Lawyers Marketing Associates | Attorneys Marketing Blog
Lawyers Marketing Associates brings together decades of law firm strategy, planning and marketing know-how from legal marketing expert Lauren Currin, a former attorney, and her associates. Subscribe this blog to get updates, new strategies and best practices.
Few attorneys are thrilled with things like websites or social media platforms. Web development is not something they teach in law school, and most attorneys know only that their clients can shoot themselves in the foot by engaging on social media while facing legal issues.
But it’s vital for every law firm to embrace this digital world we’re all living in. You don’t need to be a web developer or social media influencer to bolster your firm’s presence on the internet. If you don’t establish your own narrative online, then you’ll be handing over control to anyone willing to post a bad review or trash you in a forum. In other words, like it or not, you are going to have a presence online. You might as well be in charge of it.
Setting the Terms by Taking Ownership of Your Presence
By establishing your law firm’s presence online through a website and social media platforms, you’ll be able to set the terms for the way people find and perceive you online. There will always be negative people out there saying unflattering things about any business, but you can be the author of your own presence by offering potential clients information about your firm and encouraging your clients to mention you in online reviews.
These channels also give you opportunities to customize your firm’s services and improve client experience. When we work with law firms, we are always able to show our clients ways in which online tools can reveal areas of improvement within their firm’s operation and additional services that could be lucrative to your firm’s bottom line.
There are so many metrics and analytical tools available to any business. These are powerful assets that can easily help you streamline and augment the services you offer clients. Our clients are often surprised at how simple it is to incorporate them into their current infrastructure.
Maximize Client Experience to Cultivate Good Will
The way you treat people offline translates into how people will see you online. If your client experience is on point, then you are well-positioned to have an exceptional presence online. When clients are wowed by their experience at your firm, they’ll often share their experiences online without prompting. But it never hurts to follow up with clients to ask them to leave a review.
Client experience is at the heart of a firm’s success, and it is reflected in the things clients say about you – both online and via word-of-mouth to their friends and family members. If you aren’t focusing on client experience, then you’re missing opportunities to offer clients the best version of your firm.
One of the main ways we assist law firms is by looking for all the small ways to make a big impact on the experience clients have when working with the firm. We help attorneys make client experience second nature. This means knowing your clients – who they are, what they’re looking for and how you can make them feel as unique as they deserve to feel.
Your online presence is often the first interaction a potential client will have with your firm, so it’s a critical aspect of your practice to get right. Your client experience will begin on the internet, so it’s worth putting your best foot forward.
If you want to learn more about maximizing your online presence or improving client experience, don’t hesitate to contact LMA to find out how we can make a difference in your practice.
Let me take a few stabs at how you brand your law firm…
You’re honest, compassionate, hard-working and dedicated. You care about your clients and fight to get them real results. Does that sound familiar?
I’m not a psychic, nor am I doing deep reconnaissance on your law firm’s marketing strategy. The reason I know your branding approach is because it’s pretty much every law firm’s branding approach.
Even if you are truly a hard-working, compassionate, dedicated attorney, which many attorneys are, you aren’t setting yourself apart from your peers by using these non-descript descriptors. All you are doing is adding to the noise a potential client hears in their search for an attorney and making yourself a wallflower in an industry rampant with wallflowers.
Forget Branding for a Moment, and Let’s Talk About Your Identity
Branding implies the presentation of your business. It’s how you choose to present yourself to the world. It’s a term that implies external goals, and it’s rarely thought of as introspective process. That’s why the concept of “branding” as it is widely used fails to describe what you should actually be doing when presenting your firm to the world.
Rather than focusing solely on presentation, let’s consider who you are. What is your background? How were you raised? What cultures do you identify with? How long have you been doing what you’re doing?
The answers to these questions are what sets you apart, because they make you unique and they are true. What too many firms fail to recognize is that your uniqueness is what sets you apart.
Embracing your experience, your personality and your identity is the most powerful tool you have as an attorney.
Part of my job is reminding attorneys that their story is their greatest asset. Potential clients are going to see so many law firms saying the same things when they’re looking for an attorney. What they want to find is a real person that they can identify with.
It’s important to understand that your qualities don’t need to be those of your clients. For example, if your clients tend to be construction workers or business owners or middle class or college educated or immigrants, you might be tempted to try to brand your firm in a way that reflects the values and backgrounds of those potential clients. But is that who you are?
Don’t try to be a mind-reader and think about what clients want to hear or how you should present yourself in a way that others find appealing. Instead, be yourself.
Potential clients aren’t necessarily looking for someone who resembles them, but they are looking for someone who stands out among the endless number of firms who are describing themselves in the same way.
Your Brand is Who You Are
Attorneys – and many business owners – tend to think of their brand as a logo or a catchphrase. But branding is really just embracing who you are. When you get this essential part of branding wrong, nearly everything else you do in your outreach is also wrong, because it stems from a fundamental misrepresentation of your firm.
Don’t be discouraged if you’ve misbranded your law firm. It’s common, and it can be fixed.
Think about who you are and what you care about. That’s what you want to express with your brand. At LMA, I’ve worked with countless firms to help them articulate their identity through their brand. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s not only a sure-fire way to make sure you are being true to who you are, it’s also incredibly effective.
If branding is something you’ve struggled with, don’t hesitate to call me. One of the real pleasures of my job is meeting attorneys, getting to know them and helping them express who they are through their brand.
The thought of putting a baseball field in the middle of nowhere and having fans come, like in the movie Field of Dreams, is like it used to be with websites. Everyone was rushing to put their “brochure” online in the form of an informational law firm website on the internet. Fear of not having a site was palpable. New businesses popped up overnight and got rich creating sites for business owners who did not have the time or skills to do the work themselves.
