Decide what you want before writing the first word

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You’re preparing a presentation. An email. A blog post, article, or report. Whatever it is, the best place to start is at the end.

Before you write the first word, think about what you want your reader to do.

When they are done reading your email or watching your video, what do you want them to do next?

Examples:

  • Call to schedule an appointment
  • Call or email with questions
  • Visit a web page for more information
  • Sign up for your email newsletter or download your report
  • Fill out a form and turn it in at the end of the seminar
  • Tell your friends about this offer, article, or link
  • Register for the upcoming webinar
  • Pass out the enclosed referral cards
  • Watch a video
  • Comment, Like, and share
  • Tell your friends to call, subscribe, or download
  • Write a review on xyz

And so on.

All designed to get your reader or viewer to do something that helps you to get more clients, subscribers, traffic, referrals, or other benefits.

They get benefits, too. They learn something, get legal help, save money, or protect their family or business. Or they get the satisfaction of helping their friends or helping you.

Both of you get something.

The call to action at the end of your message is the most important part of that message. Think about what you want them to do before you start writing.

When you get to the end, tell them what to do. Don’t make them figure out what to do next. Tell them: Click here, call this number, go to this web page.

And tell them why. Don’t assume they know. Don’t be vague. Spell out exactly what they get or how they benefit.

Like this: “To learn how to easily get more referrals from your clients, get this

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Tell them what to do NEXT

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You run an ad. Write an article. Or give a talk. Whatever you do to push your name and message out into the world or into the hands of a prospective client, at the end, you should tell them what to do next.

Eventually, you want them to hire you. But it’s usually too early to tell them to do that.

If they’re sitting in the office with you after a free consultation and they need your services, yeah, tell them to “sign here”. Hiring you is the next step. The next step at the end of a presentation, article, email, or when you hand someone your business card, however, is different.

The next step might be to visit a webpage to get more information, access your report, fill out a form, sign up for your webinar, or subscribe to your newsletter. Or it might be to call your office to ask questions or to make an appointment. Whatever it is, that’s what you should tell them to do.

The right “call to action” will depend on:

  • The nature of their problem or objective
  • Their level of sophistication
  • Whether they already know and trust you/hired you before
  • What else they’ve read or heard from you or about you
  • Your offer or offers
  • And other factors

But it’s usually not “sign here”.

How do you know what’s best? You try different calls to action and track responses. You test and re-test to find which one brings the best response.

“Call for an appointment” vs. “Visit this page for more information”. “Download my free report” vs. “Download my free planning kit”. “Call my office to schedule a free consultation” vs. “Call my office for a free phone consultation”.

You can also offer more than one call to action to accommodate those who are further along in the buying process, that is, closer to making a hiring decision: “Call to schedule a free consultation” and “Visit this page to learn more about your rights”.

Tell people what to do next and you’ll get more people taking the next step.

How to talk to people about referrals

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Selling ice to eskimos

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I took a speech class in college. When it was time to deliver my presentation, I talked about insurance and retirement planning. Yep, to a bunch of 18-year olds.

A friend was selling insurance and provided me with information I could use in the presentation. I made the case for buying insurance when you’re young and the insurance is cheap. I told them I had purchased a policy for that reason and encouraged them to do the same. I offered to introduce them to my friend who could tell them more.

As you might have guessed, despite doing a good presentation (according to my teacher), there were no takers.

I had a good message (arguably) but delivered it to the wrong audience.

If my audience had been a group of newly married young people or young couples who had just had a child, I might have gotten better results.

There are many elements that go into crafting a marketing message but none is more important than your audience. If your audience doesn’t have the legal problem you’re talking about, for example, and believes they are unlikely to ever have it, your message will fall on deaf ears.

A well-crafted message with a crazy-good offer heard by the wrong audience will fail. A mediocre message and offer delivered to the right audience, however, might do just fine.

Before you do any presentation, write a blog post or article, record a video, send mail or email to a list, or run an ad, the first question you must ask is, “Who is the audience?”

If you have the wrong audience for your message, you either need to change the audience or change the message.

If you’re a personal injury lawyer and you’re addressing a group of people who have never been in an accident, don’t talk to them about how to get the highest settlement, talk to them about what to do when they do have an accident.

