Help clients find you before they need you

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Hockey great Wayne Gretzky was asked how he was able to get so many good shots on goal. After all, he wasn’t the only one on the ice. How did he get the puck so often?

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been,” he said.

Lawyers need to do that with clients.

Figure out where your clients will be and what they will be doing before they need your services, and get there first. All of the other lawyers “on the ice” are waiting until prospective clients go looking. You’ll already have the puck and they won’t have a chance.

What are your clients doing one month or six months before they hire you? What are they reading? Who are they confiding in? What are they doing?

Answer this question, and get your name in front of them before they decide to hire a lawyer.

If you handle divorce, for example, your clients are probably reading books and blogs and articles and watching youtube videos about property rights and custody standards. Create your own books and articles and videos and advertise on or write for sites that offer this type of content.

Your clients are probably talking to people, like counselors, tax advisors, financial planners, real estate agents, and business lawyers. These folks can send you referrals, so find them and network with them. Stay in touch with your former clients because their friends will talk to them and ask about their experience, and if they can refer them to a good lawyer.

You can also create generic consumer or business content. If you handle personal injury, write a report on how to save money on auto insurance. If you represent small businesses, write a report on how to negotiate a better lease. Promote your reports and build a list.

Help clients find you before they need you. Figure out where they will be and get there first.

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If you’re not growing, you’re dying

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James Clear had an interesting post about something called The Repeated Bout Effect. In simple terms, it means, “the more you repeat a behavior, the less it impacts you because you become accustomed to it.”

He quotes Marshall Goldsmith, author of “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” who says, “Doing the same thing over and over again, even if it worked for a long time, will eventually lead to a plateau.”

Clear uses examples from weight training, but the principle applies to other aspects of life, including marketing and managing your practice. If you continue doing the same things you’ve always done, or you do them the same way you’ve always done them, you limit or retard your growth.

And if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

Clear suggests deliberately practicing new skills that you can master quickly, i.e., “in one to three practice sessions”. This will stimulate growth and help you reach new levels of achievement.

Identify skills that could prove helpful to you in marketing and managing your practice. Once a week or so, choose a skill to focus on for the next few days.

For ideas, read blogs and articles and books on those subjects. Talk to your colleagues and business contacts and see what they do to build or manage their business or practice.

Regularly add new skills to your bag of tricks and encourage your staff to do the same.

But don’t stop there.

I think it’s also wise to periodically examine your current skills and activities and seek ways to improve them.

Over the next few days, take note of everything you do–small tasks and big tasks, highly skilled tasks and rudimentary or routine tasks. Include everything: writing, speaking, presenting, signing up new clients, meeting with employees, interviewing job applicants, dictating a motion, prepping for trial, reviewing a new client intake, touch typing, and everything else.

Then, look at each task and ask yourself, “How can I do this better?”

Can you change the order of the steps? Add in an extra step? Use a different tool?

Can you do it faster, perhaps by leaving out a step or two?

Can you get better results by practicing the underlying skills or delegating some of the tasks (or the entire task) to someone else?

Acquiring new skills, combined with an ongoing effort to improve your current skills, is a powerful recipe for growth. And if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

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I just met you, and this is crazy. But here’s my number. . .

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You just met someone. You give them your card. Then what? What do you do?

Do you tell them to call you? Do you give them a reason to do it? Something you’re going to share with them, or something you want to discuss with them?

Or do you leave follow-up to them?

Okay, maybe it’s too soon to call. Fine. Tell them to go to your website, to see an article you think they’ll be interested in, or a checklist they can fill out, or to download a report that covers the topic you’ve been discussing with them.

Because if they see that article or download that report, they will be one step closer to knowing what you do and how you can help them or the people they know.

Tell them what to do. Give them a reason to do it. Don’t leave it up to them. Don’t say maybe.

Too aggressive? Nah. You’re telling them about something that might benefit them. If they don’t want it, they won’t do it.

By the way, what’s on your card anyway? I see some attorneys make the mistake of not putting their website and email on their card. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they don’t have a website or use email, and if that’s true, that’s an even bigger mystery.

Hello, is this on?

But then making it easy for people to find out more about you and how you can help them is only one of the reasons we carry cards, and it’s not the most important one.

It’s not? No. The most important reason for giving someone your card is to get their card. So you can contact them. Because it’s your practice, not theirs, and marketing and following-up with people you meet is your responsibility. It’s also your best bet for turning a one-time meeting into new business.

So, I just met you, and this isn’t crazy. Here’s my card, may I have yours, so I can call you or send you something?

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Be different or be gone

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Albert Einstein said, “The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.”

Most lawyers don’t want to walk alone. They don’t want to stand out. They do what other lawyers do, read what other lawyers read, and do what other lawyers do. They even look like other lawyers look.

And that’s why the average lawyer is just average.

If you want to be better than average, if you want to earn a bigger income or leave a bigger mark on the world, you can’t do what everyone else does. You have to be different.

You can’t network in all the same places most lawyers network. You can’t write what they write, say what they say, or do what they do. When they zig, you need to zag.