It seems that with every new technology there is a groundswell of excitement—a feeling that we must do something because every other business is doing it. A few years ago, your competitors created a law firm website so you had to have one; now they have videos in their sites, they all have a blog, actively use social media and most do paid campaigns on Google or Facebook, so of course to stay competitive, you feel you must do it too. Just simply having an “online presence” or starting a blog is definitely not enough. Just because you create a pretty website with videos and good content or having a blog does not mean that clients will come to it. Potential clients must be able to find or get to your site and it must provide value once they get there. You must pull them to your site and keep them there. All the while competing with other firms like yours that handle the same practice areas yours does, but you have to make sure that a potential client knows right away who you are and why your firm is different, so they will hire you over your competitors.
Technology has changed, making it easier to have an effective internet and digital presence. Many tools (some of them free) exist to measure and analyze results. And new advertising channels exist that have, in many cases, reduced the overall cost of marketing your firm. Today’s websites offer online chat features, intake forms and capture prospect’s information to be used for future marketing—these platforms are tools. And, it is most important to understand that they are VERY important tools, but they aren’t “sources”. They don’t “cause” or propel a potential client to call you. They are pieces of the connection chain. I’m sure you already understand this, but let me make it perfectly clear. A potential client (has been injured in a serious car accident) has a friend who was your former client. The former client gives the potential client your firm’s name. The potential client then goes to the internet and “Googles” your firm name directly, your firm listing comes up (hopefully along with your Facebook listing and many other listings for your firm). The potential client clicks on your listing and it takes him to your website where he meanders through your site and eventually clicks on your “click to chat” feature and is connected to your office and ultimately to you or one of your attorneys. The “source” is not your “click to chat” feature. The “source” is not your website. The “source” is not even “Google”. The “source” is the former client. Keep this in mind as we keep talking.
But it’s not just the technology that has changed; the entire customer interaction has changed, too. What used to be a “push” format—a one sided message to the prospect—has, based on consumer demand, turned into a two-way conversation, a “pull” format. This more interactive process has taken the most successful websites (and ultimately law firms) from static, seldom updated pages, to robust platforms that are constantly changing to provide value to customers and prospects and allow that conversation to take place (click to chat, contact forms, video, social media, blogs, vlogs, webinars, podcasts and the list goes on and on). This new reality is frequently referred to as Web 2.0 and really, it’s not all that new!
The internet is a tool and should be looked upon as an ongoing investment to promote and showcase your firm and capture leads. A recent Pew research study stated that 91% of people research products on the internet. Indeed, through common usage, “Google” (the most commonly used search engine) has become a verb—talk about great branding! Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising and social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) are all tools that when used effectively can drive prospects to your site. But, these tools require frequent attention (Facebook at least posting once per day and Twitter at least 10-15 times a day to be effective) and updates. Back-end marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) help round out the web tool arsenal to ignite results. And, you still need to do many pieces of “traditional” marketing in order to reach the top end of your target demographic. Many of them only use the internet for limited purposes. So, you can’t forget them when you’re budgeting and measuring your marketing dollars. And, you definitely can’t forget about them when you’re thinking about your client experience.
You’re probably wondering why I, who usually talk only about “client experience” am talking about technology, marketing and lead sources. Well, the answer is because, as usual, it’s all linked together. In order to “stay in the game” (and if you want to be at the top of the game you really have to focus on this), you really need to be doing all of the latest campaigns and using all of the latest technology to communicate the finely developed brand messages we discussed last month. Those messages have to be synergized over all of your marketing mediums and they have to be specifically tailored and targeted to the audience you are trying to communicate them to. Here is where it all comes full circle. Remember earlier when we were discussing “sources”? Well, the source is the most important thing we must look at when we’re looking at tracking and measuring leads and cases. All of the marketing campaigns in the world can’t truly create a “loyal client”. You and your firm do that by living your brand and creating a “WOW” client experience. So, you want that “source” to be “client referral” more and more. You want the means of connecting to be the technology you have invested in.
The next most important thing to do in the whole firm development process is – track and measure. If you’re not doing this and doing it well, then you may as well not do any of the first several steps at all. Because, this is where all of those efforts will tell you if you’re doing it right and what you need to change. It will also allow you to determine so many other important things about the growth and development of your firm. The least of which is how you are doing at improving your client experience and what else you can do to take it to the next level.
So back to the question I started with, if you build it, will they come? Yes—as long as you remember that while the technology has changed (and has improved), the basics of firm development have stayed the same: build your brand to uniquely represent who you are and why you are different, be consistent, stay on-message and use the available digital marketing tools to deliver relevant, valuable and vibrant content to current clients, your colleagues and potential clients and create a loyal client base by living your brand and creating a “WOW” client experience that your clients will never forget!
Recently I had the pleasure of being introduced to one of the finest and most exemplary law firms in the state of Connecticut (if not in the whole nation). To say they are one of the top law firms with regards to client experience that I have EVER come in contact with is truly not an over statement. When I first spoke with the managing partner and the partner in charge of operations I was gravely concerned about how the project I was being tasked with was exactly going to “play out”. They had been charged with learning what their USP (Unique Selling Proposition – we’ve talked about these before, and I KNOW you’ve heard Ken talk about them a 100 times before!) was and told that they really needed to have their firm “re-branded” or in their case, actually branded for the first time ever. They had been referred to me (always a huge compliment) because developing law firm brands happens to be one of the services I and my team specialize in. They were extremely pleasant to talk with on the phone and seemed to be amenable to the whole idea and project. So, I figured we were at least off to a positive start.
