Table of Contents of this Article:
- 1 How to Create an Accurate Perception of Your Law Firm
How to Create an Accurate Perception of Your Law Firm
From Day One
You’ve prepared months, maybe even years, for your new venture. You are finally ready to start your own practice. You know that you have experience, skill and talent; now you are ready to apply the boldness and courage and take your career to the next level.
Frequent fliers can relate. It is similar to the woes and the anxieties of being a passenger on a delayed airline flight that taxis around the runway continuously but cannot get clearance for takeoff.
Many factors with air travel are out of your control. Fortunately, starting your new practice does not rely on outside forces to thrust your business into reality. You are now the captain of your fate! The choices are yours, and making decisions on your own is one of the many benefits of running your own practice. It may be the very reason you have embarked on this venture. Whether your destination will be “Successland” or “Failure Hole” will largely depend on the quality of the launch. After all, it is the launch of your practice and its perception to the marketplace that will set the tone for the future of your practice. Aim high. Aim high now.
One Small Step for Man, One Giant Step for Your Future
What is an identity launch? Well, it starts with your identity: who you are, what you do, who you do it for, etc. You need to determine what type of work you want to provide and what type of clients you want to attract. Not taking the initiative on this issue relegates your practice to taking whatever type of client and work that comes to you. Develop and proactively communicate your identity, before the public creates an inaccurate perception of you. There are several elements that will help you communicate your identity –words, logos, images, color, typography, and overall style. The treatment of these elements and how they are applied to marketing collateral, works together to communicate your identity. Marketing collateral includes business stationery (i.e., business cards, letterheads, envelopes, invoices), office signage, web site, brochure and any other support material that will help the public know who you are and what you do. The more collateral you have available, the more opportunity you will have to create an impression or influence others to want to work with you.
From Identity Crisis To Identity Launch: Tips for a Successful Take Off
At the very least, your identity launch initiatives should include business cards – in print and online. An online business card is a simple one-page web site that provides your identity online. An online business card can only be expected to build web credentials – not generate leads. At this launch stage, a fanciful web page with rich content, animation, customized photography and top Google rankings are not necessary.
Take the first step online by obtaining a domain name that complements the name on the door and suits your new practice. Domain names range in costs from $20 to $200 annually. You may check the availability of your preferred domain name. Do not select the option that allows the provider to post their own advertising to your web page. Once you have your domain, you will have a proper email account with your official domain name. Then, you can create a one-page web site to show you are in the game. Posting your site or hosting can cost $10 – $20 a month. Once you have launched your practice and are further along the journey, you can take your marketing to the next level by optimizing your online presence to further increase your brand awareness and generate leads.
You Aren’t Alone: Marketing Professionals Can Help
There are a plethora of options to help optimize your new firm’s identity to meet your goals. Discovering the options, determining your identity and developing your collateral can be daunting and downright intimidating. A professional experienced legal marketing consultant can help by extracting the right information and craft the right message and proper tools to deliver that message. These professionals are resources to help you develop a marketing budget and business development strategy. A marketing consultant can help you prepare a strategy that will help you grow. An overall strategy helps attorneys:
- Define their current position in the marketplace
- Set realistic goals and metrics
- Provide a roadmap
- Help to prioritize specific needs
- Discover opportunities
- Identify challenges
- Focus on big picture
- Build momentum and internal morale
Do your due diligence when hiring a consultant. Ask for references and examples of results from past clients. Make sure the marketing professional has experience working for attorneys or professional services. Marketing activities for products are very different than the marketing tactics needed for legal services. Also, make sure that your consultant listens well to your needs and does not try to push a product or specific service. Select a consultant who has your best interest in mind.
Finally, be clear about your budget with your consultant. It is better to know at the starting point that your consultant is in your price range, rather than to waste time playing charades. Keep in mind that you will get what you pay for. If you hire your nephew to design a web site from his basement for $100 as your identity launch, your new firm will appear to the public that you paid someone $100 to design a web site from their basement. Remember that your reputation is your identity! Don’t trust your identity to just anyone!
Marketing as an Investment
The resources you spend on your identity and other marketing initiatives are an investment in the future of your business. Whether you decide to hire a consultant or not, how and when you begin working on your identity is much like your own client relationships. When your clients come to you for legal consultation, you hope they come to you at a time that is the most beneficial to them – before their situation has turned into a legal mess. Just like marketing, it is better to start at the genesis of your practice, before you start taking the wrong kind of work and get pigeonholed into working on cases that you really aren’t interested in.
Perhaps you have decided that an identity launch is not your style. You just want to roll up your sleeves and get to work. If that is your plan, consider the costs and risks of not preparing an identity now:
Because you have just “opened for business” and you need to build a caseload, you begin to take small jobs that will help pay the bills. Then, you get a client who wants to put you on a retainer to help them with a part of their business. It isn’t exactly what you want to do, but again, you need to pay the bills. So, you accept the agreement, as well as the fee. Two years go by and you realize that your dreams of starting your own practice aren’t even close to aligning with your current reality. Although you have been paid for your time and you have gained some experience, you are still taxiing on the runway because you didn’t take the time to develop your identity and launch it.
You could have invested the time and effort a couple of years ago and been right on track today.
The cost of missed opportunity can be expensive. Do the hard work now and determine where you want to be in the next year, five years and ten years. Just as you prepare for your retirement and financial future, prepare your marketing as an investment with the same level of care.
Prepare for Lift Off
If you are still in someone else’s aircraft and you are tired taxiing on the runway, get off that plane. Stop being a passenger and be the captain of your own aircraft. There is a lot of power in the boldness and courage of entrepreneurship. Use your passion and ambition to ignite the flight of your career, the flight of your life. Start the engine. Do it now. Fasten your seat belt for the journey and don’t forget sunglasses because the weather in “Successville” is always sunny and warm. 
Andrea Cook is Founder and President of The Midas Center has created programs, campaigns, and branding systems for both global enterprises as well as boutique firms.