Lawyers earn more than teachers

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Yesterday, I pontificated about the value and importance of educating your clients and prospects about problems they may not know they have and about the solutions you have available for them.

That’s your warm market. It’s different in the cold market.

In your warm market–clients, prospects, newsletter subscribers, and others who recognize your name–teaching them what they don’t know doesn’t cost much.

They’re already on your list. If you send them an email, they’ll open it and read it. If what you say makes sense and they eventually do hire an attorney to handle that problem, the odds are that attorney will be you.

In the cold market, you have to find people, get their attention, educate them, build trust, and persuade them to take the next step, and all of that takes time and capital.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. Just be aware that it’s not as easy or profitable as educating your warm market.

If you do target the cold market, you have two ways to go.

You can target people who know they have a legal problem and are actively looking for a solution, or you can target people who don’t know they have a problem and show them what they need to know.

The first group–people who are looking for a solution to a known problem–is likely to be more profitable, but for one thing: competition.

Most lawyers target people who know they have a problem.

Does that mean you should target the broader market of people who don’t know they have a problem and/or aren’t looking for a solution?

Not necessarily.

Those folks are more difficult (expensive) to identify and communicate with.

So, what do you do?

You can make money educating people who don’t know what they don’t know but you have to get a lot of things right and be willing to invest a lot of time and capital to do it.

Therefore, despite the competition, you’re usually better off going for the known commodity–targeting people who are already looking for what you offer.

Just make sure you do a better job of marketing to them than your competition.

How to use email to build your practice

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Some clients don’t know they have a problem

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Some of the clients and prospects on your list don’t know they have a legal problem, let alone that you have the ability to help them.

You need to educate them.

Tell them what they need to know about their problem or potential problem, and what might happen if they do nothing about it.

Don’t leave it up to them to figure this out. Don’t make them wait until their problem worsens. Tell them what they need to know.

And keep telling them because they might not be ready or willing or able to do anything about it the first time you tell them.

Describe the problem and tell them how to recognize it. Describe the risks and their options. And describe the benefits they get when they do something about it, ie., hire you.

Tell them how they will be better off. Tell them about how they will save money, protect themselves (family, business, etc.) against negative consequences. Tell them how they will be safer and enjoy peace of mind.

And then give them examples of other people, like them, who were in the same situation and, with your help, obtained those benefits.

It’s a simple and effective formula for marketing your services.

What’s that? You don’t have any other services to offer to your list?

No problem. Do you know any attorneys in different practice areas who can help your clients? If a client contacted you with a problem that attorney could handle, would you recommend them?

Great. So why not recommend them (their services, their website, their seminar, etc.) now?

Your clients will appreciate that. So will the other attorney, who might do the same thing for you with his clients.

If you want to know how to build your practice with email, my email marketing course shows you everything you need to know.

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What could possibly go wrong?

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Last week, I reminded you to do something you already know you need to do: anticipate problems and nip them in the bud.

A checklist can help.

Make a list of all of the “points of interaction” your clients have with your office. This would include things like

  • What they see when they visit the home page of your website
  • What happens when they fill out a form
  • What happens when they call your office for the first time, e.g., what are they asked, what are they told
  • What happens at their first appointment, e.g., parking, in the waiting room, being shown to your office, questions asked, information supplied, forms to fill out, etc.
  • Emails, letters, and documents they get from you (and anything that accompanies it)
  • What happens when they call your office for an update or to ask a question
  • The process for delivering work product/final appointment
  • Follow-up calls and letters from you, e.g., reminders re updates, requests (referrals, reviews, Likes and Shares, etc.)

And so on.

Chart these and then, for each interaction, look for

  1. Things that could go wrong, and how you can fix them, and
  2. Ways to improve the client experience

You don’t have to go crazy with every detail; look for big things–the kinds of things that usually win hearts and minds or, conversely, result in complaints.

Things like

  • How long they have to wait (on hold, at an appointment, to receive something you promised
  • Being kept informed
  • How they are treated, e.g., you know their name/their case, they are shown respect and patience, etc.
  • What to expect, e.g., outcomes, fees/billing

Don’t rely on your own observations and sensibilities. Ask your employees to weigh in, and also ask your clients, through exit surveys and by continually asking for feedback.

What could possibly go wrong? Find out and nip it in the bud.

Good client relations brings repeat business and referrals

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Nip it in the bud

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I went to the dentist yesterday for a cleaning and exam but my dentist wasn’t there. He was on vacation in Hawaii.

“Didn’t they tell you?” my hygienist asked.

They (whoever that was) hadn’t, so no. And no exam.

