For attorneys who are often pressed for time to better brand and market themselves, co-branding may be a viable solution. The synergy that comes from a strong co-branding partnership gives it the potential to become a dynamic cornerstone of your marketing.
Co-Branding In A Nutshell
Co-branding isn't simply about having a joint marketing initiative with another professional. It's about leveraging a natural alignment of your respective brands to grow a particular client segment that you both serve. It means that your work has some relation to or overlap with the work of the person you co-brand with. For example, estate planning attorneys align well with financial planners. Matrimonial law attorneys could work well with family therapists who specialize in post-divorce issues. In these scenarios, there can be ample opportunity for cross-referrals, of course. But the real value of co-branding here is to present an alliance of sorts, where your new prospects perceive a two-fold benefit from your strategic partnership.
For co-branding to work between service professionals, there also has to be a natural fit in terms of your personality and working styles. By "chemistry", I mean that you click in a way that makes you think that you could work well with the other person. You have the same professional philosophy as to how to treat clients, and run your business in similar ways. Most importantly, you'll need to commit to giving one's best to the other side. This may sound cliched, but I've worked with various professionals in my marketing career, and watched them fail in their attempts to co-brand their respective practices. The main reason? A lack of commitment and forthrightness. Unless you're working with someone who shares your level of commitment and shows it (i.e. by completing the tasks allocated to her to implement a joint marketing effort), move on to find someone else. It doesn't matter how great someone's book of business or clientele is if it's not someone who brings as much commitment and focus as you do to the table.
The Plan Of Action - an example
You're not Burberry or Hermes pairing up with Apple to create a unique Apple Watch that bears a beautiful band from either fashion house. Instead, you pairing yourself up with another human being whose professional practice aligns with yours. Consequently, for attorneys, the simplest co-branding initiative would be joint seminars or workshops. I suggest the following key steps for how you can work together to ensure greater success:
- Build a clear profile of your target client (someone who needs both your services, and fits your demographic model).
- Decide whether you want to host your own events or secure a speaking opportunity at a professional association whose members are likely to fit your target client profile (e.g. if you're an estate planning attorney working with a financial planner, you might want to see if you could present at monthly member meetings of e.g. an association of physical therapists, doctors, registered nurses).
- Pick a series of topics that will showcase both your expertise.
- Promote your event to your respective existing clients and social media accounts (make sure that if you're speaking at an association, they promote your event heavily to members). Where possible, enable registrations for the event on your website to draw traffic to your content.
- Recce the venue, ensuring that all audio and visual equipment can be easily set up, that the audience will be comfortable, that refreshments can be served and that your handouts will be distributed. If you're hosting a webinar, than ensure that both of you are comfortable with the software and that there are no glitches.
- Do a dry run with your co-branding partner so that you can critique and improve each other's presentation.
- Bring at least one staff member to help you with registrations, handouts at the event (the whole purpose of the event is to secure registrations and be able to follow-up with attendees.
- Follow up with attendees by offering a free or discounted-fee consultation via e-mail.
- Enter all attendee contact information into your client database.
Rinse & Repeat
It's not going to be effective if you implement a single, stand-alone event or initiative. You're not going to get traction from co-branding unless you have a series of seminars and/or a series of co-written blog posts. Marketing has never been a silver bullet (emphasis on the singular) solution to business development. It requires repetition and refining. I would suggest a marketing mix of events and blogging. Above all, have one of your administrative staff keep track of costs, and to-do's. Even if you work well as professionals, it's important to keep each other on track. I've seen quite a few professionals lament the failure of co-branding when on closer scrutiny, a lack of planning and accountability on their part was often the main reason for lukewarm results.
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