How legal marketing and advertising has evolved in recent years, and what you need to know

To what extent are law firms restricted in their use of advertising? Where does the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) stand on this?

Regulators want to ensure that anything advertised, promoted or offered to clients when selling a product or service (including giving advice) is clear, fair and does not mislead. The overriding principle in any campaign should be treating the client fairly (TCF). You cannot promise things you cannot deliver, or offer fixed costs when you know hidden costs will be charged. Consumers are savvier when buying legal services and if you offer something and don’t deliver, you will quickly get found out.

As more firms seek to utilise TV and social media, what are the challenges in constructing a suitable advertising campaign?

The biggest challenge is to decide whether to use a marketing or advertising campaign or rely on traditional marketing. Law firms rely heavily on networking and forming deep and lasting relationships with clients. Breaking into new markets is expensive and results are often slow to materialise – particularly when you have impatient partners wanting instant results.

The legal sector has been slow to realise the power of social media and the audience it can attract, but that is rapidly changing. The challenge now is to ensure that the content is relevant, stimulating and thought provoking.

When creating a new marketing campaign you should consider what you are trying to say and who you want to say it to. There is no point in talking about everything to everyone through every channel, as you simply won’t engage with the right audience – or have the budget. The other challenge is to ensure you have a consistent and timely message that is delivered throughout the firm – internal promotion of any campaign is as important as the external message.

How can the type of advertising used affect a law firm’s branding and reputation?

The type of advertising and channel can affect a brand’s personality in a dramatic way. It can be seen as too premium, too expensive, too “big for me”. It can also be seen as the opposite – too low-market, too cheap, too small. Messaging is essential, but needs to be deployed with the right personality. You can say a lot more and utilise more channels if you understand the brand’s personality.

Defining the brand’s personality is pivotal, both internally and externally. It is the key element that people engage with. Brand is about how clients feel about you, not what you think about yourself.

Clients are people and, as such, make buying decisions based on trust. Trust comes from meeting and beating expectations. It also comes from a consistent personality – one in which the volume can be turned up or down when needed, but will always remain consistent.

So, understanding your brand’s personality helps select the right type of advertising campaign and channels.

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With more firms having multiple brands and personas, to what extent is a centralised approach to advertising important?

A brand should have a very consistent personality and therefore it is certainly our belief that all marketing comms and brand comms should be overseen by a central team.

Consistency needs to be your message and the brands persona is critical in a world where consumers make buying choices based upon trust. If the brand’s messages are inconsistent and confused, all that will be achieved is a diluted message, confusion in the marketplace and a lack of trust which will ultimately push clients and prospective clients away.

By keeping messaging and comms centralised, a brand can control its messaging, as opposed to it changing based upon an individual subjective opinion of what should be being said.

It is important to understand that a brand must not change its personality depending on its audience. It must simply adjust its volume. Therefore, by keeping things centralised, this volume can be controlled depending on the audience, both in terms of sector and geographical location.

Top tips for any law firm considering updating their advertising policy

Our tips would be:

  • Understand the power of a brand – it’s not just about what’s on top of your letterhead, but how your clients feel about your firm;
  • Understand your audience – both internally and externally, and make sure you are delivering a consistent message
  • Know what you want to say and who you want to say it to–you cannot tell everyone everything
  • Focus your resources in the same way – pick what you want to promote and keep focused on these activities throughout the year (don’t be side-tracked by ad-hoc requests); and
  • Demonstrate return on investment to your firm–lawyers like facts and figures and actual results.
Alison Gamble is head of marketing at Taylor Vinters, and Robin Bryant is managing director of Mobas.

Image: Shutterstock

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