‘Brand’ is a widely used description that covers many things in a lot of marketing areas and means many things to many people.

Focusing on your firm’s brand is one way (of many ways) to manage the marketing process within your firm.

From a marketing management point of view for solicitors there are several ideas we need to look at to understand how to use branding techniques for legal services.

Your firm’s ‘brand’ is a tool, like a vehicle for delivering the idea of potential benefits to carefully chosen target client groups.

The aim is to manage, influence or plant in the head of your target markets, a variable set of thoughts that ‘pop-up’ when a potential client arrives at a situation that should involve legal or associated advice.

The size of the potential market you want to influence will then dictate the media and promotional channels you will need to use.

Large markets means TV ads and other national media, like PI enquiries. Small markets mean using more targeted media like direct mail or other promotional methods.

A person thinks, ‘I should ask a solicitor about this…’ is the point that brands come into play.

How will that person, given their individual circumstances and the legal issue they have, choose the solicitor or alternative supplier to contact?

It depends on what they know already, based on the last legal brand they heard of, mixed with personal experience, recommendation and a whole host of other influencing factors.

National brands like Quality Solicitors, The CoOp or services like Wigster.com may be in with a chance since they promote themselves widely.

But if the person’s problem is with equine law in a rural area and they read Horse & Hound magazine, other firm’s brands may offer more fitting benefits.

Your firm, represented by a name or logo presents different benefits for each potential client that knows of you. Having the word ‘solicitor’ in your firm’s name is an essential part of your brand.

For brand and marketing purposes, you will need to divide potential future clients into meaningful groups.

Initially, consumer or commercial followed by all the sub-categories representing the service you offer.

Once in groups you can assess which future services they could be interested in and devise a communications plan that delivers the idea of the potential benefits of your services.

We would all like to do one to one promotions but it’s too costly. Using a brand, whether bought in or developed by your firm, becomes the potential clients ‘easy handle’ to put on your firm.

The collective marketing processes, alongside other promotional methods (advertising, direct mail, PR) all contribute to the perceived value of your firms services in the mind of each potential future client.

It’s important to remember the main value in your firm’s brand is delivering valuable legal service solutions to your current clients.

Using brand management techniques aims to maintain and enhance the past clients or potential new client’s view of the benefits you can deliver.

Recommendation is still by far the best way to gain profitable work and your previous clients are a valuable source of recommendations. Your firm’s reputation for delivering excellent legal services is one part of your brand presentation.

As we are all aware, there are other information sources not in your control (recommendation, gossip, web, media) that will have an influence on your firms brand in the minds of potential future clients.

The word ‘solicitor’ is a powerful brand but it is at the mercy of the media.

For brands bad publicity is bad publicity.

Branding is part of the marketing management approach for any commercial organisation.

Brand management can present tricky problems. What does ‘Halliwells’ stand for now as an extreme example.

The vital part of branding for a successful firm is to know who you want as future clients and what it is you want to say to them through all forms of marketing communications.

An essential part of that understanding of future clients is your firm’s database of past or potential future clients, it’s accuracy and usability for promotional purposes.

Without a good database you will be wasting a considerable proportion of your advertising budget on attempting to influence people who will never buy your services.

To use your firm’s brand effectively and efficiently really means looking carefully at what you want to say to potential clients and how you will communicate with them.

Get the marketing management right and your firms brand value will follow.

Start doing something about your firms marketing and brand now because there are many trusted and valued brands competing for your future matters now and more to come with ABS.

As an example, think about BT or M&S and the thoughts occur to you having heard their name.

Did it also occur to you to pop into M&S on the way home or did you decide to use a different retailer?