Magazine article Strategies: The Journal of Legal Marketing

One Size Does Not Fit All: Creating and Implementing a Winning International Marketing Strategy

Magazine article Strategies: The Journal of Legal Marketing

One Size Does Not Fit All: Creating and Implementing a Winning International Marketing Strategy

Article excerpt

The legal landscape has changed significantly since 1879, when Coudert Brothers opened the first-ever overseas office of a law firm. What has become clear since then is the expansive list of issues that law firm leadership must take into account when producing and implementing a winning international strategic marketing and business development plan. For this issue of Strategies, we have selected the issues we deem most important:

1. Brand: Protect it while embracing a new culture.

In the words of Martin Lindstrom, the author of Clicks, Bricks & Brands, "A global brand-building strategy is, in reality, a local plan for every market." Our industry is not the only one to have to worry about aligning its global strategy with local markets. It is however, one of the few to resist doing so. This reality affects the way in which marketing teams must respond. Marketers are expected to adapt their plans and actions to local markets and different types of clients across the globe--sometimes with little or no direction and resources. Unfortunately, the inevitable result is a gradual dilution of brand and market share. If this sounds familiar, you owe it to the future of your firm to ask yourself and your leadership the following questions:

* Do we operate as one firm or many firms under one global name?

* Have we mastered the art of working seamlessly across jurisdictions?

* Are our values reflected uniformly across jurisdictions?

* Do clients know and understand our international reach? Are we maximizing our capabilities?

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2. Tailored marketing: A One-to-One approach to global marketing. It's not only foolhardy but wrongheaded to reinvent the wheel in every jurisdiction. What we do suggest is that you understand your local needs (culture, ethics, business) and marry them to both your global strategy and your clients' needs. For example:

* Be mindful of local marketing and sales practices. The limitations could be legal or ethical, or both, and could also be industry-focused. Local and regional restrictions and parameters must be applied on a day-to-day basis. In some jurisdictions, marketers must refrain from mentioning dealings with public sector entities. How does this affect credentials or submission to directories?

* Be aware of cultural issues. Concepts such as meeting expectations, ethical standards or diversity mean different things in different jurisdictions. Should the relationship partner be a member of a minority, a woman, a lawyer from the home office or a local? Some cultures are more receptive to the visitor than the local; in some cases, the opposite is true.

* Pay attention to local etiquette and protocol. Age, level of education, gender, dining etiquette...all of these can make a difference when marketing abroad. Do not assume and do not underestimate.

* Understand the existing differences between your client on the ground and in their home office: When dealing with global accounts, do not assume that one-size-fits-all. Sometimes differences in style and ways of doing business are very different within our clients' businesses.

In overcoming the knowledge gap, make use of tools that will enable you to understand the nuances that make up the world you've entered. These are the elements that characterize international legal marketing:

* Secondments: Secondments should not be limited to lawyers. Marketing and BD personnel should also enjoy the benefits. Promote inter-office secondments because they promote stronger ties within the team, a better understanding of how each jurisdiction works and, from a talent perspective, enhance training. It can only make your department stronger.

* Conferences/Networks: Encourage your team to attend international conferences and to participate in international networks. …

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