Weeding out the riffraff

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I heard a radio spot the other night by an ad agency describing how they helped a client company increase their sales dramatically, and inviting listeners to consider hiring them for their business. At the end of the spot, the announcer said, “…starting at just $9,000 a week…” and then gave the phone number to call.

My first thought was, “What kind of small business (which are the bulk of the advertisers on that station) have that kind of an ad budget?”

The answer, of course, is small businesses that are making a lot of money. And there are a lot more than people realize.

Plus, if you have a successful ad campaign, as new sales are made, you re-invest the initial week’s $9,000 ad buy over and over again. You can thus do a half-million dollars of annual advertising with a fraction of that much to start.

Anyway, next question: why did the ad agency announce the minimum investment an advertiser would have to spend to hire them? Because if they didn’t, they would talk to a lot of people who think they can get started with $1000 or $1500.

If you get a lot of calls from prospective clients who can’t afford you and don’t hire you, you should consider doing something similar.

In your ads, on your website, in your presentations, or when anyone asks, tell people what it takes to hire you. No, not your fees precisely. The minimum retainer or your smallest “package,” so they know whether or not they are in the ballpark.

There are times when you may want to keep things a little fuzzy, however. Some clients might get sticker shock when they first hear “how much” but have the money and pay it, once they consider the alternatives.

Another way to weed out prospective clients who are too small or otherwise “not right” for you is to spell out who you’re looking for in terms of revenue, number of employees, locations, or other factors that relate to size and ability to pay.

You can also do this with consumer-oriented practices. If you do estate planning or asset protection, you could promote your services to people with assets in excess of a certain amount. If you handle family law, you might promote your services to clients with a child custody dispute.

You can also target wealthier clients by running ads in publications for investors, direct mail to people who own larger homes, or by networking with accountants, financial planners, and insurance brokers who have the clientele you want to attract.

If you want bigger clients, stop promoting your services to “anyone” and start promoting them to bigger clients.

Here’s how to get bigger referrals (and more of them)

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Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better

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Jim Rohn famously said, “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” I don’t think he was speaking to lawyers musing about the challenges of building a law practice in a highly competitive field or market, but he might as well have been.

If you’re in a seemingly oversaturated market, wondering if you should get out because there are too many lawyers who do what you do, take my advice: don’t. At least not until you consider why your field or market is so crowded.

The reason there is lots of competition in a given market is not a mystery. It’s because there are a lot of paying clients in it. Lawyers are making money in that market, which means you can, too.

Compare that to a market or practice area with very little competition. You might strike gold in a market like that but the market is unproven and it is more likely that you’ll go broke. (If there’s enough business in the market, you would see other lawyers in it.)

So rejoice that you are in a market with lots of competition. There are clients to be had and money to be made.

How do you stand out? How do you compete with all those lawyers trolling for clients in the same pond?

You know the answer. Marketing. Do a better job of it than your competition and the business will come to you instead of them.

Fortunately, that’s not hard to do. Most lawyers don’t know much about marketing and those who do often do it poorly. If you know what you’re doing, they’re easy to beat.

What if they have millions to spend on advertising and you don’t?

No problem. You have other ways to bring in clients. And those clients will be more profitable because you don’t have a big advertising budget (and the associated overhead) to cover. Your clients will often be better clients, too, because the kinds of advertising done by the big firms tends to attract the lower tiers of cases and clients.

Anyway, you know I’m preaching the truth. You also know that you don’t have to be a marketing genius to win the battle for new clients. You only need to be better than other lawyers who don’t know what you know and can’t be bothered to find out.

Start here

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How to help clients find you

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Yesterday, I said your marketing should be focused mostly (or exclusively) on attracting people who are already looking for an attorney, or looking for information about their problem and the available solutions.

How do you do this? How do you help prospective clients find you so you don’t have to find them?

Here are five simple and effective ways to do that:

  1. Set up one or more websites with search-engine friendly content. When someone looks for an attorney, or looks for information, they find your site. When they visit, they see content that helps them understand their situation and their options, and learn how you can help them. If they’re not ready to hire you, they should be encouraged to sign up for your email list to get more information (which allows you to stay in touch with them).
  2. Create free or paid content–books, reports, videos, audios, etc.–that provide solutions and demonstrate your expertise. Distribute paid content via bookstores. Distribute free content via other people’s newsletters and blogs and via social sharing.
  3. Make yourself available for interviews and/or to write guest posts on websites frequented by your ideal client.
  4. Advertise your services and/or your free or paid content in your local or niche markets.
  5. Build a small army of clients and professionals and other “friends of the firm” who know how to recognize your ideal client, how you can help them, and the best way to refer them.

To learn how to create a website that attracts prospective clients, get this. To learn how to get more referrals from your clients, get this. To learn how to get more referrals from lawyers and other professionals, get this.

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Marketing is good. Smart marketing is better

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You’re not like most attorneys. You understand the importance of marketing your practice and you’re doing something about it.