Sales people pre-qualify prospects and leads before talking to them, and you should, too. Find out if your audience needs what you’re selling and if they can afford to buy it. If they don’t need it or can’t afford it, go talk to someone else.

Get your website to pre-sell your services to visitors. Click here

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Um, could you be more specific?

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I got an email today that had a link to an article with this headline: “Don’t make these 5 common legal mistakes”.

Not bad. It makes the reader want to know what those mistakes are so they can see if they’re making them. It appeals to curiosity and promises a benefit. It also invokes fear because if these are common mistakes, there’s a good chance, the reader thinks, that they’re making one of them, and because these are legal mistakes, they could cause serious grief and financial loss.

But while this is a good headline, it’s not good enough. Not today, anyway.

Most consumer and general business publications have this type of article and your reader has lots of other pressing things on his or her mind.

So no click.

The headline isn’t good enough because it’s not specific enough.

Let’s say I’m a good prospect for your practice and you wrote this article. If your headline promised to show me, “5 common mistakes made by California homeowners,” I might lean towards clicking because I am a California homeowner. Your article might earn my attention because it is obviously targeted to me, rather than “everyone”.

But it could be even more specific, and thus almost irresistible. If it promised to reveal “5 common mistakes made by California homeowners when filing their tax returns,” since that’s on my mind right now, I would almost have to read your article.

My point is that most headlines (email subjects, etc.) aren’t specific enough to cut through the morass of messages that come across everyone’s field of vision on a daily basis. Specifics will almost always get you more clicks and eyeballs.

It’s true that the more specific you are, the more you will appeal to a smaller number of possible readers, but that’s the point. The readers you do appeal to will be more likely to respond.

I’d rather have ten people read my article than 100 who thought about it but didn’t. I’d rather have five people who would make a good client for my practice read my article than 50 people who wouldn’t.

So, with all things marketing, as with all things legal, your challenge is to find the sweet spot so you can maximize your results.

You don’t need (or want) to appeal to “everyone”. You want to appeal to your ideal client, and you want him or her to immediately understand that that’s exactly what you’re doing. To do that, you have to be willing to give up everyone else.

This will help you identify your ideal client

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If Goldilocks handled your law firm marketing

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Is your porridge too hot? Do you give prospective clients too much information on your website or in your other marketing materials?

Probably not. If you’re like most lawyers, your porridge is too cold. Your give them too little. Prospective clients can see what you do and where you are located, but not much more.

If Goldilocks handled your law firm marketing, she would tell you that you have to get your porridge just right.

How much information is “just right”? More than you think. When someone goes online to find an attorney it’s because they have a problem and they want information about their problem and the available solutions before they will consider you for the job.

Don’t just list your practice areas and services. That’s not enough. That’s too cold.

Teach people about the law and procedure. Discuss the risks and the options. Tell them about other people who have had these problems and, with your help, overcame them. Tell them about people who waited too long or made the wrong decisions and made things worse.

But don’t expect them to wade through too much information and understand how it all fits together. That’s too hot.

You need to give people enough information so they can see how you can help them, and make it compelling enough to motivate them to take the next step.

You have to capture their attention with provocative and benefit-rich headlines. You have to keep them reading with a narrative thread that speaks to their emotions and shows them that you understand their pain. You have to tell them that you can help them, like you have helped others. And you have to tell them what to do next.

But don’t explain everything. You want to make them curious enough to contact you. Don’t get too specific about fees on your website, for example. Give them guidelines, perhaps, but make them call to find out more.

So that’s the challenge. That’s the art of marketing. And porridge making. Not too hot, not too cold. . . just right.

Learn how to make your online law firm marketing just right: click here

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How to quote your fee and get more clients to say yes

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Here’s an interesting tidbit about how to quote your fee.

According to an article on pricing strategies, researchers have found that “prices” that contained more syllables were perceived by consumers as drastically higher than their fewer-syllable counterparts. Their findings were published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology:

When these pricing structures were shown to subjects:

* $1,499.00
* $1,499
* $1499

… the top two prices seemed far higher to consumers than the third price. This effect occurs because of the way one would express the number verbally: “One thousand four hundred and ninety-nine,” for the comma versions versus “fourteen ninety-nine” for the unpunctuated version. This effect even occurs when the number is evaluated internally, or not spoken aloud.

