How to appear more successful than you really are

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We could call this ‘Fake it till you make it 2.0.’ but you can also use this if you’re already a top gun. 

You might not want to, however, because it can seem cheesy, especially if you overdo it. 

I used to share an office in Beverly Hills with an attorney who represented some celebrities. I know that because I used to see them in the waiting room. Sunglasses and all.

I also know that because he had photos of some of his well-known clients on his desk and on the walls of his office, autographed to him by name. Many of these photos were “two-shots” of him with the celebrity.

The message was, “I’m good at what I do; just look at some of my famous clients.” 

The thing is, not all the celebrities he posed with were his clients. Many he met at an event and made sure photos captured those moments. 

And from what I could tell, his strategy worked.

Let’s face it, people judge you by the company you keep. If you represent successful people, especially the rich and famous, or even appear to know them (by being seen with them), people think you’re also successful. 

Those photos are a kind of implied endorsement and mean something to many people.  

But you don’t have to get photos or autographs of celebrities to achieve this effect.

When you’re at a networking event, being seen speaking to someone well-known to and well-regarded by the attendees can get you some attention, even if your conversation is just in passing. So can being seen speaking on the same panel or on the same slate of presenters.

So can some well-placed name-dropping. In person or in your content.  

Mentioning the CEO of a well-known company, a famous author, or a big shot politician, by name if appropriate, or by category if it’s not, perhaps quoting something they said to you (or even something they said or wrote that resonates with you), imbues you with some of their magic dust.

The trick is to not be too obvious. Or overdo it. Because if you do, you risk appearing to be a wannabe, not a player.

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Activating client referrals

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If you treat them right, many of your clients will tell others about their great experiences with you. They’ll also give you referrals, post positive reviews, send traffic to your website, promote your events, and otherwise help your practice grow.

But not everyone will do that.

Some clients don’t know you want this kind of help. (True). Some don’t want to “share” you with others. (Also true). Some are willing to help, but don’t know what to say or do.

And some won’t do anything, even if they love you to pieces. Just the way it is.

So that’s it? You take what you get? Do good work and hope for the best?

Negatory.

While organic word-of-mouth is best, there are things you can do to get more clients to talk about you and (directly or indirectly), send you more business.

First on that list is to educate clients, prospects, and professional contacts about you.

They know some things; make sure they know more.

Inform them about all of your practice areas, services, and offers. Your clients might not need something, but talk to someone who does.

Tell them why your clients get better or quicker outcomes from you, or other features and benefits not available from other lawyers.

Share your success stories, testimonials, and reviews, showing how you’ve helped others, why they chose you, why they would hire you again, and why they recommend you to others.

Tell them about endorsements you’ve received from other lawyers and judges, business leaders and respected individuals in your niche or local market. Tell them about your awards, the books you’ve written, and your speaking and writing credits.

Second, when someone does something nice for you, e.g., referral, review, etc., go out of your way to acknowledge them (publicly, if appropriate), and genuinely express your gratitude.

That doesn’t mean a form letter.

Send a hand-written thank you note. Say something nice about the friend or client they referred. Take them out to lunch or send them a small gift—a book is a good choice.

Show how much you appreciate what they’ve done and they’ll be more likely to do it again.

Third, make it easier for them to spread the word. Equip them with language they can use to describe what you do and for whom you do it. Give them handouts, links to your best blog posts or articles, forms and checklists they can share.

Fourth, do all the above more than once. Because people forget and because over time, they make new contacts who haven’t yet heard about you.

Finally, do what you can to make it more likely that prospective clients and referral sources hear your name from others, so that when your client mentions your name to them, they’ll recognize that name.

The simplest way to do this? Niche marketing. Go deep into business or industry groups, for example (even if you don’t handle business matters), because word-of-mouth is strong in niche markets.

For more about how to stimulate word-of-mouth, get this

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Everybody’s talking about you

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Word-of-mouth. Buzz. Reputation. When it’s good, it’s one of the best ways to market any business, but especially a law practice.

Why a law practice? Because so many people have a negative image of lawyers, based on past experience, what they’ve heard from a friend, or what they see on TV, it doesn’t take much to exceed their expectations, and when you do, word gets around.

Even if it’s grossly exaggerated, or completely untrue, people often believe lawyers charge more than they’re worth, use confusing billing practices, are arrogant, fail to explain things, make them wait for 40 minutes after their scheduled appointment time, and never return calls.

Am I right or am I right?

Look at client survey results from your bar association, look at online reviews, and it’s easy to see what clients complain about.

