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FREE BOOK CHAPTER: The Importance Of Branding in Law (From 'A Practical Guide to Marketing for Lawyers' by Catherine Bailey & Jennet Ingram)

17/07/17. Used to give products and services a unique identity or personality, a brand enables organisations to differentiate themselves from the competition. An additional benefit is that the consumers may become brand loyal and thus repeat purchasers.

A brand is not simply a name, nor is it just a logo, although that’s an important part of it. A brand is the culmination of the organisation’s values and aspirations. Sounds rather lofty, but in order to understand how to create and use a brand properly, you need to appreciate what a brand actually is and how it works.

Branding is becoming increasingly important within the legal services sector. You might not want to hear this but branding’s not an overnight fix. Branding’s a long-term process but one that’s worth the effort because the benefits of a strong brand identity are wide-reaching. The advantages range from encouraging client loyalty, shortening decision making processes, enabling the positioning of higher pricing and increasing the value of your business. Let’s explain further.

Clients who know and recognise a brand (by this we mean that they understand exactly what they will get should they choose that brand in terms of client service, value and sometimes even kudos) do not have to go through a lengthy decision making process. They are more likely to purchase services with this perceived trusted brand rather than ‘risk’ using a lesser known alternative. This is particularly the case when the stakes for the client are higher. They are also more likely to instruct your organisation on areas of law that they haven’t done previously.

Where customer loyalty’s concerned, obviously the client experience must have been exceptional. As we know, the best way to increase profits is to leverage from existing clients, so where we can build a strong a trusted brand we can retain clients at a fraction of the cost of acquiring new ones.

A strong and trusted brand also permits us to charge more for services, as clients perceive brands as deserving a higher value than homogenous services. This is particularly useful for high-street practices where they are having to compete against many other firms offering similar services for the same clients.

Finally, a brand can have a financial value and can be viewed as an asset. This is particularly useful when looking for external investment in the organisation.

Large firms are putting are putting enormous amounts of money into branding campaigns designed to build awareness, trust and customer loyalty as well as to communicate the values of the organisation. But if you’ve not got their budget, there are many brand building activities you can do to benefit your organisation.

In this chapter, read about:-

  • Developing a brand strategy
  • Internal marketing


Developing a brand strategy

There are three main types of brand strategy. You will probably be best served by combining all three.

Corporate branding – this is where the organisation uses its own name for all products and services. Examples include IBM, Nike and Marks & Spencer. Using a top level brand in this way is a cost-effective way to build brand recognition and a ‘global’ image. It uses less design expense as it tends to be logo driven. However, for it to be successful the brand values must be communicated clearly. The potential danger of relying on just corporate branding is that one failure in terms of service can severely damage the brand reputation.

Family branding – for lawyers this would be the practice areas. It involves using a secondary brand image and name for the specific practice areas. It leverages from the main corporate brand but then applies that to the relevant sectors. It enables those sectors to carry specific messages that will resonate with potential clients, and so it needs to be applied with care, particularly if you are considering cross-selling services at a later date.

Individual branding – in the consumer market this is the level of branding that we are most familiar with; Kit Kat, Coke etc. In law, it relates to the individual lawyer (more commonly barrister) who has excelled in a particular field of expertise. This is one of the reasons that directory rankings are hugely important as they provide and independent view of who is the ‘best’ in any given area.

Using a mixture of the branding approaches enables you to promote your services to individuals and companies simultaneously to best effect.

Understanding your brand – what does it represent?

Identifying what your brand stands for can be a complex business. What are the company values your brand represents (hopefully those of trust, integrity and knowledge)? What kind of image is best associated with those words? What colours will provide an accurate reflection of your strengths and markets (there are certain colours that are associated with specific words – it’s a whole psychological / sociological area of its own, for example, blue represents calm, green environmental, orange communication etc.)? It’s no wonder that companies often turn to brand agencies to help them with this. However, if you don’t have that kind of money, you can do it yourself – but be warned it takes a lot of time and effort.

You’ll need to understand what your brand position is at the moment. You’ll need to do this by surveying the market – what do clients, former clients and prospective clients think about your business? Why do they instruct you and how do you compare with the competition? What key words do they associate with their experiences? From here you should be able to pull common threads and develop those into a more cohesive branding value statement. From that you can look at symbols and colours associated with those words and phrases (as well as any logo you may already have – there’s no point in throwing everything away just to be trendy).

Once you have your brand statements, your logo and your colour board (be aware that logos will need to be printed in many formats – therefore you will need full colour, black and white and reduced colour or single pallet variants of your logo capable of being reproduced in all sizes from website to full scale A1 or beyond. We cover logo design in more detail later).

