Welcoming new businesses to your community

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My local Chamber of Commerce puts out a weekly email newsletter. It features upcoming events such as networking mixers, charity golf tournaments, and a meet and greet with our mayor. It also welcomes and lists new members. 

If I were still practicing, I would contact the new members, congratulate them on their new business, and welcome them to the community. If they aren’t a new business, I would congratulate them on joining the chamber.

If they are new, I’d ask if they are having a grand opening. If they aren’t new, I’d ask about any current sale or promotion. Then, I’d mention this in my newsletter and post it on my blog.

It doesn’t matter whether I handle business matters or consumer matters, or that they already have a lawyer. They have customers and vendors and business contacts who may need a lawyer, now or in the future. They joined the chamber to meet other businesses and some of those businesses might need a lawyer, or have customers who do.

I’d ask what kind of customers or clients they wanted and do my best to send them some referrals. I’d introduce the owner or manager of the business to other business owners and professionals in the market.

Do you think some of these business owners and professionals might also introduce me to other business owners and professionals they have met? Is it possible they might have some referrals for me? Do you think they might offer me some kind of special deal I could pass along to my clients and prospects?

Yes or yes?

How many other attorneys do this? Approximately zero. You can be the one and only.

You can start with a short phone call. Leave a message if you need to. Or send an email. Don’t pitch anything, just welcome them. If you speak to them, ask about their business. If you hit it off with them, meet them for coffee.

Marketing is easy. Lawyers are difficult.

Get The Attorney Marketing Formula and learn more about marketing legal services.

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Why I don’t obsess over SEO

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I take a rather relaxed approach to SEO. I pay attention to a few things like using keywords, but not at the expense of good writing, and by that, I mean writing that informs, persuades, inspires, and (at times) entertains.

I don’t study search engine optimization. I don’t hire consultants. And I don’t spend time contorting my posts to conform to arcane rules of the day.

Why?

First, I hate this kind of stuff. It’s boring. And frustrating. One day it’s this way, next week it’s something else.

Second, I don’t need to. Google is smarter than I am and they always find a way to figure out what I’m saying and who should read it. What they want more than anything is well-written, high quality information, and that’s what I try to give them.

A recent article over at the SearchEnginePeople.com blog, about five common SEO misconceptions, agrees that quality is king.

My favorite misconception is, “every headline needs a keyword.” I like this because I do try to include a well-searched keyword phrase in most of my headlines, but frankly, it often ruins an otherwise compelling headline.

Apparently, I can loosen up on the reins a bit. “If you can add a niche keyword in there, then all the better but don’t make that the be all and end all of your headline writing… A captivating headline brings click-throughs, links social shares and more traffic.”

There is a trade-off between being found (keywords) and being clicked (benefit rich headline). Apparently, if we write clickable headlines and high quality copy, Google will send us people who want to read it.

Content marketing for attorneys: click here

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Starting an email newsletter

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Quick, give me a legal tip. Something in your area of expertise you recommend I know or do.

Got it? Okay, write it down. Just the idea or title. Make a few notes if you want, but don’t spend a lot of time.

Congratulation. You now have the makings of an email you can send to your list. All you need to do is to take the idea and write three paragraphs that explain your tip.

Could you do this again? Could you come up with something for next week? A tip, a quick story, a recommended website? I’ll bet you could. Excellent. You have next week’s email.

You can post these on your website, too. Great! You’ve also started a blog.

Many attorneys hesitate to start a newsletter or blog because of the perceived immensity of the task. If you think in terms of a writing a few paragraphs, once a week, it shouldn’t appear so daunting.

You have a lot of knowledge you can share. Substantive law, procedure, advice. You don’t realize how much you know.

You also have a lot of experiences you can share. Interesting cases or clients, war stories.

You run a practice. People want to know about your employees, how you manage information, how you stay productive. What’s a typical day like? How do you open a new file? What do you do when you have a conflict? How do you keep track of deadlines?

You know other professionals who have information your clients want to know. You can ask them to share some of their knowledge with your readers.

You celebrate the holidays. Your readers enjoy hearing from you and sharing the joys of the season.

You have problems. People want to know how you deal with them.

You have goals. People want to hear what you are doing to reach them.

You have likes and dislikes people want to know about. Technology, books, movies, blogs and magazines.

