Aim for the top dogs

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You know a lot of people. You’d like to know more. Instead of meeting people randomly, you should meet and work with the biggest and the best.

The ones who influence the right people in your niche or local market. The ones who can send you business, introduce you to other influential people, and show you how to do the things that got them to the top.

They might be other professionals. They might be bloggers, authors, speakers, coaches, or trainers. They might be politicians, consultants, business owners, or industry leaders.

They all have one thing in common. They can help your career take a giant leap.

It may be harder to connect with them but it is worth the effort. One top dog can do for you what 100 other dogs cannot.

Don’t settle for building a network of ordinary people. Set your sites on the biggest and the best.

Start by asking yourself these two questions:

1. Who are the 10 leading people in my marketplace, and
2. How can I connect with them?

Answer these questions and get to work. One day, your name will appear on other people’s top dog list.

Building a successful practice starts with a plan

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“New arrivals” might be great prospects for your services

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For obvious reasons, many real estate agents target new arrivals in town, both homeowners and businesses. You might want to do the same.

When someone moves to your city, there’s a good chance they don’t yet have an attorney. If you are first attorney to “greet” them, when they are ready to hire an attorney, you’ll be first in line.

If you handle real estate, family law, estate planning, or immigration, or you represent small businesses, new arrivals are a natural target market.

One way to get your name in front of them to is to create a booklet, guide, or checklist specifically for them. Your guide might provide a list of names and contact information for vendors and government agencies they need to notify of their new address:

  • Banks, PayPal, credit card companies
  • DMV, registrar of voters, TSA Pre
  • Federal, state, local taxing authorities
  • Insurance: health, renters/homeowners, auto, etc.
  • Online retailers, subscriptions, home deliveries, shippers
  • WHOIS (domain names), hosting, email providers

A checklist like this, provided “compliments of” your firm, will make a favorable first impression and provide prospects with an easy way to contact you to get more information.

Make sure you include another offer in your guide, for a report related to your practice area, available for download at your website. This will help you build an email list so you can stay in touch with the new arrivals.

You can advertise your guide or mail it. You can also provide free copies to local merchants, especially real estate agents, moving companies, builders, decorators, and so on, who can provide them to their customers and clients.

New arrivals also need other services–insurance agents, an accountant, landscapers, painters, and so on. You can offset some (or all) of your printing costs by including small ads in your booklet from these local merchants and service providers. Your advertisers may pass out copies of your booklet to their customers and clients.

This is a simple idea that you could put together in a couple of hours. It could bring you a lot of new business. It will also allow you to meet other professionals and business owners in town, giving you an opportunity to show them how you can help them and their clients or customers.

Marketing is simple when you know the formula

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A cost of doing business that pays for itself

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You have overhead. And discretionary expenses. Rent, wages, payroll taxes, equipment, advertising, and everything else, and each has it’s own category in your expense ledger.

Everything except one. Customer service.

Customer service should have its own expense category because it is clearly a cost of doing business and it should be accounted for.

The things you do for your clients–to deliver value, to give them a good experience with your firm, to “take care of them” and make them glad they hired you–has a cost.

Some money and a lot of time.

Money spent on overnighting copies at your expense, remembering birthdays and holidays, and providing extra services free of charge.

Time spent talking to clients about non-billable matters and explaining things you’ve already explained, to make sure the client understands. Time spent training and supervising your staff, to make sure they know why taking care of clients is good for business and so they are well equipped to do it.

There’s also time spent on personal development, to develop the habits and skills that make you better at serving your clients.

Add it all up and it’s a big number. Or it should be because it is a key factor in the success of your practice.

The more you give your clients, the better you care for them, the bigger your practice will grow. Clients who feel respected and appreciated are clients who hire you again and again and sing your praises to others.

Customer service also cuts down on problems. Clients who are well informed and regularly updated, for example, are less likely to call you again or complain to you and to the Bar.

Sometimes, customer service means giving clients the benefit of the doubt when they want more from you than they paid for. Sometimes it means cutting your fee or issuing a refund.

That doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to be taken advantage of or put up with abuse. It means understanding the lifetime value of a client and being willing to sacrifice a dollar today to earn $1000 long term.

Customer service is a cost of doing business. But it more than pays for itself.

Henry Ford said, “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”

Your goal is to earn more income. One of the best ways to do that is to invest in your clients.

The Attorney Marketing Formula is here

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How to make next year your best year ever

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Where do you want your practice to be next year at this time? Wherever that is, the way to get there is to identify and exploit your current “areas of opportunity”.

Areas of opportunity include

(1) weaknesses you can reduce or eliminate;
(2) strengths you can make stronger; and
(3) unexplored or underutilized strategies, techniques, tools, and relationships.

Take some time to examine your practice, and yourself, and look for areas of opportunity you can work on in the coming year.