Marketing law firms takes talent and skill. As you probably know from talking with the hundreds of vendors who call your firm every year (or the person at your firm who answers their calls can tell you), they all have something to sell. They all think that their “whatever it is…” is going to get you more clients than the “whatever it is…” that the other company is trying to sell you. And, in some cases they are probably right to a certain degree. They can make your phone ring. But, they won’t be there to answer it and they won’t help increase the quality of the potential case the caller is calling about. And, most of all they won’t be able to see the whole picture. They see only their part. They understand websites or social media or PPC or video production or, or, or…. They won’t help you develop a strategic marketing plan. They don’t see things from 30,000 feet up. They don’t see things over the next 3-7 years. They don’t usually connect the dots, so to speak, and give you the “whole synergized picture”. They don’t help you track, measure, determine your ROI and how this will impact your bottom line. (Which is a topic for another article all together!). And, they definitely don’t help you determine and understand “who you are, what makes you different and how you should communicate that message to the world in a way that is consistent with who you are and that will also reach your target demographic in the manner they want to receive it.” Clearly, marketing a law firm isn’t something just any marketing person or sales rep can do!
THE BRAND – It IS What It’s All About!
So, I could have offered to pull together a proposal for a Strategic Plan or a Business Development Plan (both of which they still need), but the key to growing a law firm successfully is knowing where you are and knowing what you’re missing in your foundation. They didn’t have a Brand. (See, I came back.) So, they agreed and the work began. They key to working with this law firm and the success of the entire project lied in two key factors – 1) they listened to me, trusted me and allowed me to do what I do best (while they continued to do what they did best – practice law) and 2) they were overwhelmingly and very uncharacteristically HUMBLE. They allowed themselves to be vulnerable. They let me in. They talked and shared and talked some more. They were the absolutely the most responsive law firm I have EVER worked with in my career (LMA turned 10 years old in January and I worked with Ken Hardison for almost 8 years prior to that, so it’s been a long time and a lot of law firms!). They emailed me back within the day when I asked for interview appointments (even the lawyers). They NEVER once rescheduled. And, when we needed to add more time to an interview because we had more to talk about (because as I said before, they shared so much), they did so readily and easily. They wanted this project to be successful.
So, when I came to them after completing the internal analysis, the external demographic and market research (very extensive) and the external interviews/analysis with a BIG, HUGE and MAJOR recommendation, I was not totally surprised when they agreed to it. I (along with my team) had recommended that they change the name of their firm. This is a VERY RARE OCCURRENCE. But, in the case of this firm it was a necessary one, for many reasons, if they were going to stay relevant, stay client centric, grow their client experience, move forward into the future and be true to who they are (their brand).
The firm had evolved. The current name of the firm was VERY hard to pronounce and hard to remember. The name of the main founding partner (listed first) is probably the hardest to pronounce. He once held many positions in state and local politics and is still highly respected and regarded throughout the legal and political communities. Although still living and still coming into the office every day at the age of 87, he is now of counsel and most of the young lawyers practicing today do not know him and the clients the firm represents, for the most part, do not either. The managing partner, and definitely the “key” leader in the firm, also has a difficult name to pronounce. But, he is the cornerstone of the firm. He “is” the firm. Finally, the last named partner is also currently a practicing attorney. Known by current clients, but not all of the firm’s current clients, as he has a specialized practice area, and his last name is still mildly difficult to pronounce. There are two other partners whose names aren’t used in the firm’s name.
THE NAME – Should You, Could You, How Do You Ever Change It?
We created a NEW firm name. The name kept some of the old name so that it remained true to the past and tradition (part of who they are i.e., kept with the brand that was becoming very clear to us), would be easier to remember and pronounce, would carry the firm into the future and would last for the rest of the life of the firm. We kept the name of the “key” partner and the other named partner/practicing attorney. And then we did something very different. Instead of using a “tagline”. Something we had created from their USP. We decided to do something that was in line with who they are, we used the “old school” listing of ALL of the partner’s names underneath/beside the “main” name. The “key” partner had made a promise to the founding partner that his name would always be a part of the firm’s name, So, we kept the promise. The founding partner’s name was still there. And, the two additional partners who had never been included or listed in the firm’s name, were now “included” as part of that secondary part of the firm name. So, no wonder they were pleased and all of the partners accepted it in under two hours. It was them. Their brand was born. (We have since developed their brand and their logo. It was launched along with the new firm name in January!).
So, what is in a name? EVERYTHING – who you are, your brand, how you communicate that to the rest of the world, the past and the future of your firm, your client experience, that’s what’s in a name. Don’t EVER underestimate its importance or its value. Make sure you treasure it and use it to your fullest advantage. Because, it could be the only name you’ll have (but it might not be!).
Happy February!! Where ever you are, stay warm.” Baby, it’s cold outside!”
Because this year is a big year for LMA (as I said earlier, we turned 10 years old on January 8th!), I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity to say “Thank You” to all of the clients – past and current, all of the vendors, advisors, teachers, speakers, everybody who have supported me over the past 10 years. You have absolutely no idea how much each of you means to me. This truly has been an incredible journey and I couldn’t have made it to this point without you!
I can’t tell you how excited I am about the next 10 years and having you all along with me for the next chapter in the adventure of a lifetime! I honestly can say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
With my sincerest gratitude and heartfelt thanks ~ Lauren
Have You Thought About Your Firm’s “Experience” Lately?
Recently I found myself in a very unusual situation. I found myself as the patient and potentially the client in a medical malpractice law suit. So, in order to make a very long story short, suffice it to say, my perspective and my life have been VERY different for the past month. It has been very much like some of the scenes from the movie, “The Doctor”, with William Hurt, a sleeper that came out in the early 90’s where Hurt was forced, after being nothing short of a curmudgeon to his patients, colleagues, staff and family to turn over a new leaf. Now I hope I cannot liken myself to Hurt’s pre-incident character, in most any way at all, but it is in his awakening that I hope to give you all the perspective and gift that I have gained.
I have basically been left with limited to no use of my right arm. I can type (couldn’t at first and it is still very difficult and slow-going with many errors). I can’t lift or bare any weight on it at all. It is numb to the touch from the elbow up to my shoulder, and there is some pain (I love it when doctors ask you to quantify pain on a scale of 1-10, and you’re not sure how to on account of the physical, mental, emotional and possible long term pain, not to mention what pain I know my husband and family are feeling.). So, this leads me to the client experience that I’ve had over the last month as a patient in my neurologist’s office. As I describe my own client experience, consider how it could translate into the client experience that you offer in your law firm.
