Work smarter by working backwards

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Yesterday, I talked about networking and used it as a paradigm for creating a simple marketing plan. You plan, you do, you review.

Today, I return to the subject of networking and ask the question that may be on your mind: “How do I find the best networking groups for me?”

There are lots of ways to find them but the simplest, and arguably the best path to discovery, is to find out where your existing clients and contacts network and go there.

If you represent business clients, find out where they go to meet other people in their industry. If they don’t network (much), ask them to introduce you to professionals they know and ask them where they network.

For consumer clients, ask your existing referral sources where they network.

Keep in mind that some people don’t think of what they do as networking per se. They belong to groups–charity, hobby (e.g., golf club), social, community, etc.–and spend time at those groups’ functions, where they regularly meet new people. These non-business groups can also be a fruitful source of new business for you.

You can also turn to your clients and contacts for help with other kinds of marketing. If you want to know where to submit articles or guest posts, or a good place to advertise, ask your clients and contacts what they read or listen to.

Questions like these should be a fixture on your new client intake sheet. Find out who your new clients know, what they read, who influences them, and where they spend their time. Ask the same kinds of questions (eventually) of your new professionals contacts.

Want more clients like your best clients? Talk to them. Work smarter by working backwards.

Lawyers are complicated. Marketing is simple. More here. . .

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Plan. Do. Review.

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I want to bring in more business.

Okay, what’s you’re plan?

I’m thinking of joining a networking group and meeting some prospective clients and/or referral sources.

Sounds good; which one(s) will you join?

I’ve narrowed down my choices to three groups. I’m going to visit all three before I make up my mind.

Makes sense. What else?

I’m looking at their websites to see what goes on at their meetings and what kinds of people attend. I’m learning as much as I can about their leaders and process, and writing down questions.

Nice. Doing your homework. Then what?

When I go to the first meeting, I’ll introduce myself to the leaders and ask my questions. Then I’ll try to meet other members, find out what they do, and see what they can tell me about the group. I’ll be looking for people who might be a good match for me, both in terms of practice area or business and personality.

Very good plan, my friend. Once you decide which group to join, what then?

Then I’ll start going to meetings and introducing myself to more people. I’ll exchange contact information and ask lots of questions about what they do, what kinds of clients or customers they target, and how I might be able to help them. I’ll take notes and see if I have any clients I can refer. I’ll look for other ways to help them, such as introducing them to other people in my network, offering advice, or recommending resources.

I’ll spend time with the people I meet and start building relationships. I’ll connect with them on social media, share their content and promote their causes. I’ll subscribe to their newsletters and blogs and go through their websites to learn more about them and what they do.

At some point, they will ask me about what I do. I’ll tell them about the problems I solve, the services I offer, my target market, and my ideal client.

I’ll also be on the lookout for people who are open to a joint venture. They may want to share my report with their clients and subscribers. They may have something I can share with mine. If they write a blog, I’ll suggest that we can do guest posts for each other.

That’s all I have in mind for now. I’m sure I’ll have more ideas after I meet some people and get to know them.

I know networking takes time and I’m prepared to invest that time. I might start out with ten new contacts and eventually narrow that down to one or two good ones. One or two good contacts could lead me to a lot of new business.

Sounds like a plan. A good one. Simple, flexible, a place to start. Which is all a plan needs to do.

Plan. Do. Review.

For a simple plan that really works, get The Formula.

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The problem with being self-employed

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Being the boss is a double-edged sword. I love being the master of my destiny but sometimes the weight of responsibility wears on me.

You too? Do you ever get anxious thinking about how many people depend on you or how much work remains to be done?

You’re not just cranking out widgets, after all. You do important things, with important consequences. Every day you make decisions that affect the lives of other people. You can’t let your guard down. You have to keep your eye on everything, and everyone.

It can be difficult doing our best work when we have so many other things to think about.

Yes, that’s the gig we signed up for and most of the time, it’s worth it. But if you’re like me, it gets to you sometimes.

Sometimes I think, “Wouldn’t it be great if someone would tell me what to do today so I could do the work and go home?”

I remember when I didn’t have clients of my own and did appearances for other lawyers. I enjoyed just showing up and doing the work. Argue the motion, take the depo, do the arbitration. I didn’t have to worry about anything but the assignment. When it was done, I went home.

