What if Mercedes-Benz were to launch a Family Law Division? Why you need to look at your firm like a business owner and consider the power of branding and marketing.
By Dan Couvrette, Marketing Consultant
The Impact of Marketing and Branding
In the U.S. only lawyers are allowed to have an ownership interest in, or be managers of a law firm. The United Kingdom had a similar rule barring non-lawyer ownership, but in recent years firms have been able to take a limited number of non-lawyer partners. The reasons behind this rule is a topic for a separate discussion, and one we won’t get into here. Rather, for the sake of argument, I am interested in approaching this as a hypothetical to have you thinking about your firm like a business owner. What if non-lawyer ownership of firms was allowed in the U.S.? What if Mercedes-Benz could launch a Family Law Division?
You might say to yourself: How would Mercedes-Benz compete with me? They know cars, not the law. The truth is that it is not as far-fetched a concept as you may think.
Ikea Wind Farms and Google Health
Many known brands have leveraged their brand loyalty and branched outside of their “core” business. They know they can command almost instant interest and market shares, despite the industry already being filled with well-established brands.
For example, Ikea, one of the world’s biggest furniture retailers, has economy hotels and restaurants in Sweden and is partnering with the Marriott Hotel to create another 150 hotels in Europe. Ikea has also partnered with a Swedish construction giant to build affordable homes. It doesn’t stop there. In 2012, Ikea launched its own beer, and in November of this year added Canada to its list of countries where they own wind farms. Ikea also partnered with SBAB to create the bank, Ikano, which operates in 10 countries. Carl-Viggo Ostlund, CEO of SBAB, has said, “Where we can make a real difference is on the customer experience…”
Google is another example. It now offers online productivity software that competes with Microsoft Office’s email, Word, and Excel. Google also has its own social networking (Google+), its Android mobile operating system, Nexus smartphones and tablets, and Google Glass. In September, Google established Calico, a biotech company that focuses on aging and associated diseases. Larry Page, one of Google’s founders has said, “There’s tremendous potential for technology, more generally to improve people’s lives. So don’t be surprised if we invest in projects that seem strange or speculative.”
What Mercedes-Benz Family Law Division Could Offer
Mercedes-Benz has invested heavily not just in engineering, but also in marketing. Whether you own a Mercedes-Benz or not, you likely “know” the brand means luxury, innovation, reliability, quality product and service. Were Mercedes-Benz to open up a Family Law Division, this same brand quality would likely be a given in the eyes of those seeking a lawyer for their divorce.
By simply extending some of the services it currently offers its automobile customers to family law clients, Mercedes-Benz would reinforce its reputation and provide solid reasons to be the law firm of choice. For example:
Financing – Extend credit to clients over 60 months at 1% annual interest rate. After all, legal fees for a divorce can cost more than a Mercedes.
eBills – Clients could pay 24/7 online, by phone, or automatic monthly withdrawal.
An App – To monitor the progress, manage payments and contact the lawyer.
Insurance – Mercedes-Benz could also take care of insurance for spousal and child payments.
Express Service – Clients could drop in with no appointments and are guaranteed they will not wait for more than 15 minutes to see a lawyer about their case.
Hotel Upgrade – For clients who need to move out of their matrimonial home in a hurry.
How Mercedes-Benz Would Market its Family Law Division
If Mercedes-Benz wanted to, they could have a network of law offices through their dealerships, giving them national prominence fairly quickly. They have 11 million fans on their Facebook page and a huge budget for print, radio, TV and online marketing. Unlike a lot of “highly qualified” family law firms, Mercedes-Benz is likely not going to be shy about advertising their family law division and its lawyers. By the way, I don’t think they will have issues recruiting good lawyers who want to focus on lawyering without the need to worry about bringing in the business or billing their clients.
Mercedes-Benz knows that a Mercedes is an emotional purchase, not just a need. They have mastered the ability to provide an experience for would-be owners of their product. One of their print advertisements has this headline: “If you don’t enjoy your money, your ex-wife will. The ultra-luxurious S-Class. Spoil yourself.” Hiring a family lawyer for a divorce or any other family law matter is making an emotional purchase at a highly emotional time. You can count on marketing-savvy companies such as Mercedes-Benz to know how to create the experience these prospective clients can relate to.
How Would Your Law Practice Compare to Mercedes-Benz?
More and more people are researching online to find family lawyers. If you were to ask individuals from a city what comes to mind when you name your law firm, or for that matter, one that has been around for 30 years, it’s likely there would be little to no recognition of either name, service level or reputation.
Isn’t it ironic that a divorcing person could potentially have a clear expectation of a firm that does not exist such as Mercedes-Benz Family Law LLP, and no idea about what a firm that has been around for 30 years? This is the power of branding and marketing.
A Paradigm Shift: Embrace Marketing
Your firm will not become a household name overnight, but it could, and you do have to begin somewhere. For most family law practices, the first step is to have a paradigm shift in how they perceive the business of family law. You are not just practicing law; you are running a business, and this business needs to be marketed. Appropriate and strategic marketing can build trust and position your firm as one that’s associated with quality. Once you have made this shift, you will then want to do the following:
Define Your Business Goals – The first step to defining your market and brand is to create clear business goals, a clear mission statement, a clear set of procedures, policies and strategies.
Define Your Brand – Think of ways to differentiate your firm from other family law practices. Who are your preferred clients? What benefits can you offer them? What else could you do for your clients that would ensure they have the best experience possible? What are your main marketing messages?
Craft Your Marketing Plan – You could do this with a website; social media; a blog, advertising; getting your expert opinions and articles published through podcasts, videos and publications; keeping top of mind with your referral sources, and garnering testimonials and industry designations.
Craft Your Reputation, Online and Offline – It is probably easier to manage your reputation offline than it is online. You are your search results. Make sure you Google your name regularly to see what others see, and take action if you cannot be found easily or if your reputation is tarnished.
Find Powerful Partners/Affiliates to Create/Enhance Your Brand – Think of who can enhance your reputation as an authority in family law, or hire a marketing agency to help you do that.
Dan Couvrette is a marketing expert to family lawyers and divorce professionals, and the CEO of Divorce Marketing Group. He is the co-host of a monthly marketing teleseminar for family lawyers and the founder and publisher of Family Lawyer Magazine and Divorce Magazine.