Welcome to Episode 6 of The Josh Gerben Show. This is the show where we talk about the business side of law. I’m a huge believer that if attorneys spent a little bit more time thinking about the business side of our profession and a little less time thinking about how many hours they’re billing on a daily basis, we would all have much more fulfilled legal careers.
Today’s episode is all about personal brands. Personal brands have become a huge thing in the last 10 or 15 years, especially in the business world. And this is because individuals with a personal brand tend to be able to sell a lot of products or services.
If everybody hears somebody’s name and says, “Oh, that’s the person for this, or that’s the person associated with that product,” it’s a great way to sell products or services. In the legal industry, the vast majority of clients are going to hire a lawyer because of who that lawyer is, not because of necessarily the firm. You know, sometimes the firm has a prestige in this side or the other. But most of the time, clients will decide to hire a lawyer because of who that person is, the experience that lawyer has, or the sales pitches that the lawyer has given the prospective client over their particular matter.
In my experience, attorneys have chosen to work with our firm, and particularly me, over the years because when I get on the phone to talk to a client, I can immediately understand their business because I came from a business background. I can empathize with what they’re trying to do with their brand. I can lay out not only a legal strategy but mix in a few business tidbits along the way. I’ve become a very trusted partner over another trademark attorneys who just formulaically go through what they would need to do to maybe obtain a trademark registration or defend a particular case. Having the ability to have people come to me because of who I am and then spread the word that I am the guy for trademarks has been invaluable for my business.
I think that if every lawyer out there would focus on their personal brand, it would be a lot easier for attorneys to do business development. I think we’ve all heard the word business development, whether you’re in a big firm, small firm, or running your own shop, obtaining new clients and having a constant stream of new clients is probably the single toughest thing that attorneys have to do from the business side of things.
The reason for that is we’re not ever taught as formal salesmen or saleswomen. We’re just taught that if you practice law and you make a name for yourself, then maybe clients will come and seek you out. But in today’s world, that’s not enough. It is a hyper-competitive marketplace. You need to stand out from the crowd, and the way you stand out from the crowd is by developing a personal brand.
What Is Your Personal Brand As an Attorney?
So, what’s a personal brand? You hear the word thrown around a lot, and I think the first thing we need to do is define it, right? All good lawyers want a good definition for a word they may not fully understand. Here’s how I think about personal brands and what they are. I think you have to think about yourself, and you have to put yourself in packaging, like you were product packaging on a shelf at a store.
So, if I was on the shelf at a store, I would be in a big box that had a big circle all around the front, right, because I’m a trademark attorney. And that would be the first thing that people thought of when they saw me was that I’m a trademark attorney. But, we need to have more than just that. We need to be more than just the trademark attorney. You need to think about why people would want to hire you as their trademark attorney, or as their criminal defense lawyer, or as their corporate counsel, etc. Why would they want to hire you?
Now, we go over to the side of the box and put the experience that I have. So, over 5,000 trademarks registered for clients in the last decade, over 500 cases settled without the need for federal litigation.
Then, we flip around to the other side of the box, and it would have testimonials of all the clients that I’ve worked with over the years talking about how trusted of a partner I have been for them, how I’ve guided them through a difficult situation, or I’ve shown them something that has saved them tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Finally, on the last panel of the box, it would talk about our flat fee structure, and how we have very reasonable cost to the high level of service that we provide as a law firm.
When someone looked at the entire package, they would see I’m not only a trademark attorney. They would see I’m one of the most experienced trademark attorneys in the country. They would see I have got exceptional reviews from my clients, and they would see I’ve developed all this and done all this at reasonable flat rates. That’s my personal brand. And, that’s how you have to think about defining yours.
So, put yourself in a package. What’s going to be on the front? What’ll be on the sides? What’ll be on the back? Just think about what people should see when they pick up the package that is you. And that’s how we define your personal brand.
Four Reasons Every Attorney Should Develop a Personal Brand
Now that I’ve convinced you that perhaps personal branding is a good idea, I want to go through four reasons that I think every attorney should think about and create a personal brand.
- The first is that we are in a highly competitive market space for legal services. I am sure that you are aware that if anybody wants to hire an attorney for a particular thing, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of options. There are tons of trademark attorneys online hawking their services. So, why is someone going to choose me over the next guy? Typically, because of who I am, my reputation, and all the things we just went through. So, ensuring that you can cut through all that clutter is extremely important, and that’s one thing a personal brand would develop.
- The second is that niche practices tend to cut through the clutter a lot better than just a general practitioner. So, keep in mind, a personal brand means that you have a niche practice. It doesn’t mean you can’t do other things, it just means you do have a niche practice that you know really well and that you’re spending a lot of time and effort putting out there and getting known for. Having that niche lets you cut through a lot of the other clutter from people that may say, “Oh, I’m a family lawyer, and a corporate attorney, and all the wills, and the trust, and estates.” No, you’re one type of lawyer, right? That’s very important for a personal brand, and it helps you cut through some of that clutter.