When I started getting my own clients, I had responsibilities, overhead, employees, and things got very complicated. I grew into the role, of course, and would never work for anyone, but sometimes I look back fondly at the time when I could just do the work.

If you ever find yourself overwhelmed with the burdens of running a law practice, wishing you could just show up and be a lawyer, I have a suggestion.

Go get yo’self two hats.

First thing in the morning, or at the end of your day, put on your “boss” hat and make a list of assignments for your “employee”. Map out the day, and include contingencies in case something comes up that requires the bosses attention.

Then, take off the boss hat, put on your employee hat, and get to work.

When the first assignment is done, look at the list your boss gave you and do the next assignment. When all the work is done, take a break, put your boss hat back on and make a new list.

Well, that’s it for me today. The boss told me I could home.

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Email marketing for attorneys done right

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I read an article for real estate agents about ten ways email marketing beats social media. It’s a good article and I agree with all of it. I was going to tell you that it makes no difference whether you’re selling legal services or houses, email reigns supreme.

I even had a favorite “reason”–number 9 on the list: “Email is more intimate”. I was going to talk about how email allows you to have a simulated conversation with people, which helps you build a relationship with them, so that, over time, they come to know, like, and trust you, even before they’ve ever spoken to you.

But I’m not going to do that. Not today, anyway.

Instead of trying to convince you to make email your number one marketing tool, instead of beating the drum about how you are losing clients and money and making your life so much more difficult by not having an email list, I’m going to assume that you’re on board and talk about the right way to use it.

I see a fair amount of lawyers’ email newsletters, mostly because many of my readers think it’s okay to add me as a subscriber to their email list (it’s not). What I see, in my humble but accurate opinion, isn’t getting the job done.

For starters, just because it’s called a newsletter doesn’t mean it should look like a newsletter. Newsletters tend to be boring and self-serving, one small step removed from advertising. They “look” commercial–with stock photos and html layouts and links that say, “click here to finish this article”.

One glance at these and the reader knows that this email is probably not very important and doesn’t have much to say that is of interest to them. They know it’s probably all about the lawyer and not about them. The lawyer’s “exciting news” about how they are expanding or how they won a big case is exciting to the lawyer, but nobody else.

Most newsletters go unread because readers have come to know there’s nothing in them that interests them. There is some value to having subscribers see your name in their mailbox, reminding them of your existence, but it is so much better if they open and read your emails, appreciate them, and look forward to them.

So, for starters, your newsletter shouldn’t look like adverting or anything commercial.

It should look like a letter.

A letter (email) with some news or helpful, relevant information. Something readers care about, something that makes their life better, something worth reading.

It should also read like a letter, from a real person. Not from a committee or “the firm”. Not “canned” articles purchased from a newsletter company.

It should be written in “me to you” format, just like you would write a real letter to a real person. It should look like you sat down and penned a personal message to an individual. Because while you may be sending this same email to hundreds or thousands of people, each person who reads it is an individual.

Write to one person, not to “everyone”. Talk to that one person, as though he or she was sitting with you in your office or talking to you over the phone.

If you do it right, when your subscriber sees your email show up in his or her email, he should get a little excited. “I wonder what [you] will share with me today?”

Kinda like what you’re reading right now.

I share information I hope you find interesting and helpful. I tell stories from my days of practicing and stories about my life today, to add color and interest to that information. Sometimes I’m serious and preachy, sometimes I’m funny, but I’m never boring or irrelevant.

Yes, most of my emails are cut and paste jobs of my blog posts, but my blog posts are usually written like emails.

Many subscribers tell me they read my emails every day and look forward to them. Some tell me they are the highlight of their day.

That’s what I’m going for. A relationship. Intimacy. Transparency.

So, if you aren’t using email to build your practice, you need to. I’ll pound on that again at another time. If you are using email, but you believe social media is more important, go read the article. And if you understand why email is supreme and you want to get better results using it, take my words to heart.

Kill the fancy newsletter, write letters to the people on your list, and tell them something they want to hear.

Learn more about email marketing for attorneys. Go here

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Fake lawyers stealing your name and reputation

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In the “oh my, that’s not good” department comes this report about fake lawyers who put up websites pretending to be real lawyers. They copy the real lawyers’ names, photos, bios, and other information, but change the contact information.

