Little and often

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If you’re trying to tackle a big project and not making as much progress as you’d like, the reason may simply be that you’re trying to do too much too soon.

In his book, Do It Tomorrow, Mark Forster provides a series of fundamental productivity principles. Number three is “Little and Often,” his prescription for handling big projects or accomplishing big goals.

Forster says it’s easier to get things done if you do small parts frequently, instead of attempting to get it all done in a short period of time.

Little and often is how we learn to play a musical instrument or a new language, he points out. It’s how we develop any new skill or habit.

It works because it allows your brain to repeatedly return to and process the subject, assimilate new information and experiences and make new connections between them, providing us with new ideas and different ways to incorporate them.

I’m working on a book right now and while I have the time to power through it and get it done faster, I’m moving slowly, writing for an hour or two a day, and I know the end result will be better for it.

What are you working on right now that could benefit from “little and often”?

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Screening new clients before you take their money

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It’s one thing to “drop” a client who hasn’t paid or who has been a pain in your gluteus maximus. It’s something else to not let them sign up in the first place.

What do you do to eliminate problem clients in advance?

Do you talk to them on the phone before they’re allowed to make an appointment?

Do you do a background check? Ask for references? Do you accept new clients “by referral only”?

What do you ask at the initial interview? What red flags do you look for?

If you suspect they might be trouble, do you ask for a bigger retainer or require full payment in advance?

Do you do this yourself or do you have them talk to someone else first, e.g., your administrator?

And what, if anything, do you say or do in your marketing to filter out the bad apples?

Every practice is different. Criminal defense lawyers, we feel your pain.

Every lawyer is also different. You might be more relaxed than the firm down the street, or more careful if you’ve been burned before.

But one thing is certain.

You should think about this subject and create a plan, before the next prospective client calls.

Get the Check: Stress-Free Legal Billing and Collection

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The value of building an exceptional client experience

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It takes a lot of effort to attract good clients. It takes even more effort to keep them happy.

Is it worth it?

All of the time, energy, and money it takes to treat clients “better than they have a right to expect” is one of the best investments you can make.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Clients who receive exceptional service are far more likely to stick with you for the long term. Their lifetime value might be ten times what you earn on their first case or engagement.
  • Happy clients are easier to work with. They are less likely to cause problems, more likely to let you do your work.
  • They are more likely to be fee sensitive. You can charge more because you’re worth it, and your clients will usually pay on time.
  • Satisfied clients are willing to provide referrals. Clients who are thrilled with you go out of their way to find clients they can refer.
  • They promote your offers, share your content, and send traffic to your website.
  • And they provide testimonials and positive reviews.

As a practicing professional, you can do the minimum required to satisfy your clients or you can consistently look for ways to do more.

Most lawyers go for the first option, giving you the opportunity to stand out from the rest and build an incredibly successful, profitable and satisfying practice.

So, you tell me, is it worth it?

How to (easily) get more referrals from your clients

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Motivation follows action (not the other way around)

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YOU: I want to bring in more clients; I’ve made a list of 18 things I could do but I’m not motivated to do any of them. Do you have any advice?

ME: You’ve come to the right place, son. Pull up a chair and let me set you straight.

Now, the way I see it, you have 3 options:

Option 1: Make another list. Go find 18 more things you could do, and keep looking until you find something you want to do. There’s got to be something, right?

If not, go to option 2.

Option 2: Get out your checkbook. Pay someone to do something on your list for you, or babysit you and coach you while you do it.

If you don’t want to do that, you have option 3.

Option 3: Pick something on your list and do it anyway. Even though you don’t feel like it. Because research tells us that motivation follows action, not the other way around.

Pick something you hate the least, or pick something you hate the most so you can prove to yourself you were right, or pick something at random.

Just pick something, and start.

Do something, however small and insignificant, so you can say you started.

Because motivation follows action, not the other way around.

What will happen? Well, you might find it’s not as bad as you thought and decide to continue. You might find a way to make it easier or better. You might start to see some results, get excited, and say to yourself, “I wish I’d started this sooner.”

Or, you might hate it, in which case, you can choose something else and try that, or go back to option 1 or 2.

Those are your options. I hope this helps. I’ll put your bill in the mail.

How to create a simple marketing plan that works for you

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Where I keep things I’m afraid to throw away

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I just started doing something with my digital files and notes I wish I’d done a long time ago. I designated a place to put everything I don’t need now but might need or want someday.

I’ve set up folders and notebooks in my various apps and labeled them “Archives”.

My archives now hold:

  • Closed files
  • Inactive projects (not started, aborted, finished)
  • Notes/docs/audios/videos from old business ventures
  • Old tax, banking, and insurance docs
  • Backups of old blog posts
  • Other backups
  • Old docs/notes that could be mined for useful materials
  • Personal mementos
  • Articles, notes, pdfs that might be useful some day
  • Things I should probably throw out but don’t have time to read to make sure

The kind of stuff we used to put in storage or in the basement or attic. The kind of stuff we are unlikely to ever need but hang on to “just in case” (or because it’s required by law).