- The third reason you should consider a personal brand is because it helps you focus your marketing efforts and your dollars where they need to go. If you have a law firm, and the law firm offers a variety of different services and practice areas, it is difficult to decide where you are going to spend your time and money on marketing your practice. If you have a narrow niche personal brand that you’re trying to build, it’s going to let you really focus in on that. It’s also going to say, “Hey, if I have this amount of money to spend on marketing and advertising, this is where it should go.” So, it really creates a hyper-focus for an individual attorney or even a small law firm to be able to come up with these personal brands and focus marketing efforts and dollars.
- The last reason personal brands are so important is because they assist with client retention. So, a lot of what we’ve talked about so far has been about how to acquire new clients, but what we haven’t talked about is that the cost of acquisition of a client is incredibly high, whereas the ability to retain a client and have a high lifetime value for that client is perhaps the most important thing. If you have a strong personal brand, your existing clients are going to know they’re with the best. They’re not going to be looking over, looking around, trying to find a better deal, trying to find a better lawyer. If your clients know that they’re with the best, they’re just simply not going to leave you.
And that is incredibly important in any relationship with any client. There’s always going to be ups and downs, right? You may have a case where things don’t go the way you want them to go. That’s just a part of practicing law. But if you have a strong personal brand, it helps your client know that they probably still got the best advice possible at a really good rate, even though things didn’t work out completely in their favor, and they’ll trust you again the next time. So, that is one of the biggest, biggest things that I think is overlooked in personal branding, but client retention is right up there with just being able to get new clients.
How to Develop Your Personal Brand as an Attorney
Now that we’ve covered what personal branding is and why it’s important, let’s talk about how you can actually execute on this. Creating a personal brand is not easy. It is not going to happen in six months, and it’s something you’re going to have to have a ton of patience for and put a ton of work into before you even see the first client come in the door. So, to execute on your personal brand, there are three things you really need to do and do well.
- Create Content
The first step in developing your brand is to create content. There are a few main ways that you can provide content for potential and existing clients.
I know this is going to seem so ‘2010,’ but you need to create a blog. You have to start somewhere. This is the easiest place to start. It’s the easiest because it doesn’t require getting the production capabilities of putting video together or a podcast together. All it requires is you putting pen to paper. As lawyers, we tend to be pretty good at that.So, start with a blog. You need to do at least one a week. You need to carve out an hour or two to write about something in your industry once a week. When you’re starting the blog, I would start it with basic content. I wouldn’t worry about the latest case in the news or whatever. You need to walk people through things from stage 1 through stage 20 in your area of law. This is what I mean. As a trademark attorney, I think certain things are incredibly obvious in a trademark application, but most people that are thinking about trademarks may not know all the reasons that a federal trademark registration could be helpful to them. By simply writing a blog about the top three reasons you should register your trademark, I’ve now put information out there that, to me, is incredibly obvious, but to most people is not. So, start somewhere very simple. You know so much more than anybody that does not practice law in your industry. You need to go all the way back to the very basics and start writing about it. Again, if you could do two posts a week, that would be great.
Now, once you get to a certain point and you have a certain amount of content, the next thing I would suggest is you try to do things that would be easier to digest for potential clients. Video is a great place to go. Video is, no doubt, the king of the content world, but it’s also the hardest to do well. I can personally tell you that. I had to build a studio just to do the video shown above and make it look nice. It costs thousands of dollars. It requires a ton of my time to get ready to be here in front of that camera. It’s hard to talk to the camera. It’s hard to put stuff together that makes you feel like you’re putting good content out there.But if you can get good at that, people love video. It is going to be the way of content going forward. I would strongly suggest that you invest in looking into the type of video capability that you may want to do. It doesn’t have to look super professional, but it should look decent, because we want to put a good foot forward. And then practice. You may not use the first 10 or 20 videos you do. You may say, “Oh, I look silly, or I don’t say the right things,” and that’s fine. But I promise you that if you practice, you’ll get really good at it. Once you start putting video content out there, you would be surprised at the reaction that you’ll get.These video could just be on your website as simple frequently asked questions. Instead of writing them out, do video answers. People will come to your website and get to see you talk. It does an amazing thing. You could post the videos on social media, and that kind of gets into our third prong, but the videos can be used all over the place and are very, very helpful. So, again, start with the blog, start somewhere, get your content wheel moving, then be thinking about video.
The final point of content creation would be to think about a podcasts. I think podcasts are great because they’re just there, and people can listen to them and consume them at the gym, in their car, wherever they may be. All you may have to do is read your blog into a podcast. Now, I think it’d be better if you would think about having guests and people that could offer some unique perspectives into things in your particular area of practice, but it doesn’t have to be hour-long things. It could be short 10, 20-minute podcasts that people can quickly listen to, get to know something about the information they’re seeking, and get to know you a little bit.