Strike one: Not telling patients you’ll be out of town and giving them the option to re-schedule.

Strike two: I’d already paid for the exam, so now what? Go without it? Make another appointment and come back? What if something’s wrong and I won’t find out until the next exam in six months?

Strike three: No dentist in the office means the hygienists aren’t working “under the supervision of. . .” which may be a problem for the DDS but also for the patients because he’s not there to check their work.

Which leads to strike four:

My appointment was right after lunch and. . . the hygienist’s hands smelled like pot. Once I noticed this I also noticed she wasn’t as sharp as usual.

Did she do a good cleaning? Who knows? Nobody there to check her work.

I wondered if she does this all the time or just when the boss is out of town. I also wrestled with telling her, so she could clean up her act before someone reported her.

Okay. This wasn’t a typical experience and I didn’t make a fuss but the next patient might, which could cause problems for the dentist.

On the other hand, he needs to know what’s going on.

As a professional, you have to stay on top of everything that’s going on in your office.

Everything.

You have to anticipate problems and do something about them before they occur. You have to train and re-train your staff.

And, when you see a problem brewing, you need to step in and nip it in the bud (pot reference intended).

After my appointment, I got a text inviting me to fill out a survey about my appointment. It’s not anonymous so I hesitated.

Should I fill it out? Wait until the dentist gets back and talk to him privately? Or should I let it go because it’s not typical?

What would you do? What would you want your clients to do?

How to get more repeat business and referrals

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Fees matter only when nothing else matters

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If you’re like most attorneys, you pay attention to what your competition charges and make an effort to keep your fees in line with theirs.

You don’t have to.

Because fees are way down the list of factors clients cite for choosing their attorney. And because there are things you can do to distinguish yourself from your competition, making it more likely that clients will choose you (and stick with you) even if you charge more.

How can you differentiate yourself? Here you go:

Better results.

If you’re better than other attorneys in your field, don’t keep that a secret. Let prospective clients and the people who refer them know you’re better than other lawyers in your field. Prove it by highlighting your accomplishments, reviews, testimonials, and endorsements.

Better service.

Yes, clients will pay more for better service. At least the kinds of clients you want. But quality service isn’t enough, you have to deliver amazing service. You need to be so good your clients wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. So good they want to tell everyone about you.

Specialization.

Clients prefer lawyers who specialize and they’re willing to pay more for them. They see specialists as having greater skills, knowledge, and experience. They believe that a lawyer who specializes can do the job better and quicker and with fewer problems or distractions, and this is worth more to them.

They also prefer lawyers who specialize in their niche, market or type of client.

Know, like, trust.

Other lawyers may do what you do, deliver the results you deliver, give their clients incredible service, but they aren’t you.

You are unique.

When your clients and referral sources know, like, and trust you, they will usually continue to choose you. 

Build relationships with your clients and professional contacts. Get to know them (and their families, partners, and key people) on a personal level, and make sure they know you, too.

Show your market that you are better or different. If you do, your fees won’t matter. If you don’t, your fees will be the only that matters.

More ways to differentiate yourself

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Binge marketing

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So many ideas, so little time. So many ways to promote your services, generate leads, make new business contacts, and improve response to your existing campaigns.

It never stops. Which is why sometimes, you never start.

Having options is a good thing. But it can be overwhelming.

The solution, or at least one sensible approach, is to choose one idea, channel, strategy, tactic or tool, and (temporarily) go “all in”.

Let’s say you’ve decided that LinkedIn is your new bey. You know (or you’ve heard) it’s a good place to find prospective clients, professionals with whom you can network, influencers, bloggers, and other people you’d like to know.

Whether you’re already a LinkedIn ninja or a complete noob, put everything else aside, set up a new project, and dive in.

Read articles and books. Watch videos. Listen to podcasts. Take a course. Talk to friends.

Read, watch, learn, and take notes. Then, do something.

Yes, but what?

Do you go organic? Do you advertise? Do you focus on publishing content?

What do you do first with your profile? How do you get people to see it, read it, and engage with you?

You: “Thanks a lot! Now I’m more confused than before I started.”

Me: Relax. It’s a process. You’re learning something new. Go back to your collection of information, sift through it again, add to it if necessary, and choose. . . something.

It doesn’t matter what. What matters is that you start, because you learn the most by doing, not reading. And because the objective is doing, not learning.

Do something, then do something else.

One more thing. Don’t give yourself too much time. Give yourself a week or a month, but no more. Otherwise, you might wander and get sucked into the muck.

Remember that video I mentioned the other day about how you can learn a new skill in just 20 hours?

Sounds like a plan.

