Marketing legal services: doing things you don’t want to do

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Conventional wisdom says that success lies outside of your comfort zone. If you want something you don’t have, you have to change what you are doing and this will probably be uncomfortable, as is anything new. Over time, you will become comfortable with your new activities and you may actually enjoy them.

But then, you will have a new comfort zone. To get to the next level in your growth, you will once again need to go beyond your comfort zone into new territory.

Success, therefore, requires continually being uncomfortable.

This is what we are told, but is it true?

Let’s take marketing for example. Let’s say you really don’t like networking. You’re shy, you don’t like being away from your family, you’re not a “people person”. Whatever. You just don’t like it.

But networking is a proven way for attorneys to build their practices. So what if you don’t like it, there are lots of things we have to do in life that we would rather not do. Shouldn’t you just get out of your comfort zone and do it anyway?

No.

If you tried it and truly don’t like it. . . you don’t like it. Don’t do it.

There are other ways to bring in clients. You don’t have to continue to do things that make you uncomfortable, you can do something else.

Ultimately, success lies inside your comfort zone.

When you like something, you’ll continue doing it. The more you do it, the better you get at it. The better you get, the more successful you will be and the more you will enjoy doing it. And the cycle will continue.

In contrast, when you force yourself to do something you despise, you are miserable. You’ll find ways to avoid going to your networking event, even to the extent of getting sick. You won’t get better at it and your lack of results will only frustrate you and make you hate it even more.

Doing what you enjoy doing is the recipe for success.

Don’t fight how you feel, don’t try to talk yourself into it, and don’t do it because you think you must.

There, did I just hear a big sigh of relief from you?

Good. I’m glad I could help. Just don’t be too quick in deciding what is and what isn’t inside your comfort zone.

Often, we decide we don’t like something based on too little information. Sometimes, we never try at all, basing our opinion on what we’ve heard from others or what we imagine. Sometimes, we try it once, have a bad experience, and never try again.

Don’t give up too soon and don’t assume that when you try something and it is uncomfortable, it will always be so.

Give it a fair try. Study and learn how to do it better. Find mentors who can counsel you. Give the new experience enough time for the newness to rub off.

If it really isn’t your cup of tea, relax, you don’t have to do it. On the other hand, you might discover some things you thought you hated that you’re actually quite good at and now enjoy.

My wife and I grew up with dogs in the house. Cats? Not for us. We don’t like them. All that changed when our daughter was young and wanted a pet but nobody wanted to walk a dog. So we got a cat. Then another.

We gave them a chance and today, Seamus and Andre are like members of the family. That’s Andre in the photo with me, sharing some love with his daddy.

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The Seven Reasons Prospective Clients Don’t Hire an Attorney

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why clients don't hire attorneys lawyersIf prospective clients don’t hire you, there are only seven reasons:

  1. No need: They don’t need (or see the need for) what you offer.
  2. No want: They know they need it but they don’t want it.
  3. No trust: They don’t believe you can and will deliver (at all, when promised, or sufficient quality).
  4. No like: They just don’t like you: your attitude, how you answered their questions, “bad chemistry”.
  5. No urgency: They need and want it but “not now”. It’s not yet painful enough.
  6. No authority: They want to hire you but they need someone else’s permission (and can’t get it).
  7. No money: They want to hire you but they can’t afford it.

Any one of these reasons can knock you out of contention. But one of these reasons presents a bigger challenge for many attorneys than the other reasons, not because it is insurmountable (it isn’t) but because it creates so much frustration and wasted time.

Can you guess which one? Go ahead and read the list again. Give it some thought. I’ll be here when you get back. . .

Okay, what do you think?

It’s number two, “no want”.

If they don’t want it, they don’t want it. Fighting this will only frustrate you and alienate the client. He may have wanted it next year but because you pushed him, he will probably hire someone else.

This issue has confounded more sales people than any other issue in the history of sales. A customer doesn’t want the product but the salesman has been taught that it’s not a “no” until he’s heard it seven times and he should use the 37 scripted techniques he’s been taught for overcoming objections to convince the prospect to say yes.

Uck.

Oh they may get the sale. But the time and energy they spend in doing so is usually better spent finding someone else, someone who may have some questions or issues to resolve but otherwise WANTS what is being offered.

