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November 20, 2006

'Branding' Campaign Can Benefit Solos Too

Connecticut Law Tribune/Law.com - July 10, 2006

'Branding' Campaign Can Benefit Solos Too

"Branding" is creating name recognition through a carefully crafted plan of integrated marketing.  That's quite a mouthful.  But what does it really mean?

It's not unlike the brand on the behind of a cow.  A fellow rancher or townsperson sees the "OK" on the backside of the cow and knows it belongs to the "OK Corral."  But more importantly, when they see the "OK" brand, are they making the association that the cow represents quality beef or mad cow disease?  In a nutshell, that is the importance of branding.

In order to be heard in this age of never-ending advertising, your voice has to mean something to its intended audience.  And your voice has to speak consistently year after year in your chosen mediums.  It then has to be backed up with quality.  This is how reputations are built or destroyed.

The key to quality branding is staying true to who you are and your vision of where you want to be 20 or 30 years down the road, both professionally and personally.  If you fail to determine your vision first and simply follow the pack with a "one-size-fits-all" marketing plan, you will remain an indistinguishable part of the herd.

How do you distinguish yourself? If you've been following my column this past year, you know that just by being who you are already distinguishes you from the solo down the street and the larger firm on the hill because you are a unique product.  Your "branding" will naturally flow from determining the characteristics that set you apart and amplifying these traits through various mediums.  And the characteristics are not just the curl in your hair.  They have everything to do with community ties, ethnicity, religious affiliations, non-legal endeavors, education and previous work history.  Once you combine your vision for your professional and personal future with your "characteristics," the best media for you will become clearer, and the message you will deliver more succinct.

Hypothetically, Joyce wants to go back to her hometown.  Her parents had a bakery there for 35 years.  Everyone remembers Joyce as a pig-tailed 5-year old who climbed on the stool behind the counter to help her father butter the rolls.  "Gee, Joyce, you're such a hard worker," they would smile.

Everyone also remembers it was her parents who brought the best tasting brownies for all the school bake sales and only charged a quarter.  They sold coffee with real cream at the high school football games and had a kiosk selling baked goods at the local country fair where Joyce would work tirelessly.  And Joyce was always the first to volunteer to raise funds for local charities.

Now Joyce wants to raise her family and open her law practice in town.  Her parents are still alive and still run the bakery.  Joyce wants to concentrate in elder care law, wills, trusts and estates, and family dissolutions.  Her personal history  and vision for her future will establish the foundation for her "branding."  The "tag" she creates for her letterhead, business card, e-mail signature, web site design and advertisement in the local penny saver will reflect her history and vision of her personal and professional future.

How she reconnects will match her personality and the habits of her potential client base.  The legal practice she builds from there for decades to come, all future expansion into other communities and areas of law, will be predicated on the strength of these solid footings.

For every single one of the one million lawyers in the United States, there is a unique "branding" campaign that will allow those who choose to go solo or join a small firm the opportunity to combine their personal and professional visions in a seamless "branding" package.  If [solos] are successful in branding, they will not be able to separate where their personal life ends and their working life begins.  They are the product 24/7.  Every day, every person they meet is a potential client.

This is the epitome of successful "branding" for the solo or small firm lawyer and an integral element of a professional career.

Susan Cartier-Liebel is solo practitioner, adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law and a business consultant for solo and small firms. She can be reached at SCartier_Liebel@comcast.net. Copyright © Susan Cartier-Liebel (2006) All Rights Reserved. No portion of this material may be copied, transmitted, posted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of Susan Cartier-Liebel.


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