The Legal industry today is going through a cut-throat competition globally, and there are several reasons behind the rat race. This varies from geography to geography and firm to firm. Better branding and positioning, including lawyer brand building, remain one of the many reasons that can be on a law firm’s managing partner’s wish list to excel and see how best the firm can work to make a mark.
However, following specific steps can help any law firm compete effectively for clients’ attention and referral sources irrespective of size or availability of resources (time and money). Following these steps will not only help enrich the firm’s client list by attracting potential clients but also grow the firm as a business from a long-term perspective.
STEP 1: PREPARE A BUSINESS PLAN
The business plan, along with law firm branding and lawyer brand building, is an integral component of a well-constructed short-term growth strategy, part and parcel of a long-term strategic plan. Expanding efforts and resources without a well-thought-out plan or reasoning in place and reaction to randomly obtained advice rarely work in the long term. Applying a results-oriented approach, including quantifying expected financial growth, allows you to set benchmarks to measure the business plan’s effectiveness.
STEP 2: CONDUCT AN INITIAL ASSESSMENT
Before committing to new branding and positioning endeavours, thoroughly assess your current initiatives. Essential questions to address at the inception of brand building for lawyers in India are:
- Who is your target market?
- What is your current brand?
- What was your branding and business development budget for the year?
- Have you identified your niche practice areas and specializations?
- Do you know your key client industries?
- How do you currently measure the effectiveness of marketing endeavours?
- What has been your past return on investment (ROI)?
Thoroughly addressing these questions will provide a solid foundation for evaluating and implementing effective strategies of brand building for lawyers in India.
STEP 3: CARVE, DIFFERENTIATE AND EVOLVE YOUR BRAND
Law firm branding is a crucial aspect that law firms overlook in their development process.
Most law firms let their brand develop as a part of the flow. Many law firms engage in “visible branding” initiatives, such as graphic components like logo and randomly chosen tag lines, neglecting to strategically position the firm by developing image and core message that will set it apart from the competitors.
Start defining your ideal brand by exploring the unique qualities that differentiate you from your competitors. A strategically positioned law firm resonates with us significantly and creates its individuality. Consequentially, this may appeal to only some current and prospective clients.
The firm should own the category it aspires to be positioned in and, ideally, be the first in a position. Differentiation is key!
STEP 4: WRITE DOWN MONTHLY GOALS FOR BRANDING AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES
For lawyer brand building and law firm branding strategic branding and business development plans yield the best results only when carefully laid out steps are implemented on consistent and persistent basis. Create or adopt an activity management and accountability system that keeps you on track.
Save resources, in terms of money, time, and talent, from being spent on anything that is not measurable. Identifying or creating long-term customized positioning platforms, like your own blog or newsletters, can not only be much more effective as compared to a display ad (Indian law firms can only advertise outside India), but also easily measurable. These customised digital marketing platforms can help lawyers increase their online visibility and attract potential clients in the modern age.
STEP 5: ESTABLISH A SPECIFIC AND CONSISTENT FOLLOW-UP PROCESS
The reason that follow-up is so important is because that is where all the revenue is. It is not found in the introductory event, pitch or handshake. The frequency and method of future contact with the prospective client or referral source are context-dependent. Bear in mind it takes 7 “touches” to establish a relationship. With online touches, that number increases to 7-16 times. Sometimes the situation calls for a quick lunch or even a phone call. When immediacy is not necessary or appropriate, you could schedule periodic “soft touches” over the upcoming year. “Soft touches” include sending notifications of blog posts, copies of your published articles, and invitations to firm-sponsored seminars.
STEP 6: MONITOR AND REASSESS THE RESULTS
A structured approach for accountability and assessing ROI creates the basis for shifting away from efforts that aren’t productive and directing resources toward endeavours that prove profitable. However, it is essential to remember that some marketing initiatives take longer than others to produce noticeable results.
Once you have given the particular plan a reasonable amount of time to produce results, analyze whether you are satisfied with the ROI. If not, revise the plan on your own or consider investing in a short-term contract with a consultant experienced in law firm marketing to get you on the right track.
In one of my previous articles, we also discussed THE RULE OF 2.5% AND 200 HOURS. This is where you calculate 2.5% of the law firm’s gross revenue and invest that money directly in generating new business, like taking clients out to lunch, business development trips, conference sponsorships, and so on. Along with this engaging a law firm brand agency can provide valuable guidance in allocating these resources effectively and can significantly help in enhancing the brand. Not just this but a law firm brand agency can be a sole companion in your branding journey.
Alongside the monetary investment, it is key to put in man-hours in all positioning and active business development initiatives. 200 hours may sound like a lot, but when you break it down per week, it’s only about four hours a week. When you take out such a measurable and tangible sum of your law firm’s revenue and invest it back into a growing firm, you psychologically become accountable for every initiative you pursue, which can easily be achieved with the support of a law firm brand agency.
Like most worthwhile endeavours, marketing requires effort, focus, and commitment. Branding and business developmental projects affect the future of the firm’s practice and are just as important as short-term production and billable hours.
As the well-renowned former Harvard Business School professor and expert on the management of professional service firms – David Maister says, “Your billable time is your current income, but your non-billable time is your future.”
If you are looking for any support or guidance, your law firm brand agency is standing by to assist you! Feel free to reach out to us!
I am the Principal Consultant at the Lex Witness Strategic Counsel Desk, an invitation based initiative, which caters to various entities who seek to create and improve their brand and undertake market activation strategies in the Indian legal market space. Much beyond the space of the magazine, the Strategic Counsel Desk aspires to provide a holistic framework for the firm’s positioning and business growth, primarily focusing on the strength in the Indian legal industry.
This article was first published in the Lex Witness January 2015 issue.