How to Maximize Visibility With Your Brand
This is the first in a three-part series that explores the drivers of a law firm’s brand lifecycle. This first part explores awareness.
Aside from its people, a law firm’s brand can be considered its most valuable asset. A strong brand creates warmer opportunities for lawyers and helps clients feel confident about their choice for law firm representation.
As guardians of their firm’s brand, legal marketers are responsible for keeping the firm top of mind and building client affinity with the brand. The typical law firm client works with 15 other firms on average and is regularly marketed to by many more. Successful brands need to focus on standing out from the crowd and elevating awareness of who they are as a firm.
Brand Strength: Size Matters
Every year, the firms that dominate the top-20 spots on the U.S. Law Firm Brand Index are those with a significant presence across the United States.
Brand awareness also strongly correlates with revenue, accounting for 81 percent of the variance in the Brand Index, as well as with number of lawyers, which accounts for 78 percent of variance. This means that larger firms have more attorneys out in the market reinforcing their brand every day.
That said, marketers at smaller firms can take heart: Though size influences brand, bigger does not automatically mean better. Smaller marketing budgets with effective strategies can have a greater impact on awareness than larger budgets managed ineffectively. Bigger firms also have more attorneys who are able to discredit or devalue the brand in market.
For firm marketers competing with bigger fish, the positioning opportunity may lie in uncovering a particular strength where others may fall short. An example of this might be implementing a robust client feedback and benchmarking program to improve “walletshare” among clients in a key industry vertical. It may also be tied to a strategic social media program that touches potential clients far beyond its local or regional reach.
Brand: Built or Bought?
Since brands are most impacted by scale, one way to grow a brand is by getting larger. Effective merging and lateral hiring can be used to acquire brand as long as legacy brands and people are well integrated. But brands can also be built, honed and nurtured.
Research shows that marketing can uplift brands by as much as 100 percent from their expected rank given their size. The frequency, duration and diversity of touch points and tactics used to keep a firm top of mind will impact the sustainability of a firm's brand awareness. The quality of these touch points can also affect whether high brand awareness translates to being highly favorable, consideration for work and, ultimately, usage.
Marketing programs produce optimal results when partners, the firm's feet on the street, are engaged within the effort and armed with the right messaging and tools. Partners should be collaborating with marketing so they talk about their value and offering to clients and prospects, in seminars, to the media and through social media in a way that aligns with the firm’s broader brand platform.
In Short: Maximize Visibility
Multifaceted marketing programs that include a strong social media component can have a significant impact on brand strength.
While the largest firms have a size advantage, there is much that can be done to maximize visibility regardless of a firm's size. The first step is to objectively assess your firm’s current position relative to size. Then set realistic and measurable expectations for brand growth and track progress objectively. More frequent and meaningful touch points between lawyers and clients will not only reinforce awareness but will also deliver the greatest return on brand and the bottom line.
The annual Acritas U.S. Brand Index tracks brand data for more than 600 law firms across six metrics in the U.S. market, including: top of mind brand awareness, most favored, most considered for top-level litigation and M&A, and most used by U.S. and non-U.S. clients.
Elizabeth ("Lizzy") Duffy, vice president of Acritas U.S. Inc., works closely with law firms and legal departments globally and across North America. She can be reached at email@example.com.