Many attorneys don’t get this. They think that if they do a good job for their clients more clients will come and they don’t have to do anything else.

Good work does bring in clients. No question. But why settle when you can bring in so many more?

I think many attorneys who eschew marketing don’t realize how much marketing they really do. Every time they speak or write an article or show up at an event and talk to people, every time they send a note thanking their clients and contacts for their business and their referrals, every time they call a client or a professional contact and ask about their business or family, all of this is marketing.

If you’re doing it, why not do it to the best of your ability?

Why not continually assess what you’re doing and the results you’re getting and make an effort to improve those results?

And why not at least consider adding some new strategies and techniques to your routine?

Okay. I’m not trying to convince anyone they need to market their legal services. I’m really not. That would not be good marketing on my part. It would not be a good use of my time.

It’s much more effective and profitable (and enjoyable) to target people who already understand this and are looking for ways to improve what they’re doing.

People like you.

In your marketing, you should do the same.

Spend less time (or no time) trying to convince people they need to hire an attorney and more time (or all of your time) targeting people who already know this and are looking for an attorney.

Don’t worry about people who need an attorney but don’t believe it or don’t want to spend the money (or don’t have the money) or aren’t in enough pain to look for solutions.

Marketing is one thing. Smart marketing is something else.

Start here

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What do you do when your clients can’t afford you?

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I saw a story that said that half of American adults can’t afford to write a $500 check, which is why they finance purchases like a new phone. If this is true, what does that mean for the attorney who wants to sell them his or her services?

Should they cut their fees?

No. They shouldn’t do that. That’s a recipe guaranteed to leave a bitter taste in their mouth.

What then?

Should they accept credit cards and offer payment plans?

Should they break up their services into smaller packages that more people can afford?

Should they target businesses instead of consumers?

Or should focus their marketing efforts on the half of the market that can write a check and not worry about the ones who can’t?

The answer is, they should consider all of the above. They are all reasonable strategies.

What they shouldn’t do is ignore everything and do nothing. They should research their target markets, look at what other lawyers are doing, and try new things, and they should continue trying new things until they find the right combination.

And then they should look for ways to improve their results, and never stop looking.

There are more than enough clients out there who can make you rich many times over. They need you, they can afford you, and they will hire you. But only if they can find you and your message is the one they want to hear.

Being a good attorney isn’t enough. Your reputation will only carry you so far. You run a business and your business needs marketing to survive and thrive.

Start with this

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Beta testing your law practice marketing

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I’m a beta tester for the new version of a writing app I use. I have the app on my desktop and laptop computers and use it every day.

I try and re-try all of the features, looking for bugs and other issues. I note what I like and what I’d like to see improved. I compare features and ease of use to other writing apps I’ve used.

Through this process, I’m able to influence the development of something that interests me and I get to use it months before anyone else. I also learn the ins and outs of using the app and thus get more out of it.

When you adopt new software in your practice, you may not be an official beta tester but you do many of the same things. You spend time playing with the software, trying out all the functions, learning how everything works.

You don’t just install it and expect to use it like a pro. You give yourself time to learn and practice using it.

You should do the same thing when you take on a new marketing strategy or go into a new market.

Study the market. Learn everything you can about the new strategy. Flip all the switches and pull all the levers. Test everything, try everything, and look for ways to incorporate the new strategy into your existing workflow.

When you get a new website or redo your existing site, examine it through the eyes of an end user. Read all the pages, fill out all the forms, test all the functions, and make sure everything works the way you want it to. Ask others to look at it and give you their feedback and suggestions.

If you join a new networking group, don’t just show up and hope for the best. Study it. Learn their process. Spend time talking to other members.

If you are thinking about hiring a new ad agency, learn all you can about the creative people behind it. Ask lots of questions about markets and campaigns, pricing and ROI.

Just like new software, you may be using your new marketing strategy for a long time. Beta test it so you can get the most out of it.

The elements of law practice marketing start here

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What, me worry?

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There are a lot of things I do that could be considered marketing. But there are a ho lot more things I don’t do.

Many of these have to do with social media which, as you know, I tolerate but don’t rely on for marketing my business. There are many reasons, one of which is that I simply don’t like it.

It ain’t my thang.

My site has “share” buttons that allow visitors to share my content on their social media platforms, and they do that. They also follow or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and get my posts in their feeds.

And. . . that’s about it.

You won’t see me on Instagram or Snapchat or 100 other places people like to hang out, learn things, and share pictures of their latest meal.

Am I missing opportunities to promote my content or meet new folks? Sure. Do I regret that? No.

I don’t worry about what I’m not doing. I’m too busy doing what I do.

Things I like. Things I’m good at. Things that work better for me.

I can’t do everything, nor do I want to. I look at a lot of things, reject most, choose a few, and settle in. I’ll look at things again at some point, to see if they have changed or if my needs have changed, and occasionally add something to the mix.

Mostly, however, I stick with a few basics. In my opinion, that’s what you should do, too.

This isn’t just about social media. It applies to any form of marketing.