I know that when I hear prices or fees quoted verbally in a commercial or presentation, I listen to how that fee sounds and think about whether there’s a better way to say it. “Two-hundred and ninety-nine dollars” sounds like a lot more than “two ninety nine”.

I do my best to use this in my marketing, but there was this one time when it caused a bit of confusion.

My secretary was on the phone with an attorney who wanted to know the cost for a product we were offering. Per my counsel, she told him “one-ninety-five” based on a price of $195.  Sure enough, a week later, we got a check in the mail in the amount of $1.95.

So be careful. Especially with lawyers.

The least you need to know about fees, billing, and collection

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Another example of email done wrong

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I got an email yesterday that said “Hey David, I just came across your LinkedIn profile and decided to reach out.”

Alrighty, but he didn’t send the email to the email address I have with LinkedIn. Lying in the first sentence? I don’t know, but we’re not off to a good start.

Oh, and addressing me by first name instead of waiting for permission? Manners, please.

He introduced himself: “I’m with [company]–we connect entrepreneurs like you with the marketing talent that can grow your business.”

A sales pitch already? That didn’t take long. And, did he even read my profile or go to my website? If he had, he might have noticed that I’m in the marketing game myself.

Onward.

“I hope you don’t mind the cold outreach, but I thought you’d be interested and decided to go for it. Here is the link” and he provided a link to his website.

Interested in what? He didn’t say. He didn’t give me a reason to click the link.

I wouldn’t necessarily mind a cold email, but not done this way. How about earning my trust, first? How about giving me a reason to pay attention? How about a little finesse?

He closed the email and “signed” it with his first name as the CTO of his company. Again, he thinks we’re on a first name basis. And, you want me to trust you but you haven’t told me your full name.

Sup wit dat?

More bad vibes: There’s an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email, which means he went ahead and subscribed me to his list without my permission. A one-time cold email is something I can live with. A subscription without permission and you’re going straight to Internet jail (spam).

Look, it’s okay to send email to people you don’t know. But don’t lie to them or pitch them right out of the box. Say something that lets them know you are a real person who wants to introduce themselves and that you are someone who might be worth knowing.

The recipient knows you’ve got an agenda of some sort. Everyone does. Put it in your back pocket for now and take the time to turn a cold name and email into a warm prospect.

As a lawyer, you might think that you would never send a cold email to someone you don’t know, particularly someone you would like to have as a client. I wouldn’t contact consumers unless I had been invited to do so, but you can contact professionals you’d like to know. You could also contact potential business clients, if you do it right.

Start by showing them you know something about them and what they do and that you’re not sending spam to the masses. Compliment them on something you like, tell them how you are similar in your interests or your work, or ask them a question.

Your motto: “friends first”.

Then, offer something they might find valuable and relevant. A blog post, video, report, or something else that’s free and easy to access. Don’t make them go to your website to see if you have anything interesting, tell me what it is, how it would benefit them, and where to get it.

But maybe you should save that for your next email.

For more on email marketing, get Make the Phone Ring

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What kids can teach you about marketing legal services

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If you have kids you know that they are like a Terminator when it comes to asking questions. They never stop. They have an innate and insatiable curiosity about the world and their place in it and asking questions is how they make sense of it all.

Of course you also know that their favorite question is “why?”

When you tell them to eat their peas, they ask why. “Because I said so” isn’t a very good answer.

And yet “because I said so” will get many kids to comply. It is a reason, after all, even if it carries an innate threat of punishment for failure to do so.

On the other hand, if you give them a good reason to do what you ask, you should find it easier to get them to comply.

Well guess what? It works the same way with your clients, prospective clients, friends and followers on social media, and everyone else in your life. You want someone to hire you? Tell them why. You want them to click and read your post or register for your event? Tell them why. You want them send you referrals, tell them why?

What’s in it for them? What will they get out of it? What will happen if they don’t?

I got a text this morning from one of my business partners. There’s a conference call at 10 am and he would like me to listen to it. He told me what to do, but he didn’t tell me why.

What I will learn? What’s the subject matter? Who is the speaker? What will I get out of the call?

Many people will do what you ask out of habit or allegiance to you, out of curiosity, or because you said so. But more people will do it if you tell them why.

Studies have shown that the reason doesn’t have to be particularly strong. Offering any reason will increase response. “It’s Monday and we have a call at 10 am” isn’t a very good reason but it’s enough to get some people to dial in who otherwise might not.