It’s no different with legal services.

Notwithstanding studies that prove that most sales take place after the fifth or seventh or twenty-seventh “no,” smart sales people and attorneys believe the prospect when he says he doesn’t want it.

You can overcome the objection. You can convince someone who doesn’t want what you offer to hire you anyway. It happens every day. Crafty sales techniques, fear and intimidation, and outright lies are used to get prospects to sign. The sales person or attorney rationalizes this by saying to themselves, “the prospect didn’t want the service, but they really did need it; all I did was help him to do what is in their best interests.”

But you don’t want these kinds of clients. You want clients who are thrilled they found you, relieved that you can help them achieve something they desperately desire.

You want the low hanging fruit.

I’m not saying you roll over and play dead. When a prospect hesitates, you must make sure he understands enough about his situation, the risks he faces, and the benefits he can get by hiring you. You must inform him. But if it’s a no, it’s a no. Move on.

What if nobody wants what you’re offering? What if you’re offering your services the right way, to the right people, and nobody’s buying? If the demand isn’t there for your services, you must also move on.

Just because you’re really good at (put your skill here) doesn’t mean the market wants it. If the demand isn’t there, you need to find out what the market does want and offer that.

Times change, people change, wants change. Yesterday, people wanted to protect what they owned. Today, they’re trying to replace what they owned and lost. Tomorrow, they may be looking for a place to live.

If business has been off for you, it might be because you haven’t been listening to your prospects and to the market. It’s time to do that.

Think of it this way, you can either create demand or you can satisfy demand that already exist. Guess which one is easier and more profitable?

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Cutting costs can increase net income but it can also put you out of business

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cost-cutting-for-attorneys-law-firmsWhen attorneys are getting fewer clients and their income is waning, it’s only logical to look at cutting expenses. After all, every dollar you don’t spend on overhead is a dollar more in net income.

There are a lot of ways to reduce overhead. Go through your ledger (or bank and credit card statements) and I’m sure you’ll find many small items that can be reduced or eliminated. $30 or $50 a month expenses may not jump out at you, but when you add them up, you may find yourself spending thousands of dollars you don’t have to.

Also look at big items. Can you move to a smaller office? Can you work from home and use another attorney’s office to see clients? Can you get by with a less expensive car?

There’s one category of expense that you should not cut. In fact, when times are tough, it’s the one expense you should look at increasing. When times are tough you should spend more on marketing.

Attorney Philip Franckel explains why on his blog:

Reducing your advertising and marketing budget will cause your law firm. . . to fall further behind and allow your competitors to gain a substantial advantage. When revenues increases, you will have to start all over again. Additionally, all previous work and investment in branding will have been for nothing. In a bad economy, this is preciously the time to take advantage of lower marketing costs.

I agree completely. Think about it, the business is out there, at least enough business for YOU. If they aren’t finding you now, what makes you think they will find you later? You’ve got to help them find you. So when business is down, you must increase your marketing, not cut it.

Franckel also commented on another attorney who boasted that his firm had cut expenses by eliminating advertising contracts in favor of “variable” marketing expenses, ostensibly allowing the firm to spend more when they can and less when they cannot. Franckel points out that this strategy will wind up costing the firm more, not less:

Fixing marketing costs can be a huge benefit. When entering into a large five figure advertising spend on TV, I committed to a 12 month budget to fix the cost of media. This allowed me to pay the same known cost for media every month. Otherwise, I would have faced huge increases, or have been forced to temporarily discontinue advertising, because of temporary changes in media demand such as elections.

I agree with this, too. In the past, when I was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on advertising, I saved as much as 70% and sometimes even more by locking in a yearly contract, versus what I would have paid “month to month”. (NB: I only agreed to the contracts, however, after testing the ads and the publications.)

Now, what about attorneys who don’t spend money on advertising or marketing? It may be time to consider it. You don’t have to start advertising if you’ve never done that before and don’t want to do it now. But how about improving your web site or joining a new networking group? How about doing a mailing to your former clients?

Note also that your time (spent marketing) is another expense. Don’t cut down on this, either.

When business is slow, yes, cut your overhead but don’t cut marketing. Investing more time and more dollars in growing your practice will always be the best way to increase your net income.

