A law firm's market position is pivotal to its commercial success. Aim too high and you may fall victim to better suited competitors, not to mention waste a wad of marketing cash and potentially burn highly valuable client relationships in the process. Aim too low and you may end up with work at fee levels you really don't want.
So, how do you identify, capture and maintain the right market position for your firm? Let me start by answering how to identify the right market position.
I like the definition used by David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, who describes market position as 'what a product does and who it's for.' You need to be totally honest with yourselves. With the greatest of respect, a small regional firm in Cumbria is never going to fish in the same pond as the Magic Circle firms in the City of London. However, that doesn't mean that the former cannot enjoy the same levels of relative success as the latter in its market, if it positions itself correctly.
In broad terms, the positioning options open to a law firm breaks down into location, specialism and price.
- Location. Are you looking to attain an international, national, or local position? Do you have one office or a network of offices covering your region or your clients'/prospects' key geographies? Is your location essential or coincidental to your primary target groups?
- Specialism. Are you looking to carve out a market-leading position within a specific sector or practice area? Do you want to be seen as a credible alternative to the recognised leaders associated with your specialisms?
- Price. Will your clients bear premium pricing or do your services need to be affordable or somewhere in between? Are you looking to be recognised as a reasonably priced firm that offers added value? Or a firm that offers capped pricing by utilising technology or innovative delivery methods?
Based on these answers, you can start to look at where to position your firm within the legal industry. Again, there are three key areas:
- Top tier
Attributes: Premium pricing, instant market recognition, established reputation, recognised specialism, premium location
Profile: Larger firms with dominant market positions, instantly recognisable as high quality specialists in certain areas and with the budget to keep evolving to stay one step ahead of the competition
- Middle ground
Attributes: Realistic or acceptable fees, known for providing value for money, high service levels, some specialism, market recognition in the geography or chosen sectors
Profile: Firms who display the same behaviours and inspire the same loyalty as market leading firms, but on a regional, single-city or sector basis
- The everyday/everyman option
Attributes: Affordable, accessible location, acceptable service levels, a team of good 'GPs', who have established a local following
Profile: Small or medium-sized regional firms that trade on local reputation and local links
And you will notice that I have purposefully stayed away from high/medium/low or gold/silver/bronze or any other labelling sequence that could suggest one is better than the other. The best option is the one that suits you best and is therefore the most attainable.
Once you have determined which level of the market to position yourself, you can start making serious marketing choices in terms of solidifying messaging, and offering a range of services to establish a consistent client value proposition across all marketing channels. You can also make decisions about how you could use technology, new marketing channels and new locations; and offer more innovative fee arrangements.
Best of all, you'll know who you are, who your clients are and what they'll respond to, so every effort you make to promote yourself will realise a significantly higher return.
This is the second blog in this three-part series.