Many mid-sized and large law firms have a messaging problem. They just can’t find anything distinctive to say about their firm as a whole. Over the years, they have hired a bevy of high-priced marketing consultants. Still, every tagline sounds hollow, and every headline seems to fall flat.
When these firms begin building a new website, they often ask us: “Should we use our tagline on the homepage, even though we know that it’s weak?” and “If we don’t use our tagline, what else can we say?”
If your firm is having difficulty developing a strong, meaningful firmwide message, I believe that having no headline or tagline is often better than having a weak one. Why? Because hollow messages like “Leaders in Law” or “Responsive, Resourceful, Results” cause readers to roll their eyes and discount everything that follows. These messages could actually hurt your marketing efforts.
In lieu of headline or tagline, I recommend that you let sophisticated design and beautiful imagery subtly communicate the qualities of your firm. You can then put resources toward developing meaningful reputation-enhancing content for your attorney bios, practice areas and blogs. Let your content brand you where it can.
How to “say nothing”
Below I’ve identified a few firms that have “said nothing” well. Instead of bland firmwide messaging, these firms skillfully employ compelling imagery and other types of content to effectively engage users on their homepages.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett puts potential clients as the main focus of their homepage, by having an extra-large search field front and center that asks, “How can we help you?” Without talking about themselves at all, the firm has presented itself as eager to listen to and assist new clients.
Rather than a headline or firm messaging, the Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler homepage is punctuated by a series of third-party quotes and client testimonials. This approach offers visitors a (seemingly) unbiased assessment of the firm’s competence and strengths.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges lets their experience do the talking. The firm’s homepage is a collage of article headlines concerning legal victories and firm news. Not only does this highlight successes, it enables the firm to look timely, active and relevant.
Firm news is a part of the Chadbourne & Parke homepage experience. But the real star of the show is a black and white background videographic of their actual office. This deceptively simple-looking visual presents the firm as being unpretentious, grounded and approachable.
Jenner & Block employs a very active and vivid videographic as the hero image on its homepage. The five scenes show the firm’s office locations, but the choice of shots manages to convey a far more global presence. The motion effects convey vigor and innovation.
We want a message!
Some firms dismiss the “say nothing” approach. They want a bold headline on their homepage that speaks to their strengths. Yet it might not be clear what strengths apply across all of a firm's 250+ attorneys and 50+ practice areas.
Is a powerful message even possible for large firms? Can a law firm that’s an amalgam of cultures and histories really develop a firmwide message that truly resonates? I think so. It just takes more work (and pain) than most firms are willing to endure.
More about this in my next post.
What do you think?
Is sidestepping bad messaging an effective marketing solution? Have you seen even better examples of firms employing the techniques I’ve discussed? Leave a comment and let me know.