Find a few things that work for you and do them well. They will take you further than all of the things you don’t do and might only do half-assedly if you forced yourself to do them.

Don’t worry about what you’re not doing. Unless you’re not doing anything.

Plan your marketing by using this formula

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A simple way to dramatically improve your next presentation

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In any presentation, you want to engage your audience. You want them to think about and remember your words and feel an emotional connection to your message.

What’s the best way to accomplish this?

Carmine Gallo studied 500 of the most popular TED Talks and found a pattern:

  • 65 percent personal stories
  • 25 percent facts and figures
  • 10 percent information to back up the speaker’s credibility on the subject

In short, the key factor for better presentations is something I’ve been telling you since day one: stories.

But note that Gallo said “personal” stories, meaning stories that involve the speaker. Since you want your audience to know what you do and how you help people, when you tell stories in your presentations, articles, blog posts, or anything else, look for ways to include yourself in those stories.

Here’s a template for a client story you might use that shows you doing what you do:

A client had a problem and came to you. Opposing forces (other parties, the law, factual issues, etc.) worsened the problem and/or made it more difficult to resolve. You worked hard, overcame difficulties, and solved the problem.

As you tell the story, turn up the heat by describing the client’s pain–how the problem affected them emotionally, financially, or physically–and the relief they felt when you eventually solved the problem.

If possible, also describe how you felt. Show your empathy for the client’s situation. Mention how you struggled with some aspect of the case before you conquered it.

Yes, this type of story is easier to tell when you’re dealing with litigation but with a little effort, you can also tell an effective story about a simple transactional matter.

If a client wanted you to review the lease for their new business, for example, you can talk about the problems they might have encountered if they hadn’t had you review the lease, and the excitement they felt about their new business, which you helped them start.

Make sure your presentations include stories. Because facts tell but stories sell.

Need more referrals? This will help

 

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The best law firm marketing list money can buy

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Have you ever rented a mailing list?

If you handle estate planning, for example, you can rent a list of AARP members in your area and mail a letter inviting them to your seminar, offering them your ebook on estate planning essentials, or simply offering your services.

If you handle small business matters, you could rent lists of subscribers to publications that cater to start-ups or inventors or small business management issues.

You can rent lists based on public records, buyers of certain products or services, members of designated organizations, or people who have asked for information about just about any subject under the sun.

There are email lists available, too.

Ask Uncle Google or Aunt Bing to show you what’s available for “mailing lists” or “mailing list brokers” and see for yourself.

Not all lists are created equal, of course. Some are great and will produce many clients for you. Some won’t produce any. But you can test any list by mailing (or emailing) to a small portion of the list to find out. If you get a good return, you can roll out to the rest of the list. If you don’t, you can try something else.

Of course, the best lists are the ones you create yourself. They are usually much more responsive and profitable than any list you rent.

Here’s why.

Everyone on that list knows who you are and what you do. They came to your site and asked you to send them information. That means they’re either interested in hiring a lawyer who does what you do, right now, or they’re interested in the subject of your information and might hire you at some point down the line.

Some of the people on your list are ready to make an appointment. Others have questions and want to talk to you on the phone. Some aren’t ready to do anything but will be in six months. Some may never hire you but will send you referrals.

The people on your list can also help you build your list even bigger. They will share your website content, for example, with their social media friends and followers or their customers or clients.

Your list could bring you several new clients each month. Or more. All you have to do is send them the information they asked for and stay in touch with them.

Now, if a list like this were available from a list broker, how much would it be worth to you?

A pretty penny, me thinks.

If you think so, too, start building your list. You can use ads or social media, blogging or SEO, speaking, writing, networking, and many other methods of driving traffic to your law firm site or a separate one-page site specifically for that purpose. Visitors fill out a form, providing their email address, and you send them the information.

You can learn how to do that here and here

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If you aren’t better, be different

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I often talk about the value of showing prospective clients how you are “better or different” than other lawyers who do what you do. In The Attorney Marketing Formula, I show you how to do that, and how to construct your “Unique Selling Proposition” (U.S.P.)

Writer James Clear did a post recently with another take on this subject. He calls it, “Layering Your Skills,” and quotes Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, for explaining how someone who isn’t markedly better than their competition can stand out by being different:

“Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.”

As you consider your strengths, don’t ignore those that aren’t obviously relevant to the practice of law. Include your undergraduate fields of study, businesses and industries you’ve worked in, sports you play or avidly follow, your hobbies and other outside interests. They can also help you stand out, especially in many niche markets.

I’m not the best chess player in the world but I am better than most people. Even if I wasn’t, if I was practicing today I could use my knowledge of the game to relate to and attract other chess players. I could appeal to tournament directors, coaches, and vendors. I could attract the attention of bloggers, editors, and meeting planners who cater to those markets.

I could become one of the best-known lawyers in the chess world, without being the best chess player or the best lawyer.

What are you good at and how could you combine that skill with other skills to show the world how you are different?

Show the world how you are better or different

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