A clear understanding of your firm’s brand – at its simplest, what it sells, to whom, and why – is an essential first step in ensuring you deploy your marketing resource effectively to win the business you want. Ben Kamble explains

The purpose of marketing is to communicate your brand in its full glory to your prospective customer. If that brand is not clearly defined, you will end up communicating vague and inconsistent messages that may confuse – or worse, alienate – potential clients.

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This article provides a basic guide to laying the foundation of your brand. That understanding will be the bedrock of your marketing activity, to ensure you deploy your resources in the right way to get the business you want.

But before we start looking at your brand, you may need to look at yourself. Do you think of yourself as a lawyer, not a salesperson? If you want to brave the competition, you have to be both. After all, nobody gets paid until a sale is made. Plus, let’s face it: we all sell all the time anyway. We sell to our kids the idea of doing their homework and being in bed on time; we sell to our better halves the holiday that we want to take. So we might as well bring that practice and mentality to our work, too.

You may not believe brand really matters for law firms, particularly small ones, but brand is an essential part of all our buying habits. Observe how you buy. When you’re in the market for a watch, do you gravitate towards Rolex, Cartier or another brand? Do you enter any random coffee shop on the street or do you wait till you’ve found a Costa, Starbucks or your favourite coffee shop brand? What’s your favourite car, and will you settle for less? Think of a brand that resonates with you: close your eyes and think of how it makes you feel. Your first sip of coffee, unboxing your new watch, or turning over the engine of your new car for the first time. Compare that feeling with how you feel when you smell the scent you love, or how you felt when you bought the sofa in your favourite colour. Branding has impact – it’s very subtle and of a kind that cannot always be expressed in words, but it is there, and it is dominant.

How you brand yourself is how you are perceived by your customers, and that’s how your services will get sold.

What are you selling?

Businesses make money by selling the value that they create. For example, Nike creates value by producing arguably some of the best running shoes that money can buy, and Apple some of the best personal computers and gadgets. You can define the value you create by answering three questions: what do you do; what problems do you solve; and how are you different?

While I am sure that you intrinsically know what value you create, it is essential that you put it into words, so you can communicate it to your clients with ease. You may find that you have several answers to each of the questions above. Pick the one that resonates the most with you and your business. You also want to be prudent and

choose answers that are more future-proof and profitable. Try to answer each question in one sentence only; this way, you are forced

to simplify.

Who are you selling to and why?

Now you understand what you do, you need to understand who you do it for: who your customers are. I’m sure any law firm will have a rough answer, but just as with the value statement, you need to put this information down in simple words. The answers to the questions below will inform this understanding, and should form a critical part of your brand and customer strategy.

Who are the users of your services?

Maybe you are a family lawyer and you specialise in immigration. Therefore, your core customers may be British nationals who have married foreign nationals and want to bring their spouses over to live in the UK. Be as specific as you can.

How would you segment them?

Customer segmentation can be done based on various metrics. Take the example above. You could segment based on nationalities: perhaps most of your clients have spouses from a certain country, and you’ve had a lot of success helping them. Or you could segment by price point: you may want to charge a certain fee and you want only the customers who can afford it. Another example would be to segment by type of case: perhaps you specialise in solving some very specific problems, and clients with those problems might make up a whole segment.

Which of those segments are most important to your business?

Once you have all your customer segments, rank them based on the criteria that are most important to you. Perhaps that’s how easy they are to gain as clients – it’s wise to put all the ‘low-hanging fruit’ in one basket. Ranking based on price point can help you establish yourself as either a premium or an affordable service provider. Or you may rank based on the type of instruction that you want, or the type of client you want to represent. Perhaps there are causes that are closer to your heart – go ahead and rank the clients in that segment as number one. It is very important that you rank your customer segments honestly, but equally, never lose sight of the goal: to increase your business profitability.

What do your clients value most in your service?

If your existing clients appreciate it, your potential clientele will too. These will be your ‘unique selling points’: spend some time thinking about them.

What will you do to exceed customer expectations?

How far are you willing to go to help a client? Be brutally honest about it. Once identified and consistently implemented case-upon-case, this will become a distinguishing factor for your brand.

What size is the market? Is it expanding or declining?

Based on the user groups / case types etc. captured above, do you think you have captured a big enough piece of the market? Is this piece expanding or declining? If the market size you intend to capture is not big enough or is declining, you need to seriously rethink the customer group or groups you want to prospect.

Who is your competition and what are they doing?

You need to understand why clients are choosing your competition over you. Research at least three of your closest competitors by the type of work you do or by geography etc. What are they doing to service their clientele? What are they doing in terms of marketing and communications? If you agree with their practices or approach, consider adopting them.

Your business manifesto

This is what I suggest you do next: pull out a pen and paper or fire up your computer and, based upon the information you’ve collected, write down your sales pitch. Call it a business manifesto if that suits you better.

Target the most obvious prospect first: your number one customer segment. In the beginning, focus entirely on this customer segment. Tell them that you specialise in them and what do you do to specialise in them, tell them about the problems you solve and how you differ from the competition. Tell them about your unique selling points to establish why they should care about you; emphasise it further by telling them how you far you’ve gone to help your past clients and that you’ll do the same for them. Tell them how and where they can reach you. If you offer a service such as a free consultation, let them know about it.

Once, you have written this pitch / manifesto, this is when the marketing effort proper begins. Make sure that every person in your organisation has access to it, and does their bit to spread the message through their contacts. Word of mouth is one of the most under-rated tools in communication: use it. To get this high and broad level of engagement, involve a wide range of people from across the business or team (as appropriate) in the exercises described above. Listening to everybody’s perspective early on will help ensure they buy into and support your approach.

But word of mouth is only one of the communication tools you’ll need to get this information out to potential clients. If you don’t have a website, this is an obvious starting point. More people are searching for you on the internet than in newspaper classifieds. If you already have a website, is it generating as many leads as you’d like? Is it visible to prospecting clients? What else could you do to supplement your digital communication effort? Is social media for you? These are questions that need a detailed understanding of your business, your customers and goals, so you may want to bring in an expert or marketing agency support to help.

This article by necessity only covers the basics of understanding your brand and building your marketing activity upon it. But, carefully applied, this approach will help you efficiently get you the work you want, within your areas of expertise, from the clients you want, so they keep coming back for more.