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Branding for Estate Planning Law Firms: The Missing Piece of the Marketing Puzzle
branding for estate planning law firms

key takeaways | branding for estate planning law firms

2024 digital marketing trends

Branding subconsciously influences the “gut feelings” your audience has about your firm. 95% of purchase decisions are made subconsciously, so those “gut feelings” are often more important than logic.

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Branding is the visual representation of your firm’s mission, vision, and core values. It is the aesthetic embodiment of your firm’s personality.

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The core branding tools that every estate planning law firm needs include several variations of a logo, a color palette, brand fonts, and a mood board to serve as inspiration for your brand’s look and feel.

The Smiths* have finally decided to stop procrastinating and talk to an attorney about estate planning. They know how important it is to choose the right firm—their future security depends on it. They are already aware of your firm because they see your posts on social media (you ARE posting regularly to social media…right?), so—congrats!—you’ve made it into their pool of consideration. They also do some Googling, poke around on a few other law firm’s websites, ask a handful of trusted friends for referrals, and read countless Google reviews. Ultimately, they narrow their decision down to two firms: yours and a competitor’s.

You both offer the same services.

You both come in around the same price point.

You both have impressive experience.

You both have stellar customer reviews.

But, there is one important difference: your competitors have stronger branding. They have a memorable logo, and use the same colors and fonts consistently across all platforms. They have a well-designed website that not only looks beautiful, but it’s rich with valuable content and designed to trigger an intentional emotional response. Even the attorney’s email signature looks like it “belongs.” Every single marketing touchpoint is professional, polished, and buttoned up.

So, your competitor wins the Smiths’ business.

If you were to ask the Smiths why they decided to go with your competitor, it’s unlikely that they would pinpoint “branding” as the deciding factor. They would more likely say it had to do with a gut feeling or instinct. Or they may not be able to put words to it at all.

Gut feelings and instincts are damn important in marketing and sales. In fact, according to Harvard professor Gerald Altman, 95% of purchase decisions are made subconsciously. Humans just aren’t as logical as you may think…

Done right, branding can strongly assert (or acquiesce) a business’s perceived credibility or trustworthiness. It can be a powerful way to trigger a subconscious emotional response and influence the consumer decision-making process. In fact, a recent report by Lucidpress shows that consistent branding can increase revenue by as much as 23 percent. That’s not nothing!

Branding is especially important for estate planning law firms. If your firm doesn’t LOOK credible, professional, and trustworthy, there’s a good chance your potential clients won’t give you as much as a second glance. Many firms have all the right marketing tools in place, but marketing will only get you so far. If you want to take your firm to the next level, you need to level up your branding.

What is Branding, Anyway?

There’s no need for complicated marketing lingo here: branding is your firm’s identity. It is the visual representation of your mission, vision, and core values. It is the aesthetic embodiment of your firm’s personality.

Colors, shapes, fonts, textures, patterns, imagery. Each of these elements has the power to make people feel a certain way—the psychology is actually quite fascinating. For example, neon yellow is one of our brand’s primary colors, and yellow is representative of creativity. Our primary logo shape is rectangular, and rectangles trigger feelings of stability and balance in the human mind. We also use a lowercase, rounded font for our logo and headlines, which conveys a sense of approachability and friendliness. Creative, balanced, and approachable—yup, that’s exactly how we want people to think about us!

How do you want people to think about YOUR brand upon first impression? Once you’ve made that decision, work with a designer to find the right combination of design elements to uphold that vision, and develop guidelines to help maintain the integrity of your brand across all marketing tools and touch points. In the end, your branding tools will include a combination of the following:

  • Logo Design: Primary logo, secondary logo, and a brand sub-mark
  • Color Palette: Two primary colors, plus 4-6 secondary colors
  • Brand Fonts: Choose a headline font, a sub-headline font, and a font for body text. Be careful to identify which font weights to use in which applications, and any letter spacing or line height parameters.
  • Mood Board: This is a selection of images and textures, hand-selected as inspiration for your brand’s look and feel.

With these brand elements driving your creative direction, your brand identity will start to come to life. Your business cards, letterhead, presentation and proposal templates, website, social media profiles and graphics—everything will be seamlessly aligned with your branding for a consistent, cohesive, and buttoned-up presentation.

Getting Started with Branding: 5 Steps to Take Before You Begin

Getting your thoughts organized before kicking off your branding project can help set your creative team—and your business—up for success. If we could assign our clients homework before kicking off their branding projects, it would be this:

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1. get back to basics.

Identify your target audience, and make a list of your competitors. Not every branding agency will do this, but we like to do a deep competitive analysis with our clients. We’ll look at their branding and messaging and talk about what works (or what doesn’t), and outline the features and benefits that set our clients apart from the rest.

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2. Get clear on your vision (if you have one).

If you already have something in mind, start defining it. What colors and shapes do you see? Do any particular fonts come to mind? Don’t be afraid of “limiting your designer’s creativity” by providing too much direction—a good designer will be able to share your vision, without being limited by it.

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3. Find samples of branding you like (and don’t like).

