How Internal Core Values Create External Brand

Since its inception, Spotlight Branding has transformed from two guys in a spare bedroom in a Miami apartment to a team with hundreds of nationwide client-partnerships serving over 20 practice areas.

We’ve built the company up to a 7-figure business with an amazing office culture that truly makes it fun to be at work.

During this time, we’ve learned a thing or two about the importance of core values and how they’ve shaped our office culture. In fact, we’ve gone to great length to bring in outside resources to help define what makes our team so unique.

Through that process, we’ve managed to define our core values, set forth traditions and shape our attitudes which have had a direct impact on creating our external brand. In essence, this process has helped to shape what you see from the outside looking in. It’s not always been fun but the results speak for themselves.

So, let’s talk about core values and how they set the tone for what others think and say about your firm. We’re going to use two of Spotlight Branding’s internal core values as a case study.

One of our core values is to Communicate With Intention. We believe that clear, effective, and sensitive communication creates strong relationships and great results. This belief does not only define how we communicate internally but also influences how we communicate with our clients as well as our overall marketing message.

For example, consider the importance of the very first moment a potential client becomes aware of your services. What about the moment they begin to consider a purchase? What about the onboarding process, and moreover, retention? The customer journey is incredibly important and is guided by what we believe and live by as a company.

Another core value of ours is to Do It Better. In other words, we think strategically and work ambitiously to accomplish more than most and create the best possible outcomes. This is probably my favorite. We’re always pushing to do things better and find new ways for improvement. I can’t tell you how often we manage to find more minutes in the day than actually exist. Running an agency representing hundreds of firms across the nation is no small task. We are a well-oiled machine of efficiency. To Do It Better requires us to think outside the box and be willing to make difficult decisions that deliver results. We make every minute count which allows us to service our clients at the highest level.

Of course, there are others but these are two prime examples of internal core values directly impacting our external brand. Again, this isn’t just how we treat one another in an office setting or some unwritten rule. Rather, it’s in our company DNA. They’re understood, practiced and enforced. They’re constantly improving our decision-making process. They play a role in the recruitment of new team members, build our reputation and drive client retention. As Simon Sinek once said, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”  At the end of the day, our core values help us to set appropriate expectations and educate the world what Spotlight Branding is all about.

So, let’s dive a little deeper into how core values transfer into your external brand.

First, I think it’s important to understand the term “brand”. I’m often asked, “Cody, what is a brand”? And I always respond with “It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. A very successful advertiser, David Ogilvy, defined a brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes”. In my professional opinion, a brand is an individual’s perception defined through their interaction with your company. More importantly, it’s what differentiates you from your competition; therefore giving you the competitive advantage for a sustainable business.  

Now, because I think it’s important, let me make a contrast between “brand” and “branding”. The latter term describes the tools used to help define a brand. For example, a logo is not a brand. Your newsletter is not a brand. Your website is not a brand. Your Facebook profile is not a brand. Those are simply tools used to help define and shape people’s perception of what your brand is all about.

In today’s competitive legal landscape, having a set of specific core values that differentiate your firm is your competitive advantage. This, my legal friend, is how you take control over people’s perception and step into the driver’s seat of your brand’s identity. It’s not an easy task but establishing a set of shared values will help to push your business forward.

“Firms that live their values will treat clients well, develop lasting relationships and keep them coming back. In a law firm, as in any business, client loyalty drives profitability and growth. Likewise, lawyers and staff will be attracted and loyal to a firm that invests in building strong relationships built on truth, fairness, and justice. If people in a firm trust one another and know they can count on each other, then cooperation and teamwork become easier and the cost of doing business less. Clients will notice the difference as well.” -Eric Seeger, Principal, Altman Weil Inc.

When your brand identity is at its strongest and most profitable, it will be a direct result from the right leadership, improved decisions, stronger relationships, and better communication all dictated by your core values.

In closing, I’d like to share some final thoughts and provide you with some actionable advice. Over the years, we’ve interacted with thousands of lawyers. Literally, I mean thousands. And there’s a common theme that has emerged over the years.

Most small law firms have a list of generic core values like integrity, accountability, and excellence. While admirable, they’re simply not enough. I can’t name a single law firm who wouldn’t consider themselves to be all the above. It’s the equivalent of a bank saying that they’re fiscally responsible. The average person certainly would expect a bank to be fiscally responsible just like they would expect law firms to be extremely good at what they do.

So, go the extra mile and dig deep into what makes your firm unique. Ask yourself and answer these questions…

What are your company core values? What are they important? How do they separate you from the competition? Do they help govern and improve your decision-making process? How does your brand make people feel? Why is that feeling so important to them?

Take some time to study other brands and remember that the best brands are tied to an emotion.

If you’d like to learn more about how we help solo & small law firms grow their practice, schedule your FREE consultation with one of our Brand Strategists.

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Cody Lannom

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