That might sound strange from a guy who’s written branding books. But the reality is that never have more gurus been banging the drum for branding—without ever understanding it or explaining what it is.
Branding for lawyers is especially challenging. Unless you’re a DUI or PI attorney, it’s difficult to see how you’re going to brand yourself.
In reality, it's a simple concept to understand and embrace. But it is difficult to execute, especially for oneself. In fact, the Firm Appeal brand took months—purely because we are branding consultants trying to brand ourselves. A self-portrait in branding takes longer. Once you think you’ve got it right, you then have to show it to objective pros—who tell you it’s wrong and where it needs work.
But it’s worth it. Done well, branding helps the prospect make a decision. A good brand is emotionally evocative. And emotions drive decisions. Emotions inspire action. Intellect? Intellect leads to conclusions. But a brand that makes the prospect say, “This feels right” is what leads to choosing you over another.
But what is brand? Brand as we define it at Firm Appeal is: The one way your core client should feel about your firm.
For a lawyer, a better way to consider brand is as persona. Unless you’re the “Top Gun DUI Attorney” (a Los Angeles brand) or “The Law Tigers” (a national brand) or “The Attorney Who Rocks” (an Austin PI brand), you’re not likely to dress up in a catchy suit of branding clothes and bang the drum for your brand of law. Persona is subtler.
Think of persona is a 10% sliver of your personality magnified 10 times. It doesn’t have to feel tricky or unclean. It doesn’t have to make you feel like a carny. Persona lets you bring focus and feeling to your website and marketing materials. You can let your core client feel one way about your firm. You can be decisive and evocative without bringing the hat and cane. You can be all business—but smart business. And that ends up being money in the bank.
I've spent a great part of my career working in the voiceover industry. There's a popular “branding” exercise undertaken by a lot of radio and voiceover people. They go find a font for their name. Then they dig up a graphic of a microphone. They put them together and use it as a logo.
It’s a branding exercise designed to make the prospect say, “So what?” It says zero about who they are, what they sound like, what their attitude is, or anything else that matters. When you're hiring a VO guy, a microphone is the price of entry.
It’s as if you’re a carpenter, and your branding is a hammer. Or if you’re a writer and your branding is a quill pen. Or if you’re a lawyer and your logo is…
Scales of justice.
If anyone who does what you do can change the name and use your brand, it’s not branding. It’s whitewash. It’s indistinctive and meaningless.
Does that sound harsh?
For your law firm, your brand is the one way your core client should feel about the firm. “One way” because focus is essential. It’s the same in your practice. Without focus, you can't do your job. Same with branding. You identify your “core client” because once you define the person to whom you’re speaking, it becomes possible to speak in a way that resonates. And “feel” because decision making is an emotional process. Influencing a decision is difficult without appealing to the correct emotions.
Does this sound like salesman hoohah? Consider the words of famed neuroscientist, Dr. Donald B. Calne: “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action, while reason leads to conclusions.”
The job of marketing is not to lead the prospect to a conclusion. That’s the job of a legal argument. The job of marketing should be to inspire action. And in our case, we want to inspire the right client to feel like you’re the right lawyer. The desired action is a request for consultation.
There are various ways to do this. But the foundational effort, the background app, as it were, is your brand. You don’t need to brand yourself like the PI attorney who rocks or the DUI guy who's the top gun. But you do need to distill your personality into an identifiable persona that is evocative for the right prospect. Just like the Firm Appeal brand does not appeal to a lawyer who wants a $500 website, your website should appeal to a prospect who wants something better than the best price on law by the pound.
You may not have a logo and a fancy slogan. (Both are elements of brand, but not branding in and of themselves.) Nonetheless, you require brand definition. Call it your legal persona. Everything in your marketing plays back to that persona. When properly defined and conveyed, your persona helps the right client make the decision to call you.
IT IS PRESENTED AS A TRUTH THAT "Without SEO, lawyers die." What if you defy this ostensible truth? In a business where referral is king, SEO is useful. It just isn't a silver bullet. Instead, be human. Be evocative. Be the best part of you. A search engine can't understand that. But your client can.
Blaine Parker writes good words for good lawyers. Learn more at Firm Appeal.