First, the neurologist office always calls me at least one, if not two, days prior to my appointment using an automated service to remind me of my appointment and to confirm, which I do by pressing #1 on my phone. I’m always given instructions on that call to arrive 15 minutes early to check-in (regardless of how many times I’ve seen the doctor), which appropriate documents to bring, if there is testing involved, what special instructions to follow along with that, etc. and lastly where they are located and how to get the necessary directions. This all happens before I even darken their door for the 1st or 100th time.
Now I arrive and find my way to the initial check-in with ease. I review my insurance info, explain why I’m there, which physician I’m seeing and why, share any new concerns, etc. and all the while the staff member is listening, typing and genuinely appearing concerned and pleasant. I am then given my check-in slip and ushered off to the next nice area – the general waiting room for your specific physician. Not all of the patients wait together, the elderly have a separate waiting room from children (really cuts down on germ contact and confusion, I now understand from asking, plus it makes patients feel better and more intimate). This is where you wait to see your doctor along with other patients who are scheduled to see either your doctor or one of the 2-3 other doctors assigned to that specific waiting area. Magazines are available to read that might appeal to the patient or care giver demographic in each particular waiting area.
Next, I see my physician, have my examination, and receive my “marching orders” for possibly more testing etc., often including blood work or imaging. The physician either shakes hands or hugs depending upon our relationship and then I’m sent to “check-out”. Here, once again the positive client experience continues. If blood work is required, the lab is on site and the blood work is done immediately. If an imaging order is required, they schedule it as soon as possible; keeping in mind my “hour drive, one arm, and still crazy-busy work schedule” and move heaven and earth to get me in at their “on site” – next door MRI, CT and PET scan facility. I will walk over and the client experience will continue, only after I’ve scheduled my follow-up for 2 weeks later for the next wonderful experience. Of course, knowing that if there are any changes, confusion, problems or glitches “they will have it” and you won’t have to worry or stress.
All of this takes place in a well decorated, but not over the top or sterile office environment. Each professionally dressed person I come in contact with expresses genuine concern and does not re-ask 6,000,000 times the same questions about what happened, what meds I’m taking, or who my other doctors are, because they have it all right in front of them on their computers and are using them (as they are trained to do). They may even engage in conversation about reasonable “personal matters” (vacations on the horizon or just past, family events, etc.), either because I elected to share at that particular time, because the tools they have allow them to remember, or just because that’s who they are and they can. They all appear to get along with each other and the doctors – AMAZING. And they appear to be happy where they work. I don’t see a ton of new faces from visit to visit or probably from year to year… wonder why? And, they listen when I mention the one time I called with a question and was placed on hold for 1 hour, in their “what seemed new to me phone system”, and never got through or a call back. And, they (staff and doctor) didn’t blame me, but in fact commiserated with me and said they weren’t fans of it either and would definitely pass along my feedback.
If you’ll allow me to liken this neurologist office to a casino then, this experience was evidence to me that the “back of the house” ran smoothly which allowed the “front of the house” to run smoothly, as well. If this office were a casino, then it’d be the premier Las Vegas Wynn! So, does your “casino” sound like the Wynn or more like the Golden Nugget? Do you provide the client experience that I described above? Is your office overall very client-centric, very efficient, maximizing the use of your tools and processes and procedures behind the scenes (in the “back of the house”) so that the front of the house is also running like a well-oiled machine? Your client experience should make your “guests” feel like “you’ve got this” and in fact that “you’ve got anything they throw your direction” and will get them the results they need, deserve and can walk away satisfied with. Are your clients having the “INSERT YOUR FIRM’S NAME HERE” experience? Have you created the ”INSERT YOUR FIRM’S NAME HERE” way? It is never too late to create this experience and it is the only way you will differentiate yourself in today’s legal market.
As the end of 2017 is fast approaching, (yes it will be here before you know it, Christmas is just around the corner) we all need to take a long look at our “to do” lists for 2018 and then really start planning for the New Year. For those of you who attended PILMMA in September, you are a little bit ahead of the game – you’ve already started this process. Your minds are racing and you’ve hopefully already started taking many of the millions of ideas that you learned in Nashville back to your firm and have started implementing them. Or, like so many of us, you took them back with the best of intentions, got overwhelmed with emails and actual work and are no further down the list than you were the day you returned. So now I am here to give you a swift kick in the b…! There is no time like the present! And, actually the holidays with the downtime, the countless hours of football games and commercials, should afford you plenty of time to brainstorm, be creative and put pen to paper without tons of email and phone interruptions from clients and staff. Right.
The number one question: What did I get done? I find that this is the best place to start. Take a long look at the list of what you got done and that should help lead you to what you need to do. Next, look for what you really see as your biggest hole, what seems to missing? Are you connecting well with your current and past clients? How is your follow-up? Do you really think you/your firm are the first name that pops into their minds when someone asks them for a referral? What about your colleagues who don’t practice PI, Med Mal, Products Liability or WC? Are you “the one” they always pick up the phone and call with a case or question? Then think about the overall “client experience” you give to your clients. How do you think they’d rank it? Do you think it is seamless and professional? Is it the “WOW” client experience it really should be? Is your “brand” completely integrated, synergized and unified in everything that you do and all of the communications you put out? Does your brand really fit and describe “who you are”? Is your marketing driving a Mercedes or a Gremlin? Do you put yourself out there to prospective clients as an expert? Do you have a client kit, a website video, a blog, a FaceBook re-purposing campaign, a book? Do you have the time to write a book? How is your website? Your SEO? Your social media?
