How much do you know about your clients?

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Your clients are more than an amalgam of the legal problems they bring to you and the more you know about them, the more you’ll be able to help them.

And helping them is one of the best ways to inspire them to help you.

If you want your clients to fall in love with you, send you referrals, and tell the world about your amazing ways, if you want them to go out of their way to help you, you should be prepared to do the same for them.

Help them solve problems and achieve goals that go beyond the core services you offer.

Send business clients referrals. Introduce them to professionals and business contacts who can do the same. Send traffic to their websites. Promote their events. Post reviews about their products or services.

Send consumer clients information that can help them save time or money. Recommend trustworthy contractors and vendors. Refer them to tax, insurance, real estate, and investment professionals. Support their charitable causes.

How do you know what your clients want and need? You ask them.

In new client intake forms, ask questions about their business or personal life. When you speak to them on the phone or in the office, listen carefully for clues about their problems or goals. When you’re done talking about their case, ask “How’s business?” or “What’s going on with you and the family?”

Get your clients to open up to you and they’ll tell what you can do to help them. If you can’t help them yourself, go out and find someone who can (and help them get a new client or customer).

The more you know about your clients, the more you can do to help them and the more you do that, the more likely it is that they will help you.

Learn more, earn more

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It’s cheaper to keep a client than to find a new one

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Before you invest another dollar or another minute looking for new clients, do yourself a favor and invest in retaining the ones you already have.

It’s cheaper.

They already know you and trust you. They already know what you do and they’ve seen you do it. You don’t have to go looking for them and woo them. You don’t have to do much to get them to hire you again.

Make sense?

So how do you retain clients? For starters, make sure you don’t chase them away.

A recent survey revealed that 23% of “customer complaints” are about rudeness or bad attitude. Hey, that’s an easy one to fix. Be nice, and if you’re already nice, find ways to be nicer.

Next on the list: don’t ignore them. Clients may run away from a rude lawyer, but most clients drift away from the lawyer who doesn’t pay attention to them.

If you ignore your clients, they may forget your name or the reasons they hired you and be easily seduced by the next lawyer who comes along.

That’s also easy to fix. Stay in touch with your clients.

What’s that? You’ve already done the work for them and they are unlikely to need your services again?

Silly boy. Have you forgotten about the referrals they could send you? Have you forgotten that those referrals are  easier to sign up than prospects who hear about you through an ad or online search?

Are you forgetting that if they refer you a client with a legal matter you don’t handle, you can refer them to another lawyer and earn their referrals in return?

Are you ignoring the other ways clients can help you like sending traffic to your website or telling their friends about your free report?

You worked hard to attract prospective clients. Once they hire you, you don’t have to do nearly as much (or spend nearly as much) to retain them.

Is there more to client retention than this? Sure. There are affirmative things you can do to strengthen your relationships and make your clients an advocate for your practice.

But let’s start with being nice and staying in touch.

Your clients want to send you referrals. Here’s how to help them do it

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Who fills out the paperwork in your office?

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In my practice, when I had a new client in the office I didn’t have them fill out any forms or paperwork in the waiting room and I didn’t have my staff do the initial intake–I filled out the paperwork myself.

One reason was that I wanted to talk to them about their case, get all the details, and ask follow-up questions my staff might not ask. I was able to do a better job for them as a result.

Another reason was that I didn’t want them fussing with paperwork when what they really wanted was to unburden their troubles on me and let me fix them. I thought they appreciated my making it easier for them to do that.

I could have had someone else do the initial information gathering before I saw them, and if I was pressed for time I sometimes did that. But I preferred to fill out the forms myself because it gave me an opportunity to spend a few more minutes with the client and get to know them.

I could ask about their kids, their job or business, and where they were going on vacation. I might tell them about a case I had that was similar to theirs. I could have some fun with them and lighten their load.

I often saw my clients only two times: at the first appointment and at the final appointment when I presented a settlement check and final paperwork. Those two visits were an opportunity to bond with them and I didn’t want anything to take away from that.

When clients like you, and think you like them, they come back to you and refer their friends.

So who fills out the paperwork in your office? You? The client? Staff? Do you send them a form to fill out before they come in for their first appointment? Or do you use a combination of the above?

Every practice is different, of course, so I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. I’ve told you what I did, and why, but you need to decide what’s best for your practice.

What I can tell you is that while this may be a “little thing,” you should spend time thinking about it because when it comes to building relationships, and building a successful practice, little things mean a lot.