Write something and send it off. Do it again next week. Pick a day when you’ll send your email and put it on your calendar. The whole thing, from start to finish, shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes.

Now, once you’ve done this for a few months, you can take your backlog of emails and load them into an autoresponder. When someone joins your email list, they will automatically receive these emails. Once a week, they’ll get something from you, perhaps something you wrote months ago. You won’t have to write new emails if you don’t want to.

Starting an email newsletter isn’t difficult. Just start. One tip, one thought, and send.

For more ideas for your newsletter or blog, get this

 

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The quickest way to create a new website

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I’m working with an attorney who is setting up his first website. One of the things I told him to do was to find websites he likes and study them, so he can use them as models for creating his own. They don’t have to be attorneys’ sites but they should probably be professionals or other service providers.

The idea is to use the structure of another site for ideas for laying out yours. Actually, you might combine elements from several sites. Perhaps you like the column layout from one, the color palate from another, and the page order from a third.

Yes, Jack, you can set up your own site. Get hosting, install WordPress (one button click), and you have a site. With WordPress, you can set up your site with a blog or as a static websiste. You can start with a single page if you want.

Then, change the theme. Many themes are free or low cost. Install some plug-ins to make managing the site easier, and you’re ready to add content. You can see some of my recommended resources for all of this on this page.

Once the basic site is set up, use other sites for content ideas. Find several “About” pages, for example, and look at them side by side. What do they have in common? How long are they? Where is the head shot? What do they link to? How much personal information is included?

Instead of starting with a blank page, you have a framework into which to pour your words.

Do the same thing for other pages that describe services, hours, directions, parking, fee and payment guidelines.

Don’t worry about making everything perfect, just get something on the page. You can update and revise it later. If you don’t want anyone to see your work in process, download a plug-in that allows you to put the site in “maintenance mode” so that if anyone visits, they will only see an “under construction” or “coming soon” page. “WP Maintenance Mode” is one I’ve used.

For more on how to create a new website, get this

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Content marketing for lawyers: don’t forget about your other clients

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Okay, so you write articles and blog posts targeted to prospective clients. You educate them about the law and procedure, what an attorney can do for them (or can’t), and how to choose the right attorney. You show them what you can do for them and why they should choose you instead of any other attorney.

That’s good. But don’t forget your other clients.

What do I mean? I mean writing for other attorneys who can send you referrals. If I’m a California attorney and need a referral for my client who has business in New York, I’m going to go online and look at New York attorney’s web sites. Yes, I want to see what you have to say to lay people but I would be even more impressed if you wrote something for me.

The same goes for other professionals who might be able to send you business. Do you do real estate closings? How about some content for real estate agents? Do you handle estate planning? Maybe it would be good to write something financial planners and insurance agents.

Anything else? Sure. How about something for bloggers and the media? They’re always looking for authoritative content for their articles. Make their job easier by summarizing key areas of the law or prominent legal trends.

These are some of your other clients. They may not be able to hire you themselves, but they can send you a lot of business. You should be marketing to them.

You have a couple of choices. You can set up separate pages on your site for these other clients or you can set up separate sites and link to them.

Okay, homework time. Choose a category of referral source for your practice and write your first article. If you’re a California divorce lawyer and you want referrals from small business lawyers, for example, write something that helps business attorneys advise their clients. Post it on your website. Then, email a link to business attorneys you know and ask for feedback. Ask them to forward the link to their colleagues.

I told you marketing was easy.

Content marketing for lawyers made simple: Go here

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Networking and your legal marketing plan

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If you do it right, networking can become a cornerstone of your legal marketing plan and one of your biggest sources of new business and career opportunities. But it can also be time consuming. 

One way to get more out of your networking is to use it as a springboard to finding content for your blog or newsletter.

Interview people you meet through networking and post it on your blog or in your newsletter. Do a profile of them or their business or practice, or promote their cause.

They get exposure, traffic, and new clients or customers. Your readers learn valuable tips from these subject matter experts. You get content for your blog that may bring you more search engine traffic.

And you get the gratitude of your new networking partner.

Their gratitude may lead to good things for you. Or it may not. Not all of people you feature in your interviews will reciprocate by interviewing you or sending you traffic or referrals. But some will.