Now think about your budget – what resources to you have internally that you can allocate towards your marketing – personnel, finances, your own time, etc? What resources do you know of externally that you can pull from? Have you considered a line of credit? Would you? Is it even in your comfort zone? If not, that’s OK too. But, are there other areas within your current budget that you can adjust to make room for more marketing and client experience costs. Have you considered how your firm can expand to handle more cases? Have you considered adding another practice area? If so, which one best fits with your brand? Again, what costs are associated with this expansion so that you can keep your client experience top notch? What are the best demographics for growth in your area? Are there better practice areas that can serve those growing demographics?
Now, take your first list of holes and your list of resources and marry them up. This will help you start to build your strategic marketing plan – at least it will get you thinking about where you need to start and what you have on hand and what you need to look for outside of your resources, where you need to get help and how you need to budget for them. Then, think it through and make a strategic and sustainable marketing plan. The most important thing about developing and growing your practice is that it be a sustainable plan. You don’t want this to crash and burn. Doing something, anything for 1-3 months is worse than not doing it at all.
So, now that I have given you a friendly reminder – go enjoy the holiday gatherings with family and friends, the presents, the traditions, the endless hours of travel and the many blessings we have to be thankful for this and every year! Then take the time to wind down 2017 and get geared up for 2018 so that you can make it your firm’s most successful year yet!!!! Thank you for letting me and LMA be a part of your growth and development over the past year. I look forward to continuing to help you stay educated, informed and on top of the latest law firm development and marketing trends in the year to come! Happy Holidays!!!
You wouldn’t go to a chiropractor for cosmetic surgery, so why would you just a “graphic designer” develop your firm’s brand? First impressions are lasting impressions – they are your brand, who you are and they are an integral part of your firm’s client experience. Make sure your firm communicates who you are with a brand that’s worthy of you are. It’s around when you’re not, it’s the first thing a potential client encounters and it will be something that they remember long after they’ve completed their case with you.
It’s important that you find a firm or an agency who knows what they are doing. It’s important to remember—this is an investment in the face of your firm and well worth every dime. It is also important to understand that a “brand” is more than just the “logo” (the visual representation) and it’s more than just the “tagline” (if you elect to use one). It is more than just the colors used. It is a message that communicates who you are as a firm and why you are different that all other firms. What makes you all different? Why should a perspective client select your firm rather than another?
Generally, most firms don’t “give their “brand a boost” more than one time during the lifetime of the firm. Why? Because, again, the brand IS who you are. And, that doesn’t usually doesn’t change. However, if the partners change, the name of the firm changes, etc. then, it is a wonderful time to “change your brand” and to give everything, especially your brand a boost. So, in giving your brand a boost you may also want to invest in giving a boost to your website as well. If your website is over 3 years old, it’s time! (not only because your brand is changing and the website should be synergistically tied to all of your client communication mediums, but because it is likely that you need to upgrade all of the technological aspects of your website as well to make sure that you are staying up to date with and ahead of the game with regards to connecting/communicating with current/potential clients).
Here are some things to think about when you start to consider “boosting your firm’s brand”:
Invest in Your Image
Too many law firms make it painfully obvious they don’t care about their “brand” by including a “logo” on their letterhead, business cards, envelopes and website that they created with word art, etc. in Microsoft Word or something similar.
Your brand is the first impression on your website, your Facebook page, your letterhead/envelope, your client kit, etc. so spending money on a brand is one of the most logical and important investments you can make for your firm. An impressive brand crafted by a professional firm/agency can make an average piece marketing material look impressive.
Your Target Audience is Not You
Many of my clients forget who their audience is. They are stuck in the mindset that they are building their marketing materials for themselves rather than for their prospective clients. You should love your brand and it is very important to communicate who you really are. But, it is important to remember who will be reading and viewing the message you are trying to communicate. What language do they communicate best in? What words are they the most comfortable with? Keep all of these things in mind as you use your brand and start communicating it to the world.
An important aspect of good marketing is creating campaigns using your brand that appeal to the largest segment of your target demographic possible. It’s just like painting a house a neutral color when selling. You want the home to appeal to as many buyers as possible and not turn people away with bright, trendy colors. You should adapt the same approach to a certain degree when you use your brand message to communicate to your target demographic.
This doesn’t mean your marketing campaigns can’t be flashy, original, and cool. Just make sure they are you and that they are designed in a way that won’t “hurt potential clients’ eyes” and make them immediately “turn away”. In most cases, this requires hiring a professional marketing firm/agency for their design expertise.
Do your clients get emotional about your brand? When it comes to your tagline you need to think about the feelings it evokes from your clients and potential clients. To differentiate your brand from your competitors it should bring out an emotional response such as trust, honor, humility, admiration or achievement. These emotions associate positive experiences with your firm. That emotional tie builds loyalty and inspires your clients to tell their friends about you and your firm and your services.
To make your brand memorable, connect to the hearts and minds of your target audience. Provide clients with emotional benefits by appealing to their sense of recognition or belonging. Tap into emotions such as joy, relief, sorry or even fear. Give them the facts, but don’t forget the feelings. No question, there are good reasons why the public has such a dismal view of our politicians in Congress today. They can be dysfunctional, lack credibility, constantly bicker and stubbornly hold on to extreme positions, especially the Republicans. But these same Republicans have mastered the use of words to describe their positions in a way that brand marketers can appreciate.
When arguing about abortion, Republicans favor a more evocative term, “life”, while Democrats refer to an abstract word, “choice”. Under George W. Bush, we had the “Patriot” Act, but Democrats created a mouthful to describe their new health care act, “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”. No wonder the “Clean Air Act” remains the law of the land, whereas the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” of 2009 (the cap-and-trade bill) crashed to defeat.
The differences should be clear. Great brands use succinct expressions loaded with powerful emotional connotations. Words should describe something that can be visualized easily, even to the point where one can draw a picture of it. Similarly, smart branding starts with understanding the pain points and dreams of the client, and ends with terminology and communications that consistently respond to these emotional needs while also describing who you are and why you are different to potential clients and referring attorneys.
