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How to celebrate your USPs…

…the ABC of doing show and tell the right way

When trying to create marketing content with real impact, no law firm deliberately sets out to serve up a yawn-fest to existing and potential clients with copy that makes readers’ eyes glaze over and their mind wander.

And yet so many firms end up doing just that by falling into the trap of trumpeting on their website and other marketing literature that they are “different”, without actually ever clearly demonstrating why or how.

The problem is this: asserting difference without backing it up is not only boring and clichéd, but also fails to do the job of making your firm stand out in a crowded marketplace. And, worst of all, it’s an injustice to all the hard work being done by everyone at your firm – which you should be shouting about from the rooftops!

It’s important not to be sloppy, lazy or hackneyed when talking about your firm’s USPs. The standard approach taken by far too many firms of merely asserting their uniqueness simply isn’t fit for purpose, in the sense that it doesn’t actually attract business: it doesn’t differentiate the firm and it doesn’t leave potential clients with a memorable phrase or thought or feeling they can act on. It’s called ‘show and tell’, and not merely ‘tell’, for a reason.

Let’s look at it this way: it’s like a job advert talking about an “exciting opportunity” without ever really making clear what’s exciting about the role being advertised. Yet if recruiters bother explaining all the cool and amazing things the job entails, the doors it will open, the tangible opportunities it will provide – well, then potential candidates will indeed get excited about the job and apply in their droves.

And so it goes with good law-firm marketing. Demonstrating the differences between you and the competition, being able to explain how those differences benefit your clients, your people, your community: now that’s truly different.

Here’s how to do it:

Identify your USP

Before you can explain why your firm is different to others, you need to know this yourself. Ask yourself these questions: how do you serve clients differently? How do you work differently in specific sectors or jurisdictions? What do your clients say about you that they wouldn’t say of any other firm?

This shouldn’t be a laundry list of all the different sectors you cover, or paragraphs of empty phrases jam-packed with buzzwords. Instead, you should highlight and unpack any of the following, as they apply to your firm:

  • Genuine sector expertise and a proven track record;
  • That you know when to pay attention in one jurisdiction, which actually sets the bar for compliance for all other jurisdictions, and that you will thereby prevent your clients from being caught offside later on;
  • That you serve as special advisor – as ‘consiglieri’, if you like – to your clients and are their first port of call in a crisis, when transacting any new business, when a case needs handling, or when they want to bounce ideas off you;
  • That you can act at speed as well as take the time to reach a considered opinion, and know when either is appropriate to the respective situation.

More questions: Do you use technology in innovative and interesting ways? If so, how does this benefit the client? Do you use a subscription model appropriate for a tech-startup? If yes, how does this leave the client better off? Provide real, tangible and actionable examples.

Essentially, you need to demonstrate the thing or things that will compel people to reach out to you – what is it about you and your services that will make potential clients sit up and say, “hey, that is different, I need to talk to these people instead of those other schmos down the road”?

Don’t be afraid of telling people what you need to tell them

What do I mean by this? While it’s fine (and indeed essential) to talk about features, you should also talk about the benefits, the outcome for the client. What will be life-changing for them? How will working with you for the first time be a watershed moment in their lives, something transformative that means they will never go back to another law firm?

You should create a B.C. and A.D. kind of scenario for potential clients – how their time in the wilderness (to mix religious metaphors) before they knew of you is soon to be over, replaced with a life spent in the sunny uplands once they have brought you on board and entrusted you with their matters.

While this may sound a wee bit bombastic, highfalutin, pretentious even, it can be done in subtle and nuanced ways. And the stark truth is that nothing else but this bold and confident approach will do – because the self-belief and moxie it encapsulates is also what it takes to actually stand out and be counted in this business.

Use language to your advantage

Another way you can demonstrate difference is through the language you use. One of your USPs might be to ditch jargon in order to call a spade a spade – or a divorce a divorce, and a death a death. There is no harm in being a straight-talking law firm that doesn’t sugar-coat things.

For example, you might say to your clients, “In legal documents, we’ll talk a certain way and use these words because we are obligated to, as there are rules governing what those words mean. But we promise never to use them when we speak to you, because they are meaningless, euphemistic and patronising when uttered outside of the formal legal context. Visit our website and you will find that our pages exist for you in plain English. That’s who we are – we are accessible and speak your language.” You’d be surprised by how welcome a bit of plain speaking can be.

In a similar vein, consider ditching the acronyms and techy language to stand out positively. Or at least cut your verbal cloth according to your audience. For example, if you are leaning towards an international audience, then keep things simple. But if, say, you are trying to appeal to clients in the financial regulation sector – i.e. banks and financial institutions – then you might well choose to serve up acronym soup to convince them of your bona fides: “We know our FCA from our PCA; we know that there’s no return to the FSA. We know who sits on the board of the BOE and where and when they meet.” And so on.

Or you can go down the opposite route with a tongue-in-cheek approach to demonstrate your confidence: “You won’t have to teach us our TLAs (Three-Letter Acronyms)”. You don’t always have to be deadly serious to get your point of difference across. As I hope I have amply demonstrated here.

Final thoughts

If you believe your firm could up its marketing game, and you feel inspired by some of my ideas and suggestions outlined above, then please don’t hesitate in pushing the ‘go’ button on a branding refresh.

It will help you understand your own business better, highlight your crucial points of difference to potential clients and thereby inspire them to forge lasting relationships with you.

And if you need help with any of it, just give me and the TBD team a shout.

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Deals or no deals?

According to International, the spate of multibillion-dollar M&A deals reported by some of the world’s top firms by revenue in recent weeks spells a welcome change following a very turgid 2023, but warns that this might just be a blip rather than an enduring trend, and that there may be more challenging times ahead in a “highly regulated world, filled with economic instability and geopolitical tensions”.

DLA Piper helps female returners

Last week, The Law Gazette announced the welcome news that DLA Piper has added its name to the ranks of law firms signing up to a ‘returner’ scheme designed to help female lawyers in particular to return to practice following a long absence.

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