And when you don’t do those things, clients notice.

The bar is so low, you don’t have to do much to develop the reputation for treating your clients well. Avoid the negative things other lawyers do, or are thought to do, and you’ll stand out. And get talked about in a positive way.

But don’t leave it at that.

Call attention to what you do by explaining to new clients, and in your marketing, what you do to keep your clients informed, your transparent fee and billing practices, and your guarantee to see clients no later than 5 minutes beyond the time for their scheduled appointment.

Explain it, put it in writing, and deliver on your promises, and your clients will tell others about their amazing lawyer.

Marketing made simple

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Lawyer advertising is expensive. Or is it?

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“How much are the ads?” is the wrong question. The right question is “how much can I profit after I pay the cost of the ads?“

Because if you spend $30,000 per month on ads but take in $150,000 in fees, that $30k ad budget looks like a pretty good deal.

The cost of ads is relative. It doesn’t matter how much you invest, what matters is how much your investment earns. Your net profit after the cost of the ads and your overhead.

Is it really that simple? Yes, and no.

Yes, because it’s just math. No, it’s not that simple because you have to consider the risks.

The risk that you won’t take in enough revenue to cover the cost of the ads (and overhead). The risk that the ads that work today won’t continue to work tomorrow. The risk that you’ll get complacent and mess up something, or you’ll let your guard down and some charlatan will take you to the cleaners.

I’ve lost a lot of money on advertising. I’ve run ads that bombed, been cheated, and spent more than it tuned out I need to spend. But I’ve also made a lot. More than enough to cover my costs and turn a handsome profit.

But if you’re considering advertising, there’s something else you need to know. You can still make a profit on ads that break even or even show a loss.

How can you lose money and still make money?

On the backend.

Your front end is the business (and revenue) you get directly from your ads. The backend is the business and revenue you get from repeat business and referrals.

If your ads bring in a client who has a lot of legal work, you might break even on the first case they hire you to handle, but get a steady stream of repeat business (and referrals) for years to come.

And all that backend profit is net profit, since you already paid the advertising costs to bring in the client.

Many attorneys lose money on every one of their ads, but make a fortune on the backend.

So, that’s the big picture. Advertising could be the best thing you ever do for your practice, but if you’re not careful, it could leave a big red stain on your books.

Fortunately, you can minimize your risks and simultaneously maximize your profits.

You minimize risk by learning all you can about advertising and not blindly turning everything over to someone else.

You minimize risk by starting small and testing. See what works on a small scale before rolling out on a bigger scale. You don’t invest $5000 on an ad until you see that the $750 version is doing okay.

I started out with classified ads. Then 1/4 page. Then 1/3 page. Then 1/2 page. And eventually, full page.

Start small and if you see a profit, continue running the ads and, eventually, expand into more ads, bigger ads, more publications or sites, and more keywords.

If profits decline, you fix things, or scale back.

You minimize risk and increase profits by continually testing other ad copy, headlines, keywords, and offers.

You can also minimize risk by targeting smaller markets and niches where there is less competition and the cost to advertise is lower. These can be as profitable as bigger markets, and are often more profitable.

Another way to minimize risk is through multi-step marketing. Instead of expecting to make the sale on your frontend ads, you capture leads and stay in touch with prospects, some of whom will “buy” weeks, months, or years down the road.

And you minimize risk by avoiding the same kinds of ads other attorneys run and making yours different or better.

Risk is part of advertising. But so is opening an office, hiring help, going to court, and everything else you do to build a law practice. That’s business.

But in business, success doesn’t require the elimination of all risk (even if that was possible). It requires intelligently managing your risks.

Same as everything in life.

How to get more repeat business and referrals

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3 ways clients can help you

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Would you like an expert to help you build a bigger and better practice? Someone who knows, likes, and trusts you, wants to help you, and is willing to do that without being paid?

Yep, we’re talking about your clients who are experts at being your client. Here are three ways they can help you.

Find out what’s working

You can talk to your clients, in a post-case interview, for example, and that might be a good idea, but sending surveys is easier and can be responded to anonymously, which will probably generate more candid feedback.

