Maybe you need to get out more

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If you’re like most people, you spend most of your time with people who are similar to yourself. Other professionals you know through work, neighbors with similar income levels and lifestyles, friends with similar values and interests.

This isn’t a bad thing. But it can get a little boring.

How about meeting some people with different backgrounds? How about talking to people who disagree with you and have different values and interests?

You might learn something from them, and they from you.

I know, it can be stressful meeting new people. And it takes time. But there is a payoff: New ideas, new resources, new ways to do what you already do. You might even make some new friends.

Worst case, you’ll confirm what you already think and that you like things the way they are. Best case, you’ll stumble into some great adventures.

You might meet someone who leads you to your biggest client. You might get excited about learning a new skill that changes everything for you. You might meet the love of your life, find a new business or investment, or cross something off your bucket list.

You might have some fun.

Start small. Join a club. Take a class at your local college. Invite someone to lunch with whom you have little or nothing in common.

You never know where that first step might lead but you won’t find out until you take it.

The most profitable clients come from referrals

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When the client is ready, he will find you. Maybe.

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Over the weekend I bought a piece of software I first looked at several years ago. I wasn’t ready to buy it back then, or maybe it wasn’t ready for me, but that was then and this is now.

I got it, set it up and fooled around with it all weekend. I’m happy. Yay me.

A few thoughts.

First, I didn’t go looking for this. I happened to find it again when I was looking at something else. I got lucky and so did the developer.

I was lucky because the software will help me save time and make money.

They got lucky because I found them again and I might not have.

I wasn’t on their email list so they couldn’t stay in touch with me and sell me on their product. They couldn’t tell me about updates and new features, prompt me to watch videos to help me see how I could use it, build trust by showing me reviews, make me special offers, encourage me to tell others, and all of the other things you can do when you have clients and prospects on an email list.

Had they done that, I might have purchased this a year ago. I might have told others about it, on my blog and newsletter, and on social. I might now be ready to buy something else they offer, aka “repeat business,” or recommend their product to other people I know, aka “referrals”.

Lesson: get thee an email list and stay in touch with folks.

Second, I found the software (again) not through search but while browsing through a site that recommends software in different categories. I recognized the name as something I had looked at before and took another look.

Lesson: find sites, blogs, directories, et. al., that sell to or advise your target market(s) and do something with them.

Show them what you do and how you can help their customers, clients, subscribers and visitors. Offer to write articles for them. See if they want to interview you. Comment on their blog posts. Share their products and services and content with your subscribers.

Your clients will appreciate you for telling them about things that can improve their life and the people who sell the products and run the sites will see you as someone they should work with and promote.

Third, I didn’t find this product through search, but I might have. Not by searching their name (I didn’t remember it until I saw it) but by searching keywords related to what the software does.

Lesson: use keywords on your site(s). Don’t obsess over it, don’t pay companies exorbitant sums to work voodoo magic, just use those keywords in your content.

That’s all for now. I’ve got to get back to playing with my new toy.

Turn your site into a client magnet

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Are you willing to take my challenge?

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You’ve heard me preach about why you should prioritize important tasks and projects over everything else. Do your “most important tasks” because they will help you achieve your most important goals.

Today, I want to issue a challenge.

If you take my challenge and are faithful to it, you will make steady progress towards accomplishing your biggest goal.

And yet the challenge is simple.

Every day, without fail, do one task related to your biggest goal. You can do more than one, just make sure that you always do at least one.

The task might be big or it might be small. It doesn’t matter. Read an article. Make some notes. Make a phone call. Anything. Just do something that helps you move forward.

It could even be an action to remove something that blocks or slows your progress or sucks up time that could be used to work on your big goal. It might be valuable or important, urgent even, but if it distracts you from or slows your progress towards what’s most important, you should eliminate it, delegate it, or automate it.

The habit of doing something every day to move you towards your big goal will condition your brain to prioritize your big goal, think about it, and find more things you can do to achieve it.

So, are you ready to take my challenge?

What is your big goal? The ONE THING you want to be, do, or have more than anything else?

Whatever it is, identify a list of related tasks and do at least one of them every day.

If you want to get more referrals, your first task should be to get this

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When is good enough good enough?