Presumably, the goal is to bring in clients and steal their money, or set up fraudulent cases and rip off insurance companies with “you” as the attorney.

Don’t laugh. It happened to me.

This was many years ago, in the dark days before the Internet. I got a call from a fraud investigator who wanted to talk to me about one of my cases. I didn’t recognize the name of the client, however, and had never had an office at the address on the letter of representation.

How long had this been going on? How many other clients had this impostor represented in my name?

The fake lawyer was quickly caught and shut down and that was the end of the situation, but it was still very unsettling.

What I could to prevent this from happening again, I asked myself. I couldn’t come up with anything. But (as far as I know) it never happened again.

Today, where you can set up a website in ten minutes and get it indexed in search engines within hours, what’s to keep bad guys from impersonating you?

Nothing.

They may not get away with it, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try.

How can you protect yourself? I don’t have a good answer, other than constant vigilance, i.e., regularly searching your name and your firm’s name to see what’s out there, something you should probably be doing anyway.

And, just in case, you might want to ask your errors and omissions carrier and bar association about  your exposure if it does happen.

If it does happen to you, take a look at how the fake lawyers are marketing you. If they’re good at it, you might want to steal some of their ideas.

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Getting things done in burst mode

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I read an article recently about the work habits of a novelist. He said that he works best when he doesn’t write every day, as conventional wisdom suggests. Rather, he gets more done in “burst mode” (my term) where he will write up to 8,000 or 10,000 words in a day.

His job (full time as I recall) and family obligations make it difficult to carve out sufficient blocks of writing time during the week. He found that an hour a day wasn’t long enough to find his writing mojo and get up to speed. Give him eight or ten hours on Saturday, however, and he could knock out an entire book in record time.

The point is that each of us works differently and we need to honor what works best for us.

As you know, I advocate setting aside time each work day for marketing your practice. You can get a lot done in as little as 15 minutes a day, if you do it consistently. But I acknowledge the value of working in bigger blocks of time, especially on bigger projects. In fact, I do it myself.

In my practice, I would often show up at the office on a Saturday and plow through a pile of files. In a few hours of undisturbed time, I would do more work than I might do in an entire week.

In school, instead of studying every night, I often crammed for tests the night before and wrote entire term papers in a weekend. That’s how I liked to work and I got good grades. In fact, I’ve read that we often do our best creative work when we do it quickly.

All hail burst mode!

In school, we have deadlines and due dates. The same goes for most legal work. But that’s not true with marketing. So, if you want to do marketing in burst mode, you need to schedule the time in advance and stick to that schedule.

You might schedule one Saturday each month for marketing. In a few hours of undisturbed time, you could create a new seminar or produce a month’s worth of articles, blog posts, emails, or social media content.

Getting things done in burst mode doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing throughout the week, however. The above mentioned author uses snippets of time throughout the week to take care of administrative and less demanding tasks related to his writing. You can, too.

During your Saturday marketing session, you might plan out the people you want to call that month. With your plan in hand, you can take a few minutes each week day to make those calls.

You can also use your weekdays to make notes and outlines and collect research material in preparation for your Saturday session.

Being productive is simple. Figure out what you want to get done this week or this month. Look at your calendar and decide when you’re going to do it. Then, do it.

As long as you’re getting important things done, when you do them probably isn’t that important.

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Paying for referrals and getting away with it

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Okay, let me first say that you need to check with whoever regulates you and make sure that this is something you can do. I’m covering my behind by telling you this so please cover yours.

It’s a very simple idea, really. But it could bring you a lot of business in the short term, and a lot more long term.

You’ll need a website (that you control) and a way to capture email addresses. An autoresponder is your best bet. You can see what I use and recommend here.

Yes, you can also do this “old school,” i.e., manually, but you’ll get better results if you automate everything and spare yourself some calluses.

Now, you’re not really going to be paying for referrals. You’re not even going to ask for referrals. Not directly, anyway. Instead, you’re going to ask people to help you build your email newsletter list. You ask them to refer subscribers, not clients.

As people come to your website to subscribe, they see what you do. Some of them hire you, or take the next step in that direction.

After people subscribe, you stay in touch with them. You send them helpful information, and information about what do. Over time, some of them hire you. Or send you referrals. Or send you other subscribers who hire you and send referrals.

