How would you describe your law firm’s brand?
If that question made you furrow your brow a bit and you don’t have a clear answer, you’re far from alone. But, you’re also missing out on one of the most important opportunities to boost marketing effectiveness across a wide range of efforts and solidify your place in the market.
Just as significantly, you are missing out on the opportunity to drive and shape your brand. Your law firm will have a certain reputation, certain qualities and characteristics associated with it, a certain image in the eyes of your clients, your community, and your industry, whether you participate or not.
You can define that image through branding, or you can leave it to chance. You can raise the profile of your company through branding, or you can stay in the shadows.
Of course, we recommend taking charge.
Understanding the Importance of Branding for Your Law Firm
Branding often gets overlooked in favor of one-off marketing efforts. But, consciously creating your brand and then making sure all of your legal marketing efforts and customer interactions are on-brand is better for your law firm in many ways.
Here are some of the key reasons law firm branding matters:
- Brand loyalty creates brand ambassadors. You’ve almost certainly seen the impact loyalty to a brand can have in spreading the word about a new product or service, sharing content, and even bolstering a brand’s reputation when there’s been negative press. But, does the same concept that helps build and maintain national brands apply to a local law firm? It certainly can. And, brand loyalty and ambassadorship isn’t just for past and present clients—you can build it through valuable content, contributions to your community, educational events and more.
- Brand recognition increases sales. You probably think about the oft-cited fact that consumers are more likely to purchase something new from a familiar brand in terms of retail shopping. But, the motivators are the same—people are more comfortable doing business with brands they feel like they know and can trust. And, they’re more likely to click on a search listing when they recognize the brand, even if an unknown has claimed the top spot.
- Strong brand signals help your SEO. Google and other search engines value credibility and authority. This starts with being consistent right down to the format of your name, address, and phone information on various websites (in the SEO industry we call this your “NAP”). But, those listings are just one way Google determines that you’re a “real business” deserving of attention. Another way authority is determined is through brand signals—mentions of your law firm by bloggers, social media influencers, media, industry organizations and others with “authority.” Unless you build a strong brand, you’re unlikely to get those mentions in your firm name, even if individual attorneys are receiving recognition.
- Brand cohesiveness helps achieve multiple “touches.” A sense of familiarity with a brand develops over time, with multiple exposures—just like a sales conversion typically takes multiple touches. When your social media, advertising, and law firm marketing plan efforts are piecemeal, you lose that impact. Different colors, tones and taglines across different platforms or campaigns decrease the likelihood that prospective clients will recognize your law firm from one exposure to the next, robbing you of the opportunity to build a connection to your brand.
- Brand recognition lets you bypass the competition. Law firm marketers talk a lot about how more than 60% of searches for services are non-branded. That’s a good reason to invest in SEO for non-branded terms, but there’s another important bit of information in that statistic: nearly 40% of searches ARE branded! When a prospective client knows your brand and searches for you directly, you skip over the competition for the click.
Building Your Law Firm’s Brand
Your brand, by nature, is specific to your firm. But, the core concepts and considerations are the same:
Determining How to Define Your Brand
Before you decide anything—your domain name, the color scheme for your website, the content of your blog posts, how you’ll interact in social media, what your paid advertising will look like, or even who will answer your phones—you need a clearly-articulated brand identity.
Certain elements of that brand, such as trustworthiness and knowledge, will be common to most or all law firms. But, what else? When you’re making these decisions, it’s important to consider both what is accurate and realistic for your firm and what is important to potential clients. Lawyers often make the wrong decisions about branding because they’re thinking about what’s important to them and their colleagues, not their markets. Awards, law review editorships and the like go a long way in a job interview, but are likely not top-of-the-mind considerations for an injured construction worker.
Do you want to be the law firm that truly listens to and cares about clients on an individual level? The law firm that will fight to the bitter end on behalf of your clients? The oldest, best-established law firm in town? The truly “local” law firm that is engaged with the community on many levels? Or, something else entirely? What do you have to offer, beyond your legal services, that is important to your market?
Clearly answering those questions before you get started is important because every single thing you do, from choosing your domain name to chatting with a prospective client in your lobby, will either support or distract from the brand you’re trying to build. For example, if you’re going for a casual, accessible image, you don’t want to put up blog posts or web pages that read like legal briefs. And, if your brand is that of the 70-year-old multi-generational law firm you can rely on to always be there for you, you won’t want to use a cutesy domain name and you’ll probably want to stick with a muted, professional-looking color scheme for your website and advertising.
How Legal SEO and Branding Work Together
Most law firms have at least a general understanding of the importance of SEO. But, like every other aspect of your firm’s marketing and operations, the most effective SEO efforts will be consistent with your brand. When managed strategically, SEO for lawyers can support brand growth and a strong brand can boost your search rankings and click-through rates.
