Your law firm stands by the quality of its work and the depth of its expertise. In many ways, these very attributes form the foundation of your firm’s success to date. That’s especially true if word-of-mouth referrals account for the majority of your new client acquisitions.
And if your work speaks for itself, you (or others in your firm) may question the need for marketing — and its value. But if you want to grow your firm’s business, positioning and marketing matter. Full stop. Strong positioning and the marketing that flows from it form a direct line to new business generation.
Here’s what you need to know about positioning and why it matters.
What Does Positioning Mean?
Positioning has to do with how you differentiate your law firm from the pack in terms of both branding and marketing. At a very high level, this is a two-part process.
The first part revolves around defining your firm’s brand. Your brand should capture the details that set your firm apart from your competitors. This means making sure you clearly communicate your areas of expertise and the full range of matters your firm is prepared to handle.
But it’s not just about defining your services. Brand positioning is about identifying the intangible attributes that set your firm apart. Often, when it comes to law firms, that defining difference may be more of a nuance than a major deviation from the competition. We like to say that many law firms are 98% the same. Positioning is about identifying that 2% difference and running with it. For example, your firm might take pride in its deep academic intellect as reflected in the articles you publish. Or, you might be aggressively innovative on behalf of clients. Think of the descriptor you most want people to use when they talk about your firm, and that should get you started in the right direction.
The second part of positioning flows from the first. It has to do with how you present and market your brand once you’ve landed on a strongly differentiated brand identity. Your website is the first and most important piece of this puzzle. Website design decisions should be made with your brand positioning in mind. Each element of the website should reinforce your positioning from the visual design elements to the content itself.
In this sense, marketing isn’t just about pretty colors. And it’s also not about garishly forcing your message into the marketplace.
Smart marketing isn’t unseemly or frivolous. It’s a highly strategic way to effectively communicate who you are (your brand positioning) and what you do to your key audiences. In that sense, positioning is the foundation of your firm’s business development efforts. It should be a non-negotiable.
The Top 3 Reasons Your Law Firm Needs Positioning
Still not convinced that your boutique law firm needs to focus on positioning? Here are a few reasons that should make you think twice.
1. Your Firm’s Strengths May Not Be as Widely Understood as You Think
Without clear positioning and the marketing to back it up, your prospects likely won’t have a full understanding of who your firm is and the scope of your services. This lack of understanding may even extend to your existing clients. Clients often tend to have a myopic view of your services. They may think of you only in terms of the matters you already handle for them. This could be true even if you provide other services that clearly meet your clients’ needs.
For example, clients who engage you for representation in regulatory matters may not realize that you also handle civil litigation. Good positioning fills the gap by making your areas of specialization clear. That’s crucial, especially given that it’s often easier to generate more business from existing clients than it is to attract entirely new ones.
Your website is the locus of information for all of your key audiences. This includes prospects, existing clients, and larger, referring legal practices (not to mention recruiting). Each of these groups will likely visit your website prior to initiating communication or making a referral. The website must communicate your brand and core legal services clearly and effectively.
Only by taking control of your positioning can you be sure all your audiences share an appreciation for your firm’s unique strengths and offerings. After all, your work may very well speak for itself, but until your prospects are aware of that work, it won’t have the chance to do so.
2. Positioning Allows You to Shape Your Own Image — Before Others Do
People are already talking about your firm, and what they say will directly impact the trajectory of your business. Of course, your clients’ actual experiences with your firm will play a major role in your word-of-mouth reputation. But positioning allows you to meaningfully shape the message, particularly when it comes to communicating the kinds of matters you handle and the way your firm is described.
Taking control of your firm’s image is critical given the importance of word of mouth and referrals in driving new business for law firms. Thoughtful positioning can move the needle on the types of clients and legal matters your firm takes on. It can even help you strategically grow into new areas.
3. Positioning Instills Trust
The decision to hire legal representation is often riddled with anxiety, especially when high-stakes outcomes are on the line. Even after receiving a referral, most prospective clients will check out your website before talking with you directly to get a sense of whether your firm can be trusted to provide the right counsel. Your firm’s positioning can build trust in the following ways:
- By demonstrating expertise, which gives prospective clients the sense that hiring your firm will reduce their exposure to risk.
- By building brand recognition to increase familiarity, which is a necessary precursor to trust.
- By cultivating an emotional connection to your firm that deepens trust.
- By telling a compelling corporate story that engenders confidence.
For these and other reasons, intentionally positioning your firm is the most important tool in your arsenal to grow your business.