So those are the three things I would really think about when it comes to producing content. Now, once you’ve started your content push and you have this sort of baseline if someone hits your website, they see that you’re an expert. I know we can’t all say expert, but they could see that you are a very seasoned attorney in your particular area of law
2. Develop Media Contacts
Now, it’s time to go out and start making contacts in the press. If there’s a story that is going on in your particular field of law, you need to be able to comment on that and get your name into the news. This could be websites that write about a very niche area of news, or it could be CNN. You should be out there and trying to make relationships with reporters happen.
This is also very difficult to do. It took me probably eight years to get to a place where if I have a story, I have a list of reporters that I can go to and say, “Hey, I’ve got this interesting story. Do you want to write about it?” But the idea is you have to find reporters that write about a particular area, that have a particular interest, and when something comes up, give them good information. Often, they’ll quote you for the article. It’s not guaranteed, but a lot of times they will. The idea is that the more you can get into the news media, the more you become, again, this trusted source, this brand of person.
I’m fortunate enough to be in the news at least several times a month now, but that took eight years of effort. It doesn’t happen overnight. Those relationships don’t happen overnight. The reporters don’t just start trusting you overnight. You have to make small inroads here and there.
Also, you don’t have to hire a PR firm. As a matter of fact, do not hire a PR firm. I have interviewed so many PR firms over the years, and I have hired several, and none of them have come close to doing what I’ve been able to do on my own because they just have this formulaic approach to PR. You’re going to spend so much money and get so little. It’s all about relationships. Find a way to make friendships, to reach out, to provide value to reporters to report on things in your field. Once you find them, and once you decide you’re going to provide them some value and some unique insight or information, now, all of a sudden, you have the opportunity to get quoted in the news.
3. Engage on Social Media
The final prong of my personal branding is social media. I know a lot of lawyers are a little skeptical about social media because you can get into trouble if you post things you shouldn’t, so be discerning. Remember, when you post something, it’s just going out there into the entire world. There’s not a lot of pulling that back, but we can be very measured in our approach.
I have a great following on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is really where you need to be as an attorney. I mean, you can talk about messing around on Facebook and Instagram, and there’s no doubt you can make inroads there. If those are the platforms you’re more comfortable on, I say go for it. But LinkedIn is really about the B2B market space, and it’s hot in 2019. Years from now, I don’t know that’s going to be the case. So, if you’re reading this post in five years, check back from me. We’ve probably updated it. But right now, I have a whole bunch of followers or connections on LinkedIn.
So, if I post a video about trademarks, about something going on in the news, even about something just substantively about trademarks, I will get tons of comments. The videos will get shared. We’ll get likes. We’ll get a lot of traction, right? And this does a couple of things. One, a few new clients do see it, and I get email messages on LinkedIn about, “Hey, I have this question about my trademark in this and the other.” So, it does work from that perspective. But it’s not really about the new client leads, it’s not why you do social media. Social media is all about client retention. That’s what it’s about. You can use it to get new leads, and there can be a whole episode of this show on how to use social media to get new leads for your law firm. But, as far as your personal brand is concerned, I’m a big believer that LinkedIn should be used as client retention. Most of your clients will likely be on LinkedIn. Now, if you’re a criminal defense lawyer, that may not apply. But especially if you’re in the corporate world, every one of your clients is going to be on LinkedIn.
What you should do is you should connect with those clients. Once they’re connected to you, they’re going to see any content you post. So, post content about things in the industry that you’re operating in. And, again, they see that, and it’s reinforced that you know what you’re talking about. They see you talking about the area of law that they’ve hired you to do. They see other people liking and commenting on your posts. They’re not going to second guess that you’re the best person for the job. Or, if they’ve used you for something and they don’t need you for a while, four or five years from now, they’re still seeing your posts. They still know I’m the trademark guy. Maybe they have a friend that needs a trademark. Maybe they need another trademark. They’ve been seeing my posts for four or five years, guess who they’re going to reach out to? So, social media is exceptionally good at client retention and being top of mind with your current client base.
I hope today’s episode about personal brands has been incredibly helpful to you. Please go to my contact page and submit a form if you have any questions or have anything you would like to share with me. If you wanted to be more public about it, you can comment on my YouTube channel or on iTunes.
Also, connect with me on social media. I’m pretty much everywhere. I’ve got Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn- Well, I guess I’ve got three. I post a lot of different content that you don’t even see in the full episodes here. So, please go ahead and give us a follow on social media.
Finally, I want to leave you today with a point that I would hope can start a discussion within the comments. What is the impediment for you to start with your personal brand? I think execution is everything. I can sit here and talk all day long about personal brands, but unless you’re actually going to execute on it, it doesn’t really mean a thing. So, I would love to know, is there something that’s holding you back from starting your personal branding process? Because if there is, maybe we can have further discussion and that can be a lot of fun. So, thank you so much for joining the show today, and I look forward to seeing you at the next one.