Do it right and your clients will send you more referrals

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What would it take for your clients to say bye-bye?

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What would it take for your current crop of clients to leave you? What would make them say “enough” and hire another attorney?

Ponder on this for a bit. How might you offend them? What promises would you have to break? To what level would your standard of care have to fall?

It’s good to know these things so you don’t do them. And so you can work on strengthening what you do in each of those areas.

One area to consider are your fees. If you’re doing things right, fees aren’t the most important consideration for most clients. In surveys I’ve seen it’s number four on the list of factors for hiring an attorney, after things like “keeping them informed/availability” and other service-related issues.

If fees aren’t the number one factor, you have to ask yourself how much more you could charge before clients start to leave.

Could you safely raise your fees by 20% without losing clients? How about 30%? Could you double your fees, or triple them?

If you increased your fees and lost some clients, what percentage would be tolerable? Consider the added income you would bring in from the clients who didn’t leave and from new clients who signed up at the higher level?

When it comes to fees, surely even the most loyal client has a breaking point, right?

Maybe not.

I mentioned in a prior post a conversation I had with an attorney who was spending thousands of dollars a year on auto insurance for the family’s three cars. I asked her if they had shopped other carriers to see how much they might save. She immediately told me that she would never do that.

They like their agent and have been with him for years. He provides them with good service and they would never consider going anywhere else.

“What if you could save $2000 a year?” I asked her, and pointed out that this was entirely possible.

“No,” she said, they wouldn’t switch. They’d had other agents before and were disappointed with them, so they really appreciate (and are loyal to) their current one.

It didn’t matter that they might be grossly over-paying for something they might never use. It didn’t matter that if they did file a claim, the agent has little or nothing to do with whether or not that claim is paid, or how much.

Most people, myself included, look at auto insurance as a commodity. There are lots of places you can buy it. A few phone calls or online applications might allow you to save as much as two-thirds for the same coverage.

But this didn’t matter to her.

Granted, auto insurance isn’t purely a commodity. There is a service aspect to it. But how much is that worth?

Apparently, more than some people think.

Now, if this is true for auto insurance might it also be true of legal services? Something that isn’t a commodity (or shouldn’t be)?

I say yes. Which means that if you do a good job for your clients, you might be able to safely charge significantly more than you do now.

Especially if your clients have had other attorneys and were disappointed with them.

Fees, billing, and collection made simple

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Referral marketing for lawyers–roots before branches

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Let’s say you want to get more referrals from your clients. Not a bad idea. Now, how will you go about it?

Your strategy might be to give your clients lots of attention, show them that you care about them, and make them feel good about choosing you as their lawyer.

Good. An excellent strategy. What techniques will you use to effect your strategy?

What will you say to them at their first appointment? What will you give them? What will you send them, and when? What will do, and how often?

Strategies before techniques. Roots before branches.

Strategies derive from your values and beliefs. If you believe it’s important to surprise and delight your clients with over-the-top service and extra value, if you believe that doing so will endear them to you and make it more likely that they will return to you, say nice things about you, and send you referrals, your actions will reflect those values and beliefs.

If you believe that giving clients lots of attention takes too much time and won’t produce more loyal clients or more referrals, however, your actions will be different.

If you believe that your clients can provide you with more referrals than they now provide, you will be more inclined to invest time equipping your clients with information and tools they can use to send you more referrals. If you believe that your clients do what they can and can’t do any more, you probably won’t.

What many lawyers do, I think, is implement certain techniques before they have firmed up their beliefs and committed to a strategy. They hear that it’s a good idea to send new clients a thank you letter, for example, so they do it, but their heart isn’t in it. They say the words, but they don’t feel the sentiment behind them.

Sure enough, when they speak to the client, their words and behavior often tell a different story.

Start by asking yourself what you want to accomplish and choose one or more strategies for accomplishing it, based on your values and beliefs. Only then should you examine the techniques that are available to you.

My new course, “Maximum Referrals,” can help you do that. It shows you both the strategies and techniques you need to build a successful referral-based practice.

Check it out, here.

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The most important (and neglected) element in legal marketing

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Alrighty then. You’ve got a blog and a newsletter. You crank out reports, ebooks, articles and presentations. You do email. Maybe even social media.

You’ve got this content marketing thing down.

Or do you?

If you’re like many lawyers, there’s something missing from your content. Something important. Something your clients and prospects want to see.

You. There’s not enough “you” in your marketing.