The other practice used effectively by Republicans is sticking to a core, simplistic message repeatedly, until people are almost sick of hearing it again. And that’s about when it starts to sink in. This is also a worthwhile lesson for building brand equity. The core brand positioning must be reinforced constantly using the same basic value proposition and all relevant touch points available.
Just like in politics where people tend to vote with their hearts, great brands also must appeal to the hearts of their clients. But, as we have noted, they must first and foremost be true to who you are.
I always say, be approachable, get personal (but, not too personal J), let your clients and potential clients get to know you, let them see you – the real you. Why? Because people do business with people and people hire people. HH-EE-LL-OO! – You are running a business! (whether you like to think that you are or not). You want clients to hire you! Speak to them as though you are having a conversation one on one in everything thing that you do, every message you send out – this is your BRAND!
So, be serious about developing your brand. Do it once (or give it a boost once). Be contemplative and dedicated. Find a firm or agency who are masters at developing brands. And, be about discovering who you are. Then communicate it in everything you do. “If you build it they will come.” (and they will tell their friends!).
Even client service has gone high-tech. Thanks to digital tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, it’s easier than ever for firms to provide support or address client complaints and contact. In fact, many clients now believe they’re more likely to get timely responses through public platforms rather than the old-fashioned method of airing contacting their attorney, airing grievances, discussing their case or getting any kind of response via a telephone call or even email!
The tools may be changing, but it is important not to lose sight of the fundamentals that drive successful client relationships. Our world has become so attached to the idea that we must introduce the exciting, the outside of the box and the cutting-edge that many of us have lost grasp on what’s truly important with regards to client service. It really is simple and we try to make it so much more complicated than it actually had to be.
Five Simple Ways to Help You Keep Clients Happy
Answer phones, chat windows, contact forms, emails and social media posts as quickly and thoroughly as possible. The early bird ALWAYS catches the worm. This is the one time when you actually DO want to be the first one to arrive at the party. If you can be the one to answer a potential client’s contact first, you are most likely the one who will get the case or at least the referral. If it is a current client, you need to answer them promptly to maintain good client service.
Hire, train and retain the best client friendly staff you can get your hands on. These are your keys to true client service! If your staff is client centric then your clients will be happy and will have a wow client experience! If not, then your troubles are just beginning.
Simplify the case management processes and procedures. The more intricate, convoluted and complex you make handling a case the more difficult it is for your staff/team to give the client experience they want and need to. Listen to your staff as you begin to set-up your case management system. They are the ones who work with the clients on a day to day basis and they are the ones who work the system. It must be intuitive.
Show your staff the how much they mean! They are your mini-marketers. Make it so they want to share their love with the clients, so the clients want to do the same! It doesn’t take much to show your staff how much they matter to you. If you conduct staff retreats, include them in the processes and be transparent about the goals and budget for the firm. Let them know how well you are doing and how much a part of that success they are! You don’t have to shower them with gifts, but genuine recognition of a job well done can go a long way towards great staff enthusiasm.
Make it simple for clients to make the most of their experience and find the opportunity to give feedback when they experience a problem. If your forms and/or surveys are complicated and the clients don’t know if they have been heard, then they are left feeling dissatisfied. Make sure that they know they are heard and that their feedback is valued and that any issues have been resolved. Let them know that the resolution has come full circle!
Contact forms, videos and other resources should be mobile-friendly and easily found on your website. Make sure all of your “resources” are front and center on your website. Make sure that they stand out and are highlighted for everyone to find. If it is like finding a needle in a hay stack then clients and potential clients will leave your site before they’ve ever really “gotten” there. Your goal isn’t only to attract them, it is to get them to stay, interact and then hire you. You can’t do that if they don’t know how!
Technology is making it easier for us to deliver client service differently, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. So, don’t make it that way! Deliver rock star service using all of the latest tools, but with the same simple principals in mind.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? How to build sustainable law firms and leave a legacy.
This age-old question befuddled philosophers, humanitarians and the great minds of many centuries. Ok, probably not the great minds of many centuries (they’ve been worried about curing polio, small pox and cancer and things like that….). But, it has been on MY mind a lot lately as we (my husband and myself) recently spent time with 4 out of 5 of our grandchildren and many of our closest friends’ are now becoming first time grandparents themselves. How quickly they grow and develop and how much more independent they are than we are as infants. They arrived helpless and so fragile. It took them 9 long months to get here (glad I wasn’t the “carrier” or the one who had to “deliver” them. But, I’m sure the two wonderful mothers who did wished that the 9 months-time had been much shorter, but maybe not as I have been told it really is necessary to get your head wrapped around just what IS going to happen and to get ready for this precious little buddle of love to enter your life!), and then they arrive with no food and no instructions on what to do next. We (meaning their mothers), immediately have them swaddled and then they try to nurse them and get them fed. All the time the precious newborn is crying and terrified because they have entered the “cold new world” of reality called “life”. We try to comfort them and cradle them in our arms, to try to surround them with people who love them and will love and support them throughout their life time. When then, ultimately, all of the “extra” people leave, leaving Mom and baby (and sometimes Dad) to themselves for the first time – EVER. This is the TRUE moment of meeting, the REAL introduction to the rest of their lives.
