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Brand Authenticity
Brand Authenticity

One of the first things I remember learning about advertising was that good advertising didn’t try and sell you a product or service, it created a feeling or emotion that you wanted to experience. You connected with that experience. That experience was the promise of freedom, security, joy, or perhaps relief. Embracing that connection would mean that you could live a better life or solve a unique problem. A problem in your life that maybe you weren’t even aware existed. Countless companies sell their products by showing you how life could be better if only you were lucky enough to have their product. Firms successfully selling their services, paint an equally beautiful picture of the better quality of life being lived by the people who use their service, often contrasted against the lives of those who suffer without having the benefit of those same services. We see the problem-solving approach leveraged heavily in political advertising. A threat is created that seems overwhelming and the only way to stop that threat is to vote for the person who can save you. These emotions and experiences are utilized to create a brand. Each successful brand becomes synonymous with the projected experience promoted by the advertising and if that experience is consistent, loyalty is created.

While the basics of good advertising haven’t changed, the advent of attention deficit consumerism has made brand loyalty harder and harder to achieve. Advertisers have to reach consumers through multiple contact points with specific messaging that will resonate quickly and stand out from ever-increasing competition. Instant gratification was thought to be a negative, now it’s the social norm. We all want everything right now and we want it to be meaningful beyond our wildest expectations. Which formula works best for your brand? What’s the best way to create brand loyalty? First, you need to make sure that you understand your current brand and that your firm is branded correctly.

It’s important to understand that your practice is not just you, it’s your entire team coupled with the experience you provide to your clients. It’s important to remember your brand is not how you present yourself and your firm, it is what other people feel about you and your firm. You need to actually see your firm from an outside perspective. You need to look at it from your client’s point of view. Once you do that, you can create the appropriate brand and you can start maximizing your marketing and advertising ROI.

Think you have an actual brand? Is it a good one? Many firms have a weak or non-existent brand and it impacts everything they do. I’ve seen firms go from under 20% conversion on PPC to well over 60% just by establishing a stronger brand. So, what’s the key to a stronger brand? What do all great brands have in common? Authenticity! The absolute primary focus of your brand should be authentic presentation of your product or service. If you want scalability and unlimited potential, don’t handcuff yourself with the wrong brand.

I worked with a firm who’s managing partner told me he had a hard time keeping his people and his client’s happy. He thought he should be getting more referrals and blamed his staff for their lack of follow up and staying in touch with previous clients. He focused on reviews and ratings and missed the larger picture. He explained to me that he was spending money making the phone ring and his intake department was signing and converting plenty of cases, but his revenue was down, and he wasn’t sure why? He had lower than expected case values and he had a hard time keeping people motivated. I asked him one simple question: What kind of experience do you want your clients to have? He told me he wanted his firm to be the “Ritz Carlton” of law firms and that he wanted everyone in his firm to go out of their way to make their clients feel like they were being treated exceptionally. I asked him if that was happening and he agreed it wasn’t. He just wasn’t sure how to make it happen (Hence his confusion about their lack of referrals and his unhappy staff). It wasn’t difficult to realize the issue; he was promoting the wrong message and his brand was not consistent with his client’s expectations or experience. His marketing message was all about money. His advertising featured client’s with minor injuries who seemed to get massive settlements and huge recoveries. When I asked him why he chose that marketing strategy he told me that his advertising agency convinced him it would be successful. When I asked him what his agency considered successful, he told me that they promised to make the phone ring and he’d get lots of cases. (They also didn’t understand why he was unhappy).

Let’s face it; not all lawyers are the same, not all agencies are the same, and not all definitions of success are the same. If you judge your success based on the number of cases you generate and the cost of those cases, then you are likely missing the bigger picture. Your firm is an organic and evolving enterprise made up of the people who work with you and the clients for whom you advocate. The culture you create (whether it’s intentional or not) is the culture that your clients will benefit from or the culture that they will have to endure. Why is that important? Because their experience becomes how you are known in your community. If that experience is divergent from your brand marketing, then your clients will feel mistreated and will likely have an adversarial relationship with your staff. If your staff is constantly fighting to keep your clients happy, how can they enjoy coming to work? And how can they have a great working environment? If you have unhappy clients and unhappy staff, does it really matter how many cases you are generating? When you look at the big picture, you can see the disconnect and then you can pivot. What you want for your firm is what you should build and what you should dedicate all of your energy towards achieving.

That same managing partner who wanted to be the “Ritz Carlton” of law firms because he wanted to provide an exceptional experience to his clients was in fact failing with every new intake. His clients were expecting huge settlements for minor injuries and when they were faced with the reality of dealing with his trial team (in order to maximize their case values) they were frustrated with the amount of time the process was taking and ultimately unhappy with the value they were getting for their injuries. If you tell people that they will receive huge compensation for minor injuries, you can’t possibly keep them happy. They will make your staff miserable, and you will create a terrible culture with low case values and lots of turnover. If you want a soft-tissue and property damage settlement machine, great. But that’s clearly at odds with the “Ritz Carlton” approach.

Once we changed his brand and started promoting the message of care, compassion, and client experience; something incredible happened. He started getting better cases, his staff started enjoying their jobs, and everyone started believing in the brand. In a few short months he started reaping huge benefits. All because he started being authentic in his marketing and advertising. Most people don’t realize how easy it is to attract cases. It’s also easy to attract staff members. It’s difficult however, to grow a practice with a scalable and positive culture. The more you maintain a “Core Authenticity”, the more you can grow and evolve organically.

Remember: People aren’t looking for a product or a service. They are looking for a solution that will solve their problem or improve their life. Research shows us that the average person considering legal help doesn’t think there’s a real difference from firm to firm and they believe most lawyers will achieve the same results. So, you need to project a brand that speaks to who you are. Branding is the promise of an experience. Delivering on that promise every time someone interacts with your brand, whether it’s the way you answer the phone, the way your website functions, or how you perform your services to your clients, is the key to success. Marketing and advertising are about an emotional connection, and how your clients feel about themselves and their decisions when interacting with you and your firm. If you want to grow, you need brand ambassadors and you need to provide an experience that is dependable and will lead to referrals and endorsements. When you do it right, you can grow exponentially.

Whether you’re just building your brand, or you’re trying to evolve your brand, you have to discover what makes your firm unique and what differentiates you from your competition. You need to decide how you want to define yourself. How you can create a brand that resonates with your potential clients. One that will be consistent with their experience once they retain your firm. The goal is to develop a solid, authentic brand that you can consistently deliver to your audience, so you create loyal believers in your brand. Loyal believers become brand ambassadors and brand evangelists in your community. Because there are so many different marketing channels, your brand must be used properly on every platform on which it lives so there’s no confusion when communicating your message. Your brand has to be maintained throughout your client’s entire experience from intake through settlement. Your clients need to believe in you and your firm, and they need to feel that you gave them your best. Once you have happy clients, you will get referrals. Once you start getting referrals, you’ll know you are on the right track and you’ll know your people are supporting your vision. Once your people supporting your vision, you can realize that vision and become the author of your firm’s success story.  It all starts with brand authenticity.

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