This month, FilePro asked me to write an article about how to properly manage your law firm’s brand.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to write the whole book. There are no ‘secrets to success’ for branding, just like there aren’t any for running a successful business.

Instead, I thought I’d highlight three key mistakes I’ve noticed from working alongside a number of law firms.

Caveat emptor – I am painting with broad strokes. If some of this advice strikes a chord with you, look into someone who can provide consultancy tailored to your business.

1. You’re not ‘selling’ quickly enough

Imagine for a moment: a prospective client is walking into the office of your competitor. They get in the elevator and press their number. You see them from across the foyer and you now have the next four seconds to stop the closing doors. What do you say?

Elevator Branding Analogy

This is the analogy you should use for all of your branded communications – you have three, maybe four seconds, to grab someone’s attention and make them listen for that little bit longer.

In the advertising world, this across-the-foyer yell is called a single-minded proposition.

Your brand’s single-minded proposition should instantly communicate what’s in it for your client – why they would choose you. Don’t try to be everything to everyone, identify your target market and figure out the single thing they want most.

Typical, law firms say something like this: “The founder of Bloggs Lawyers is Joe Bloggs when the firm was called Joe Bloggs & Co. It started in 1986 and it has continued in existence but in a new structure called Bloggs Lawyers.” (This is the first piece of text I received after searching for ‘law firms’ in my area, obviously with the names changed)

Will this make me put my hand in the elevator doors? No.

The law firms that are doing the right thing know their market and they know what sells – here are a few good examples I’ve found:

• “Legal solutions, without having to meet in person” – Perfect for those in remote locations.
• “Conveyancing for $895” – If you’re going to play the pricing game, play hard.
• “Cut through the complexity” – If you’re a corporate client looking to change firms, I can bet this promise sounds great.

2. You think, ‘branding is just making things look nice’

While graphic design plays an important role in branding, it definitely isn’t the most important aspect of managing a successful brand.

There are thousands of books, for both a general and academic audience, that pontificate on what a brand ‘is’. However, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has one of the simplest and most useful definitions: “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”

Bezos on branding

Your brand is what comes to mind when people think of your company, it’s what they expect from working with you, and it’s what they tell others about you.

If we think about branding in this manner, it is clear that things like customer service, pricing, and outcomes are going to have more of an influence than how your logo looks.

With that being said…

3. You think, ‘making things look nice is irrelevant to business’

There is no denying that client experience has a huge influence upon your brand. However, this doesn’t mean design and copywriting cannot influence or position such a client experience.

For example, take a look at the two online jewellery stores below, Shiels and Astley Clarke. Without having ever seen them before, you can probably guess which of the two is more expensive.

Branding comparison

You’re making a number of ‘mental shortcuts’ to conclude that Astley Clarke has jewelery which costs more. Without deconstructing each element, Astley Clarke employs a more premium tone of voice and visual language and you’re responding to that.

Your prospective clients make these same mental shortcuts when they see your branded material.

If there’s an inconsistency between your visual branding and client experience, then you’ll have difficulties building a strong brand. If your communications look cheap and you charge a premium, you have a brand problem. If your communications look high-end and you deliver poor customer service, you have a brand problem.

So what does all this mean?

I’ve tried to cover a lot of material in a very short amount of time, but if you only take away a few sentences from this article, remember this:

1. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Identify a target market and find the single most important thing that they value.

2. Branding isn’t just about advertising – nor is it all about client experience. It’s about creating a set of expectations and then meeting them (or preferably going above and beyond).

About Justin Butler

Justin works at Ogilvy Australia, writing for brands such as American Express, IBM, Coca Cola, Optus and KFC. He also manages branding and advertising for a number of small businesses in Sydney (including FilePro).