For a simple marketing plan, go here

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Marketing when you don’t feel like marketing

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How do you keep the marketing fires lit when you’d rather do other things? What strategies or tactics do you use?

Have you’ve eliminated things you especially don’t like and replaced them with a few you do?

Do you automate and delegate as much as possible?

Do you “chunk it down” into small, easy-to-do tasks you can do a few minutes at a time?

Do you accept that marketing is important, put on your big boy pants, and do it anyway?

All of these are good solutions. I do them, too.

When I have to write something and I’m not feeling it, I’ll break it up into baby steps–a few minutes to find the idea, then take a break; a few more minutes to make some notes, then another break; write for five minutes, then walk away.

And so on.

And, if I’m still not feeling it, I do it anyway. Because it has to get done.

Something else I suggest. It works for marketing or any activity you may be resisting:

Put it on your calendar.

Make an appointment with yourself. Don’t schedule anything else at that time. Don’t take calls or check email. Use the time you’ve scheduled to do the thing you’ve committed to doing.

For extra credit, schedule the appointment early in the day, first thing if possible. You’ll get it out of the way and won’t have to think about it for the rest of the day.

You know this. But do you do it? If I look at your calendar right now, what would I see?

We all have things to do we don’t want to do. Client work, errands, things around the house. We do them because they’re part of the job we signed up for.

But sometimes, we need something in writing staring back at us, reminding us to do it.

Want bigger marketing results with less effort? Here’s what you need

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How do I know I can trust you?

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My wife and I visited a doctor once but our visit didn’t last long. The doctor came with all the right credentials and was highly recommended by peers and patients, but as soon as we met him, we didn’t trust him and left.

Why?

Because he wouldn’t look either of us in the eye.

He talked to the wall, to the bookcase, to the office door, but (it seemed), not to us. It was probably his way of coping with life-and-death situations but it was creepy, not the sort of thing you want in a professional.

Princeton researchers have found that people often decide on the trustworthiness of someone in as little as a tenth of a second, just by looking at their face. They draw similar conclusions about their likeability, attractiveness, competence, and other traits.

Much of these assessments are based on things you can’t change. For example, other studies have found that having more feminine facial features makes you appear more trustworthy.

You can’t change your face (without surgery) but you can change your behavior.

You can increase trust (and likeability) by shaking hands, smiling, listening without interrupting, and mirroring the other person’s body language.

And by looking at people when you talk to them.

So, here’s your assignment. For the next few days, pay attention to how you greet your clients. Take note of what you say and what you do.

You may find you’re doing something you’re not aware you’re doing and can correct it. No surgery required.

More ways to build trust

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How to quickly learn a new skill

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Not long ago, my wife decided she wanted to learn how to bake bread. Today, she makes a damn fine loaf.

How long did it take her to learn? A lot less time than you might think.

According to a TED talk I just watched, it takes around 20 hours to learn a new skill. That’s around 45 minutes a day for a month. Not long at all.

You probably won’t reach world-class level but you can get good enough to make a difference.

What would you like to learn that you’ve put off because you thought it would be too difficult or take too much time?

Follow the 4 steps to rapid skill acquisition in this talk and you may surprise yourself at how good you can get in a matter of hours.

If one of the skills you’d like to acquire is learning how to do an effective presentation, watching this video is a good place to start.

The speaker keeps things simple and interesting, illustrating his points with stories and graphics. He also demonstrates the new skill he recently acquired, proving his premise in an entertaining way.

Check it out and tell me what you think.

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When is the best time to ask for referrals?

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According to a financial advisor who posted an answer to this question, the best time to ask for referrals is at the time you deliver the work-product (document, settlement check, etc.) or other benefits.

I agree. This is the best time.

The client is feeling good about you and their decision to hire you. They’ve seen tangible evidence of your ability to deliver results. They may be thinking about people they know who could benefit from your services.

But while this is the best time, you can also ask at other times.

Of course, it depends on what we mean by “asking”.

You can “ask” by handing the client a letter or brochure that describes your “ideal client” (how to spot them, how to refer them) at any time.

Your “new client welcome kit” should include such a document.

You can “ask” in your newsletter. After sharing a client success story, you could include a call to action to download your aforesaid document or read it on your website.

When a client is in the office for any reason, you could hand them a few of your business cards and casually say, “in case you know someone who needs an attorney. Tell them to mention your name.”

You can (and should) also talk to prospective clients about referrals. After a free consultation, for example. You can also ask in your declination letter.

There are different ways to “ask” for referrals. Pick something and use it.

The more you do, the more referrals you’ll get.

Here’s how to get maximum referrals

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