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The Internet killed all the good clients

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questions clients ask attorneys lawyersI’ve represented thousands of clients in my career. As far as I know, only one prospective client interviewed me and chose not to hire me. The rest I either signed up or I chose not to.

I say “as far as I know” because there may have been others who interviewed me and I wasn’t aware of it. But the woman who thanked me for my time and was never seen again stands out in my mind because the experience was so unusual.

New York criminal defense lawyer, Scott Greenfield, says that in the Internet age, things are different. People read articles and blog posts that provide lists of questions a well educated consumer should ask lawyers before retaining them, and that’s what they do. Questions like, “how many cases do you have,” “how many have you handled in the past,” and “how many have you won?” are now common.

The problem, Greenfield says, aren’t the questions but the prospective client’s inability to interpret the answers. Greenfield quotes Matt Brown’s original post at Tempe Criminal Defense:

They want numbers about my experience, my practice, the system, and their case. It’s because numbers make an unscientific decision like hiring a lawyer seem somewhat scientific. It’s a complex decision, and the idea of boiling the process down to comparing statistics comforts some people.

Unfortunately, a little knowledge can be a bad thing. A numbers-obsessed prospective client can easily end up worse-informed than someone who doesn’t ask any questions. The problem isn’t the information, but their perspective. Information, especially numbers, can be misleading without context.

Greenfield says this is a relatively recent phenomenon, and I agree. “Rarely did people run around interviewing a dozen criminal defense lawyers whose names they found online. They sought recommendations and then acted upon them. Weeks and months weren’t lost to interviews, not to mention many hours of both lawyer’s and potential client’s lives, in this strange new process.”

Matt Brown wrote about the challenge of being interviewed by a prospective client with a list of questions:

They wanted an exact number, so I told them. At the time, the number was fourteen. I immediately realized they weren’t going to hire me.

The number startled them. They asked me how I kept them all straight. Fourteen seemed like a huge number to them. Without a frame of reference, I might as well have told them I was too busy to handle the case.

One client hears “fourteen,” thinks that’s a big number and that you won’t have time to handle their case. The next client hears “fourteen” and thinks, “that’s all; you must not be very good.” This is an issue you must be prepared to deal with, but it’s not a problem. It’s an opportunity.

When a prospective client comes to see you, armed with a list of questions, it is an opportunity for you to educate him and give him the context they lack.

Show them what the numbers mean in the real world. Explain how attorneys work and how you are different. Tell him what he needs to know and give him credit for being intelligent enough to make the right decision. And ask him questions to find out what he wants and to make sure he understands what you are telling him.

You see, it’s not his job to interpret the numbers, it’s yours.

Most attorneys provide a proforma answer to these questions and cross their fingers. Some attorneys get frustrated and wish people would stop asking. Smart attorneys are not only prepared for these questions, they welcome them.

Questions from prospective clients open the door for you to demonstrate your knowledge, your experience, and your compassion. In teaching prospects what the articles do not, with patience and respect, you provide value to the prospective client that he doesn’t get anywhere else. That value fosters trust and ultimately, clients hire attorneys they feel they can trust.

That’s why referred clients ask so few questions. Because a friend referred them, they already trust you.

Yes, it takes effort on your part to earn that trust when a client finds you online. If you want their business, if you want them to choose you instead of the many other attorneys they find online, you need to give them a reason.

Take a few minutes to teach them what they need to know, answer their questions, and make sure they understand and are satisfied with your answers. The extra effort is worth it. Once they trust you and hire you, they will refer other clients to you and you won’t have to work so hard.

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Networking when you don’t have time for networking

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networking for attorneysWell, my wife struck again.

Yesterday’s post was about my wife’s experience at her dentist and an important marketing (billing) lesson for attorneys.

Today, she got her oil changed. She was very impressed with her experience (great customer service, low prices) and she told the owner how she felt. She asked him for some of his business cards because when my wife finds something she likes, she will go out of her way to tell people about it.

During her conversation with the owner, she happened to mention a service her business offers (she and I own a service-related business). He was busy, of course, but he was interested in hearing more, so she gave him a brochure.

Guess what? He thought his customers would also be interested in our service and asked for more brochures to display on his counter.