At the very OPPOSITE end of the spectrum, baby chicks are born and then separated from their mothers immediately, yet knowing instinctively what to do in order to fend for themselves, to raise themselves, to survive. As human beings must rely/depend upon our mothers for EVERYTHING in order to survive, grow and develop even beyond the first year of life. We require it on into at least our early childhood years and ideally beyond that into our teenage years and college years. Chickens are entirely different. When we first got chickens 5 years ago, they arrived via the US mail in a 8” x 8” box, and it took them 2 days to get here, with no food or water, literally just after being hatched. We immediately transferred them into a larger box, put them under a heat lamp and gave them food and water, they instinctively knew exactly what to do and have been doing exactly that ever since. After that initial 8” x 8” box, we moved them into a “hutch” type facility while their permanent “chicken coop” was being completed and again, they’ve flourished. So, after only 4 weeks, they were been born, flew half way across the country in a cardboard box, and were moved into a new facility away from their parents with 10 other chicks that don’t look anything like themselves (We got 3 different kinds – 5 of each and they sent one extra – in case one didn’t make the long and arduous trip, makes you feel great about the odds, doesn’t it?), started growing in spite of the odds against them. And, in less than 8 more weeks, they started laying approximately 108+ eggs per week! All of this leads me back to my original question and thoughts…which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Do you think about these types of things with regards to your law firm and your life? These really ARE the truly important questions. And, the answers ARE the truly important answers because they are the answers that keep us “sustainable”. Sustainability in our firms and in our lives and in this world are essential. Just like the infant who can’t survive on its own without parents to love, nurture, feed, clothe and raise it, so are your law firms. They need to be built and developed with plans that are centered around leaving a legacy, something long lasting, beyond your tenure/your time practicing law and even on this planet. It is important that those plans include and be developed so that the legacy you leave is clearly understood, outlined precisely, easy to carry out, malleable/adjustable for the times and obviously sustainable. It should be something that doesn’t require “nurturing”, “feeding”, “clothing” or “raising” like an infant, but should be more like the life of a baby chick, independent from birth. Able to survive and “raise” itself. The plans should develop on their own, with little input from outside sources, but should flourish and produce and continue on for many generations to come.
So, how do you answer these questions? Do you plan and want to be here for the long haul? How are you building and growing your law firm so that it will “still” be here, not just tomorrow, but 20 years from now? Are you just worrying about your future, or are you also worried about your children’s future and their children’s children future? Are you leaving a legacy by using the things from the past? Can you recycle things, reuse things and be more sustainable so not leave such a large carbon footprint on this planet when you go? How you grow and develop your practice is up to you. The foundation you lay is your decision. It can be a firm and solid one that can last for generations (even if they aren’t your generations). They can leave a lasting and positive impact on the world around you or they can simply take and use and consume the resources that are present and leave nothing to replace them.
Sustainability isn’t a trend or a fad. It is a conscious way of life and it is here, permanently. It has been around since the dawn of time. Our ancestors gave it as a gift to us and we should leave it as a gift to future generations. But, it is a gift and it requires planning, conscious efforts and hard work. It is a daily challenge. One I know the chickens are up for. The question becomes: are you?
Have you ever wondered how the “it” firms got that way? How they took it to the next level? Did you always just assume it was because they outspent their competitors on TV, internet marketing, social media and PPC advertising? I hate to tell you, their “secret” is far simpler than that. They got to be the top of the list because they focused not on “client service”, because all firms claim to do that. They focused their time, efforts and money on their “client experience”.
Firms that truly want to grow need to focus on improving their relationships with clients and providing an experience that will get clients talking. We all know the difference between good and bad service, but in order to compete, you have to move beyond this and focus on the overall experience you create for your clients. Successful firms must shift their focus from providing satisfactory client service to creating a memorable client experience that builds loyalty. We call this creating the WOW client experience.
Build Relationships that Provide an Emotional Connection
Rather than focusing on simply providing a service/settling their case, firms will build long term relationships with clients if they focus on the emotional connection that clients seek. Every one of your clients has an emotional need that calls for attention.
Ironically, your client’s main issue is not necessarily just their case or the service you are providing, but usually they are motivated by something more. You have to dig deeper to figure this out. Is it their fear of losing everything they have and not being able to support their family? Is it they worry about not being physically the same? Are they angry and seeking retribution? It is your job and the job of your team to be sensitive to their feelings and emotions and to determine why they really came to you for help. Empathy is key. Failure to connect emotionally will prevent you from creating that bond, and ultimately prevent you from helping them, giving them the right client service, giving them the WOW client experience and creating the client loyalty your firm needs.
Firms need to “anticipate” these “needs” by creating an experience that their clients desire by addressing the emotional connection as part of their interaction with clients.
Here are some examples:
Put yourself in your client’s shoes. What do they want beyond your services or the settlement? Empathy.
Understand your client’s needs. Do you provide an experience your client would want if they could ask for anything? Proactively and in an anticipatory manner.
Anticipate their future needs, down the road. What might they want but haven’t yet figured it out yet?
What is your client’s emotional need? Ask questions and pay attention to the conversations you have and look for their emotional touch point. If you satisfy their emotional need, you have created an experience that is memorable. And, memorable experiences keep them coming back or at least it makes them loyal and will have them referring others to you.
The 3 steps from “client service” to “client experience”
Identifying where you lie on the client service to client experience continuum is the first step. Once you understand your level of client service, you need to develop action steps and look internally for how you can not only improve in terms of providing an exceptional client experience, but what you can really do to take things to the next level.
Here are the 3 levels defined and what you can do to move your firm from client service to client experience.
Satisfying clients (this is” just good enough” client service)
This is where most firms reside. They are focused on a single client interaction. These firms are focused on the short term (this one client, this one settlement, this one time) and have a case by case approach to service. They either do not see the importance or do not want to put the effort into developing long term relationships with clients.
While satisfying clients and providing good client service is a necessary component of client experience, firms need to come to the realization that satisfying clients will only get them so far. Client satisfaction with a single case experience simply provides the opportunity to serve that client one more time—and limits their ability to grow and create loyal repeat interactions and a long-term relationship.
What needs to be done to take your service capabilities to the next level?
Start thinking about the long-term ramifications of taking a one-time/one case approach to service. How much of your firm’s profits are based on client referrals? Consider these action steps:
Start by taking a look at your current “client experience” and look for areas/ways to improve it.