You may be tempted into a ‘strap line’ such as ‘Good with …’ in the case of the Co-op. However, you must consider all the scenarios in which this line may be used. Clearly they were on to something with food and banking (Good with Food, Good with Money) but it all went a bit pear-shaped when it came to the funeral services! You also need to consider translating any strap lines into other languages for international markets or clients. Again, you really need to be careful here. The Pepsi slogan ‘Come alive with the Pepsi Generation’ suffered somewhat in translation in Taiwan as it became ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead’!

How to communicate a brand

Now you have your brand and image propositions sorted, you will need to communicate your brand. This is done via everything you, your staff and / or member do. There is no underestimating the power of brands and the damage that people can inadvertently do to them. Therefore everyone in the organisation must understand the brand, understand the values and buy into them fully.

You will need to issue everyone with brand guidelines, so that they know exactly what is expected of them (this is easier said than done, particularly within barristers’ chambers where some individuals battle against a corporate identity).

Here is a flavour of what should be included in your brand guidelines to ensure that the brand is communicated consistently throughout your business.

  • Telephone protocol – how do you want people to answer the phone, usually it would flow along the lines of ‘good morning /afternoon, XYZ Company, ABC speaking, how can I help you?’ 
  • Email addresses and signatures – clear concise and with the relevant social media links and logos.
  • Stationery – fonts, logos, colours, VAT details – use of word doc templates for all staff / members.
  • Business cards – need to follow the format of your email signatures. 
  • Signage – an array of sizes and uses with correct placement and type of logo.
  • Sales literature – brochures, services sheets, case studies, proposals – again these need to have pre-determined and correct placements of logos.
  • Advertising – supply examples of the types of advertisements and the style of font, sentiment, contact details and logo placement.
  • Exhibition and display material – consider what you are using it for and how it will carry the details clearly. 
  • PowerPoint presentations – create templates with consistent branding so that anyone can just add their content. Consider having a ‘corporate’ slide set that details the headline figures / propositions of your whole organisation. The advantages here are consistency of corporate information without limiting the creativity of the individual presentation.
  • Corporate clothing and gifts – these need to be in keeping with the values of your brand as well as carrying the corporate colour and logo.
  • Recruitment advertising – like the normal advertising, this needs to be clear and concise
  • Mailings – consider the many different types of formats and how the brand can be represented consistently across all formats.
  • Internal staff communications – the branding must be consistent at all times, including in internal communications.
  • Press releases – create a ‘boilerplate’ for your business. This is a standard paragraph of text that clearly and concisely explains what you do, for whom and where. The boilerplate fits into the bottom of any press release so that editors may pull information from there as required.

Email is playing an increasing way in which we work and how we communicate with clients and prospects. It’s therefore important to look at how we use email to communicate and how we can use this tool for best effect.

In the business world, email is the primary tool used for communication. In a law firm or clerks’ room comprising 10 clerks / fee earners, if each one sends an average of 30 emails, that’s 300 emails per day. And that’s a conservative estimate.

A personalised email from a known, trusted source has an open rate of 90% and higher. If your emails contain subtle marketing messages, that’s a lot of people you’re reaching with important information on offers, events or news, simply and for free.

This is why you need to pay attention to your email signature.

The space at the foot of your email is called your email signature. Just as with a postal letter, this should always at least contain your name, position, company and contact details. However, you can use this area to promote yourself and your organisation without being overly salesy.

The following will give you some ideas on how to optimise your email signature to take advantage of this passive form of marketing and start securing potential new business leads:-

Basics with a bonus ­– We’ve already mentioned that your emails should feature your basic personal details, much as they would appear on your business card. Expand this to show your full contact information, including postal address, with links to social media profiles.

Integrated marketing promotions – If you’re running a campaign to promote your organisation’s services or forthcoming events, tie in to your email signature for consistent messaging across all marketing channels for greater impact.

Shout about your achievements – Have you won any industry awards? Featured in directories? Are you supporting a charity? Do you belong to any legal panels or undertake pro bono work? Have any members / fee earners received special recognition for outstanding service? Have you won any landmark cases? Be loud and proud by telling others all about it in your email signature.

Imagery and colours – Lines of continuous black text are boring and likely to be missed by your recipients. Think about branding. Use your corporate colours and company logo in your email signature so that it stands out from the main body content. Remember to keep the graphic size small though and include a description in the file properties to stop it getting held up by spam filters.

If you’re feeling adventurous, create a set of artwork graphics using images and copy to depict your message more visually. You may need to play around with pixel dimensions to get the size right. Be aware that some email systems or company servers automatically block and strip images, so use a mix of words and artwork to get your message across, and add an alt-text (alternative text) tag which your reader will see when the image can’t be rendered.

