Whenever a law firm tries to create or define its brand online, there are some risks involved. Over 30 percent of law firm marketing professionals say that they are dedicating energy to re-branding efforts for their law firm this year. If you're one of them, you need to know which pitfalls are most likely to make your branding efforts fail. This guide will give you information about eight different ways that law firms have a tendency to get off-base about branding. If you can avoid these big eight mistakes, you'll be well on your way to rebranding initiatives for your law firm that work to attract new clients without hurting your reputation in any way.
#1: Branding Differently on Every Website
If different people at your law firm are put in charge of each social media site and your company's website, you're going to end up with content that looks disjointed and erratic. While every website is certainly a bit different and will have different community norms, there's no reason to make your presence completely different on each website that you use.
Make sure that even when your messages are significantly different or edited quite heavily, you're still generally projecting the same type of image. It's one thing to use different language on a business oriented blog than you'd use on your Facebook feed. It's another to project a very fun, hip image on one and a staid, conservative image on another. Don't change the things that are core to your brand just because you think they'll help you fit in better on a particular website.
#2: Using the Same Messages Everywhere
At the same time, while consistency is important, you shouldn't just repost the same content on every single social media website you have an account with. If you're using the exact same messages in every place, you're basically telling people that they should only bother following one of your social media accounts at most—indeed, you're telling them that they'll just see repetition and get bored if they try connecting with you over multiple websites.
This means that every time you're producing new content for your social media presence or for your company website, you should give serious thought to how and where to cross-promote it. You should usually do some cross promotion, but you should mix it up, so that no one thinks your Facebook and Twitter feeds are always duplicates or near-duplicates. Making sure people have an incentive to connect to you through several different media is key to getting the kind of brand saturation and recognition you want among your potential brand ambassadors.
#3: Becoming an Exclusively Online Brand
There are so many ways to initiate marketing campaigns online today that some law firms are tempted to take all of their marketing efforts into the online sphere. However, if your marketing exists solely online, you're going to have a much tougher time than people who incorporated both online and offline strategies into their overall marketing plan.
When you exist solely online, instead of participating in your community in offline events, you will actually hurt your search engine optimization. Some of the best search results you can get today will come from local searches, in which businesses with a prominent profile locally in news and community websites will get top billing in searches over firms without a community presence. Missing out on these searches is already bad, and in the future, it may become crippling. Don't make the mistake of putting all your eggs in the online basket—keep in mind that even participation in events in the offline world can have a positive effect on that online reputation and search ranking.
#4: Copying Competitors
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but you don't want to flatter your competitors—you want to get clients to come to you instead. You need to make sure that your brand is differentiated from what your competitors have to offer. Often, you'll find that your local competition has website content that suffers from being more puffery than real information. Give people real information about the exact specialty area you want your clients to come from, including single-page printable info sheets. You might consider, for instance, a single printable sheet for people to keep in a glove box about what their rights are in case they are pulled over under suspicion of driving drunk in your state.
Giving people real, tangible resources is the best way to be an attorney that people think of and go to when they need help. Being accessible and informative is the best way to make sure that you're getting the most from your online presence.
#5: Trying To Be Everything To Everybody
If you're trying to be a generalist, you're years behind the times. The best way to succeed with online marketing is to make sure you're specialized and that you have microsites dealing with specialty legal areas. It's much better to have several microsites today than to try to be all things to all clients. Generalists have a harder, more expensive time with advertisements online, and you'll find that it's substantially more efficient to advertise and target clients when you have the exact client you're looking for in mind.
#6: Wishful Thinking
Many firms end up falling victim to the fatal trap of wishful thinking. You may wish that your brand had certain strengths that your firm just doesn't have. Not all firms have longevity working in their favor. Not all attorneys have a great sense of humor that can make their website both informative and funny. Make sure that when you decide on a branding strategy, it's based on your firm's actual strengths and not the strengths that you wish that you had.
In order to make sure that you're catering to your real strengths, it's a good idea to know someone who will act as an unbiased critic and editor of your content. Don't just run your copy by people who will tell you how good it is—you want to identify problems before you commit a faux pas.