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When is the document you drafted good enough to file? When is the letter you wrote good enough to mail? When is your case prepared enough to take to trial?

I don’t know but you do.

Maybe not consciously, more like a feeling in your gut. You know something isn’t perfect but you know, somehow, that it’s good enough.

One thing’s for sure, when you have a deadline, the notion of what’s good enough gets hazier. You’ve got to get it done or there will be consequences so you get it done. It is deemed good enough because it has to be.

In a pleasant bit of irony, the pressure of a deadline doesn’t necessarily cause more errors. Instead, it often allows you to cut through the fog and quickly find the right path. When you don’t have time for minutia, it’s easier to zero in on what’s important.

So good enough is a relative term. It means different things under different circumstances. How do you get comfortable with this murkiness? I think it comes down to understanding a few things:

  • Good enough really is good enough. You will get most things right most of the time. Most of what you fear will never happen.
  • While many errors are embarrassing, most aren’t fatal. If you can’t fix something, you’ve got insurance to protect you from the worst case scenario.
  • You can minimize problems with checklists, forms, templates, and boilerplate language, and by having another set of eyes edit or at least look at your work product.
  • You’ll get better over time. Experience will help you minimize errors and improve your ability to make decisions. You’ll also get things done faster because you’ve done the same thing so often.

Ultimately, the best way to find out if something is good enough is to release it into the world. The world (your clients, your opposition, your target market) will tell you if something is good enough. Most of the time, the answer will be in the affirmative.

Are you getting paid for all of your work? This can help

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How many hours a week do you work?

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How many hours a week do you work? Probably more than you would like and more than you should:

A recent Gallup poll found that the average full-time employee in the US works a 47-hour week, nearly a full workday longer than the standard nine-to-five schedule. Moreover, nearly one in five workers (18%) reports working 60 hours or more per week. [cite]

I’m pretty sure attorneys work even longer hours.

The question is, are longer hours worth it? Are you getting more done? Earning more income? And, considering your health, your family, and your overall quality of life, is it really worth it?

That’s for you to decide, of course, but there is a point of diminishing returns:

A Stanford University study found that employee output declines sharply after 50 hours per week and nosedives after 56 hours to the point where someone who puts in 70 hours doesn’t produce anything more with those additional 14 hours. Similar studies have linked long hours with absenteeism, long-term memory loss and impaired decision-making skills.

If you work for a firm and you are competing with others to make partner, if your employment contract demands a minimum number of billable hours, you may have little choice, at least in your current job. But if you’re self-employed, you have options and you may want to explore them.

You may find, as I did when I cut my work week, that you are more focused, more productive, and earn more income. The question is, how low can you go?

If you earn more (and are happier) working forty hours instead of fifty, will you earn more still if you cut your work week to thirty hours? How about twenty?

Is the four-hour work week possible for a professional?

It might be fun to find out.

The key to earning more and working less is leverage

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Mind your own bees wax, bub

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I emailed an author to tell him I enjoyed his books. I told him a bit about myself so he could see that we have some common interests and experiences.

We went back and forth a couple of times and then I did it. I gave him a suggestion about how he might change his work flow to improve his productivity. I offered this in a sincere effort to help, but as soon as I sent it, I regretted it.

He was clearly successful doing things his way and he hadn’t asked for my advice. He really didn’t know me. “Who am I to tell him what to do?”

I thought he would brush me off and I wouldn’t hear from him again. Instead, to his credit, he replied and explained why he does things the way he does them and moved on to another topic.

All is well. But the experience reminded me of the danger of providing unsolicited advice.

If someone doesn’t ask for our advice, we need to think twice before giving it. We think someone will appreciate our ideas or suggestions but too often we alienate them or insult them with our “superior” knowledge.

I’m not saying you can’t share ideas or suggestions with people. Just be careful about how you do it.

Instead of telling them they “should” do something, you might turn it into a question. “Have ever thought about. . ?” Or put the advice in the mouth of others: “I hear a lot of people are having success with. . .”

Don’t tell, ask. Don’t push, mention.

You can also get into trouble providing advice when people ask for it. Just because a friend asks for your opinion, it doesn’t mean you have carte blanche. Some people really don’t want your opinion. They’ve already made up their mind and they want you to confirm that they’re right.