Either way, you can ask

  • What they liked about the work you did for them (outcomes, how they were treated, fees, keeping them informed, seeing them “on time”)
  • What needs improving?
  • Would they recommend you to others? What would they say?
  • Where did they hear about you (friend, another professional, saw your article or ad?)
  • Did they read any reviews? Where? What did they like best?
  • What keywords did they use in their online search?
  • Before hiring you, did they read any of your blog articles? Sign up for your newsletter? Attend your seminar?
  • Why did they choose you instead of other attorneys?
  • Do they know about your other services?
  • And a lot more

Improve your marketing

Clients can also help you improve your marketing and advertising. Show them two ads or headlines or images, for example, and ask which one they prefer. Give them a variety of topics (for your blog or newsletter or presentation) and have them choose the ones that interest them.

Ask which format(s) they prefer for consuming your content, if they like long articles or short, and how often they would like to receive it.

Ask them to tell you about their industry or market, about their work, the publications they read, leaders they follow, and organizations they belong to.

Lead gen

Ask your clients to share your content, tell others about your upcoming events, hand out your handouts, or invite friends to schedule a free consultation.

Ask them to provide a testimonial and a review.

Ask for referrals and introductions.

Will your clients help you? Not only are most (satisfied) clients willing to do that, they are flattered that you asked.

So, ask.

Marketing is simple when you know The Formula

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Superman’s hemorrhoids

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We all know we shouldn’t talk about sex, religion, and politic in polite company (or in our newsletter).

Unless sex, religion, or politics are your primary business, nothing good can come of it.

I’d like to add a fourth subject to the list. Our personal health.

Too many people talk about that subject and while some of their clients or readers will sympathize and wish them well, on balance, this is a subject that is usually best avoided.

I’m not suggesting a complete ban. But if you talk about your health or an injury or condition, don’t do it too often and, whatever you do, avoid the gory details.

Because most people don’t want to hear it.

Some people are hypochondriacs and will get all hinky thinking they have what you have or will be its next victim. Some people have weak stomachs and don’t want to hear about things that ooze, severe pain, or chronic conditions.

But perhaps the most important reason is that people want to think of their lawyer as a superhero—strong, impervious to illness and pain, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Don’t spoil the movie in their mind.

They know you’re human. They like hearing some things about your personal life. But they don’t want to think about you as someone who might not be able to protect them from monsters.

So, if you have a choice, and you almost always do, think twice about discussing your illness, injury, or condition.

When in doubt, leave it out. Find another way to illustrate your point or tell your story.

There are some health-related subjects that are relatively safe. You can speak about taking vitamins, getting in your reps, or going for your annual checkup.

You can even talk about an occasional headache, bump, or bruise.

But if you do, it’s probably best to talk about that in the past tense. Because when a superhero gets blasted by a death ray, they’re back on the job long before the third act.

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Before I tell you that, I want to tell you this

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No. Don’t do that.

You’ll get more readers reading and listeners listening—to your articles, presentations, newsletters, email, or posts on social—if you do one simple thing.

Get to the point.

I see so many writers and speakers who don’t.

First, they want to tell you about their day or about their kid or about something they’re working on, thinking you’ll care about this or get all warm and fuzzy about them because you can see they’re just like you.

But that’s not why folks are reading the article or watching the presentation.

They want to learn something valuable or interesting (to them). Or be entertained.

So, in those first few seconds, yes seconds, you need to show them you’ve got this for them.

If you start out clearing your throat and warming up your tonsils before you get to the point of your message, many folks will think you don’t have a point and won’t stick around to find out.

Because people are busy and have the attention span of a gnat.

If you don’t get their attention immediately, they’re going to buzz away (do gnats buzz?)

Just the way it is.

This doesn’t mean you should never tell them about your day or your kid or something you’re working on. Just don’t lead with it.

Get their attention first. Tell them about other things later. Or weave those other things into your narrative to illustrate your points.

You listen to a baseball game on the radio to hear the play-by-play. The “color” commentary adds to that but can’t replace it.

There are exceptions. If you are an incredibly talented writer, or you’re writing to a captive audience, e.g., your clients who are inclined to read or listen to everything you say because they’re afraid of missing something important (to them), you can get away with some throat clearing before you begin your speech.

For everyone else, get to the point.

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Maybe you don’t need more time

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You have goals but can’t seem to find time to do the things you need to do to accomplish them.

You’re busy. And there aren’t enough hours in the day.

You could hire more people. Which might be the best solution. But if you don’t want to do that, what then?

You don’t need a longer day, three hands, or a second brain. What you need is to reallocate some of the time you currently spend.

That means cutting back on some things, or eliminating them, to make room for others.

Think about it, if you had an “extra” hour each day, you could do more things that are aligned with your goals, couldn’t you?

Well, this is how you find that hour.