These interviews can lead to other things. You can invite your networking partners to submit guest posts or articles for your blog or newsletter. You can explore other marketing joint ventures.

Go find some professionals, businesses, or vendors who sell to or write about your target market or community. You can find them online or in person. Reach out to them and ask questions about what they do. Then, ask for the interview. I can’t imagine anyone turning you down.

Wait, I’ll make it even easier for you. Start (this week would be good) by approaching someone you already know. Call your best referral source or business client and tell them you want to interview them.

What’s that? You don’t have a blog or newsletter? I guess you better start.

Learn how to create or grow a blog or website. Click here.

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Search terms for lawyers: let’s write another post together

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Time for us to write another blog post together. Like the previous one, this is designed to bring you search engine traffic for a high ranking search term.

Last time, we wrote a post optimized for, “What to ask a ________ lawyer”. You filled in the blank with your practice area. Today, we’re going to write a post optimized for another oft searched phrase, “How to find a good __________ attorney”.

Remember to use this phrase in your title and body of your post. It’s also good to add the phrase to the post’s meta data. I use a wordpress plug-in for that.

For the content of the post, I suggest providing two basic recommendations for finding a lawyer in your practice area:

(1) Referrals. Tell readers to ask someone they trust for a referral. This could be another lawyer, an insurance agent, accountant, doctor, business owner, or other professional. It could also be someone who might have hired an attorney in your field. Provide a few questions to ask about the attorney, especially why they recommend them.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “why suggest that they ask people for a referral that might lead the visitor to another attorney”? Because it’s good advice. Because your post is providing objective information prospective clients need to know. Because when someone reads this, they are on your site, where they can see what you do and all of the reasons why they should choose you. And because this post is what brings prospects to your site who might otherwise not find you.

Add some criteria for selecting an attorney in your field, referred or otherwise. Provide questions to ask that attorney, and things to look for on their site, i.e., background, and so forth. See my previous post for recommendations.

(2) Search. Visitors are on your site most likely because of a search. So, endorse what they did to get there by providing a list of additional search terms for lawyers in your practice area.

Again, being helpful.

Might visitors take those terms and go find other attorneys? Yes. But they might do that anyway. They also might see that you are helpful and confident and know what you’re doing, and choose you. They might go look at other attorney’s sites, see that they are not as helpful, and come back to you.

Remind readers that search is just a starting point and that they should investigate further using the same criteria you spoke about for referred attorneys.

If you have additional recommendations for finding and evaluating an attorney in your practice area, by all means add them, especially if you are strong in those areas. If you have a strong presence and lots of positive reviews on consumer rating sites, or a big social media following populated by lots of fans, you might want to say something about how this could be either a good starting point for a search, or a good way to validate that the attorney candidate is worthy of consideration.

You might want to explain why some ways of finding attorneys are not recommended. Directories, for example, are often paid listings (ads) and in any event, don’t provide enough information to make an intelligent decision.

Once this post is published, as with the previous post, write other posts on this subject, optimized for variations of your original search phrase. For example, “How to find a great ______ attorney,” “How to choose the right _______ attorney,” and “How do I select the best ______ attorney?”

For more ideas on blog posts and other content that brings traffic to your site, get your hands on Make the Phone Ring and learn, um, how to make your phone ring.

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Why you should offer multiple versions of your legal services

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If you only offer one version of your services, you may be losing business and short-changing your income.

Think about it, when a prospective client thinks the fee you quoted is more than he wants to spend, he has two choices: hire you or go away. One of those choices is bad for both of you. If you offer two versions, however, the client might choose the lower cost version. They’ll get some of what they need now, they can get more later, and you get a client.

When I was selling my big ticket referral marketing course a few years back, I offered Basic and Deluxe versions. The Deluxe version offered more information and more help (consulting). Most lawyers chose the Deluxe package, which meant I got more customers and earned more on the average sale.

You want prospective clients to think “which package should I get?” instead of “should I get this?” In marketing, it’s called “alternative choice”. It’s used extensively  in direct response.  And sales people use it to set appointments: “could I come out tomorrow or would some time next week work better?”

If you currently offer a menu of different services, see if you can combine some of them into bigger packages. You’ll make it easier for clients to choose, because they will have fewer options, and you’ll earn more for the same work.

