Have you ever seen very young children play soccer? Someone kicks the ball to the left, and everyone runs left. The ball goes right, the crowd follows. There is little strategy and lots of running back and forth. This is the perfect analogy for how most law firms market. If one firm advertises, sponsors an event, or takes another marketing action, their local competitors are sure to follow.
This is how magazines make a lot of money on their regional "Best Lawyers" issues. Most firms assume they must buy a full page ad congratulating their own attorneys since their competitors are going to be represented in the publication. This may or many not be a good idea (probably not), but it does not stop firms from spending thousands of dollars. They are chasing the soccer ball with the wild abandon of a kid on a field.
I enjoy the story about southern law firm in the 1990s that featured the managing partner's bulldog in their local advertising. Within a year dozens of other firms in their region had dogs and other pets prominently displayed in their advertising. Really? What was the purpose of being a copy cat? (yes, some used their cats). Does this type of planned sameness make you stand out?
Being unique is what gets you remembered. If you look like every other law firm there is no reason for people to call you. Go to the websites of your competitors and look at the pictures on their homepage. Almost all of them will have photos of their local skyline, their state capitol building, or the scales of justice. That is what most law firms select for their image. I mentioned this at a bar association meeting where I was the speaker, and one lawyer came up laughing as his firm displayed all three of those images.
My advice is to review what other firms are doing with their marketing, and then do something different. To copy others in your marketing means you are a commodity. Commodities are not exciting, have to sell on price, and lose business to others regularly. Does this describe your firm?
Stepping out and being unique is scary for everyone, but apparently more of a stretch for law firms. While you must abide by your state's bar association advertising rules, you should not care what your competitors will think of your unique position in the marketplace. In fact, you can rest assured if you get any attention at all for your efforts that many other firms will follow you down the path. This means you will only be unique for a short time, and then you need to be ready to change again.
Do not leave your marketing strategies to chance. Hire a professional marketer to help you brainstorm ideas. As an attorney you are an expert in your legal practice, you are most likely not trained at marketing. Do not assume attaining a JD means you can effectively promote your business. Marketing is a learned skill, and if you embrace working with consultants who can assist you then you will create a campaign that will allow you to stand out from all the other lawyers in your area.
Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development. He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales. He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success. More information at www.ThomSinger.com.