Networking doesn’t have to be complicated or overly time consuming. It can be as simple as making new contacts while you’re busy running errands or otherwise going about your daily business. When you find a product or service you like, ask for some cards or literature. Tell your friends and clients about it.  Tweet about it. Promote it.

Do this because you like the products or services and without any expectation that the owner or manager will do the same for you. If that happens, consider it a bonus.

When you approach networking like this, without an agenda, without demanding reciprocity, you will enjoy the process and do it naturally. Your friends and clients will get the benefit of your recommendations and be grateful to you. “Wow, my lawyer always has these great tips. . .”.  They might even start reading your newsletter or Liking your Facebook fan page.

And. . . something else will happen.

What do you think the owner of the business you are promoting will do when three new customers come into his place of business this week and mention they were referred by you?

If you want to build your business, go promote someone else’s.

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How to make your clients appreciate you more than they already do

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free and discount services for lawyersLast week my wife went to her dentist for a cleaning. The bill arrived with a charge of $84 for the cleaning and $45 for the exam. Then, the bill showed a $45 credit for the exam. In other words, the exam was free.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe because it was a brief exam or maybe he never charges for an exam that follows a cleaning. Whatever the reason, my wife and I were pleased. We like our dentist even more than we already did.

Now, what if he simply omitted the charge for the exam? Would that have had the same effect? I don’t think so. We wouldn’t know that he was “comping” the exam. If we had thought about it at all, we would have assumed the exam was included in the cleaning and not given it another thought.

When you do something nice for your clients, whether giving them a free service, a discount, or something extra, make sure they know about it. Put the charge on the statement and then show a credit for that charge, so the client can see the value of the service they received.

Do this for free consultations, too. Send a bill for the consultation, show a 100% credit, and a zero balance due.

Do you think your would-be clients will better appreciate the value of what you do if they see that the consultation they got free is worth $400?

You bet they will.

Something else. If you don’t have free or discounted services you occasionally give to clients and prospects, it’s time to start. One way to do that is to take something you regularly include as part of your services and “break it off” as a separate item.

For example, if you charge $1500 to prepare a living trust and this includes a pour over will, power of attorney, and living will at no charge, simply send an invoice that shows the ordinary charges for those additional documents and 100% credit.

If you want clients and prospects to appreciate you more, when you do something nice for them, make sure they know about it.

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Attorney Marketing 101: How to Improve Your Social Media Profile

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Marketing legal services on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform, begins with your profile. This is the first thing prospective clients and referral sources see.

Here are five tips for making a good first impression:

  1. Your account name. Ideally, this should be your name, not your firm or practice. Social media is about people engaging with other people. You may “like” or “follow” a company or product page but you can’t talk to that product, only to the people behind it. The ultimate purpose of social media marketing is to expand your “warm market,” i.e., the number of people who know, like, and trust you. YOU, not your firm. Brand yourself, not your firm. Your firm can also have a page or profile, but this is not a substitute for your own personal profile.
  2. Your profile photo. This should be a photo of you. Not your firm logo, not a group shot, not a sunset, not your dog. People want to see who are they are friending/following/engaging with/thinking about hiring. Anything other than your photo puts distance between you and them. Use a professional looking head shot. It doesn’t have to be a professional photo, but you must look “professional”. No mugging. Clients don’t hire clowns.
  3. Your bio. Don’t make it all about your work, include personal references. This invites conversation. The first step in any networking conversation is the “search for commonalities,” so if you like to play chess, as I do, include it in your bio. Also, your bio is not a resume. (If you’re looking for a job, include a link to your resume or linkedin profile). Therefore, don’t make your bio about your work history. Nor should it be an ad for your services. Talk about how you have helped clients in the past, so that prospective clients can see what you can do for them. One more thing: include your location. People hire local attorneys.
  4. Link to your web site and other social media accounts. Don’t rely on one account, give people as many ways to read about you and engage with you as possible. Someone may find you on LinkedIn, for example, but converse with you via Twitter. Also, I just updated my Twitter profile to include a link to my web site, even though I already had it in the box Twitter provides for that purpose. The reason: when you first look at a Twitter profile you don’t see the web site link until you click through to the actual profile. This post says that making this change increased the number of clicks from Twitter to her web site. Make sure to include “http://” to make the link clickable.
  5. Include keywords. Social media profiles show up in search results on the site itself and via search engines. Include your key words throughout your profile, so someone looking for an estate planning attorney in Tampa can find you.

