Stupidity is contagious


At one point in the presentation I gave last night I said, “stupidity is contagious.” I was referring to people who without thinking, buy into what someone else is saying or doing. We see this in politics, don’t we? Someone takes a position and others follow suit, often for no other reason than the person who said it sounds like they know what they are talking about.

It’s also true in business and marketing. An”expert” declares the new direction and like lemmings, legions follow. They sign up for the webinars, buy the courses, and invest countless hours with the new tools. Of course their friends take notice and they don’t want to be left behind so they do it, too. Before you know it, everyone is rushing after mobile or ebook publishing or Pinterest pinning, until something newer and better comes along.

People get caught up in the excitement. Greed sets in. Like the Gold Rush, nobody wants to be left behind. But like the Gold Rush, the only ones who make money are the ones who sell the picks and shovels. Most of the miners get the shaft.

I’m not saying these are bad ideas. Some are quite good. Some will take off and change the world. But you don’t have to be an early adopter to leverage these new ideas. Someone signing up for Facebook for the first time today, after nearly a billion other people beat them to it, can be just as successful in using it to generate leads and referrals. Arguably more so now that it has proven itself for so many others.

What I’m saying is, wait a bit. Don’t rush in. Stand back and observe. Let others spend their time and money sorting through the multitude of things that don’t work or don’t last, to find the few that do. Spend your time and money doing things that have proven themselves over time.

Technology comes and goes. There will always be something new. What has never changed, and never will, are strategies that invoke the human element: giving your clients extraordinary service, positioning yourself for referrals, and leveraging your existing relationships to create new ones.

Now, excuse me, I have to post a link to this post on Facebook.

If you want to learn the strategies that have always worked and always will, pick up a copy of The Attorney Marketing Formula.


How to create a ‘shock and awe’ marketing campaign for your law practice


An estate planning attorney in northern California liked my post about “shock and awe” marketing campaigns. This is where you deliver to the prospective client “an experience that is so compelling, they are almost powerless to say no.”

He asked how he might create one for his practice, “without seeming tacky or unprofessional or violating some state bar rules?”

As for bar rules, obviously you shouldn’t contact someone you are not permitted to contact or say anything you’re not permitted to say. Don’t send testimonials, for example, if they are not allowed in your jurisdiction.

As for appearing unprofessional, you need to put together a campaign you are comfortable with, given your practice area, your target market, and your individual style. All aspects of your marketing should be congruent with the image you have or are trying to convey.

A “shock and awe” campaign does two things. First, it heaps on benefits and urgency in a way that gets the prospect’s attention. There’s so much evidence in front of them, they cannot ignore it. Second, it compresses the time frame they might ordinarily take to digest that information, thus heightening the affect. In war, a shock and awe campaign is meant to demoralize the enemy, hastening their surrender. The objective is the same in marketing, that is, you want the prospect to surrender to the proposition you put in front of them. The difference is that in marketing, you don’t want to demoralize the prospect, only his apathy or objections.

One thing every attorney should do is to include as much,”third party documentation” as possible. If you say it, they can doubt it as self-serving. When someone else says it, it carries more weight. An estate planning attorney would want to include articles from consumer experts, for example, explaining, “what happens when you die intestate,” and advising their readers not to do-it-themselves, but to “always hire an experienced estate planning attorney.”

If you are allowed to use testimonials, by all means use them. Let your clients tell your prospects why they should hire you: how you explained everything up front, answered all their questions, helped them get peace of mind, and so on. There’s nothing more persuasive.

To create your campaign, I recommend the following steps:


Put together everything you have that could be construed as a marketing document, or could be turned into one. You might transcribe the audio of a talk, print several blog posts, or take quotes from longer articles, memos, or briefs and paste them onto a single page.

Examples of marketing documents include:

  • Brochures about your/your firm’s capabilities
  • Reports, articles, white papers, audios, written by you, about your core practice areas
  • Articles about you, i.e., feature stories, interviews, announcements of milestones or awards
  • Content from lawyers, CPAs, financial planners, consumer bloggers, and other experts that tend to prove the need for what you do
  • FAQ’s about (a) the law and procedure, and (b) features of your practice, e.g., practice areas, office hours, payment terms, staff, parking, etc.
  • Scripts, slides, bullet points, notes from presentations you’ve given to prospective clients or referral sources
  • Answers to common objections. See my post on the seven reasons prospective clients don’t hire attorneys.
  • Testimonials (from clients) and endorsements (from influential non-clients).
  • Success stories about people who hired you and got the benefits or solutions they desired. And tales of woe about people who didn’t hire you or who waited or made a poor decision and got hurt.
  • Anything else that makes the case for hiring an attorney for the services you offer and why that attorney should be you.