You’ve got the law down. Procedure, too. You obviously know your stuff. Anyone who accesses your content can see that you are qualified to help them. But then so are all of the other lawyers out there who do the same thing.

The thing that differentiates you from your competition, more than anything else, is you.

Because clients buy you before they buy your services.

Clients want to know what it would be like to work with you.

The law? Not that interesting to most people. Clients want to know that you understand it and can work your magic with it and get them some great results (or die trying), but in the end, they are far more interested in hearing about the man or woman behind the curtain.

That’s you.

They want to hear your voice. If not literally (via audio and video and live presentations), through your writing. They want to know your personality, your opinions, and your habits. They want to know about what’s important to you.

They want to know something about your personal life. What do you do when you’re not working?

They want to know about your other clients. How do they feel about you and what you did for them?

They want to know about your staff, your partners, and others with whom you associate, because our associations are a big part of who we are.

They want to know your opinion about things–cases and clients you’ve handled, trends in the law or in their industry or community. Maybe your predictions, too.

They want to know what it would be like to sit in your office, sharing their secrets with you, and looking to you for help.

So put more “you” into your marketing. Not too much, of course. You don’t want to sound like a politician who can’t stop saying “I”. Just enough about yourself so that people can see who you are, not just what you do.

Because people buy you before they buy your services.

Legal marketing is easier when you know The Formula 

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Your clients think you’re getting rich at their expense

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Your clients have no idea how expensive it is to run a law practice. Is it any wonder that some clients shake their heads at $400 an hour? Can you understand why a $10,000 retainer might be incomprehensible to someone who earns $40,000 a year?

How do we get clients to understand that we’re not getting rich at their expense?

Should you tell your clients how much you actually earn? No. It’s none of their business.

Besides, you want your clients to think that you earn a very good living.  Nobody wants to hire a lawyer who is struggling to pay their rent.

But perhaps you could help your clients to understand that running a law practice is expensive, and that what you bill out in no way approximates what you take home.

One way to do that would be to take new clients on a tour of your office. Show them how many desks and chairs there are. Show them your conference room and library. Point out the computers and copy machines and other equipment. Introduce the people who work for you and describe their function.

You might also want to explain, perhaps in a letter in their “new client welcome kit,” what you and your staff will be doing for them. You might point out that at any one time, there are at least three people working on their case. You could also provide a soup-to-nuts description of the major steps you take to do what you do.

Let them know how you investigate a case, conduct research, prepare pleadings and motions and discovery, and get ready for trial. Mention something about the costs you incur on a typical case. If your work is handled on contingency, remind them that while you are good at what you do and selective about the cases you accept, there is no guarantee that you will win every case and if you don’t, you will get paid nothing.

In your newsletter, talk about the things you do to hold down costs. Talk about how the forms and templates you have developed over the years allow you to save your clients money, for example. Let them see that while you don’t cut corners, you don’t spend money unnecessarily.

At the same time, unless your clients are wealthy, don’t talk about your new Mercedes, your lavish vacation, or expensive new toys. Don’t “dress down” — you’re expected to do well — but don’t give clients cause to believe that you are indeed getting rich at their expense.

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Do no harm: The easiest way to increase law firm profits

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[I’m taking it easy this week and re-publishing this post from 2012.]

In medicine, The Hippocratic Oath includes the Latin phrase, Primum non nocere, meaning, “First, do no harm.” Attorneys need a similar pledge, not just to protect our clients, but to protect our bottom line.

According to a study from The George Washington University (ppt–not worth downloading, IMHO), the cost of a dissatisfied customer is staggering:

  • The average business does not hear from 96% of unhappy customers
  • For every complaint received, there are 24 people with unvoiced problems; six are serious
  • 90% who are dissatisfied with the service won’t return
  • The average customer with a complaint will tell 9-10 people; 13% will tell more than 20 people

Other studies confirm numbers like these. The bottom line: losing one client could cost you a lot more than you earn from one new client.

Therefore, the easiest (and smartest) way to increase your profits is to stop losing clients.

There is some good news from the study:

  • Of those who complain, 50-70% will do business with you again if the complaint is resolved. 95% will return if it is resolved quickly

Therefore, you must encourage your clients to let you know when they aren’t happy so you can fix the problem quickly and can take steps to make sure the problem won’t occur with other clients.

Remember, most unhappy clients don’t complain. They just leave–and tell others that you are a Bozo.