If you charge by the hour, see if you can break off some of what you do, package it, and offer it for a flat fee.

And, if you currently offer a package of legal services for one set fee, see if you could break up that package into two or three separate packages. You can charge more for each package separately, or offer a lower price if they sign up for both (or all three). Not only will you get more first time clients, you’ll also earn more for each component of your work.

Learn more about packaging your services. Click here.

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What do clients want from their lawyers?

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What do clients want from their lawyers? You can ask your clients what they want. You can conduct surveys. You can do research. But as Steve Jobs once said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

A client comes in, thinking he wants a certain document or course of action. You show him his other options, recommend one, and tell him why.

A prospective client visits your website, looking for a solution he thinks he needs. He reads your articles and learns that something else might be better for him.

A client comes to see you, asking about your cheapest solution. You show him why this will cost more in the long run, or expose him to too much risk, and suggest a more expensive option.

A client wants you to go to trial. You show him why it makes sense to settle.

But your job is about more than the delivery of your core services. It is about creating the complete client experience. This includes how you answer the phone, how you schedule appointments, how you keep clients informed during the case, your billing practices, how you dress, your office decor, your bedside manor, and everything else.

If the client has hired an attorney in the past, they are probably expecting you to treat them the way other attorneys have. It probably won’t take much to exceed their expectations.

If they client hasn’t hired an attorney before, they may not know what to expect. That means you have to work a little harder to explain your recommendations. It means you have to manage their expectations, by under-promising, so you can over-deliver.

In your marketing, are you advertising or promoting the same services and features other attorneys offer or are you taking some risks and offering something different?

In any business or professional practice, you have to give clients what they want. But sometimes, they don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

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How to stop procrastinating

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I don’t believe all procrastination is bad.

Sometimes, procrastination is our subconscious mind telling us that what we are resisting is not in our best interests. Without procrastination, we might rush into projects that waste time or money and distract us from our most important objectives. Procrastination is a buffer that allows us to examine our plans, make sure that they are appropriate and that we are ready to move forward.

And yet we all have projects we know we need to do, and often want to do, but still procrastinate. Many books have been written about how to stop procrastinating. One of the best strategies, and also the simplest, is to just get started.

Do something related to the project and you will have begun. And beginning is the most important part.

What have you been procrastinating about in connection with marketing? Something you know you should do but haven’t done?

Updating your website? That’s a good one. Okay, let’s see if we can get you started.

Procrastination is often a sign that we need more information. Start by making a list of things you need to look into. You might set up an electronic file and use that for your notes, ideas, resources, and links.

Write down some ideas. Make a note to do some searches on keywords like “self-hosted wordpress,” “wordpress themes,” “email autoresponders,” and content marketing. Save the links to your file. Here is a list of resources I recommend to add to your list.

Also, when you see a website that has features you know you need, or a layout you like, add the link to your notes.

Hey, you’ve started this project! You may have a long way to go, but you are closer now than you were before.

Let’s do another.

You’ve been thinking about finding and joining a new networking group. Let me help you get started:

  • Write down the names of people you know who are good networkers; make a note to ask them for advice
  • Search online for groups in your local market that might be appropriate, in two categories: (general networking groups (chamber of commerce, Rotary, BNI), and groups that cater to your target market (industry, trade groups, etc.)
  • Do a search for “how to choose a networking group” and get some tips for your notes
  • Visit the websites of candidate groups and get information about when they meet, what kind of members they have, and who can join
  • Narrow your list to five candidates and put their meeting days on your calendar

There. You’ve started.

One more? How about a project to increase referrals.

  • Schedule a Saturday this month to update your database or contact management system; make sure everyone you know is in it; if you have to manually go through closed files, schedule time for that
  • Add a field or tag so you can identify contacts (client, former client, prospects, professional contacts, and other)
  • Write a few lines for the first draft of a “touching base” email you can send to your contacts

Yep, you started that project, too.

You can do this for any project you have been putting off. Do anything related to that project, even if it’s just opening a file and jotting down some notes. Once you have started, you are on your way.

Next, choose some aspect of one of these projects and “start” on that. Take some action that moves you forward.

They say the hardest part of going to the gym is going to the gym. Once you’re at the gym, the rest is (relatively) easy.

For help with your website, get this

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