You’ll also want one or more “sales letters”. This is a letter from you that tells the prospect what you are offering and “what’s in it for them” (the benefits). If all they read is this letter, they will know: what you do, why they need you, and what to do to take the next step.

The more documents you have, the better. The sheer weight of your documents is part of the affect. If you don’t have many documents, get to work creating them. Not only will they help you create an effective shock and awe campaign, you will be able to use them for other marketing purposes throughout your career.


Not every client comes to you the same way. Some find your web site and fill out a contact form. Some ask you a question through social media that leads to a phone call. Some are referred by friends or colleagues and call your office directly. Others come via a professional who tells you they might have a referral and asks you for information they can pass along to their referral.

Each process is different and should be considered in putting together an effective campaign. Also, allow for differing levels of knowledge and “states of readiness,” such as:

  • Don’t know they have a problem/need
  • Aware they have a need, exploring alternative solutions
  • Starting to gather information on different attorneys
  • Currently represented but thinking of changing attorneys
  • Comparing attorneys/services
  • Already had a consultation with you, want more information
  • Former client, need to get them in for a review/update
  • Current client inquiring about one of your other services
  • Etc.


Eventually, you should prepare “shock and awe” campaigns for each of the most common client processes. Take a look at how your last ten or twenty clients came to you to get an idea of where to start.

There are three basic types of campaigns:

  • All at once. This is where you send everything in one package. It is the simplest campaign and can make a big impact, but consider what you will send or say to prospects if they aren’t ready to hire you right now. You might want to hold back a few items for a follow up.
  • Spaced distribution. This is where you provide a series of two to five or more packages, sent out over a period of a few days to a few weeks. Each package might deal with a different aspect of your services, i.e., tax advantages, liability, peace of mind, etc., or each successive package might build upon the prior one, turning up the heat until the final package makes “an offer they can’t refuse.”
  • Drip campaigns. This is where you dole out a little bit of information at a time over an extended period of time. This isn’t a typical “shock and awe” campaign because of the extended time line, but it could have the same effect if you build your “case” properly and include an effective “closing argument” towards the end of the series.

Also, consider how you will deliver this information. A package delivered by messenger will have a bigger impact than an email. A letter in the mailbox is much more likely to be read and responded to than sending them to a web page. You must consider these various methods and their relative costs in putting together your campaigns.

Include “fear of loss” elements, i.e., deadlines for special offers, limited quantities, or impending changes in the law. Adding these to the weight of evidence you have provided could be just enough to get fence sitters to take action.

Finally, always leave the door open to go back to your prospects with more information and new offers. You may have done everything right in your campaign to shock them into realizing why they need to act, but if they aren’t ready, they aren’t ready. Stay in touch with them, continue to deliver information, and one day, perhaps years later, they may shock you by giving you a call to make an appointment.


How to create a more successful law practice


I read another thoughtful post by Leo Babauta on the Zen Habits blog about the subject of practice. No, he wasn’t writing about a law practice, but I thought his message of “practicing” to effect improvement applied as much to a law practice as to anything else. Plus, I like the play on words.

We are what we repeatedly do. We are the sum of our habits. If we want to change who we are, we have to change what we do.

Change begins with awareness. If you didn’t say “thank you” to the new client who just hired you (you’d be surprised at how many attorneys don’t), reading this sentence made you aware that you didn’t and also aware of how important it is. (Your mother will tell you, it’s one of the most important things you can do.) If you usually say thank you, but for some reason didn’t do it last time, there is room for improvement. The standard of excellence isn’t saying thank you most of the time, but every time.

Now that you are aware, make a decision to change. Then, practice your new habit. With something as simple as saying thank you, you might only need to be reminded. Write it down on your intake sheet, use a post it note, put it on your calendar, whatever you need to do to remember to always say thank you.