Here’s how you can solicit this extremely valuable feedback from your clients:

  • Include feedback forms in your “New Client Kit”
  • Post surveys on your web site
  • Tell clients (repeatedly) that if they ever have an issue of any kind, you want them to call you personally (and give them your cell phone number or direct line)
  • Put a “Suggestion Box” link on your web site. Allow people to contribute (or complain) anonymously. Promote this box via your newsletter and blog
  • Put stories in your newsletter about suggestions you received and implemented.
  • Interview clients at the end of the case. Ask them, (1) What did we do well? and (2) What could we do better?
  • Thank everyone for their ideas and feedback, publicly if possible

In other words, if you want feedback, create an environment where feedback is encouraged, appreciated, and most of all, acted upon.

Often, perhaps most of the time, unhappy clients aren’t unhappy because the attorney did something wrong, they are unhappy because of poor communication:

  • Something wasn’t explained properly.
  • The attorney didn’t keep the client informed.
  • The client’s phone calls weren’t returned.

If you ever drop the ball in any of these areas, don’t worry, these are easy to fix. If any of your clients were unhappy with their previous attorney for any of these reasons, celebrate. This is a tremendous opportunity for you to convert them into raving fans.

The best way to maintain law firm profits: marketing

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When is it okay to ask your client to wait?

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I hate waiting. It’s an issue with me. When I have an appointment with a doctor at 1pm, I expect to be seen at 1pm.

That’s the time of my appointment. Don’t make me wait.

Show me some respect. I’m paying your rent and putting braces on your kid’s teeth. I have my own clients to see. I blocked out time to see you.

If my appointment is at 1:00, don’t see me at 1:30 or even 1:05.

Don’t make me wait.

When a doctor or other professional doesn’t see me on time, I’m up at the desk asking why. I let them know I’m busy and can’t wait. I’ve been known to threaten to send the doctor a bill for my waiting time. I’ve been know to leave and get another doctor.

As I said, I hate to wait.

I’ve been doing some conference calls this week. As usual, some of the participants get on the call after the scheduled time. I don’t wait for them. If we’re scheduled to start at 5pm, that’s when I start.

Why should I make the people who show up on time wait for the ones who don’t?

When you start on time, you show people that you are organized and disciplined and professional. It shows that you keep your promises and tells people that they can count on you.

Don’t be late. Don’t make people wait.

Some say being late makes you appear more important. Nah, it just makes you rude.

Something else. When a client is in the office with you and your get a call, I know you know better than to take that call. I know you instruct your staff that unless it is an emergency, when you have a client in the office you are not to be disturbed.

Please say you do that. Please say you know it’s rude to take calls when a client is in the office.

Okay, good.

But how about when you’re on the phone with a client? Have you ever said to a client, “Can you hold on for a minute?” so you can take another call? Even if it is to tell the new caller that you’ll call them back?

Maybe that doesn’t rise to the level of rudeness but if you think about it from the client’s perspective, it tells them that other people are more important than they are.

Even though it’s just for a minute. Even though they said it was okay.

Marketing legal services like a pro

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Stop trying to make everyone like you

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Believe it or not, some people don’t like me. Okay, maybe it’s not me they don’t like, they don’t like my writing.

They think my ideas “aren’t for them”. My writing style makes them uncomfortable. They don’t think I understand them or can help them.

You know what? I don’t care.

For one thing, I never hear from them. They quietly leave my email list or stop visiting my blog. They’re gone, like a fart in the wind, and will probably never return.

The other reason I don’t care is that they aren’t my target market. I don’t write to them, or for them. If they don’t “grok” me, they probably don’t trust me and my ideas and thus they aren’t going to hire me or recommend me.

If I cared about what they thought and tried to appeal to them, I would have to water down my style or homogenize my ideas. If I did that, I would be doing a disservice to the ones who do like me: my prospects and clients.

So, I ignore them and continue to do my thang. And the more I do that, the more I attract people who like what I say because they know I’m talking to them.

One of the reasons I pound on the idea of targeting niche markets instead of marketing to “everyone” is that it allows you to connect with the people in that niche on a deeper level. By your examples and stories and yes, even your style of writing, they think, “he gets me”. That synergy leads to more clients, more referrals, and more positive word of mouth.

That doesn’t happen when you try to please everyone.

Seth Godin put it this way recently:

When we hold back and dumb down, we are hurting the people who need to hear from us, often in a vain attempt to satisfy a few people who might never choose to actually listen.

It’s quite okay to say, “it’s not for you.”

Write to the people who get you. Ignore the ones who don’t.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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