When large competitors enter your market, what should you do?
It’s not if but when—at some point, you’ll have to face newcomers to your market. Whether it’s the law firm from the other side of the state, or the 800 lb gorilla rolling across the country, firms of all sizes may have their markets disrupted when the competition comes knocking. But don’t panic. There are steps you can take to prepare yourself, help solidify your positioning, and maintain confidence when the gorillas arrive.
In sports, there’s a common saying that the best defense is a good offense. When your offense is sharp, you can more easily maintain control. You don’t want to be solving problems in the moment and having to catch up to your opponent—you want your strategies buttoned-up and ready, your marketing lean and efficient. It’s much harder to come from behind than it is to maintain your lead. So how do you do that?
Getting Your House in Order
First things first: make sure your house is in order. Our recent blog entries on new-year strategies and getting your marketing started are great resources for building and solidifying your positioning. You are the master of your own doing, and you don’t want to leave it up to others to decide your actions for you. Being forced into reactive strategies will likely prove costly and inefficient while the new competition begins to eat into your market share.
Part of having your house in order involves owning the right media. If you enjoy a solid presence in certain media channels in your market, people will be accustomed to seeing you there. They will have established a relationship with your brand, whether that means they can sing your jingle and recite your tagline, or perhaps value your sponsorship of local events or even their child’s sports league. Your participation in local media and community involvement shows your connection and commitment, making it much harder for an outsider to dethrone you.
It’s essential when a competitor comes to town that you find a differentiator—something that distinguishes your brand from every other brand, including the new kids on the block. Perhaps your connection to the community is it. You understand the community—after all, you’ve helped locals’ friends and neighbors get back on their feet. You can declare that local is better.
Your unique advantage could be something else altogether. Some of our clients possess a unique look and style that stands out from the crowd, providing instantaneous brand recognition. They use that identity to set themselves apart and ward off attempts from both locals and outsiders to unseat them from their hard-fought market position. What’s important is that you identify a differentiator that your competitor cannot replicate, cannot beat you at, and then build your law firm marketing strategy around it. You live by it, create content, promotions, and advertising that speaks to it and elevates your brand across the media channels you employ.
New Actions to Take
With your house in order, it’s time to look at reactionary strategies. When the enemy arrives, they will spend money that may cause some disruption. At a minimum, pay attention to what they are doing. Just as sports teams watch the film of their opponents, you also should be studying your competitors’ plays and tendencies. Understanding their moves will give you a leg up and make you more prepared to act.
One action you could take is freshening up your creative and increasing the content you’re producing. We see countless instances where fresh creative produces a noticeable impact on call and case lift of our clients. Stay ahead of the competition, who—if from another state—probably won’t be implementing custom local creative geared specifically to your market.
You may want to spend a little more to beef up your website with videos and blog entries that provide free tips and updates plus opportunities to talk with an attorney. Yes, a lot of this falls under the creative categories, but like we often say, make sure you’re using that TV spot in at least seven other communication channels: on your website, as a blog, in social media, etc. Actions like this can help maintain your status in Google search results—are you in the Top 10? Can you stay there?
In addition to putting out more content, let’s talk about your paid search efforts. Unfortunately, new competition will equate to more activity in bidding on keywords. Expect costs to go up and your positioning to possibly go down if you’re not advancing your bid strategy with your new competitor in play. Have a strategy locked and loaded for when the new firm starts disrupting your current legal marketing efforts. Keep a watchful eye on what they’re bidding on, including your own brand name. Consider the triggers you’ll establish for when to implement that shift in strategy given the new competition. Is their marketing causing you to lose share of voice? Is it impacting the business side of your law firm, causing a decrease in calls or cases?
If your firm’s marketing strategy is based on share of voice, you need to prepare to increase your investment to maintain that share of voice when the big players arrive. Advertisers buy time (tv or radio) and space (billboard, digital ads). When it comes to buying time, there’s only so much available. If you want your ad to be seen during critical law firm clientele viewing times, you need to make sure your media buying is negotiated accurately to balance the aggressiveness of a low cost per unit investment with the ability to clear (not get bumped by your competitor)—this ensures you maintain presence where you need it.
Our media buying team is reviewing schedule clearance daily, ensuring our clients are getting the consistent clearance they need. You too should be proactive in managing the buys you have running.
Truth be told, competitors are entering someone’s market(s) all the time. With clients around the country, we keep a close eye on competition from both attorneys creating a new law firm brand and established big players that continue to grow. In a lot of cases, we see the law firms that have a strong legal marketing game plan, solid presence, and good execution of their marketing strategies unimpacted when a new firm shows up. We know the new firm is getting cases each month (or else they wouldn’t stay in the new market), but it’s clear they are not taking cases from those firms with their house in order.
So, keep your chin up, as it is possible to maintain your position, revenue (cases), and business if you take the right steps and ensure your brand is healthy. A little preparation will keep you enjoying continued marketing success and a healthy return.