“May we reintroduce ourselves?” Brand Development for Professional Services
November 10, 2013
If ever there is a commodity, it’s our time. Professionally, we all have roughly the same amount of it and can only charge an hourly rate for it—usually about the same as all the others in our fields. That is, of course, unless you were famous for amazing feats like Johnnie Cochran or F. Lee Bailey.
But what about the rest of the lawyers, accountants, financial planners, insurance brokers, and consultants—most are excellent practitioners. In our opinion, they must market their services and expertise just like manufacturers, bankers, and retail store operators, albeit without the benefits of having products, distribution channels, sales reps, and promotional campaigns. This explains the recent interest in brand development for professional services firms.
Many growing and well-established law firms are finding more and more competitors having lunch with their clients and seeing billings decrease before the credit card bill is processed. And accountants are seeing plenty of competitors entering their category to cash in on the high net worth of aging baby boomers’ estate planning and investment needs. In some cases, one can get investment and estate planning, as well as legal advice, all at the same firm. This is creating a blur.
Well, as one guy who should have been a high-hourlyrate consultant once said, “The best defense is a good offense.” Enter brand development for professional services. In other words, what’s your brand of law, accounting, or consulting firm? You won’t really know unless you go through the same practices and procedures other successful advertisers have for decades.
But that’s not all. You must also take your brand of professional services firm to market. And not just at the country club, but with a well-crafted and implemented external and internal marketing program.
A Case History:
One of our brand establishment partners was approached a couple of years ago by a fifty-year-old law firm headquartered in San Jose, California. The firm also had offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City, and was ready to take the “branding” leap. These lawyers were best known for their insurance defense practice even though they had great expertise in many other areas, including 50 years of civil trial experience, intellectual property, business transactions, environment, and real estate. They had been very successful over the years and had a large client base of insurance companies. The biggest problem they faced was the fact that their traditionally loyal clients were increasingly dictating the rates the firm could charge, and if they didn’t like it, there were now plenty of firms waiting in the wings to serve them and the industry. The age-old problem: the firm’s years of service, experience and expertise, as well as their valuable counsel, had become a commodity. Since most of the original lawyers in this firm were retired, the new guard had a goal to reposition themselves as a young and vibrant (yet very traditional) law firm with a broad offering of legal expertise.
It wasn’t hard to show them that the first step was brand development, not branding. And so they facilitated our proprietary brand discovery process called “Turning the Telescope™.” This half-day session was the ideal opportunity for the firm’s partners in each of their practice areas, the managing partner, and the marketing director, to discover together the firm’s unique brand essence and play a roll in the establishment of their future communications.
The outcome was extraordinary, as expected. The firm’s unique selling points (USPs) included:
1. 50 years of civil trial experience
2. Smart-bomb approaches
3. Technological advances
4. Client service “second-to-none”
This law firm was extremely unique. Before the session, they thought they were just like all the others—a commodity. They later saw clearly their unique difference. Based on their USPs and other discoveries, it was suggested that the firm was an institution in some ways and an idea incubator in others. They were likened to the Wall Street Journal—an old, established newspaper, but a daily ‘must read.’ It was recommended that the firm perfect a philosophy that acted like a proprietary product; something no other law firm could offer. It was called: “I’m your lawyer.” It meant that they would be involved in their clients’ every legal need first as legal consultants, and later if needed, and only if needed, as their lawyers. It meant staying in touch via e-mail, voicemail, and of course, face-toface—daily. It also meant using the latest technology to deliver more effective service at an economic price. If they could commit to all this and constantly and consistently deliver it, then we could change the firm’s name from the names of the four founders to just the initials with the positioning line, “A better legal system.” Everyone loved it. Suddenly there was new life and vitality in the firm.
To launch the new positioning, the branding phase of the assignment was started. Each morning for a week, when partners, associates and staff booted up their\ computers, there was a different graphic and message. One day, it showed an ice cream cone on one side and a hot fudge sundae on the other with the message: “This is good. This is better. Find out what’s even better on Friday.” The next day it was a Volkswagen and a BMW and the same message. And each day something different was posted. On that Friday, when everyone in each of the offices arrived, there were construction barriers beside the elevators with the message, “Pardon our improvements.” And when they entered, they were greeted by a catered breakfast and a presentation about what the product, “I’m your
lawyer,” and the brand position, “A better legal system,” were all about.
Their new logo, stationery, firm brochure, website and ads were presented at those breakfasts. One ad showed a very institutional-looking illustration of a hand offering one of the firm’s new business cards. The headline read: “May we reintroduce ourselves,” and a new brand of law firm was born. Are you ready to be reborn and do business better and differently?