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Is your brand alive? Judging by what clients say, most law firms’ brands are suffering death by a thousand cuts. The reasons: Their brands are derived largely through self-examination and mostly intended to generate recognition and awareness. A brand is seldom viewed as a promise of unique value to clients or embedded into a firm’s modus operandi. A brand also tells the market, “Look at us, here’s what we are good at,” but clients consistently tell us there is so much more to getting their business than chest-beating proclamations. At the Marketing Partner Forum 2003, Paul Truebenbach, ChevronTexaco’s associate general counsel for North America products law, implored clients to ask outside counsel, “What can be done to advance our interests?” and warned outside counsel, “Do not promise what you cannot deliver.” A brand is a promise. It’s a promise that your firm delivers unique expertise and service. If you fail to deliver, you have broken your promise. Who decides whether or not a firm lives up to its brand promise? The client makes that determination. It is the client who becomes cynical when the firm fails to deliver on its promise; such cynicism could destroy the brand through negative word of mouth. Provocateur and renowned technology strategist Regis McKenna commented at the 2001 Marketing Partners Forum that “clients are disloyal and brands ephemeral.” He made this remark to a large audience of marketers at a time when the now-dissolved Brobeck had just launched its notorious $3.5 million TV campaign. McKenna suggested putting the money on building personal relationships with clients instead. McKenna was correct to emphasize personal relationships. His comments about clients being disloyal are borne out by recent annual surveys showing that a majority of general counsel intended to fire their outside firms. His notion of brands being short-lived, however, speaks more to a traditional view of brands, where the goal is simply to achieve recognition or “top of mind” awareness. What is missing at most firms is the notion that brand strength is based on resonance and relevance. Resonanceis the mutual understanding or trust between firm and client. Relevancemeans that the brand represents what clients (and prospects) deem important. Brands high on resonance and relevance engender brand loyalty and are long-lasting, while brands designed only to build awareness and recognition are, as McKenna stated, ephemeral. Besides resonance and relevance, brand strength depends on brand personification. That is, a brand thrives only if it is backed up by experiences that match or exceed the client expectations set by the brand. MANAGE THE CLIENT EXPERIENCE Client experience management bridges the gulf between the brand promise and actual client experiences. CEM begins by understanding client perceptions about the firm and ends with stewardship of both the brand and the corresponding client experiences across all points of impact (or touch points). These points of impact include the firm’s Web site, extranets, relationship partners, seminars and events, newsletters and substantive law publications, e-mail alerts; contacts with associates within and across practice areas; and contacts with marketing, information technology, the managing partner, billing, and support personnel. Here are the five steps of the CEM process: Step 1: Get Both Perspectives � Outside-In and Inside-Out We recently began working with a new client who showed us their brand definition � which their ad agency put together after 10 internal interviews. In response, we posed three questions: What good is a brand if it does not resonate with your best clients? What good is a brand if the unique value it suggests is not perceived as relevant to your best clients? And how distinctive is a brand when it represents the firm’s past vis-�-vis what clients tell you what they need from your firm? The introspective, inside-out perspective to brand development is myopic and too self-contained. We recommend that the initial step be to interview clients, to gain an outside-in perspective. Ask clients to explain their perceptions of the firm: how they define the firm in delivering unique value, what is important to them about your firm (relevance), and what they view as their basis for mutual understanding or trust (resonance) in the firm. You should also ask clients about how they believe the firm needs to evolve over time in order to continue delivering unique value. Once this knowledge is acquired, it is used to inform the introspective inside-out approach that follows. Combined, these twin perspectives provide powerful insights as you develop your brand strategy. Step 2: Establish Behavioral Anchors Brobeck, Phleger & Harrision’s slogan, “Brobeck. When your future is at stake,” was an implied promise to clients that Brobeck would help secure their future in the advent of a bet-the-ranch litigation, transaction, or matter. But what happened if the client called the firm with an emerging high-stakes case, only to get someone’s voice-mail or to be given the name of another lawyer at another office, to whom the client had to retell the scenario a day later? Is this the type of response that would strengthen or dilute this brand promise? Words without corresponding actions are meaningless. Therefore, a firm that wants to develop a brand, or strengthen its brand, needs to define the behaviors and actions that support the brand and build these behaviors into their everyday experiences with clients. We recommend that firms consult with their clients to translate their brand promise into specific supportive behaviors. Step 3: Audit Existing Performance Determine how well your firm’s actual performance measures up against the brand promise and its corresponding behaviors and actions. This is often a humbling but worthwhile exercise. The results provide the basis for the client experience blueprint that follows. Step 4: The Client Experience Blueprint At this stage, your firm has a sound brand strategy based on comprehensive input. You can identify specific behaviors that must be employed to reinforce the brand, and you have evaluated current performance across the full range of points of impact. The firm is now ready to draw the client experience blueprint. Drawing the client experience blueprint requires assessing the firm’s effectiveness at each of its points of impact with the client and diagramming its processes of service delivery, the roles of attorneys and staff and clients, and the visible elements of service. The blueprint must als • Evaluate how well the client experience is delivered as an integrated whole, and whether it fulfills the desired brand promise; • Identify for improvement weak links and failure points of the client experience; • Clarify interfaces between firm departments leading to improved inter-relationships and common goals; • Support message development for both internal and external marketing; and • Give tangible evidence of the client experience process to the overall brand promise, and support improvement efforts. Step 5: Remain Vigilant The fifth and final step involves ongoing stewardship. In an industry known for fast followers, promises of uniqueness eventually become the competitive standard. The firm also needs to remain vigilant about the resonance and relevance of its brand. Few firms can aspire to have a brand that is tattooed on the biceps of their clients, like Harley Davidson has. But they can build brand loyalty by managing their clients’ everyday experiences. This is accomplished by first tapping into the perceptions of clients, moving the goal of brand development beyond mere awareness and recognition, keeping the promise of unique value made to clients, and ensuring that actual client experience meets the expectations set by the brand. Michael D. Wiley is founder and principal adviser for Wiley Group, Inc. ( www.wileygroup.com), which helps law firms differentiate themselves in the eyes of their clients.

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