With clients, you’re not going to win hearts or minds by pointing out that they made a bad decision or that they should have listened to you the first time. If they messed up, the odds are they know that and are expecting you to give them a hard time.

Don’t do it. Don’t lecture them or try to make them feel bad. Find a way to let them save face or just talk about what to do next to fix the problem.

Calm, cool, collected. The voice of reason.

There are times when you need to let that go and put some fire into what you say. If you see the client about to go off a cliff, it’s your duty to do whatever you can to wake them up and get them to listen.

Raise your voice if you have to and tell them the facts of life. Go over your reasoning again. Put a CYA letter in front of them and ask them to sign it, to protect yourself, of course, but also for dramatic effect, to let them know that they are about to make a serious mistake and to get them to reconsider.

Sometimes, you have to take the risk of alienating a client and losing them. Let’s face it, if they don’t listen and they get hurt, they’ll probably blame you anyway.

Who would make a good referral for you?

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Don’t fall for this email scam!

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AT & T is my wireless carrier. Last night they sent me an email asking me to take a survey. I usually decline these things because I’ve been burned before by survey requests that promised to take only a few minutes but went on endlessly, but in a moment of weakness, I clicked and answered the first (easy) question.

Things quickly got real.

If you get the same email, don’t open it.

It’s a trap.

They’ll ensnare you in a bottomless pit of questions, asking you to decide between a four and a five, a six or a seven, and you’ll wind up clicking anything just to get to the next question, and you’ll swear you’ve already answered that question twice, but no, they’ll ask it a third time, and after what seems like twenty minutes, you’ll either give up and close your browser or berate yourself for getting suckered yet again.

They’ll tempt you to play their insidious game. They’ll tell you they depend on you, they’ll offer to enter you in a drawing, they’ll make you curious about what they might reveal.

Resist. Start another Netflix episode. Or close up shop and go to bed.

I can’t imagine that the companies that conduct these surveys get much useful information out of them. I suspect that most people who start them never finish, and the ones who go all the way do so because they’re not crazy about the company and want to vent.

They do these surveys, I suspect, because they think it will make them look good to shareholders.

There’s nothing wrong with surveys, per se. They can provide valuable feedback and you might put one together for your clients. If you do, remember that a survey is as much an opportunity to engage with your clients as it is a way to guide your next move. So if you do it, don’t alienate them with one of these monstrosities, make your survey short and sweet.

Promise it will only take 30 seconds, a minute or two. And keep that promise.

Ask a few questions, not every question you can think of.

Make it easy for them to choose by asking things like, “Of these two options, which one do you prefer?”

And when the survey is done and you tally up the results, share those results with your clients and subscribers. Let them see that you really do value their feedback and appreciate them for taking the time to help. They’ll feel good about responding and be more likely to do it again the next time you ask.

Because a survey is as much an opportunity to engage with your clients as it is a way to guide your next move.

Where is your next referral coming from?

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Give your clients a piggyback ride

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Some professionals host events for marketing purposes—a party, picnic, seminar, fundraiser, golf tournament, and so on. They invite their clients and prospects and encourage them to bring their friends.

It’s a form of “member get a member,” an old-school marketing strategy that still works today.

But suppose you don’t have the funds to do this, or the time to organize it? Or you don’t know how to put it all together?

You can start small and host a “get acquainted” event in your conference room. Serve some food, pass out some information, and go from there.

Or you can piggyback on someone else’s event.

One way to do that is to find a professional a business that targets your market and is holding an event and talk to them about joining forces. You might pay for half of their convention booth, for example, or pay a fee to have them pass out your free report to passersby. You might offer to speak about tax issues at their investment seminar. Tell them that in return, you’ll promote their event to your clients.

Or you can do it informally.

Perhaps a Tony Robbins event is coming to town and you plan to attend. Announce to your list that you’re going and invite them to join you. Encourage them to invite their friends or clients who might also want to attend.

The more the merrier.

There may be 3000 people at the event but your group of 20 can get together at the breaks, go to dinner together, meet and compare notes. You get to meet some new prospective clients or referral sources, without doing anything more than promoting someone else’s event that you were already planning to attend.

