Small Firm Marketing: Four Legal Trends You Can Work to Your Advantage

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Today's is a tough economy--no doubt about it. This has meant that value for money, even for some of the biggest companies, is now a key consideration in choosing which law firm to represent a business's interests. It is no longer the case that corporate clients automatically rely solely on large, brand-name firms for all their legal needs.

For smaller firms, the economic downturn has actually created opportunities Lower costs, specialist expertise, a lack of potential conflict and a more personal touch are making small firms more attractive to many clients Add to that the growing trends of manufacturing reshoring, big firm flight and unbundling, and there are now a host of opportunities for small firms to take some market share from the big guys. As New York State Bar Association President Stephen Younger recently told Crain's: "With some of the big firms, it's harder to be creative in billing with clients... And with today's technology, you don't have to be in a big firm environment to have the manpower to drive a big case. A smaller boutique can compete." (1)

But no one will find these firms if they aren't successfully marketing themselves. So how do you ensure your firm is ready to grasp the brass ring, particularly when your own budget is a factor?

Start with Your Brand: What Defines You?

A small budget does not have to mean small reach A creative brand driven by the firm's business goals and an eye-catching and organized website, combined with an integrated approach online and offline, can make your firm stand out, even in the shadow of the mega firms with gargantuan marketing budgets. Greenfield Belser's research has demonstrated that buyers of legal services are shopping for demonstrated expertise, and it doesn't require a large budget to prove that. Specifically, the things they look for are expertise (do you have deep knowledge of particular industries?); cost/best value; reputation; and innovative approaches to problem solving

But your brand--your unique identity and promise of value --must convey your expertise. Visitors to your website will form an impression within half a second, according to our research. So ask yourself, what does your firm do, and then what does it do best? For example, do you specialize in certain industries? Do you have specific regional/local knowledge? Our research also shows that when people look for services, it is predominantly an intellectual exercise. But when people finally choose a service, it is predominantly an emotional exercise Your brand strategy needs to tell clients about your offerings in a way that is memorable and sustainable, yet appeals to the emotional side of the buying decision. And don't forget, the most powerful campaigns interweave both online and offline marketing strategies.

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Unbundled Litigation: Make Your Firm the Obvious Choice

One area in which small firms stand to gain significant business is the growing practice of "unbundling" litigation Unbundling essentially means breaking up a case and then using different firms to handle its various aspects. As one observer puts it: "Rather than relying on one firm and paying for a package of legal needs, clients are turning to different firms, and in some cases to legal support businesses, for different tasks." (2) This gives smaller, leaner firms a distinct advantage as a specialized and economical alternative. Without the luxury of a big team to rely on, smaller firms tend to employ cost-effective technologies and expert knowledge to get the job done more efficiently.

Unbundling presents a great opportunity to position your firm as a specialist. What special services/knowledge can your firm offer? What do you want to be known for? Use this to inform your search strategy for search engine optimization (SEO) Take advantage of your blog to write posts to show off your expertise and incorporate keywords into your content. …