Build your subscriber list and you build your client list.

You can stop right there if you want to. Simply ask your clients, friends, readers, subscribers, social media connections and anyone else who will listen to help you build your subscriber list. They’ll help you because they like you. They also want their clients and contacts to know about you and the goodness you offer.

Ask them to Tweet, Like, post, and otherwise recommend your newsletter or download link (for a report, ebook, or other incentive) and your list will grow.

No legal or ethical issues with this, right? Where it gets iffy is when you offer to compensate them for doing so. But doing so could multiply your sign-ups manifold. If you would otherwise get 100 sign-ups, offering compensation might get you 1000.

What you do is announce a contest. Anyone who sends subscribers has their name entered in a drawing for a prize.

How do you track this? How do you know who sent subscribers?

The simplest way is to hold another drawing for all of the new subscribers, with an equally spiffy prize. When you draw their name as the winner, you email them and ask them who referred them and they both get a prize.

There are other ways to “pay” people for their help in building your list. You can sell your book, for example, and set up an affiliate program. There are many others. But if you are allowed to do so, a drawing is a simple and effective way to pay for referrals and get away with it.

For more ideas, get The 30 Day Referral Blitz.

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Is “attorney” the right career for you?

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I don’t know what you think about the Myers-Briggs personality test, based on Carl Jung’s work, but according to a new infographic on career choice, I should have been a college professor instead of an attorney.

I’ve taken the test more than once, and got different results each time, so I’m not sure, but today it looks like I am an INTJ. That comes with the shorthand label, “Independent Scientists” and while the independent part fits, I’m not sure sure about the science part. College professor, maybe. Depends on what I’d be teaching.

I found “attorney” listed under ENTJ, which isn’t too far off. Of course there are many different types of attorneys, each with our own styles and leanings. I don’t see how trial attorneys and tax attorneys could possibly be in the same category.

Anyway, it’s kind of fun to see what the “experts” think about our choice of career, and I think the graphic does a good job of describing the different types. If you want to see yours without taking the MB test, job on over to this page and check it out. You can learn more about the 16 personality types on the Myers-Briggs website.

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What’s on your bucket list?

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What are you not doing because it’s too risky, too expensive, or takes too much time?

What are you not doing because you are afraid?

We all have them. Things we would love to do but talk ourselves out of doing. Or postpone until it’s too late.

I’m too old. I’m not good enough. It would take too long.

But do them we must.

Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so.”

What’s on your bucket list? What do you want to do at least once before time runs out?

Something fun? Something daring? Something you’ve always wanted to try?

Pick something and do it now. Don’t wait until the time is right. Don’t avoid doing it because it is difficult. Jim Rohn said, “There are two types of pain you will go through in life, the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”

It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay if you don’t know how. You’ll figure it out. “Leap, and the net will appear,” said John Burroughs.

Start with something small if you want. Then do something bigger. Make “trying new things” a habit, until you find yourself doing great things, things you’ve always wanted to do.

Twenty years from now, look me up and tell me all about it. Tell me how your life changed because you took a chance.

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Never check email in the morning?

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Everyone and his brother says we should never check email in the morning. They say that doing so allows others to dictate our morning tasks and we should instead focus on our pre-determined agenda.

But I do check email in the morning. Voice mail, too.

Checking email and voice mail lets me scope out and plan my day. Yes, my task list and calendar show me the important things I will be doing but emails and messages can be important, too.

But while I check email and messages in the morning I don’t respond to them in the morning. I do that after I get my other work done.

My morning routine includes going through my inbox, purging junk, and starring (gmail) important emails that require a response. When I’m done, I know how many emails I will need to respond to later that day. If there is work to do associated with those emails, I know that, too.

Same thing with phone messages. I write down who called and why and call them back later.

And hey, emergencies happen. While that’s rare for me today, I feel better knowing that I’ve made sure everything is okay. That’s better than ignoring the outside world for several hours and wondering if I’m missing something important.

Want to know another secret? Don’t tell anyone but I also check email throughout the day. Many times, in fact. Texts, too.

Yikes. Do I break every rule in the friggin book?

Guess so.

Anyway, that’s what works for me. Your mileage may vary.

I use Evernote to organize all of my tasks and projects. Go look

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