In every industry, there are brands that dominate public consciousness.
Apple, Google, Nike, Toyota, Colgate.
Larger-than-life names that seem to withstand the test of time and shine a trusted light through the chaos of competition.
Firms like the Big Four in accounting and Big Six in law have traditionally held a revered dominance in professional services. But these days, that doesn’t mean there’s no space for new market entrants or smaller firms in developing businesses to carve out their own brands.
How can you ensure your firm becomes a recognised brand?
1. Create multi-channel marketing for business development
Today’s world moves fast and clients fill every quiet moment – on the train, waiting in lines, during breaks in conversation – completing tasks using portable devices like their phones and tablets.
This presents a challenge to brands competing for the short supply of attention spans. But it also presents new opportunities to level the playing field for smaller businesses that are making their own mark.
As Deloitte’s 2019 report on “The performance of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses in a digital world” notes, “The digital era offers Small and Medium sized Businesses (SMBs) digital tools they can use to improve their performance and remain competitive in a fast-moving, more digitalised and global economy.”
The report finds that SMBs using digital tools for business development are five times more likely to reach new, international customers, and three times more likely to experience customer growth. That customer growth is not insubstantial, either – it tends to be twice as large as those that don’t.
“Similar to any business, brand awareness in professional services comes from consistency of messaging and promotion across a variety of channels,” says Charles Sweeney, managing partner of Brisbane-based law firm Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers.
“We put a lot of time and effort into providing up-to-the-minute legal training, webinars, articles, guides, tips and video content that is available to clients. Many firms do this, but we believe we have been able to gain brand awareness by being disciplined and consistent in this approach for many years.”
Sweeney’s firm won the award for Best Law & Related Services Firm ($30-$50m revenue) in the 2022 Client Choice Awards – so it would appear to be doing something right. He adds that entering industry awards is a unique way for his firm to publicise brand quality and service through a third party that might be trusted more than direct business-to-client marketing.
The lawyers at Cooper Grace Ward also invest in business development by building their personal brands – for example, by joining industry committees that contribute to legal reform and thus becoming ambassadors for the firm. This enhances the reputation of each team member and by association, the firm’s brand.
Creating video content is one way to grab attention and get in front of customers via a new channel.
2. Leverage your networks
New South Lawyers is a firm based in Western Sydney founded in 2011 by two brothers – Toufic and George Bazouni – who wanted to give back to the community they grew up in. Their website sets out a strategy to deliver “exceptional services typically afforded by top-tier legal firms”.
So, how did two brothers manage to grow a brand that would win not one but three Client Choice Awards in 2022?
“In terms of practical strategies, it’s important to maintain a powerful network by attending industry events and contributing to professional publications, utilising the range of marketing platforms available to you,” says George Bazouni, Co-founder and Managing Director.
Bazouni says his firm chips away at business development using every possible network “from social media platforms to real life collaborations with other like-minded local and global brands”.
MinterEllisonRuddWatts, a law firm based in New Zealand that was previously known as Rudd Watts & Stone, has leveraged international networks to enhance its branding to a level where it won the 2022 Client Choice Award for Best Provider to Financial & Insurance Services. In 1984, the firm formed an association with the MinterEllison Legal Group and in 2001, it officially changed its name to reflect the partnership.
“Recognising the importance of local and international connections, our firm sought a commercial partnership with the MinterEllison Legal Group. This strategy has supported our international reach and market momentum,” explains Andrew Poole, Chief Executive of MinterEllisonRuddWatts.
3. Make sure your product is as good as the marketing
It’s all well and good splashing a fancy logo and social media videos all over the internet. Your brand’s reputation will never thrive if you don’t have the quality of service to back it up.
“Brand awareness is raised in reputation and stems from our deliverance of top-quality services,” Bazouni says. “At New South Lawyers, it starts with perfecting your practice and service offerings. It sounds a bit cliché but be the best at what you do. In our personal experience it encourages repeat clients, priceless word of mouth referrals and a reputation that can’t be bought.”
Tim Lane, the Chairman of Accru Group, agrees: “At the end of the day our brand is our people, and the group has always been committed to presenting the best people and outcomes to the market.”
Chairman and Director Greg Winnett (right) and the team at Accru Group – winners in the 2022 Client Choice Awards.