But if you ask me, and you do, offering better and more compelling reasons will get more people to sign on and do what you ask.

In fact, the degree of your success in marketing legal services is a direct function of the persuasiveness of your message.

No reason? Some will comply. Lame reason? More will do so. Great reason? Home run. Multiple reasons with valuable benefits and invoking a fear of loss if they don’t? Grand slam.

You can’t threaten to send clients to their room if they don’t hire you or send you referrals. You need to tell them why.

Get this and you will get more clients and increase your income

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Sell more legal services with better reviews and testimonials

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I got another five star review on one of my Kindle books (on network marketing). It was a great review:

“Probably the most valuable book on network marketing I have ever read. . . and that is saying a lot. If you are in direct sales or network marketing, you will find great benefit in this book. Buy it! Now.”

Nice, huh?

Yes. And very much appreciated. But as good as it is, it could have been better.

When a prospective buyer reads a positive review like this, they will want to know “why?” Why is it so good? How is it different? What will I learn? What will this help me to do? What has it helped you  to do?

They want specifics.

The same goes for reviews of your legal services.

When a client posts a positive review about you online, or sends you a testimonial, encourage them to provide details. If they say you treated them well, ask them to give an example. If they talk about the great job you did on their case, ask them to explain what they mean.

Did you get them a bigger settlement than they expected? Did you close the case quickly? Did you do something extra for them?

Were you nice to their kids? Did you regularly keep them informed about the progress of their case? If they had questions, did you answer them thoroughly? If you weren’t in when they called, did you call them back within 48 hours?

Specifics.

Specifics help prospective clients see the benefits of hiring you. They also make the review more believable.

Reviews that recommend you and your services will bring you more clients. Especially when those reviews explain why they are recommending you.

Want more referrals from other lawyers? Behold. . .

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Free advertising for your legal services

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Great news! I just scored you 50 free 30-second radio spots on a top-rated drive time radio show! You don’t have to pay a dime. (Not really.)

You can run a commercial for your law practice and bring in lots of new clients. It doesn’t matter what kind of practice you have, or if you’ve never advertised and can’t imagine doing so, this is free advertising, so say thank you and use it! (I’m just playin, but I have a point.)

There’s just one catch. (My fantasy, my rules.) You have to write the commercial yourself. (Horrors!)

The point of this exercise is to help you better understand what you offer your clients, and why they should hire you. Work with me, k?

I’ll help you get started. Here are some guidelines for creating your commercial:

1) CALL TO ACTION

Start with what you want the listener to do. Call your office to make an appointment? Call to ask questions? Call to request your free report? Go to your website to download your free report? Sign up for your seminar? A combination of the above? Something else?

Start with the end in mind. Writing your commercial will be easier because you know what you want to accomplish.

2) HEADLINE

What’s the first thing the actor who reads the spot (or you, if you record this yourself) will say to listeners to get their attention? Will they/you promise a benefit? Ask a question? Make a provocative statement?

Your headline is the most important part of your commercial, so make it great. If you don’t get the listener’s attention and make them want to listen, the rest of your ad won’t matter.

3) COPY

You only have 30 seconds, and yet that’s plenty of time to tell listeners what you want them to know about you and your services, about your report, or about something else that causes them to take action.

Will you tell a story about one of your recent clients? Will you talk about recent or pending changes in the law that will affect them? Will you warm them about something, or promise to help them get something they want and need?

A classic ad formula:

  1. State the problem. What is the listener facing, or what might happen in the future?
  2. Agitate the problem. What will happen if they ignore it, etc. How bad could it get?
  3. Present the solution. Your offer, your services, your report, your seminar, etc.
  4. State the benefits of this solution. What will they learn, gain, stop, prevent, etc?
  5. Tell them what to do to get the solution and benefits. This is your call to action.

Make notes about what to include in your ad. Then, start typing or recording, and don’t stop until you run out of things to say. Pretend you’re talking to a roomful of prospective clients. What do you want to tell them?

Now what? Now, throw this away. You’re not a copy writer and I didn’t score you any free advertising.

Okay, don’t throw it away. Hang onto it, so that when you decide you do want to advertise, you’ll have a place to start, or something to give to the copy writer you hire. You can also use your notes as fodder for creating other marketing documents.

That’s all for today. Fantasy over. Get back to work.

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