained that it can’t help but come across as sincere.
- Developing a communication strategy that makes that old idea new again and goes home with it in a very big way. Predictable marketing may be safe but it doesn’t garner attention. Build an image based on authentic enthusiasm, values and vision and the right audience will take notice.
Think about it from your own experiences as a buyer. Put the legal sector aside for a moment and closely consider the greatest brands in the marketplace. Powerful image is always based on simple, clean, meaningful ideas made new again by virtue of a compelling communication strategy and made believable by the depth with which root ideas penetrate the business from packaging to product to experience.
A powerful image isn’t about impressing your audience with a prestigious address, fancy graphics or bells and whistles on a website. It never was. It’s about authentic alignment with a firm’s actual strengths. Prospective clients, clients and even referral networks sense that alignment at every stage of engagement. Every time it rings true their trust deepens, a recipe for success even in a buyer’s market.