Set up several dynamic email signatures.

Depending upon the sophistication of your email system, you may be able to set up several email signatures for different purposes and domain names. As with other forms of marketing, this enables you to segment and target your market with tailored, relevant messages.

As well as communicating via email, PowerPoints and Slide Shares are becoming increasingly popular tools of brand communication, particularly as they can be uploaded to social media and websites so that clients can download them on demand. With that in mind, you need to ensure that your presentations adhere to the brand guidelines deliver the messages in a consistent manner.

For presentations intended primarily for download you may also like to include video or audio sequences to make it a little more interesting and also hyperlinks to where the readers may find further information. Calls to action should be used on the last slide to encourage people to contact you directly should they have a requirement for your services.

Internal marketing

Internal marketing is inward-facing marketing. Its goal is to align every aspect of a company’s internal operations so that it operates in a co-ordinated, standardised way. By doing so, clients experience a consistent level of service. You’ve spent a great deal of time and effort in establishing a leading brand, you need to ensure that your people are a reflection of those brand values. The best way to do this is with a satisfied, motivated workforce tuned in to the importance of client centricity – i.e. putting your clients at the centre of your philosophy – as they will provide value to your clients at every touchpoint.

The issue lies in most legal services providers’ lack of expertise in internal marketing; if they do it at all. We find the responsibility usually lies with HR; professionals without marketing skills. The real power of internal marketing is to convince your staff to become protectors of your brand; not just tell them occasional firm / chambers news which tends to be the general way of things.

The benefits of internal marketing include:-

  • Client-oriented workforce: with optimum client service levels, keep your client base for the long term and ease the pressure on your new business initiatives.
  • Improved staff retention: happy employees stay longer so you save money on recruitment and training costs.
  • Enhanced external business relationships: for stronger link building with all your stakeholders.
  • Increased compliance with standards and protocols: supporting your client service or change initiatives and strengthening your brand reputation.
  • Empowered decision making: with the responsibility to act within certain guidelines, your staff will make valuable contributions to support your decision-making processes.
  • Greater sense of teamwork and higher morale: job satisfaction leads to better dispositions at work and less conflict so that everyone works as a team and productivity increases too. For you, that’s profit!

 As a legal service provider, your staff perform a pivotal role in your organisation. Happy, motivated, skilled workers provide good customer service. That means satisfied clients who will return to your firm / set time and time again to bring repeat business. The opposite – unhappy, demotivated, untrained workers – are likely to underperform. That means dissatisfied clients who will seek better service from another supplier. 

Obviously, the first scenario is what you’re aiming to achieve in your quest for success. To ensure your employees serve your clients with enthusiasm and expertise, you need to implement internal marketing programmes focused on training and motivating staff.

There are some simple strategies for internal marketing:-

Communications: Monthly newsletters, meetings or briefings maintain a clear line of communication between your all of your organisations employees and members. These should include information on all practice areas so that everyone one has an understanding of what’s going on and how they can cross-sell services into their own clients.

Appraisals and training: Spot shortfalls in knowledge or additional skills requirements by routine appraisals then source appropriate training courses or mentoring schemes to bridge the gap. The lawyers in your organisation should be doing this as part of their continued professional development obligations, but other staff in your set should do the same. That way, everyone in the organisation is working to improve their own situation and education.

Rewards and recognition: It’s good to know that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Make it your mission to spot your staff’s efforts. Acknowledge in as formal or informal means as you choose. This could take the form of a monetary reward or simple ‘well done’.

Responsibility and promotion: Assign additional responsibilities to those who’ve identified the desire and demonstrated the capability to handle a heavier workload. It shows how much you believe in them. Similarly, offering staff the chance for career advancement gives them an incentive to always perform at their best in their search for the next step on the proverbial career ladder.

Earn people-focused accreditation: By securing widely known awards such as Investors in People and Best Companies, you’re showing your staff and the world at large how much you care about your workforce. Even if you don’t at first attain the standard you were hoping for, the accreditation programmes will provide you with a clear roadmap for change for better results next time round.

So, start taking internal marketing more seriously and you’ll soon be wowing your clients with genuine customer care and cementing your brand as the leader in that field.


Conclusion

The main takeaways from this chapter are:-

  • A brand is not simply a name, nor is it a logo. A brand is the culmination of the organisation’s values and aspirations.

  • If used correctly a brand can inspire staunch customer loyalty.

  • There are three main types of brand strategy (corporate, family and individual). You will probably be best served by combining all three.

  • The best place to start is to understand your current brand value using research into prospective clients and established clients.

  • Brand guidelines are essential for everyone in the business to be ‘on message’.

  • Internal marketing is essential for communicating the brand values and ensuring a client-centric organisation.


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