Your law firm has a 'brand' whether you know it or not, and whether you've consciously built that brand or not. Sima Dahl (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at this year's "Get a Life" conference), in her post, "Busted: 3 Myths About Branding," interviews Maria Ross, who makes an excellent point when she says, "It’s not just the visual pieces like logo, business cards or website, but also the experience that people have doing business with your company." This goes for law firms, too.
In other words, you are creating your brand every day with your interactions with colleagues, clients, judges, adversaries, vendors and everyone else with whom the people in your firm come into contact. The way the receptionist greets visitors is part of your brand. The way the telephone is answered in your firm is part of your brand. The quality of the written work that leaves your office is part of your brand. The way you treat the clerks at the courthouse is part of your brand. What kind of message is your firm sending?
When firms talk about branding and marketing, they often concentrate on things like the colors in the logo, the look of their business cards and the quality of the paper they use for their letterhead. But the impressions created by these items must be carried through in all of the firm's other branding in order to be effective. As Ross says, "People need to experience consistent marketing messages about 7-10 times in order for the perception to stick." If your written materials convey a different message than your firm's personal interactions with clients and others, the perception of your firm will be muddled, at best.
This is one of the reasons why I tell my clients that 'marketing' cannot be separated from 'management' of your firm - everything your firm does is part of your marketing, because everything your firm does contributes to the impression the firm leaves with others. You can have a fabulous logo and a great marketing message that targets your ideal clients, but if you have unhappy employees, poor systems for ensuring that quality work is performed on time and consistently, or if your bills are a disaster, that well-crafted marketing message is wasted. The actions of the firm will become your real brand.
To learn more about branding, you read the rest of Sima Dahl's post, and follow the rest of the three part interview series with marketer Maria Ross.