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January 05, 2006

Branding Revisited--and Explained. Golden Comments.

In response to the December 29 post on the apparent failure of most lawyers to brand their firms, Michelle Golden at Golden Practices got to the heart of the matter in a couple of fabulous posts (here and here). And Tom Kane of The Legal Marketing Blog added depth to the dialogue in his January 3 post.

Michelle is saying to me that: (1) we lawyers (and other professionals) are all trying to distinguish ourselves from each other based on words, (2) the standards/words we claim are the same anyway, (3) the standards aren't too high to begin with, (4) we can't even meet those standards, (5) truly differentiating your law firm from "the others" must come from actions--not marketing rubric, and, most importantly, (6) the actions can't be just any action.

Even actually providing "quality service" is not enough. That, Michelle continues, should be a "gimme":

[S]ervice quality isn't going to be impressive enough as a differentiator. Most firms pay lip service to things like "responsive," "on time," or "proactive" in their brochures or on the web. These are basic expectations, folks. No one can argue that they should be the rule, not the exception! Just as competence is expected by a paying customer, so is good service.

In marketing, nearly every firm now claims the above traits (though few consistently deliver) so while doing these might actually make you different, claiming them doesn't at all differentiate you, rather it throws you right into the pack. And citing these as advantages of working with your firms just shows how low the bar is within the profession, doesn't it?

All this "timely, proactive" stuff just sounds like blah-blah-blah to the customer who has found that firms don't usually do a good job despite their claims....

Real distinction, in my mind, is stuff like:

Value pricing in advance (using fixed price agreements and change orders as necessary)

Specialization in an industry or a narrow area of practice whereby you become highly visible in the circles of your customers

Humanizing your people: some do it through unique bios/bio photos and others do it by featuring "a day in the life" of their people.

Service packaging/bundling for instance offering a level of all-inclusive services such as the "concierge model" with no charging for phone calls or other access to you.

And real branding is hard:

There is a price to pay--an investment--in becoming distinct. Most firms won't DO these things because they aren't easy. And they are non-traditional. They are different. Innovative. Not safe.

But customers and recruits eat them up.

Posted by JD Hull at January 5, 2006 05:29 PM

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