The value of your firm’s brand and reputation is vitally important. So where do you sit in the competitive Australian market and what are your peers doing right?
Research house Acritas recently released its 2015 Brand Index, ranking Baker & McKenzie the number one firm in the Asia-Pacific region, followed closely by the likes of King & Wood Mallesons, Herbert Smith Freehills and Norton Rose Fulbright.
The release of this index has many firms asking themselves: where does my firm stand? Is my brand recognisable and relevant? And what sets the branding of these high-ranked firms apart to make them so successful?
As the global business world is well aware, the Asia-Pacific market is booming. Being one of the fastest-growing economic regions in the world, it presents an unparalleled opportunity for Australian firms to catapult their brand on to the international scene, and this is precisely what firms like Baker & McKenzie and Norton Rose Fulbright are doing.
However, firms must realise that more is involved in building an internationally recognised brand than hard work and organic growth. Capturing and retaining such a broad market share and voice requires a highly dynamic business model that can rapidly respond to market shifts.
So what are these firms doing to build successful legal brands in the current market?
1. Staying ahead of the curve
Successful firms continually identify future growth sectors and tailor their practice to incorporate them. This starts with getting to know the market, their clients and the business sectors they are dealing in.
“[We] continue to grow our practice by aligning ourselves to those markets where our clients are investing,” says Baker & McKenzie regional chairman Bruce Hambrett. “We strive to stay ahead of the curve by anticipating our clients’ needs and developing new practice areas.”
Firms that are able to respond quickly to accommodate market changes and new client demands quickly develop a reputation as forward-thinking, capable and progressive.
2. Positioning their brands uniquely in the market
King & Wood Mallesons, which ranked second on the index, has built a reputation as being uniquely placed to connect Asia with the world, and the rest of the world with Asia, leading to its frequent retention of high-value clients in the Asia-Pacific region.
Firms can similarly distinguish their brand from competitors by uniquely positioning themselves in the market to offer expertise or logistical advantage in a specific transaction or practice area. Marketing efforts should highlight a brand’s unique skill set, distinguishing it from competitors and carving out a defined market share.
3. Offering international workflows
A notable trend highlighted by the survey is that brands offering international workflows, both within Asia-Pacific and globally, had a distinct advantage over those that did not. Brands that can bring together local market knowledge and a variety of legal offerings in multiple regions offer a comfortable choice for clients dealing with foreign markets.
Partnering with an established overseas brand is an ideal way for firms to break into the international market, as demonstrated by Norton Rose Fulbright (fourth on the index and the fastest-rising brand over the past year), which has seen tremendous growth since its international merge in 2013.
However, don’t despair if your firm is not in a position to merge. The market is also brimming with opportunities for local independent firms, as they can usually offer greater depth of experience and expertise in specific sectors than their international counterparts. A robust branding campaign highlighting this strength can be equally successful in the current Asia-Pacific market.
4. Focusing on clients
Brands only achieve greatness through the eyes of their consumers, and the extent to which firms can understand and deliver what their clients really want will be a major driving force in their success.
“Our clients always come first,” says Hoin Lee, senior foreign attorney at Kim & Chang (number five on the index). “We look for innovative ways to build customised and comprehensive solutions that are tailored to address each client’s unique needs.”
Firms can produce sustainable growth by communicating with clients, consulting statistical data to determine which trends will impact their clients’ businesses and bringing their practice into alignment with the needs of the market.
The key to success is not tied to any one business model or marketing strategy. As these top-ranking brands have demonstrated, firms that are dynamic, work hard to meet their clients’ every need and are strategically guided with sound data, in combination with the above strategies, will remain brands of choice across Asia-Pacific.