You often hear me say that you need to tell the world (clients, prospects, referral sources, etc.) how you are better than other lawyers, or how you are different. You have to differentiate yourself and give the world a reason to notice you and choose you.

You don’t have to be a radical, or a visionary. Just different.

Speak out about something. Join a group. Or start one.

Change something about how you do your work. Or change your appearance.

Move away from the mainstream and follow your own path.

Do things other lawyers don’t do and you will go places other lawyers don’t go.

Learn how to differentiate yourself

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Calling all note-taking junkies–come and get your fix

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Who knew?

I had no idea how many different note-taking methods there were. Different methods for different styles and a variety of situations, from classroom to courtroom and everyone in between. And then I read a blog post, The Ultimate Guide to Note-Taking, which I heartily recommend to you.

Even if you’re not a note-taking fanboy or girl, or looking for something different from what you currently use to record notes or ideas, you’re bound to find something you can use.

The post presents a wide variety of note-taking methods, including the traditional outline/list method we first learned in grade school, visual methods like mind maps and charts, the Cornell method, and more. The author first demonstrates a paper version of each method, and suggests how it might be adapted for digital.

I think we all develop our own methods of taking notes. I know I did, first in law school, and then in depos and court. For the latter, I would write down what a witness said, what I thought about what they said, and notes to myself about what to ask in cross or what to look into when I got back to the office. I used abbreviations and visual marks to identify notes to zero in on when I later reviewed them.

I do something similar when I’m listening to a presentation or in a business meeting.

I’m going to study this blog post to see how I can use some of these methods for recording tasks and projects and for taking notes on books and blogs.

If you want to talk nerdy to me, check it out and let me know what you think.

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Getting the right things done

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Venture capitalist Mark Suster has a rule he lives by that helps him be more productive and successful. The rule: “Do Less. More.” It means doing fewer things overall, and getting the right things done. “Success often comes from doing a few things extraordinarily well and noticeably better than the competition,” he says.

Richard Koch, author of The 80/20 Principle, says, “Everyone can achieve something significant. The key is not effort, but finding the right thing to achieve. You are hugely more productive at some things than at others, but dilute the effectiveness of this by doing too many things where your comparative skill is nowhere near as good.”

Koch also says, “Few people take objectives really seriously. They put average effort into too many things, rather than superior thought and effort into a few important things. People who achieve the most are selective as well as determined.”

So, what do you do better than most? What should you focus on? I asked this question in an earlier post:

Look at your practice and tell me what you see.

  • Practice areas: Are you a Jack or Jill of all trades or a master of one? Are you good at many things or outstanding at one or two?
  • Clients: Do you target anyone who needs what you do or a very specifically defined “ideal client” who can hire you more often, pay higher fees, and refer others like themselves who can do the same?
  • Services: Do you offer low fee/low margin services because they contribute something to overhead or do you keep your overhead low and maximize profits?
  • Fees: Do you trade your time for dollars or do you get paid commensurate with the value you deliver?
  • Marketing: Do you do too many things that produce no results, or modest results, or one or two things that bring in the bulk of your new business?
  • Time: Do you do too much yourself, or do you delegate as much as possible and do “only that which only you can do”?
  • Work: Do you do everything from scratch or do you save time, reduce errors, and increase speed by using forms, checklists, and templates?

Leverage is the key to the 80/20 principle. It is the key to getting more done with less effort and to earning more without working more.

Take some time to examine your practice, and yourself. Make a short list of the things you do better than most and focus on them. Eliminate or delegate the rest.

Do Less. More.

This will help with getting the right things done

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Successful lawyers don’t have time for Facebook

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Busy, successful lawyers don’t have a lot of time for Facebook. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use social media in your marketing if you want to. It means you need to be careful that you don’t look like you have an abundance of free time to do it, especially during work hours.

And yet, that’s what many attorneys do.

They might actually be extremely busy and only log in once or twice a day. They might re-post or share others’ posts and not create any of their own. They might use software to automate everything and spend only five or ten minutes a day on social.

It doesn’t matter. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

Don’t be a duck.

Watch what you post, and when. Post about weekend things on the weekends. During the workday, be careful. Share your law firm blog post, but don’t invite people to play a game.

And whatever you do, don’t post too much or too often.

In some businesses, an easy lifestyle with lots of free time are part of the sales pitch. You want people to see (or think) that you don’t work that hard and have lots of time for sports, working on your classic car, and trying out new restaurants.

But people think successful lawyers are busy and work hard, and even if that’s not true of you, that’s what you want the world to think.

Want to know how I use social media for marketing? Get this

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Another “fee raising” success story

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I spoke to another attorney yesterday who told me that, at my urging, he increased his fees approximately 40% and has received no resistance. His fees were low to begin with, he said, but this has emboldened him to increase his fees even further.

He said the top of the market is still 70% higher than his new fee, and we talked about what he would need to do to justify another increase.

You don’t have to be the top of the market, I told him, but you should at least be in the top one-third to 20%.

But don’t be so quick to dismisss “top of the market” fees. Why couldn’t you be the most expensive guy in town?