First, make a list of things you need to do to accomplish your goals but aren’t doing enough of or doing at all.

Second, take inventory of how you currently spend your time. Include everything—client work, admin, family time, alone time, commuting, exercising–write down how you spend your day or week.

Third, choose a number—the amount of time you would like to reallocate from your current schedule towards working on your unfulfilled goals. An hour a day, two hours a week, whatever. (It’s just a number and you can change it later, but you need a place to start.)

Fourth, go through your list of how you currently spend your time and ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up or cut down?” Or, “What am I willing to delegate?”

This is where the proverbial rubber hits the proverbial road.

You might decide to cut down on watching sports, playing games, or scrolling through social media. Or limit yourself to 15 minutes a day instead of an hour.

You might decide to withdraw from the class you’re taking (or teaching), outsource some of the things you now do in-house, or eliminate some of your practice areas that take up more time than they’re worth.

This may be difficult. There may be things you don’t want to give up. That’s your call. But before you make that call, think about your goal and ask yourself, “How bad to do I want it?”

If it is a priority, you find a way to do it. You put on your big boy pants and do what needs to be done.

By the way, if you need money to finance your goals, you should do the same exercise.

How much do you need? How much do you currently spend on other things that you could eliminate or curtail? (Don’t borrow if you can find the money by cutting down on some of your current expenses).

Whether it’s time or money, it all comes down to math.

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What’s important to you?

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I was interviewed recently by the vendor of one of the marketing tools I use in my business. They wanted to know what I do, how I work, and especially how I use their product. 

As we talked, I realized that what was most important to me about this tool, or any tool, was how easy it is to use. 

The same goes for my process. I don’t like complicated workflows. Sometimes, they are necessary, but I like to keep things as simple as possible. 

Simplicity is one of my values. 

I told the interviewer how important this is for what I do, and for the tools I use to do it. Some of their competitors have more features, but they are overkill for me. 

So, if you’re trying to sell me your product or service, show me how easy it is to use. Because if it’s too complicated, it’s probably going to be a no for me. 

You may have different values, and you should explore them. It helps to know what’s important to you, before you buy something you may never use or hire someone who might be good at their job but otherwise not a good fit for you. (Been there, done that; lesson learned.)

It’s also important to find out what’s important to your prospective clients, so that when you talk to them about how you can help them, you’re telling them what they want to hear.

It makes a difference if a client wants to “crush” the other party and is willing to spend big money to accomplish that, or they want a reasonably amicable resolution at modest expense. 

Find out what’s important to them so you can show them how they can get it. 

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Onboarding new clients

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No doubt you give new clients information about what will happen with their case or matter—a general timeline, a list of steps, what to send you, what to expect, when you will update them, how to reach you in an emergency, and other do’s and don’ts.

This is good because

  • It helps you do a better job of protecting and serving them
  • You’ll have fewer issues because of misunderstandings
  • You can better manage clients’ expectations about what will happen, and when
  • Your clients will be impressed by your thoroughness and professionalism, and thus more likely to trust you and follow your instructions
  • Your clients will feel well taken care of, and thus more likely to stick with you, refer you, and say good things about you

One benefit you might not have considered is that you’ll get more referrals doing this because the information you provide shows that referrals are a common and makes the process easy and non-threatening. (See Maximum Referrals for more.)

As I say, I’m sure you do this. But you should do it more.

More means providing this information in more formats:

  • Handouts you give them or mail them
  • Email autoresponder sequence (break it up into smaller pieces, sent over time)
  • FAQs on your website
  • A dedicated ‘new client’ section of your website
  • Videos, webinars, audios

More also means

  • Sending the information every few weeks or months, to make sure they have it, haven’t misplaced it, remind them to read or listen, and to see if they have questions
  • Talking to them about parts of the instructions when they are in the office or on the phone
  • Sharing success stories about how your clients are benefitting from this information
  • Giving them forms and checklists in addition to written instructions

This is important because people

  • Lose things
  • Don’t read everything
  • Don’t understand everything
  • Need to be reminded to read things and do things
  • Process information differently (all at once vs. drip, read vs. video)
  • Are often distracted by life, especially when they are occupied by a legal issue
  • Might not realize how serious you are and need to hear it again and again
  • Might have trouble explaining what you want them to know or do to people who need to know and/or assist them; (tell them to share your information and let you explain it)

The more you do this, the better your clients’ experience will be with you and your staff. Which is good for them and good for you.

It means extra work, but you’ll be glad you did.

How to talk to clients about referrals

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