Go take a look at your social media profiles. Can people find you? Are you making a good first impression?

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Attorney Marketing 101: Networking with the Right People

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For many lawyers, networking is a great source of new business. Referrals are given, ideas are exchanged, doors are opened.

Most attorneys network by default. The local Chamber of Commerce advertises a mixer, a friend invites them to a Rotary breakfast or their local bar association announces their annual meeting, and that’s where they go. But these groups may not be the best choice.

When they don’t get a lot of business from one networking group many attorneys join a second group. Before you know it, some attorneys attend so many networking events each month they have no time for anything else. And because they aren’t networking with the right people, they still aren’t getting good results.

The right people, the ones you want to meet and network with, are those who are likely to know and influence a significant number of your ideal clients. No matter what your networking skills might be, your odds of success are much better when you network with groups comprised of a high concentration of these individuals.

Where do you find these groups? First, define your “ideal referral source”.

Start by looking at the referrals you received over the last twelve months. Who sent those referrals? What is their profession or background? What industry are they in? What other demographic factors stand out?

Look for patterns. If you see you got twenty-six referrals from real estate brokers last year, it probably makes sense to put real estate brokers on your list.

Then, put on your thinking cap and brainstorm other categories of prospective referral sources. Who sells to or advises your ideal clients? Who might have a big list of your ideal clients or influence in your target market?

Make a list of five to ten categories of promising referral sources. Depending on your practice area and local market, two or three categories may be enough (and all you can handle).

If you’re a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney, your list of categories may include obvious choices like insurance agents and brokers and physicians. It may include some less obvious choices, however, such as high school principals or pastors.

If you’re a consumer bankruptcy attorney, obvious choices might be real estate and mortgage brokers, accountants, and hairdressers.

Consider also including categories of people who influence your ideal referral sources. For example, if you want to network with financial planners, networking with accountants or non-competitive attorneys who represent financial planners would make sense.

Once you have defined your ideal referral sources, the next step is to find out where they congregate.

There are directories and web sites that list countless associations, networking groups, and referral groups (groups that meet specifically for the purpose of exchanging referrals). An hour or two will allow you to make a list of “candidate” groups. Note where they meet and when, and other pertinent information, e.g., how many members, requirements to join, do they allow outside speakers, etc.

A simpler way is to ask your existing referral sources what groups they belong to. Not only can this shortcut your research time, your contact will probably invite you to attend a meeting as his or her guest.

Having a friend on the inside, someone who can introduce you to the right people and provide information about committees, speakers, and group dynamics is invaluable.

If you don’t know people in the right categories, or the people you know don’t do any networking, you can ask people you know for a referral to someone who does. Call and introduce yourself, mention your mutual friend, and tell them you’re looking for a networking group you could attend. I’m sure they will have recommendations.

You’ll still need to attend a few meetings to see if a group is a good fit. The good news is that once you find a group that is, you may not need to find a second.

When it comes to networking, most attorneys are “a mile wide and an inch deep”. The most successful networkers focus their time and effort in a limited number of groups of “the right people”.

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Attorney Marketing 101: The psychology of referrals

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The psychology of referrals--lawyer marketingThere are two kinds of referral sources: those who can refer and those who will.

If you’ve done a good job for your clients, most are probably willing to give you referrals. That doesn’t mean they will. If they don’t know people who need your services, they can’t refer them.

Others — professionals, business owners, centers of influence — who are able to refer you a lot of business, often don’t.

Understanding why people do or do not give referrals can help you get more of them.

So why do people provide referrals? Your clients are willing to send referrals for several reasons:

First, your clients want to help their friends and colleagues to the benefit of your services. They can save their friends the time they might have spent looking for an attorney, and help them avoid the risk of getting an incompetent one or getting overcharged. Their friends appreciate this help; your client’s status is elevated. Being able to help their friends makes them feel important.

Second, when their friend retains you and is also satisfied with your work, it validates your referring client’s decision to hire you in the first place. Any doubts they may have had about their experience with you are removed.

