Many, many years ago I remember hearing the legend that is Bob Mytton of Mytton Williams talk about law firm colour and logo trends. He showed a chart that demonstrated that one year everyone was blue, the next they were lime green, then orange and so on. It would seem, according to Bob, that the whole legal sector moved as a herd of sheep, channelling the same ‘innovations’ at the same time.
A couple of days ago I was catching up on podcasts and heard an interesting one from Amanda Perry, who was talking about adding a service element to eCommerce offerings. While this isn’t an immediately relevant topic for law firm marketing people (although Amanda’s podcasts on digital marketing are superb) one phrase jumped out at me: “Look outside your industry”. Amanda’s point was that true growth happens for those organisations that look outside of their industry for inspiration and innovative ideas.
This got me thinking about law firm marketing and business development. Let’s be honest, we’re all guilty of looking at ‘competitor law firm x’ and being reminded that we “really ought to do more with LinkedIn” or “maybe we should be doing Zoom seminars”. And, while this might work well for those firms diligently plodding along, those at the top, winning the innovation and growth awards, are doing something very different.
Look, for a moment, at those legal businesses that have transformed their service offerings in recent years, bringing in technology, flexible working models or a focus on purpose. DWF Connected Services is a great example or Clerksroom. How about Free Range Lawyers offering freelance lawyers to support private practice and in-house teams? Or Sustainable Law Group, an award winning “Best for The World” law firm that represents clients that seek to make positive social change and strive to maintain the highest ethical standards, just like they do. Do you think these organisations looked at other law firms and chambers to decide what to do? Of course not. They might have looked at them to decide what NOT to do… but to find the solution to whatever problem they sought to tackle, they looked outside of their industry.
The mistake so many firms and chambers make, whether thinking about their website, branding or communications activity is that they think their competition is other lawyers. But I’d like to present an alternative viewpoint. I think their competition is every other brand out there that takes up brain space in potential and existing clients’ minds. When we are assessing how well a website works, do we filter our opinions to only compare it to other law firms? Of course not. We instinctively compare it to all the other websites we use on a regular basis. This might include massive organisations with million pound marketing budgets. Unfair it might well be, but that’s how it is. And the same goes for branding, PR, communications, advertising…. The lot.
Which takes us back to two key points that underpin successful marketing and communications: know your target audience inside and out; and look outside your industry.
If you want to stand out you’re going to find little to set the world on fire within the legal sector. But look at other industries, whether that’s banking, accountancy, retail, charity, property or healthcare and you might see something new. How are they presenting themselves? What do they offer to their clients and consumers? How do they communicate with them? What are their key messages?
One final thing… one of the most under-used questions on client care surveys is ‘what brands do you most respect and why’… don’t just learn about the ‘looking inwards’ things… take the time to look outside of your industry and see what your clients and targets are looking at (and comparing you to without your knowing).
Helen Foord is CEO of ELE Global. She has spent almost 20 years advising law firms and chambers on marketing, business development and growth strategy. To talk to Helen about this subject, or anything else relating to your communications strategy, you can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org