Also be aware of what happens when you get it right. Watch your new client’s face as you look him in the eye, shake his hand, and sincerely tell him how much you appreciate having him as a client. Tell him you’ll take good care of him. Let the handshake linger a few seconds longer. Give him your full attention. Say thank you, and mean it. You’ll see some of the tension leave his face as he comes to realize that you really do care.

Your law practice is a collection of habits. What you (and your staff) regularly do and how well you do it defines you, distinguishes you from other lawyers, and plays a big role in determining your success. There are big habits and many small ones and they all matter.


Save time by not filing email; study proves search is quicker


Filing emails in folders, or adding labels to them, doesn’t make them quicker to find. According to a study by IBM Research, it’s quicker to find them by searches.

“Finding emails by searches took on average 17 seconds, versus 58 seconds finding the emails by folder,” the researchers concluded. “The likelihood of success – that is, finding the intended email – was no greater when it had been filed in a folder.”

The time spent filing email, in addition to the added time spent retrieving it, can add 20 minutes a day to your workload, the study concluded. A comment to the article questions whether this is true under real world conditions:

In the majority of scenarios, searching is more efficient, however if you forget. . . the metadata [key words]. . . related to the email, then your search efforts are going to be quite difficult. On the other hand, if you remember that you simply filed the email under the “important” folder, then odds are you may only be a few clicks away. In a black and white world, yes searching is more efficient, however there are still valid purposes to using folders.

My plan to achieve email inbox zero calls for me to get rid of all but one label and rely on Gmail’s search capability. I’m pretty sure I won’t miss having more labels since I don’t use the 50 I currently have. But my view is colored by my use of Evernote to file important emails and to manage tasks and projects.

In Evernote, I tag everything (and sometimes also add key words to the body of the note). The difference though is that I don’t “file” all my email this way, just the actionable or otherwise important ones which constitute less than 5%.

I found most interesting the researchers conclusion that most people don’t file emails in folders to make it easier to find them so much as to remove from view the overwhelming volume of email. They pare down the inbox so that they can use it for task management, which the study implied was not efficient.

If they used Evernote like I do, they wouldn’t have to spend as much time filing all of their email in the right folders, they could simply send the important ones to Evernote and archive the rest.


The strangest secret with Earl Nightingale


I first heard this recording over forty years ago when my father brought home a vinyl LP record. It was one of my first exposures to personal development and has lead to a lifelong study of great books (and recordings).

This is the message that started it for me and if you haven’t heard it, you’re in for a treat.


The surprising truth about written goals


I was at a presentation last night. The speaker cited the now infamous 1953 Yale University goal setting study which conclusively proved that having written goals dramatically increases the likelihood of achieving them. I was familiar with the study and made a note to post it on this blog:

In 1953, researchers surveyed Yale’s graduating seniors to determine how many of them had specific, written goals for their future. The answer: 3%. Twenty years later, researchers polled the surviving members of the Class of 1953 — and found that the 3% with goals had accumulated more personal financial wealth than the other 97% of the class combined.

Amazing, isn’t it? The only problem is it’s not true. The study never took place.

Okay, that’s disappointing but it doesn’t matter, everyone knows that written goals are important, right?

A few minutes with my Uncle Google found a different study that purports to prove the hypothesis of the fictional one. In this study, the researcher found that,

. . .people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.

I’m no scientist, but I don’t think this is dispositive of the issue. For one thing, they didn’t test a group who agreed to be accountable to a friend and provide weekly updates but who did not have written goals.

In the early 1920s, Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich, et. al.) conducted exhaustive interviews with 500 of the most successful men of his day. Hill concluded unequivocally that written goals were a key factor in their success and articulated a six-step process for creating them. These include putting them in writing and reading them aloud twice a day. But was it the writing of their goals that made their achievement more likely or was this simply a common trait among these highly driven individuals who would have achieved their goals anyway?

Here’s what I think. I think the value of a written goal isn’t in the written document itself (or in the continual reading of it) but in the process of thinking about and choosing the goal. As you spend time thinking about what you want and what you don’t want, as you winnow down the multitude of possible goals, you go through a process that leads to clarity. Clarity leads to focus, and focus leads to making decisions and engaging in activities that are consistent with achieving the goal.

