How to Make Money with Your Brand, Part One

Last week we talked about why your brand matters as a lawyer. “Branding” is such an overused and nebulous term so I attempted to demystify it and show you how it’s relevant to your practice. If you didn’t read that article, I recommend you do so before you finish this one because the concepts build on each other.

It’s important to understand that everyone has a brand. It’s not optional. Last week I gave you a simple working definition: your brand is How you are perceived by the outside world. So unless you’ve managed to go through your entire life without making anyone aware of your existence… you’ve built a brand. The question is: what is your brand – and is it helping you make money?

A brand that positions you as the go-to expert in your niche will make you more profitable. This happens because when you’re perceived as the expert, clients seek you out rather than the other way around. You have the ability to charge higher rates because you’ve flipped the supply-demand equation in your favor. (When you’re a “generalist,” just one of many interchangeable lawyers, potential clients have options – there’s an endless supply. If you become THE go-to guy or gal – now you’ve restricted supply because there’s only one of you. You’ll have clients seeking you out, and Economics 101 means that you can charge premium rates.)

So let’s talk about how to get there.

Step One is assessing your brand as it presently exists. You probably have some ideas, but it’s very difficult to be objective about yourself. So the way to accomplish this is to ask other people who know you well. Compose an email and ask the following:

  • What words come to mind when you think about me?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What makes me unique?
  • If you had to describe me to someone in one sentence, what would it be?

Send this email to trusted friends, colleagues, and clients. It’s uncomfortable, I get it, because none of us like to feel vulnerable. But if you explain that you’re looking for honest feedback because you’re trying to build on your strengths to provide even better service to your clients, most people will be happy to oblige you. And the responses might surprise you. Often, you’ll discover strengths and positive traits about yourself that you didn’t know existed.

Step Two is defining your goal. What does your “ideal” brand look like? How do you want to be perceived? This requires strategic thought. Remember, the more focused your brand is, the more success you’ll have at positioning yourself as the best at what you do. Questions to consider are:

  • What kind of work do I enjoy doing? Your brand has to be authentic – don’t chase the dollar signs, because even if you can fake it for a time, sooner or later you’re going to burn out if you hate your work.
  • Where is there an underserved market or an unmet need? This requires some market research, and it’s important to be realistic. If there are already established competitors who have built premium brands for themselves in the niche you’re considering, it’s important to be honest with yourself and understand that you’re going to have an uphill battle at first. In this case, you need a strategy to differentiate yourself from those competitors.
  • What are the traits and attributes that this market values? What are potential clients in your chosen niche looking for in a lawyer? Convenience? Flexibility? Stability? Innovation? Concierge-level client service? Efficiency?
  • How can I leverage my unique strengths and abilities to serve this market well?

Again, this isn’t a five minute exercise – it takes time and strategic thought. But answer these three questions and you’ll have a rough sketch of the brand you want to build. You’ve identified an area of focus that you’re passionate about, that has an unmet need (or at least, a need that you can meet differently), and you have an idea of how to structure your brand to appeal to this market.

Next week we’ll dive into the mechanics of moving from Point A (your brand as it exists today) to Point B (your ideal brand.) Stay tuned!


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Daniel Decker

Daniel Decker is a co-founder and Partner at Spotlight Branding. In addition to helping lawyers stand out from the crowd, he spends his time writing, dreaming up new marketing strategies, and coming up with catchy subject lines. In his spare time, Daniel enjoys playing sports, guitar, politics, and Minnesota sports.