You could do the same thing with a golf tournament: “a bunch of us are going to play. . . come join us and invite your clients and prospects. . .” You might spice things up by offering your own prizes–whoever has the most people join them, the lowest scoring foursome, or a random drawing for your group, for example. Or give everyone who comes some kind of freebie or special offer.

Every summer, our city has a “concert in the park” series with music and food. If there’s something like this in your area, you could promote it. “Join me, it’s going to be fun! I’ll be near the hot dog stand and I’d love to see you. Bring your neighbors and come say hello.”

Keep your eyes open for events someone else is doing and think about how you can piggyback on those events. If nothing else, it gives you an opportunity to contact your clients and prospects (to tell them about the event) and keep your name in front of them.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula

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Write your own Yelp reviews

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Many lawyers complain about review sites like Yelp. They point out that one bad review can do tremendous damage and that many bad reviews are dishonest and unfair.

You can’t stop the crazies from posting their opinion. All you can do is encourage your happy clients to post positive reviews and drown out the bad ones.

And that’s exactly what you should do.

Whenever a client thanks you or praises you or your staff, they should be asked to post a review. Explain that even a few words can make a difference. Tell them how much you appreciate it and point the way to your “page”.

You should also stimulate more good reviews by conducting surveys at the end of every case or engagement. A few questions will do the trick but make sure to include a field that allows them to add comments. When you see positive comments, ask the client to use those comments to post a review.

There’s something else you can do to get more positive reviews. Write your own.

Hold on, don’t get your panties in a festival. I’m not suggesting anything nefarious or unethical. Just the opposite.

Let me explain.

Go to Yelp or another review site and peruse a bunch of reviews for attorneys. Find some of the good ones, especially of attorneys in your practice area. Copy those reviews into a document. Then, do the same thing for the bad reviews.

Bad reviews? Yes, you’ll want those too.

Next, take the good reviews and pull out phrases and sentences and stories that resonate with you. Imagine that these things were said about you and your practice. Then, use them to write a mock review, saying nice things about yourself from the point of view of an extremely satisfied client.

Grab this faux review and a pile of negative reviews about other lawyers and call a meeting with your staff. Show them the faux review and point out why it so good. Then, let the brainstorming begin.

Ask for suggestions about how you could bring about the kinds of results mentioned in the faux review. What do you need to do or change to earn reviews like this one? Write it down.

What you’re doing is creating a manifesto for your firm. Things to do to make your client’s experiences so incredible they feel compelled to write (real) positive reviews. A standard to live up to from this day forward.

One more thing.

Break out the bad reviews and share them. Have a laugh or two, and thank your lucky stars that these things weren’t written about you. Take those bad reviews and add a bunch of “don’ts” to your manifesto.

Follow your manifesto and you won’t ever worry about reviews again.

Reviews are just one way your clients can help your practice grow

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Firing clients out of a cannon

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It’s time to do some spring cleaning. Go through your client list and get rid of the clutter.

Start with the ones who owe you money and aren’t paying. You don’t need them. Oh, I know, you care about them. They’re just going through a tough time. They’ll pay you eventually.

Fine, make an arrangement. A payment schedule. Give them more time. But not much. You have a business to run and bills to pay and you can’t be chasing after people to pay you. If they don’t pay, show them the door.

Next up, get rid of the ones who make your life miserable. The complainers. The micro-managers. The trouble makers. Say bye bye to clients who are a nuisance to you and your employees.

What’s that? You need the money? You can’t afford to jettison paying clients no matter how much trouble they cause?

You can’t afford not to.

These clients may fill up your bank account but they are a drain on your psyche. They’re bad for your health and the health of your practice. You can replace them with better clients. If you’re not ready to fire these pain-in-the-ass clients today, make a plan to do it as soon as possible. 90 days at the latest.

(Nature really does abhor a vacuum. When you get rid of some clients, new clients will come your way to fill the void.)

Okay, that’s bad clients. Next, take a look at your “wrong” clients. The ones who have matters outside your primary practice areas. The ones with cases that are too small or who take up too much of your time relative to the fees you charge them. The ones with work you don’t enjoy. The ones who can’t or won’t pay top dollar to have you as their attorney.

Yep, fire them too.

Move them out and make room for more clients like your ideal client. They’re out there and they will come.

Clients owe you money? Here’s how to Get the Check

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