Here are a few examples:

  • new target markets
  • new practice areas
  • strategic alliances with new business contacts
  • new places to advertise, network, speak and write
  • improving client relations
  • new skills to acquire, hire or outsource
  • eliminating bad habits
  • developing new habits
  • retraining or replacing under-performing employees
  • marketing strategies that work and should be expanded
  • new marketing strategies
  • improving website copy
  • eliminating marketing activities that use too much time
  • giving some employees more responsibilities
  • reducing overhead by cutting expenses, consolidating, negotiating
  • opening satellite offices
  • improving your brand
  • getting more online reviews
  • setting up additional websites to leverage important keywords
  • working fewer hours
  • improving billing and collection methods

There are many more.

Start by spending some time identifying major weaknesses, if any, and patching the dam.

Spend more time identifying and implementing things you’re not doing that could help you grow bigger or faster.

Spend most of your time identifying your strengths and making them stronger. Your strengths got you to your current level and, more than anything, they will get you to the next.

Client referrals are a major area of opportunity

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Suck it up, buttercup

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My wife needs a new chair for her office. Last night, we stopped at our local Staples, which is having a sale on office chairs, and she found one she liked. I had a $30 coupon in my pocket which was for phone and online orders. The plan was to find a chair she wanted, go home, and order it.

Eduardo came over and asked if he could help. I asked him if I could use my coupon if the chair we wanted was already on sale. He said he wasn’t sure but would go ask his manager.

He came back with good news. Not only could we use the coupon, we could buy the chair in the store and take it home with us. His manager would override the “online” code and make it happen.

Nice.

Eduardo rang us up. He called his manager over to handle the override. The manager came, clicked some buttons, and the deal was done.

On our way home, my wife and I compared notes about the manager’s attitude. Whereas Eduardo was friendly and helpful, the manager was a walking corpse.

He didn’t say anything–no “have a nice evening,” “enjoy your new chair,” or “thank you for shopping at Staples.” No smile, no eye contact. Nothing. He clicked some keys, threw the used coupon in the trash, and turned to walk back to wherever managers hide out.

As he walked away, I said, “Thank you for your help”. He half-turned back to me, mumbled something, and continued his retreat.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is, he didn’t do his job. If I was his district manager, I would have fired him on the spot.

His job isn’t just to approve coupons. His job is to foster a pleasant customer experience. Make customers feel welcome, appreciated, and glad we chose to spend our dollars with them instead of anywhere else.

It’s the most important part of his job and he didn’t do it.

Maybe he was ill. Maybe his wife just left him. Maybe he hates his job and his life.

So what? When you show up to work, you leave your problems in your car and do your job.

You do your job even if you don’t feel like it. If you have serious issues, stay home. Take a few days off. Do what you have to do, but don’t bring your problems to work.

Nobody cares about your problems. Everyone has problems of their own. Suck it up and do your job. If you can’t do that, go work somewhere else.

As employers, we know that everyone can have a bad day. Hell, we have them ourselves. But nobody should be allowed to let their problems get in the way of our job.

How to use your website to make your phone ring

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Here’s a year-end marketing project for you

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Now is a good time to update (or start) your new client welcome kit.

A welcome letter is not enough. You should overnight new clients a comprehensive package of information, instructions, and other materials that not only make the client feel welcome but equip him to help you do your job.

Your kit should answer the new client’s questions about their case and about working with you. This will reduce anxiety, misunderstandings and calls to your office.

The kit will also help you cross-sell your other services, help you build your list, and stimulate more referrals.

What goes the kit? Information.

  • what happens next, and what happens after that
  • instructions — what to do, what to NOT do
  • office hours, appointments, parking, how to contact you and your staff, payment options, what to do in an emergency,
  • answers to FAQs and answers to questions clients often don’t ask but should
  • information about the law and procedure relative to their case or matter
  • how to navigate your website
  • your social media channels and a request to Like and Share your content
  • where to send feedback, reviews, and suggestions
  • what to say and do to make referrals
  • a list of your other services and practice areas
  • your bio, and information about your staff
  • social proof about you and your firm–reviews, testimonials, endorsements, success stories/case histories–to minimize “buyer’s remorse” and provide”talking points” the client can share with partners, superiors, etc.)

And so on.

Your kit should also include a supply of your business cards, copies of reports or books you have penned, brochures, and various “referral devices” they are encouraged to share with friends and contacts.

Include more than you think is necessary. People tend to associate “bulk” with value, so load ’em up. It’s not important that they read everything, it’s important that they see that you are accomplished, organized, professional, and prepared to help them.

You can (and should) selectively share some of the contents of your kit again at a later time, especially when it has been updated. This gives you another excuse to contact them, and another way to remind them that you can help them and the people they know.

You can also use much of this information in your kit for prospective clients. But we’ll save that for early next year.

“Referral devices” bring you more referrals. Here’s how to create them

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Looking for a Christmas gift for your clients?

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What do you get the client who has everything? A book, that’s what you get.

Books make a great gift for anyone on your list because they provide value beyond their modest cost.

If you know a client or contact’s reading preferences, you can choose something special for them. Otherwise, choose a non-fiction business, financial, productivity, or self-help book that is likely to appeal across the board. Or one book for business clients and professional contacts, another for consumers.