You could. The question is how.

Much of marketing is about perception. To some extent, you’re worth more because you say you are. Who’s to say any different?

Your lower-priced competitors, you say? See, that’s where you’re missing the boat. There is no competition at the top of the market. It’s at the lower 80% of the market where everyone does pretty much the same thing and competes on price and good looks.

If you’re mucking about in steerage, you’ll never maximize your potential.

But there is a limit to how much more you can charge simply because you want to charge more. You’ve got to find something you do better or different than other lawyers, and make that a point of differentiation.

One way to do that is to specialize not only in the services you offer but the clients for whom you perform those services. Choose a niche market to target, focus on it, and groom yourself to become the “go to” lawyer in that niche.

There are big advantages to this strategy. Besides being able to charge higher fees, marketing is easier and more effective. Instead of networking with or advertising to “anyone” who might need your services or be able to refer clients, for example, you can concentrate your efforts on marketing exclusively to prospective clients and referral sources in your niche market.

That’s what this attorney said he will do.

He’ll save time, spend less on advertising (if not eliminate it completely), and develop a name for himself in his niche.

Word of mouth travels fast in niche markets. By next year at this time, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he has indeed become the “go to” lawyer in his market.

Learn more about niche marketing, with this

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One step forward, two-steps back?

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A tax resolution firm is running a radio ad featuring one of their satisfied clients. He says he hadn’t filed a return since 1990 and the IRS had finally caught up with him and demanded $68,000 in back taxes.

I don’t know how he could ONLY owe $68,000 after 25 years, but that’s his story. He couldn’t pay it and didn’t know what to do.

Enter the tax firm.

They did what they do, and helped him eliminate most of his indebtedness.

Here’s the problem.

As he tells his story, he laughs gleefully at his good fortune. Twice. Like he got away with something. His story, and especially his attitude, suggest to listeners that we’re all suckers for paying our taxes.

I can imagine prospective customers listening to this spot and intentionally calling another firm because it looks like this firm isn’t helping good people who fell on hard times, it’s helping irresponsible people get away with irresponsible behavior.

That’s the sub-text.

They could have conveyed the message that they know what they’re doing and can help you with IRS problems, without the negative sub-text, had they portrayed the client as “relieved” and “thankful” instead of flippant and irresponsible.

They shouldn’t have mentioned 25 years of unfiled returns, just that he’d fallen behind and couldn’t pay $68,000 the IRS said he owed. And they shouldn’t have had him laugh. Twice.

Obviously, the ad is working because the firm keeps running it. But how much better might it work if they made the client more sympathetic?

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Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat

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I’m going to write a blog post today and show you my process. I want you to see how simple it is, and how quickly it can be done.

While I was out shopping with my wife yesterday, I thought about two of our neighbors who have just repainted their houses and wondered how they chose their painters. I remembered how we chose our painter, Mr. Kim, the last time we repainted, and wrote down the topic for today, in Evernote. This morning, on my walk, I came up with the Bullwinkle-inspired title for this post.

When I got to my desk, I wrote down the topic, and set a timer for five minutes. I started the timer and wrote, without stopping. When the timer sounded, I had written 253 words for the first draft.

I set aside the first draft for a few minutes, came back and wrote what you’re reading now. I spent a few more minutes editing the first draft. The final version of the post, not including what you’re reading now, is 340 words.

This post isn’t brilliant. I made a good point, and made it interesting, I think, by referencing a personal anecdote.

Total writing time today, approximately 15 minutes. And I’m done for the day.

So, here’s the post:

====
WATCH ME PULL A RABBIT OUT OF MY HAT

Two of my neighbors just repainted their houses. As I watched the painters working, I thought about the last time we repainted and how Mr. Kim and his brother did such a good job for us. He put on two coats, and this has lasted a good ten years or more. I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that our neighbors had one coat done and will have to repaint again in a few years.

The Kim brothers were very thorough, clean as a whistle, and very low priced. When we paint again, we’ll use them again.

I found the Kim brothers through my former secretary. Her husband is a meticulous shopper, very detailed oriented, and drives a hard bargain. He was a banker for most of his career, so I guess this isn’t surprising. He did a lot of research before hiring the Kim brothers and told us how happy he was with them. Good enough for me.

Friends ask friends for referrals. Especially with expensive purchases. We depend on referrals because they save us time and money and help us avoid the risk of making a bad choice. This is true for finding a contractor, or a lawyer.

I thought, what if I had been referred to the Kim brothers not by my secretary’s husband but by a lawyer I had hired. I’d be grateful to that lawyer for his help and I would assume he could help me with other referrals, to other contractors, businesses, and professionals. I’d go back to him when I needed a referral, and when I needed a lawyer again, he’s the one I would call.  I’m sure I would refer clients to him, too.

The point is, every lawyer should make a point of being a resource for their clients and prospects. They should go out of their way to seek out high quality businesses and professionals and recommend them. Their clients will be happy, hire them again when they need them, and send them referrals. So will the businesses and professionals he or she recommends.

Want more referrals? Go find a good painter you can refer.

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