I spoke to a legal marketer today who is struggling with how to differentiate her firm from the many perceived competitors of a similar size, in a similar geography, serving similar clients. No question this is challenging. In the legal marketplace we tend to create even more obstacles because we focus inward... What do WE want to be known for? What messages do WE think will resonate with our clients? When we do look outside our four walls, we tend to look at peers or competitors for guidance (and assurance?) that our message is articulate, even if it's the same message everyone else is sending.
Over time, the leading law firms -- whatever their size, whatever their geographic reach, whatever their practice specialty -- will come to realize that it's the client's perception that matters. Their perception of the law firm IS the brand, and we establish these perceptions based on how we act, how we service their needs, how well we align our legal services to achieve their business needs, and so on. Branding and differentiation aren't merely about presenting a different look in our marketing materials or having a snappy tag line, though these tactics can be helpful. It's all about ensuring that when a client or potential client has a particular need, your firm comes to mind as the only possible advisor to get them through it.
A version of this post previously appeared on my personal blog.