Hello. Thank you for inviting us here today.
[We were recently invited to speak with an audience of law firm partners during a professional development luncheon.]
My name is Deanne Napurano and I’m one of the founding partners at Stone’s Throw Creative Communications in Cranbury. I’m also a copywriter and creative director.
Stone’s Throw is what is often considered a boutique-style marketing firm – we’re small, offer flexible working arrangements, and are devoted to our clients. We work primarily with clients in professional services – law firms and accounting firms – and with clients in biotechnology, healthcare and life sciences. Although our work is mostly business-to-business, we provide direct-to-consumer support for several clients as well. It makes sense that over our 23-year history we’ve built relationships with many and diverse clients.
The marketing and advertising landscape has changed dramatically over the past two decades. When we began it was quite uncommon for attorneys to advertise at all. Now law firms market themselves with tremendous sophistication – often taking advantage of trends enabled by computer technology and online opportunities.
I’d like to review quickly some of the more successful marketing activities employed by law firms and lawyers today. I’d also like to introduce you to the concept of a communications strategy – the plan for ensuring each marketing activity reflects your brand and messaging. And, I’ll introduce you to a fun and easy way to focus the tone and personality of your communications strategy.
With 80% of Americans using the Internet, most companies understand the value of having a website. It’s certainly your online business card (to say the least). But, your marketing activities, whether at the firm’s corporate level, or in your day-to-day contact with clients, can be so much more than that.
If you conduct a quick Google search for ‘marketing for lawyers,’ you’ll find a list of important activities that include online legal directories and listings, print and online advertising and brochures, publishing articles to online journals and websites, contributing content to blogs, leveraging social media, and, even creating online videos. Your firm is already engaged in many of these practices.
How do we choose which activities are right for a client? Understanding your business objectives helps a company like Stone’s Throw audit opportunities and recommend activities that will help raise awareness of your services by putting your story in front of the audiences you’d like to reach. In essence we go where your customers are. We meet them where they are spending time. Sometimes that’s a news magazine; sometimes that’s a train platform.
But what about the marketing activities that some of us don’t talk about as much? Like, how you greet and actually shake hands with new contacts, how you handle referrals, how you share your knowledge and expertise face to face, how you show appreciation for your business relationships, and how you give back to the community. How do you ensure that your brand intention is manifest in your client’s experience with you?
No matter how much business your firm initiates through activities that drive people to your website – inbound marketing â€“ it’s the real-time communication and human connection that can still make or break any relationship. To be the most effective and satisfying for you and your clients, the tone and quality of that communication and connection should reflect your values and your client’s needs – because your values, if aligned to what you do, are defined by those you serve and why.
On to the more tangible? When a company like ours creates a logo, a website, a brochure or an introductory letter, we build a creative brief or communications strategy. We ask or learn from our client about his business, who he serves, what his marketing objectives are, and so on.
We then use what we learn as a guide to create copy and design that resonate with his audience.
For some clients, one of the sticking points in this process is the question, ‘What tone should this marketing activity reflect?’ In a simple question we are actually asking about the character of the work, which is in effect the character of the brand, the character of the company.
Knowing the desired tone, we can use color, language, design and visuals to evoke that character. Sometimes a client will understand tone precisely. Perhaps it’s an accounting firm that wants its marketing to evoke a sense of exacting accuracy softened by human warmth. Or, an architectural firm that wants to align itself with green and eco-friendly practices for designing and building K-12 schools, and a sense of ecological whimsy is appropriate (think Kermit the frog).
But sometimes a client may not be as clear. Perhaps the brand of the firm has evolved over the years as different practice areas grew. Or perhaps there’s a disconnect between the firm’s defining vision and its public image. Or it’s a new business defining itself for the first time. In that case we will often ask – of the solo entrepreneur or the executive team of 15 – If your business were an animal, what kind of animal would it be? Instantly, people begin to understand how to communicate character and tone.
Whether it’s a specific breed of dog or a species of wildcat, we all associate certain universal traits with animals. Start to think of it now . . . what animal or dog breed would this firm be and why? What about a client’s business? Is it methodical and sure-footed like a mountain goat? Or quick, smart and acrobatic like a Jack Russell Terrier. You can imagine some of the conversations we’ve had!
This is a little insider’s trick to help get the conversation going when it comes to defining the character of your marketing. Which, as I mentioned is essentially all of your communications – public facing or otherwise.
I hope you found this helpful today. If we have time my partner, Janice Mondoker, our firm’s Senior Art Director, and I will be glad to answer any questions now or afterward.
Again, thank you for inviting us. I hope we’ll have the chance to talk or work with you sometime in the future.
[Of course, a lot of the glorified magic happens when we translate the imagined character of that brand into the brand itself, but knowing where you want to go is undoubtedly the most challenging part of the journey.]