In an increasingly competitive legal services environment, law firms and legal businesses are ramping up their efforts to attract new clients and grow their brand recognition. Whilst some things are not in their control – such as consolidation, the consequences of AI-based technologies and an ever-fluctuating economy – it is vital for firms to have a strong marketing strategy to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

But with there being so many new and different tools for marketing out there, what does it mean to market a legal service in today’s legal and marketing landscapes?

There are no shortcuts to legal service marketing. But law firms are now, more than ever, realising the importance of having a strong reputation that cuts through the noise and reaches their target audiences.

And this really is the big reason why legal marketing has such great emphasis on PR. Ultimately, reputation is the linchpin of marketing legal services. We’ve discussed reputation extensively elsewhere. But for any law firm (who is offering in-depth legal expertise) reputation carries serious weight in the corporate business and commercial worlds when it comes to instructing a lawyer. Over and above cost, businesses want proven firms in whom they can trust.

These remain the key points in marketing legal services:

Decide on an approach that aligns with your firm’s brand

Being bold and brash and having the loudest voice though is not the best approach. You need to be nuanced and ask: what is going to work for your own client base? What kind of tone of voice will resonate with them? Firmwide messages should influence all your marcomms activities including events and presentations, marketing collateral, internal communications and media relations.

Incorporate PR strategy

As mentioned above, PR remains one of the most effective way of solidifying the status of your brand among your target audiences. By allowing third-party endorsement, a cumulative effect will ultimately lead to enhancement in reputation. While the best approach will ultimately depend on the size of your firm and the amount of money you are able to spend, here are three elements of PR to consider:

Structured PR strategies should incorporate business development plans to develop media coverage targets and strong messages for the firm to adhere to. A competitor analysis will help you achieve commensurate success and stand out. This will then allow you to take a leading role in setting and shaping the future direction of the sector, building on your experience to date, to the benefit of your sector’s reputation and the clients you advise.

Targeted media relations builds content and collateral more efficiently. Opportunities to promote your market expertise in the most influential titles will be key to attracting future talent as well as reaching current and target clients.

Integrated PR campaigns across a number of media channels forms an important part of fee-earners support, providing your talent with the skills to strengthen existing client relationships and establish new ones through the use of key online business platforms. Combined with an expanded social media presence, this helps drive traffic back to your website.

Make sure your digital marketing is tailored

Digital marketing is a vital channel for the legal sector. It’s crucial to develop a customised digital strategy that makes the most of your website, social media channels and content marketing. Well written blog posts can be a great way to build a relationship with your potential clients and current clients. But there’s no one size fits all approach. For instance, any blog content must be tailored to your target audience if it is to engage them and make an impact. And any emails must be tailored to your audience, and most often to a specific campaign, in order to not be lost amongst a clutter of unopened mail.

Differentiate yourself with thought leadership

Thought leadership is a way of turning original research into highly valuable resource for others, in doing so solidifying your status as a leading expert on a topic of importance to your client base. Typically presented in the form of a report, thought leadership can be qualitative, quantitative or both. Thought leadership is staple of legal marketing and a highly effective way of showing potential and current clients you care about the services you offer.

Be consistent with your messaging

Developed messaging is not just about PR and digital marketing. It’s also important to ensure your marketing is consistent both internally and externally so that your entire team are on brand, for example, in conversations with clients.

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Marketing must be enacted in conjunction with a solid business plan that directs your firm in its own strengths. However, a strategic marcomms plan can ensure you effectively communicate to those that matter to your firm.