The third reason your clients are willing to give you referrals is that they want to help you. However, clients don’t always know that you want their referrals. You need to tell them. Or, they understand that you want referrals but they just don’t think about it. You need to remind them.

If you’re not getting referrals from your clients, or you’re not getting as many as you would like, there are only two reasons: either you don’t deserve them or you’re not asking for them.

Now, how about non-clients, professionals, business owners, centers of influence–why might they give you referrals?

For some, it is the expectation of quid pro quo. They give you referrals and you give them referrals, or so they hope.

Others will refer their clients and contacts to you for the same reason your clients do: to help their clients avoid the risk and effort of finding an attorney on their own. In helping their clients this way, they add value to their relationships and their status is also elevated. And yes, some also feel good about helping you, too.

When a professional is able to refer business but is unwilling to do so, it may be because they don’t yet know, like, and trust you. It takes time for your relationship to develop. Eventually, they may turn out to be a big source of new business.

Many prospective referral sources don’t send you business because they don’t have it to give. They have a relationship with another attorney to whom they refer and they don’t have enough referrals for both of you. Unless their regular attorney has a conflict of interest, is unavailable, or doesn’t handle a given matter, your prospective referral source may be willing to refer, but not able.

In time, that may change. When the other attorney retires, dies or screws up, you could be next in line.

If you’re dealing with a prospective referral source who cannot reciprocate, there are other ways they can help you. By the same token, there are other ways you can help them when you can’t reciprocate.

Some people who can give referrals simply won’t. They may see it as risky–what if you screw up and make them look bad? Others just can’t be bothered.

Don’t dwell on the reasons why people won’t refer. If some clients won’t do it, it doesn’t matter; most will. With non-client referral sources, the numbers are reversed. Most won’t refer and this doesn’t matter. You only need a few who do.

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How often do you need to update your blog?

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When I converted this website from a static site to a blog in 2007, I didn’t want my “new house” to look unfurnished so for the first month or so I added posts and articles almost every day.

It was a very good thing that I did.

I saw an immediate upsurge in traffic to my site, I received many emails thanking me for the content, and I got a lot of new leads for my products and services.

I was new to blogging, but I was very glad I made the leap. Today, I post every day, Monday through Friday, and I am again seeing an increase in traffic and engagement like I experienced in the early days.

Wait. I know what you’re thinking. You’re too busy for blogging.

But hold on. Hear me out.

Many lawyers would like to have a blog. They see other lawyers building their practices online and they want to do the same. But they “just don’t have the time.”

Some argue that quality is more important than quantity, that frequency of posting isn’t a critical factor. But frequency does matter.

It seems that most people who read blogs do so by visiting the blog itself (instead of reading posts in a “feed reader”) and their visits to that blog become a habit. They visit the site to see the latest post and if there isn’t an update today, and there isn’t one tomorrow, they fall out of the habit of visiting. Soon, they don’t visit at all.

Posting once a week is considered the minimum for keeping a blog alive. (If you do post once a week, do it on the same day.) But if you can’t blog daily or weekly, if the best you can do is post content once or twice a month or once in awhile, does this mean you shouldn’t bother?

No. Not at all.

You may not get as much traffic to your blog if you don’t post frequently but if you post anything of decent quality, the traffic you do get will see you as an expert who can deliver the benefits they seek. A blog is just a web site that is updated more than once in a blue moon. It’s a great idea, even if you don’t update it all that often.

Besides, frequency of posting is only one way to get traffic. You may not get a lot of search engine traffic if you post infrequently, but you can send traffic to your site in other ways: offline, via networking, advertising, public speaking, and writing, for example, and online, via social media, your email signature, and dozens of other ways.

And, while infrequent updates won’t get your visitors into the habit of regularly returning to your site, if your site has an opt-in list (and it should), you can capture visitor emails and notify them when you do have updates or something else to offer.

If you want to start a blog but think you don’t have the time, you do. If you have a blog but it’s not being updated very often, don’t worry about it.

Think of a blog as a place to showcase your problem-solving abilities, if nothing else. Prospects may or may not find your blog when they search for “your key words” but when they hear about you from a friend and search for you by name, they will find your blog and your content will convince them to call for an appointment.

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