Here are a few ways SEO and branding combine to do more for your law firm’s profile:
- Familiarity plays a powerful role in branding. When your pages and posts rank for a number of related terms and questions in your niche, searchers will likely see your site pop up repeatedly, strengthening the perception of your law firm as an authority in that area.
- Familiar brands get more clicks. If someone searching for information or representation recognizes your brand, he or she is more likely to click through. That means your SEO efforts yield more conversion opportunities, but the benefit doesn’t end there. Those clicks tell Google that they’ve chosen correctly and your page or post is what searchers are looking for.
- Titles and descriptions can help solidify your brand. When your pages and posts appear in search or are shared in social media, they typically appear with the title and meta description you created as part of your SEO efforts. Far more people will see these snippets than will visit the page. Carefully crafting these fields to be on-brand helps build your brand image even with visitors or social media users who don’t click through.
- Incorporating on-brand keywords draws the right type of traffic. While most law firms are chasing terms like “personal injury law firm” and “best car accident lawyer,” you can draw more targeted traffic with less competition by thinking about the terms that define your brand and incorporating them into your law firm SEO campaigns. Just make sure you use a keyword tool to find out how your market is expressing those concepts—their language may be different from yours.
Understand Your Competitors’ Brands
Looking at what your top competitors are doing is always a good idea, and that’s just as true in branding as it is in more granular areas such as advertising and content creation.
This assessment involves looking at a wide range of elements, such as:
- The characteristics the firm emphasizes in its content and advertising
- The color scheme and overall feel of the firm’s website
- The voice used in web pages, blog posts, videos, and other content
- The type of niche or long-tail terms the firm is ranking well for
Of course, part of this analysis involves looking at what is working for your competitors. But, there’s another, equally important benefit to thoroughly assessing your competitors’ brands: it shows you where the gaps are.
Identifying the aspects of your brand that aren’t represented by your top competitors can help drive brand-based marketing efforts that will set you apart and get you in front of a market sector that may not be finding what it’s looking for.
Law Firm Branding Best Practices
The earlier you start thinking about branding, the better. Ideally, that’s when you’re first forming your law firm and haven’t yet purchased a domain name or even named your firm. In some states, your firm name is limited by attorney regulations, but that’s not true everywhere. Your name and domain name will be the most frequent representations of your brand, so it’s important to choose carefully and consistently. A reserved name and domain based on the named partner’s name send a different message than a practice-area-based URL. And, within the latter category, there are a range of options, from reserved and concrete to edgier terms designed to convey a more aggressive approach.
From there on out:
- Understand the market. Branding isn’t just about who you are today, but who you want to be and will work toward becoming. When you’re defining your brand, do your homework and make sure you have a solid understanding of what your market is looking for and how you can best position yourself to fill that need.
- Engage with your market. Attorneys tend to have an “all business” outlook, but branding is in large part about telling your story and living the values you’re conveying. When prospects, community members, colleagues and others feel a connection with your brand, they’re more likely to use your services, share your content, refer business to you and otherwise help your law firm grow.
- Be consistent in your marketing. Once you’ve defined your brand, make sure that every blog post, page on your website, social media account, advertising campaign, sponsorship, and press release you put out into the world supports that brand. That means consciously checking for brand consistency before you publish.
- Be consistent in your actions and interactions. Supporting your brand extends far beyond your carefully-crafted marketing messaging. Everything from your office space to the way your staff interacts with clients and prospects should be on-brand.
- Get everyone on board. Make sure that your attorneys are attentive to the firm brand in their work and in their engagement with the community and the industry. And, make sure their activities such as teaching CLE courses and publishing articles are attached to the firm, not just to the individual attorney.
- Use multiple channels. Building a brand image requires creating opportunities for clients, prospects, your local community and your colleagues to come in contact with your brand again and again. The best way to achieve that is to establish your brand through many channels, such as social media, SEO, paid advertising, and content creation.
- Listen to your customers. The best way to know whether your brand message resonates and whether you’re living up to your brand promise is to listen to your customers. If what you’re showcasing isn’t what they want or they’re telling you you’re not delivering on your promises, it’s time to reassess.
- Be prepared to evolve. Brand consistency is critical, but market needs and consumer expectations evolve. To maintain a successful brand over time, you must continuously monitor the market and be prepared to adjust accordingly. That doesn’t mean, though, that you should redefine yourself with every new trend. Build a solid core and then adapt as necessary to true market shifts.
The bottom line is that building a brand requires strategic thinking from the beginning, and at every stage of the game. It takes some work, but as you shape your practice and your brand image in sync, consistency will come more easily and naturally. And, you’ll reap benefits in many ways, from improved organic traffic to greater trust from your target market and more loyalty-based help in spreading the word about your firm.