The road less travelled (First published on Law Society Gazette website)

Many firms make the mistake of following the crowd, adopting the marketing strategy of another firm and thinking it will work for them perfectly. In reality, one size does not fit all. It takes daring to break with the crowd and too easily firm's can be discouraged - but it is entirely possible to embrace experimenting with different forms of marketing. 

In an article written for the Law Society Gazette this month, Sue Bramall explains how firm's are successfully exploring new methods of marketing and the advantages such innovation can bring to a firm's brand. 

When my family and I were driving to Austria for a skiing holiday directly after Christmas, it seemed that most of Northern Europe was on the same German autoroute - and with the same objective in mind. Looking around, you could not help but admire the German loyalty to their automotive manufacturers as we sat motionless in a queue. Then as you looked out across the fields, you occasionally noticed a solitary car speeding across the snowy countryside on a road parallel to the autobahn.

It soon dawned on us that nearly all these travellers were following a GPS system that directed them onto the same autobahn, and into complete gridlock. Thirty minutes later, having purchased a low-tech road atlas, we were speeding along high quality regional roads and feeling rather pleased with our progress!

You may be wondering what on earth this has to do with law firm marketing, but it reminded me how often I see the "me too" approach, and how often it fails to deliver any competitive advantage (1,000 miles provides plenty of time to think).

Mishcon de Reya is a great example of a firm that has embraced a range of media connections and influences to build a very distinctive brand, even including its own jazz radio programme. Granted, many firms do not have comparable budgets or connections - but it is not always about money. Take this low budget example of innovation, when last year a head of conveyancing at a regional firm cast aside her fears to ride pillion on a motorbike around the county collecting money for the Blood Bikes charity.

A recent example of jumping on a fruitless bandwagon was when everyone and his dog seemed to be writing an article about the cookie regulations. This thrilling piece of legislation was seized with great enthusiasm, and yet I do not know any lawyers who got rich on cookie policies. I do know a number of website design agencies that benefited immensely - thanks to all the free publicity generated by the legal profession.

I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard "if firm A Is doing it, then we need to do this..." as justification for an unplanned initiative at firm B, which usually bears little direct relation to the adopted law firm marketing strategy. A few months later firm A discontinues their experiment, and firm B soon realises why.

But it takes daring to break with the crowd and it is easy to be discouraged. Sadly, there are too many internet trolls with time on their hands and nothing better to do than criticise anyone who is prepared to be even a little bit different.

I recently posted a comment on LinkedIn about a legal video that I particularly liked, as it had a fresh and original approach. Pretty soon a couple of naysayers popped up with some negative gripes, which seems to come with the territory nowadays.

Still, they are probably sitting on the autobahn wondering when the traffic will start to move. Meanwhile, if you have left the pack behind and taken the road less travelled who knows how far ahead you will get!

Happy New Year.

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