The best choice is a book you’ve read and recommend. Perhaps something you found useful in your practice. You can add your comments or “review” to a card that accompanies it or post the review on your website and give clients the link.

You don’t have to give books to everyone on your list. Some clients might get a card. Some might get a $25 book, while others get something priced under $10.

You can have Amazon do the fulfillment for you. Or you can buy in bulk, save a few bucks, and mail the books yourself with a hand-written note.

If your clients don’t read, or they’ve already read the book you buy for them, they can give it to someone else. They’ll appreciate the fact that you thought of them and sent them something you like and recommend, rather than just a card.

Any attorneys on your list? I’ve got some books and courses available that make great gifts. Especially when you personally recommend them.

Books and courses for attorneys

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Use the familiar to build likeability and trust

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In the first season of the original Star Trek, in an episode entitled The Corbormite Maneuver, the Enterprise crew encounters an alien ship that threatens to destroy them. The pilot of the ship is a bellicose, scary-looking creature who warns the Enterprise of their impending doom.

We later learn that the scary creature displayed on the Enterprise’s view screen is actually a manikin with a synthesized voice. The real pilot is a small childlike alien, played by a young Clint Howard, who maintains the ruse as a way to protect himself.

We like the story because the good guys survive the danger with a ruse of their own. Captain Kirk tells the alien that if he destroys the Enterprise, his own ship would be destroyed, due to the presence of Carbomite within the ship’s hull. There is no such thing but it allows the Captain to buy some time to confront the alien and defuse the threat.

We also look the story because it seems familiar.

Indeed, the same theme was used in The Wizard of Oz, some thirty years earlier. The Wizard is portrayed as powerful and threatening, until we see the man behind the curtain and realize that The Wizard  is actually a gentle white-haired old man.

Familiar themes help moviegoers become more engaged in a story. They are also used in marketing to educate prospects and generate trust.

When a prospective client or referral source sees that they have something in common with you, they are more apt to like and trust you. Your mutual interest also serves as a natural icebreaker.

If you have a small R2-D2 on your desk, for example, prospective clients will see that you are a Star Wars fan. Even if they are not, they might be less intimidated by you, relax, and open up.

Movies and popular culture are just one way to use familiar themes, but it is a good one because they are so well known and because they invoke the emotions of people who remember them. If you are an estate planning attorney, writing about what to do when a loved one has a terminal illness, for example, you could do worse than referencing the 1970’s book and film, “Love Story”.

In your marketing, presentations, and conversations, look for ways to connect with people by using familiar themes, examples, and stories. They can help you show people what you offer and build trust in your ability to deliver.

More ways to build likability and trust

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3 ways to get better at finishing what you start

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Success isn’t measured by what you start but by what you finish. Here are 3 things that have helped me to get better at finishing things:

1) Choose tasks and projects you know you can finish

Whenever possible, choose tasks you’ve done before or that you know you have the talent, time, and resources to complete. Delegate everything else, unless it’s something you want to learn how to do.

2) Break up big projects and tasks into smaller parts

Preparing for trial is a big project. Break it up into smaller parts: make a list of evidence, compile research, and make a list of parties or witnesses to interview.

Too big? Break up each part into even smaller parts, things you can do in a few minutes, an hour, or today. Finish a chapter, not the book. Finish a page, not the chapter.

The smaller the parts, the more parts you’ll finish. Each time you finish something, you’ll feel good and want to repeat that feeling by doing more.

3) Do one thing at a time until you finish it

Single-task. Focus. Get rid of distractions and interruptions and keep at it until the task is done or you have taken it as far as you can reasonably go.

One more thing. As you finish a project or a part thereof, reward yourself. Get another cup of coffee, watch a video, read a chapter in a novel, or take the afternoon off. It doesn’t have to be much, just something that you can look forward to, enjoy, and feel good about getting things done.

Get organized and get things done with Evernote

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You only need one

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Let’s say you want to get more referrals from other professionals. Where do you start?

You start by finding one professional who can and will send you business. If you already have one, you start by finding one new one.

Because one is all you need to start.

You only need one because, in the course of finding them, you will acquire the knowledge and skills you need to find more.

You’ll learn where to find them, how to approach them, and how to help them get what they want. You’ll learn how to help them even if you don’t have referrals for them. You’ll learn how to build a relationship, nurture it, and help it to grow.

You’ll go through a lot of candidates to find that one. Many will disappoint you. Some will lie and stab you in the back. But eventually, you’ll find one who is the real deal and soon, that one will turn into two.

You’ll get better at finding good referral sources and developing relationships. And soon, you’ll have a few.

And a few is all you need to build a big practice.

A few good professional referral sources can introduce you to powerful people in your niche or community. Those people will trust you because they trust the person who introduced you. They will open doors for you, introduce you to their colleagues and friends, and eventually, important people will know your name.

Your marketing will be easier. You’ll get bigger results. Better clients. And even more referral sources.

You don’t need to figure out how to build an army, just figure out how to get one recruit. Once you do, the next step will reveal itself to you.

But it all starts with one.

Here’s how you find new professional referral sources

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