Crunch the numbers! Are clients coming back/referring you other new clients on a regular basis? What is the long-term value of a client and what is the cost associated with adding a new client rather than getting one from a referral?
Attempt to answer “why”. Why are your clients coming back/referring other clients and why are they not coming back? Why are they choosing you over your competitors?
Talk to your employees. Your frontline team members are the ones who interact and make an impression on your clients.
Talk to your clients. Ask them to take a client survey. But make sure it is focused on how to improve—not simply are you satisfied—otherwise you won’t discover the insights that will help you rise to the next level.
If you want to create a loyal base of clients, you have to satisfy them first. Master client satisfaction, and then work on building a loyal base. Make sure you ask them the most important question: “How likely would you be to refer a family member or friend? Then, perform the Net Promoter Score analysis on the scores you get. This takes time and take effort. You can’t just ask the question and walk away. Especially if you get a score of 1 or 2. This requires action on your part to find out what problem caused the client to give you such a low score and come up with a solution to fix it, fix it and then circle back to the client letting them know that the issue is fixed and how that was accomplished. See, time and effort. And, this whole process won’t be cheap!
From just satisfying just your clients to creating loyal clients
When firms move beyond satisfaction and focus on developing a loyal base of clients, they recognize that loyal clients generate a strong and sustainable firm. Loyal clients move you from having short term one case/one settlement relationships to long-term relationship loyal clients who refer you to others.
What are you doing to build loyal clients?
Do you understand and provide an experience your clients would want?
Are you creating an experience that meets their emotional needs?
Do you invite/encourage clients/their family and friends to come back if they ever need a lawyer, for anything, not just your particular practice areas?
What actionable steps can be taken to build a loyal client base?
Implement a Client Advisory Board if you do not already have one. People love to be recognized and asked for their opinions. How do you recognize and acknowledge clients so they feel special and linked to your firm when they have referred you a new client?
Implement a Client Appreciation Day where you show your appreciation for all of your clients and the fact they selected your firm to help them during their time of need. Thank them for allowing you/your firm to be involved in that way in their life. Show them what an honor it is for you and your team to have had the opportunity to serve and work with them.
Identify specific actions you can take to exceed expectations with every interaction—not just meet them. Build these into your intentional experience.
Get to know clients personally. Learn more than just their names—learn about their needs that your firm helps address and how you can help them after the settlement lead a more productive and successful life.
Let them get to know you more personally. Most people do “business” with “people” not a business. Let them see that you are a person. Also, most people do business with people they like. Show them the things you enjoy and that make you and your firm unique and personable. Show them why they should “like” you.
Make your clients’ opinion matter. Take their feedback seriously, listen attentively to their concerns and accommodate their needs.
Regularly track your repeat clients/referrals. Are your clients coming back when they have another case? Are they referring their family and friends? Understand what the key elements are that drive repeat clients and referrals and build on them.
Tell people about your great client experience. Make it part of your brand, who you are and then your marketing campaigns. When your current clients verify the messages you put out there, it will entice the return of clients and increase new business.
Get testimonials from current clients who are loyal clients and believe in your client experience. This will encourage both referral clients and potential clients to see you in the same light and begin to experience your firm’s “client experience” before they ever walk in the door.
Moving from loyal clients to “brand advocates” (a.k.a. “raving fans” or promoters)
A loyal client base will ensure that the same clients keep coming back and keep making referrals. Client experiences that create an exceptional emotional return for your clients will turn them into brand advocates. And, this is where your firm will kick it into high gear and you will start to experience a higher volume of new and passive sources of revenue.
Great client experiences make clients feel like they have received something exceptional. This positive experience you deliver creates an imbalance that disturbs the natural sense of reciprocity. When this happens, it creates brand advocates. They want to reciprocate by promoting your firm—through word of mouth, social media, online reviews, and other traditional means—to balance the scales of reciprocity.
What are you doing to create brand advocates out of your clients?
Are you focusing beyond your relationship/case?
What are you doing to engage clients long-term?
Are you listening to your clients’ real concerns?
What are you doing to offer outside the box experiences?
If you want brand advocates you have to give them something to talk about. Consider taking these actions to create an army of advocates:
Look for ways to create value. The only time you interact with them shouldn’t only be when they are working with you to settle their case. Send them useful and relevant information periodically. Email lists, newsletter, and cards that honor special occasions (especially personal special occasions) keep you in your clients’ mind.
Create a 5-year vision for your client relationships. How does that relationship evolve from their perspective (not yours)? What can you do to become a valued strategic partner in their lives versus simply a provider of a service on a one-time basis?
Get social! Engage with your clients online and develop an open dialogue with them. Social platforms give your clients the opportunity to interact directly with you/your firm and become an insider versus a client. It also allows them to share your firm with other users/potential clients—the electronic version of word of mouth promotion.
Even “great” client service doesn’t cut it anymore. Firms that truly want to be in a position to grow need to focus on improving their relationships with clients and providing an experience that will get their clients talking, returning and referring everyone they know. If you’re not willing to “settle” for just good or even great client service, because you now know HOW, the time is NOW to create your WOW “CLIENT EXPERIENCE”!
Good Luck and let us know if you need that extra push to get things started. As someone very wise once told me, “when is the best time to plant a tree, yesterday. When is the second-best time to plant a tree, today!” Don’t let today pass you by without taking some action to make a move towards creating your firm’s WOW client experience and starting down the road towards the growth and development you and your firm deserve!
Lauren Currin and her team at LMA have been helping firms for over 9 years create WOW Client Experiences and increase their client and attorney referral bases. LMA has many services and products to help you and your firm take this crucial step in your firm’s long-term growth and development. If you understand the importance of this transition and the impact it can have on your firm’s bottom line, contact Lauren, she will discuss with you the services and products they recommend as well as how they can help implement them and take your firm to the next level!