Legal logos can be boring. In an effort to appear professional, many firms stick with a combination of a nice font, a fancy ampersand, and maybe a line or two. But even if your firm has broken with the norm to create an eye-catching trade name or logo, it still isn’t enough to define your brand all on its own.
Week 1: Getting Personal to Create Sustainable Change
Week 2: Be Clear About Expectations, With Your Partners and Yourself
Week 3: When Writing Becomes Part of the Flow
Week 4: Need a Blog Topic? Look at Industry Trends
Week 5: What Are You Really Selling on Your Website?
Week 6: Who Is Your Target Customer?
Graphic Designer Nikkita came in tag-team with Mary Aviles, whose expertise I featured last week. What she had to say was so important, it stuck with me over the week.
Creating a Brand Should be an Intentional Choice
Your business has a brand, even if you haven’t done anything to establish it. As soon as you go public with your business, you start to create a brand — guidance for how you will interact with your customers. For many new lawyers and small businesses, this level of branding can be off-hand, maybe even unintentional. But everything from your logo choice to the way you answer the phone helps potential customers for opinions about whether they want to work with you.
Nikkita recommended making this form of brand-building a conscious choice. By taking the time to structure letter templates, set a reception policy for anyone who answers your phones, and create an elevator-pitch, you will take control of these subtle branding choices and start to establish your company’s “voice”.
Branding Beyond the Logo
When small business owners think of “branding” most assume it means creating a logo, website, and letterhead for their business. Those are certainly important parts of a corporate brand, but the idea goes much further. What about font choices? Email signatures? Advertising colors? What about how you dress when you’re going to a networking event or initial customer meeting?
Branding is a much broader concept than simply advertising or marketing. It includes anything that helps a potential customer get a sense of you or your business. It could be as formal as a letterhead template or as casual as the knick knacks on your shelf.
When Schmidt Law Services, PLLC, became Schmidt & Long, PLLC, my partner and I had two different brands. Of course, we had separate logos and business names, but we also had a different sense of what would convert consultations to closed business. As a young woman lawyer, I had placed a strong emphasis on professionalism. I would never meet a client in jeans or without a suit jacket. I used printed envelopes with my logo in the return section, and had branded folders and pens for people to take with them. I wanted potential clients to see me as a serious lawyer who knew what she was doing.
My partner, who does business and estate planning as his primary practice areas, wanted to help potential clients see him as a person first, and a lawyer second. He wanted to break down walls with small-talk and shared interests. So he filled the conference room with model cars and memorabilia from his alma mater. He met clients wearing jeans, T-shirts and suit jackets. His was a much more relaxed brand, and that worked for him.
But it did cause a little clash in the office. It took some time to work out what the new firm’s brand was going to be. Even once the designer had created a new logo, letterhead, and business cards, there was still a tension between the professional and the relaxed. Ultimately, we were able to come to a compromise, settling on a brand that was intended to make clients feel comfortable, and conveyed that we weren’t some stuffy law firm. We were “Lawyers, But Different.”
Brand Transitions Can be a Good Choice for Growing Start-ups
Nikkita acknowledged that hiring a formal brand expert to design a logo, set fonts, and color schemes can add up quickly. New firms may not have a couple thousand dollars to spend on establishing a formal brand presence off the bat. Especially when a few clicks on Microsoft Word can give business owners a pretty font, it can be tempting to push branding to the “Later” category.
That’s fine if it’s what the budget allows. Once you are able to invest in formal branding, you can go through a brand transition, making a big social media event out of your beautiful new look. She pointed out that even the biggest companies have done brand transitions over time. Look at Coke. Since 1896, the company has changed its logo at least 11 times. When it went from “Coca-cola” to “Coke” It made a big deal about it’s “New Look” and customers embraced it. As long as you take the time to roll out your new look in a way that focuses on your customers and makes sure they understand the transition, you should be fine.
Branding is an essential part of your business. More than just a logo, it encompasses everything about you and your customers interact. By being intentional about your branding decisions (whether you pay someone or not), you can create a consistent customer experience and help them feel good about working with you.