Simply put, if you know what you want and you continually focus on it, you are more likely to get it. Putting the goal in writing isn’t necessary.

In fact, putting a goal in writing might actually make it harder to achieve.

How often have you chosen a goal only to later realize that it was not what you really wanted. It might have been your parents’ goal or a goal you thought you should be aiming for, but in reality, it wasn’t what you really wanted. If you write and stay focused on a goal that you don’t really want, you’ll either achieve it and be unsatisfied, or not achieve it and wonder why goal setting doesn’t work for you.

Goals should be flexible, not engraved in stone (or on paper). They are a starting point; only sometimes are they your true destination. Feel free to change your goals, written or otherwise, if they no longer serve you.

How do you know if you chose the right goal? That’s simple. When you think about it, how do you feel? Your feelings will tell you, unfailingly, whether it is or is not something you really want.

Be honest with yourself about how you feel and trust your feelings. If you don’t feel good when you think about a goal, or if you don’t feel good enough, don’t try to change how you feel, change the goal. It might need only a small change–the due date perhaps or the amount of money sought–or you might need to choose a completely different goal–but choose a goal that feels good when you think about it.

The answer is inside you. Put it on paper if you want.


Why some attorneys shouldn’t blog (and most attorneys never will)


The evidence is clear: content is still king and blogging does work. The more (quality) content you have on your web site, the more traffic and leads and clients you get.

The August issue of Entrepreneur Magazine, reports that, “sites that have 401 to 1000 pages get nine times more visitors than sites with 51 to 100 pages”. Hubspot reports that consistent bloggers saw a 4.2x increase in the number of leads without four months, and reduced their lead costs by 60 percent.

The reasons are equally clear. Search engines like fresh content and so do readers who use those search engines to find that content. When someone has a legal issue, they’re not looking for an attorney’s “about” page, they want information that will help them understand their problem and their options for solving it. The attorney who provides that information is the attorney who gets more traffic, more leads, and more clients.

But it takes time to write good content and doing it consistently is hard work. That’s why so many people who start a blog don’t keep it up. (95 percent of blogs are abandoned, according to Technorati, long before they see an appreciable return on their investment.)

But you’re not like other people, are you?

“If you knew you could earn an extra $20,000 per month by blogging, and it would take you an hour a day, five days a week, would you do it?”

Let me ask a question: “If you knew you could earn an extra $20,000 per month by blogging, and it would take you an hour a day, five days a week, would you do it?”

If the answer is “no,” stop reading.

Of course I don’t know how much you will earn by blogging any more than I know how much the attorney-bloggers in the top 5% earn through their blogs. I’m pretty sure they are happy with their “top 5% results,” however.

And here’s some good news: you don’t have to spend an hour a day on your blog for it to be effective. An hour or two a week will probably be enough. That’s because:

  • You’re already reading in your field; you don’t have to invest a lot of extra time for blogging purposes.
  • You can write. If you can pass the essay portion of a bar exam,  you probably write well enough to write a blog (although you might want to have someone edit out the legalease).
  • You can get help. Your staff can do research, find articles you can incorporate into your blog, write first drafts and even write finished posts. If you don’t have staff, you can outsource.
  • You don’t have to post every day; once or twice a week, done consistently, is enough to put you in the top 5%. Even once or twice a month can bring you more business.

What are you doing now to market your practice? Could you use some of that time for blogging? If you’re not doing anything right now to market your practice, don’t you think you should?

In the past, my blogging has been sporadic. Stretches of consistency followed by stretches of “I’m busy with other projects and I’ll get back to blogging when I can”. Recently, I decided to take my own medicine. Not only have I started posting consistently again, at my wife’s urging I’ve been doing it every day. Even though it’s only been a couple of weeks, I’m already seeing a lot more traffic, subscribers, and new business.

Is blogging for every attorney? No. If you have other ways to build your practice and they are working, you don’t need a blog. It is hard work and it is a commitment. (Actually, the writing really isn’t hard, what’s hard is the commitment.) But if you’re looking for something to bring in more business, if you have more time than money or you’re willing to make the time because you can see why it would be worth it, if you like to write or have someone on staff who does, then blogging is a great way to rise above the competition and get into the top 5%.