So, you have finally decided to take the leap and start your law firm? That’s pretty exciting – especially considering the year we’ve just had. But before you stand up to receive the much-deserved applause, take a rain check and figure out if you are launching a firm or a brand.
There’s a difference and if you want your law firm to thrive, you must understand it.
A business or a service provider sells. They sell a product or an experience or fulfill a need. But brands – successful ones – become a living, breathing entity of their own. If you’ve done it right, branding lets your law firm become something that people can connect with, see it as something that solves their problem, and a consistent partner that’s always in their corner.
Four pillars support a brand’s structure.
- Brand Promise: What service or experience do you promise to deliver to your customers? That becomes your brand promise. It is a specific fulfillment of a need/experience that your clients expect from your law firm.
- Brand Value: The core value system that your law firm stands on. Integrity, trustworthiness, reliability, but what else? These values define everything else you do. It’s the ground that you stand on, and these are absolute – no wiggle room whatsoever.
- Brand Equity: What kind of reputation your law firm has in the market? How is your brand recognized by its peers and patrons? The more value or sway it has the larger its benefits.
- Brand Story: Where do you come from? How you got here? What is the story behind your law firm? You need to build a brand narrative.
What Is In It For You?
That’s a good question. Establishing a brand is a long-haul journey – why should you invest your time, money, and efforts in it? What is its ROI?
The benefits of branding are tangible. You can see them reflected in your ledgers and your numbers. Successful branding creates a positive brand reputation. This can improve your brand equity. It can result in a 31% increase in shareholder returns, a 3X faster growth, and 31% greater revenue growth.
The Key Elements of Branding Your Legal Startup
- Define Your Brand – Internally and Externally
What are you offering? What are the top 3 legal services offered at your firm? Who are the people that head these departments?
Your law firm startup needs to have clear internal communication and staff training about your services portfolio. They must also be briefed and trained on what your brand promise is, what your core values are, and what your brand vision is. The more your employees know about the solution-sets provided by the firm, the more empowered and excited they’d feel about representing the brand.
The same goes for prospective clients. If they ‘know’ you as a brand, they are likely to establish a deeper connection with you.
Promote and market your brand promise, your brand value, and your brand visuals at every opportunity you get. Ensure that when a potential client considers you, they can easily find out what they are getting in return. And this can only materialize when you are successful in your brand communications, both internally (to your employees/shareholders) and externally (clients, overall market).
- Clear and Consistent Communication – On All Channels
Your communication across channels needs to be clear and consistent. The same tone of the copy, the same style, and the same vocabulary standard. It goes for your website, promotional materials, social media, blog, SEO (article titles, Meta descriptions, and such), and everything else.
Why? Because brand-building is perception building. To create a specific perception and strengthen it, you must enforce and repeat it. If your law firm website has a more formal style of copy but your social media is all about the street-lawyer vibe, what message are you sending to your prospective clients?
To keep that message consistent and clear, you must devise a communication guide and stick to it. The guide will outline a standard of customer interactions, the style of language and vocabulary, and clarify the goals behind this practice. It’ll help your employees and others know why they have to maintain a certain standard of brand communication and how.
Also, quite basic, but warrants a mention: must make sure that your website URL is your company/brand name.
- Your Brand’s Design Language – Set the Right Tone
It starts from the logo but goes way beyond. To set your brand’s design language you’ll need to ensure that you understand your law firm, its unique value proposition, and its target audience perfectly. Only then can you choose design elements that are harmonious to your findings.
The crucial visual elements of your brand design identity:
- Your Brand Logo
- Your Brand Icon
- Your Brand Colors
- Your Brand Fonts
While a logo will use varying combinations of these elements, the larger brand strategy will ensure that each unique element – in time – will come to represent your law firm brand quite independently. Much like the Apple icon does without any brand name mentioned anywhere. Or McDonald’s colors do, in the right context.
To create a compelling and comprehensive design language for your law firm, choose design elements – colors, fonts, and shapes, etc. – that represent the ideas behind your brand. Each color, font, and shape represents a unique emotion or mood. Together, their varying combinations can illustrate different aspects of brand personality.
So, create a law firm logo design that covers your law brand identity uniquely. It must be singular to your brand and entirely distinguishable from the rest of the law firms or attorney offices.
- Your own Brand vs. The Competitor’s Brand – Differentiate!
Why should clients choose you and not your rival? After all, her firm has better rates. Unless you can clearly and convincingly showcase that you are different and better than your competitor, your brand won’t be able to go much far.
To create your unique identity, you don’t have to prove your overall superiority over your rival. Just pick a few key traits that you want your law practice and your brand to represent and use them as your value proposition.
But to do that well, you need to know what you are up against. So, research about your rival. How they operate, their niche target-market, what do they offer, and what’s their brand. The more you know them, the better you can illustrate to your audience how you are different. Better.
But don’t talk about your competitors’ weaknesses – that’s just so 80’s and plain embarrassing to watch. It’s also lazy. Focus on your strengths, your unique value, and promote what you can do.
- Brand Familiarity and SEO – They’re Connected
The higher your brand ranks on a SERP and the more it appears on different keyword searches, the better its visibility. The more your brand is visible, the more prospects it’s likely to get and more chances to convert them into clients. Therefore, investing in strong and agile SEO improves people’s exposure to your brand and help gain better brand recognition.
To improve your legal startup’s SEO, start from the basics. Choose the right keywords based on your target audience. Ensure that each page on your site is backed by proper tags, meta descriptions, and section titles. Use varying key phrases so the search engine considers your content for diverse searches.
SEO for law firms is an extensive subject and crucial for your brand-building. Since the topic needs more reading, we suggest using Blue Corona’s SEO for lawyers guide to help with your rankings.
- Brand Authority with Content Marketing – Show Them You’re an Expert
The legal profession is all about authority and knowledge. Do you have a commanding presence in the courtroom and does it appear so on your brand communication? Content marketing is the most effective way you can establish your firm’s market authority.
White papers, research articles, opinion pieces on the latest legal matters, and other expert material through your firm’s blog can help your brand gain an image of being an expert. This can mean more website traffic, more prospects, and more clients.
You can also establish your law firm’s expert status through social media channels. Engage in relevant online conversations. Answer people’s queries. Write about the latest legal developments. Conduct live videos and offer answers to common legal queries.
- Be Real – Or Perish
An authentic brand is the one that delivers on its promise every time. They do what they say they’ll do. With an authentic brand, the communication is more real, the services more collaborated. An authentic brand informs and educates, not sells.
According to a recent study by Stackla, all consumers – 90% of them – are unanimous in their conviction to engage with brands that seem authentic and more real. And for a law firm, consider this number to be an absolute 100%. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a client that doesn’t want its law firm to be transparent, genuine, and honest. And yet, lawyers rank quite lower in people’s opinions of trustworthiness and honesty. They only rank above politicians, advertisers, and car salespeople. Ouch.
So, as a new legal startup, create your reputation as an authentic law firm brand by engaging in open communications and a forthright attitude.
Brand building is a business decision that rewards the patient. It takes time, effort, and must be backed by exceptional performance, high-quality services, and a great company attitude. For those who are willing to put in the grueling hours, strong brand perceptions create loyal clients, improved profits, and a larger slice of the market share.