Spend an hour or so poking around online for some branding ideas. It’s great for your designer to be able to see samples of concepts that resonate—but it’s just as helpful for them to see samples of concepts that don’t! Make sure you are able to verbalize what it is you like or don’t like about a particular concept to ensure your designer understands where you are coming from, and has a clear idea of where to go.

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4. Choose 3–5 adjectives that you would want OTHER PEOPLE to use when describing your brand.

This is my favorite “branding warm up” exercise, because narrowing your choices down to just 3–5 adjectives is hard! This exercise challenges business owners to carefully define the brand they want to build, and can help the designer choose the perfect colors, fonts, and aesthetics to assert your brand’s personality.

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5. Come up with a list of corporate collateral you’ll need.

Start with the 4 branding tools listed above (logo, color palette, fonts, and mood board), and add on from there. Business cards, letterhead (printed or digital), brochures, proposal templates, presentation decks, sell sheets, website, social media graphic templates, email signature layout, etc. Just think about which tools your sales team might need while engaging with prospects.

This prep work will prevent your designers from spinning their wheels, or going too far down the wrong creative road—which saves time and money in the long run.

Choosing the Right Branding Agency

There’s no shortage of branding agencies, but finding a good match for your firm isn’t as easy as eenie-meenie-miney-mo-ing it. Here are a few tips to help you find an agency that really knows their stuff:

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Check out their portfolio. Do you like what you see?

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Look for an agency with experience in your industry, but make sure they also have experience with lots of other industries. This breadth of experience will allow your designers to draw from a deeper well of inspiration while developing your branding.

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Ask them about their process (i.e. make sure they have one). They should have a clear process for how they “get into your brand’s head” and translate your vision, values and mission into memorable, recognizable graphics.

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Make sure you vibe with them. You should communicate well with each other, and feel seen, heard, and supported.

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Check their Google reviews. Of course, you’ll want to see what their clients have to say…but you’ll also want to see how they respond to their client’s reviews. Does it seem like they’ve established strong personal relationships with their clients? Or do their responses seem copied, pasted, and otherwise impersonal?

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Follow their social media profiles. Social media is where businesses can “let loose” and be themselves. Do you connect with their social personas? Do you like what they have to say? Do their posts catch your eye, or hold your attention?

Bonus points if you find an agency that can handle both your branding and marketing. We work with a lot of estate planning law firms, but most of them came to us with very little branding in place—they had logos, but nothing more. Even though we were hired to provide digital marketing services, we still helped button up their branding because it supports and increases the efficacy of the overall strategy. Our ability to provide both branding and marketing services make us a valuable all-in-one solution for estate planning law firms across the country.

The Dangers of DIY-ing Your Branding

You know how you’re always telling your prospects how risky it is for them to DIY their estate plans? Well, the same arguments apply to your branding. Step away from the free trial of PhotoShop, and take a minute to understand what’s at risk when you take your firm’s branding into your own hands:

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it defeats the whole purpose of branding.

Strong branding underscores your firm’s professionalism, but nothing is more unprofessional than a DIY logo. Unless you have a background in graphic design, leave the design work to the professionals. As soon as someone sees your branding, you want them to trust in your firm’s professionalism, credibility, and authority. Clip art just lacks that certain…je ne sais quoi…

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You could face legal issues.

You may inadvertently infringe upon another business’s trademark, or unknowingly use copyrighted materials. Branding professionals can guarantee that your brand name and logo are unique, thus protecting you from costly legal disputes or copyright infringement lawsuits.

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You’re not setting yourself up for future success.

You may not be able to trademark your DIY logo, or—if your goal is to grow your firm so you can sell it in the future—your logo may not hold enough cache to be considered a valuable asset.

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You’re not focusing on what you should be focusing on.

You’re a lawyer, not a designer. Your time and energy is best focused on doing what you do best: practicing law. Plus, your bill rate is likely much higher than your designer’s hourly rate. Go do your job, and hire a branding agency to craft your firm’s visual identity. You’ll still come out on top.

Hiring a branding agency isn’t as expensive as you might think, and if you really don’t have the budget—for example, you’re a solopreneur attorney just getting started with your own practice—you can hire an inexpensive logo designer on Fiverr.com. It’s hit-or-miss out there in the wild world of Fiverr freelancers, but we’ve seen a few logos come across the board that we don’t hate.

Ideally, though, you’ll want to work with an experienced branding agency that can create a strong, salient brand image for your firm—and help you weave that brand image into the fabric of your entire marketing strategy. Think of it as an investment, because it is…

Contact Birdhouse Marketing & Design

If you’re ready to level-up your law firm’s branding, we’ve got the skills and experience to help. Contact us using the brief form below, or call (617) 433-8026 to speak with a branding expert today!

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Written by Robin Agricola

Robin is the founder and CEO of Birdhouse Marketing & Design. She holds an MBA with a focus in Marketing from UMass Boston, as well as undergraduate degrees in Marketing Communications and Creative Writing from Emerson College. She founded Birdhouse Marketing & Design, LLC in 2012, and the rest is history.

June 29, 2024

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