We hear a lot these days about brand strategies and positioning for professional services. The cynic in me thinks it is part of the ‘brand conspiracy’ that persuades firms to be bamboozled into spending megabucks on ‘brand refreshes’ or brand building exercises that achieve little.
Does the Good stuff flow from the Branding of your Firm, or the People in your Firm?
The next time a brand consultant wants to relieve you of £100k of your hard-earned, I’d suggest you do two things:
1. Look at the really BIG professional service brands… Is the growth of those businesses off the back of a branding exercises, or something else?
2. This is the clincher – When you get the first drafts of the material, disclose them first at a full partners’ meeting and ask each partner to decide which version of whatever it is they like best, because you’ll spend hundreds of hours arguing over things like the typeface later anyway. I’ll bet you’ll find a whole variety of views…and the point is that so will your clients. That’s because it doesn’t really matter a lot.
What matters much more is the quality of service, how well you glue in your clients, how well you build networks of influence and so on…ALL the good stuff in your firm flows from the people in it.
Brands are (to paraphrase my favourite academic commentator on brands, David Aaker) the thing that stops price from being a key factor. And how is that done?
David Maister got it right all those years ago: Professional service firms are relationship businesses…and this has one important aspect where ‘brand values’ are concerned. That is to whom (the person or the firm) does the ‘brand value’ attach itself? This is an important issue particularly when it comes down to social media use by lawyers.
Do Lawyers link with their Employers on Social Media?
Firms can build considerable brand value using social media… but for whom? The data we pulled below should be food for thought for anyone running a law firm. They are based on the last 500 people( solicitors were >400 of the sample) and law firm employees (mainly BD people) who have followed me on LinkedIn. You can make your own view about how representative this data set will be, but were I still in practice, I’d want to think about it.
The good news is that 95% of ALL partner/director level people across all sizes of firm who linked with me have the FIRM’s email etc as their contact info.
However, only 40% of their BD people do… this is lower in smaller firms and higher in large ones.
More worrying still, the figure for non-partner grade staff, whilst high for top 50 largest firms, drops to below 20% in smaller firms.
I think there’s probably a really simple explanation for this. Recruiters use L.I. heavily to trawl for people. If you are looking for a move, you may well not want recruiters using your work email to contact you. So, unless you see your future as immutably tied to the firm (You’re a partner, you’ve ‘made it’) so any poaching will be done through existing established networks of contacts, the smart money says ‘build your personal profile and keep the contacts away from the firm.’
I see many BD types advancing the idea that firms should encourage personal profile building by staff. I’d agree if you could be assured that you’ll benefit from it. But unless you have loyalty, a fee-earner could spend a lot of time building a fund of online goodwill, who then may bunk off to another firm taking that goodwill (which you paid for) to benefit the new firm…and I have seen this happen.
In my view a firm has a responsibility to make sure that its employee’s work related activities build the firm’s reputation above and beyond that of the employee.
That is what distinguishes the real professional brands from the rest…
Creating a joined-up Social Media Strategy
1. Consider developing a social media policy that binds employees to the firm, and which promotes ‘brand building’ for the benefit of the firm.
2. Ensure that all social media content created by employees (at least on the firm’s time) runs onto the firm’s page as well, and that the linkage to people can easily be changed.
3. Consider restricting the way contact details are presented to connect with the firm.
4. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY! Be such a great place to work that people won’t want to leave.
It won’t surprise you that we have built LegalRSS to ensure that social media postings flow onto the firm’s accounts and that we built www.crosselerator.com to take cross-selling messaging out of the hands of individual fee-earners.
It hurts me when i see firms investing their money in building someone else’s goodwill.
Joe Reevy +44(0)1392 423607
To reduce your firm’s marketing costs, save staff time and grow your business faster, get in touch. 01392 423607 or see our websites at www.words4business.com , www.legalrss.uk (for law firms needing content) or www.myinfonet.com (for anyone needing a very fast, very simple, multi-modal communications/content management solution) and www.crosselerator.com or visit the legalRSS or MyInfoNet channels on YouTube.