One blogger refers to his archives as “Things I’m afraid to throw away”.

Yeah, that stuff.

I used to keep most of this intermingled with everything else. After all, it’s just electrons, right? They don’t take up space?

But they do.

When we search or browse through current project materials, all of our old stuff is mixed in, distracting us and creating mental and visual clutter.

When you put them in archives, they don’t.

I moved more than 4000 Evernote notes into an archive “stack”. In G Drive, I’ve moved many gigabytes of documents, audios and videos into an archive folder. And I’m not done.

Everything is out of sight, but available. Which means all of my current materials are more accessible, easier to organize and use.

Now, about all those old photos. . .

Evernote for Lawyers ebook: get it here

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What do your clients want from you?

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You know your clients want you to treat them well, charge reasonable fees, and keep them informed about the progress of their case.

But do you have this in writing?

I’m talking about a “pledge” or a “Client’s Bill of Rights”–something to show clients and prospects, and for you and your staff to commit to and follow.

Start by writing internal guidelines and objectives, for you and your staff. For example, you want your clients to feel welcome and appreciated and to know you are committed to doing your best to help them.

Then, write down things you know your clients want. Here are few ideas to get you started:

  • To know in advance how much they be charged
  • To be assured that everything they tell you is confidential
  • To get copies of everything that comes in or goes out (without being charged extra)
  • To be told what they can do to help you do a better job for them
  • What you will do first
  • To receive an estimate of how long things will take and an explanation of the factors that influence them
  • To not get billed for a quick call to you or from you
  • What happens if. . .
  • What happens when. . .
  • How often they will receive a bill
  • Retainer agreements and other documents that are easy to read and understand
  • Where to get additional information

As you flesh out your list, consider:

  • What prospective clients will see on your website, how they will be treated when they contact your office and when they speak with you.
  • What new clients will be told, what they will get, and how they will be treated.
  • What clients will be told at the end of their case, what you will give them, and what they should do if they have additional questions, need updates or additional services, and how to make a referral.

Make sure to customize your list to your specific practice areas, niche markets, and ideal clients.

Start your list by writing down whatever comes to mind. Ask your staff to contribute ideas. Talk to or survey your clients.

And, once you have a list, put it on your website.

Doing this will keep you focused on serving your clients and treating them the way they want to be treated. It will keep you from forgetting to do what you know you should do, and stimulate you to continually do better.

It will also help you build your practice with happy clients who tell everyone how great you are.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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A simple way to create (a lot) more content

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A common reason offered by attorneys who haven’t started a blog or newsletter is that they won’t be able to keep it up. Either they don’t have the time, or they don’t think they’ll have enough to write about.

But. . .

You’ll never run out of ideas to write about. I promise.

Even if you practice in a very narrow niche, the law changes, the cases and clients change, the strategies change, the ideas change, and your readers change.

Besides, you aren’t confined to writing exclusively about the law, nor should you. (Get my Email Marketing Course and you’ll never run out ideas for your newsletter or blog.)

As for the amount of time it takes to write a new article or post, hear ye, hear ye, if you’re taking more than an hour, you’re doing something wrong.

And, you can save yourself a boatload of time if, when you sit down to write an article, you write two articles. Or five.

Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Instead of writing a 2500-word post, write a 300-word post. Save the rest for tomorrow or next week.
  2. Write different versions of the same article for each of your target markets or practice areas. Use the same basic information, change the examples, stories, and tips.
  3. Create a series. This week explain the problem, next week talk about the risks, the following week explain the law, after that present one of the solutions, and keep going: other options, other solutions, different client success stories, things that don’t work, mistakes to avoid in the future, resources, etc.
  4. Interview (by email) 5 other professionals or experts about the subject: What do you think, how do you handle this, what advice would you give to someone in this situation, etc. Add your comments at the end of each piece.
  5. Answers to FAQs. What do new clients and prospective clients usually want to know? Ten questions, ten answers, ten articles.

Life is good when you know what you’re going to write about six weeks in advance.

Get it here: Email Marketing for Attorneys

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Is it a good idea?

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You want to try some new marketing ideas. How do you know if you’ve got a good one?

A bad idea tends to feel bad almost right from the start. You’re forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do, and feel like you’re wasting time and/or spending money you shouldn’t spend.

A good marketing idea, on the other hand, tends to have these characteristics:

  • Offers services with strong market demand, giving people what they want, not necessarily what they need.
  • Has the potential to provide significant growth or profit. If successful, it could triple your revenue over the next year or two, for example.
  • Generates its own momentum. In the beginning, you’re supplying all the energy to get the idea off the ground. Eventually, you see things starting to happen seemingly on their own. People contact you, for example.
  • Is a good fit for you–your skills, experience, niche, network, and your style. It feels right, especially compared to other things you’ve tried.

The trick is to give the idea enough time and space to prove or disprove itself. You don’t want to hang on to a bad idea too long, but you don’t want to give up on a good idea too soon.

Knowing which is which is the hard part if all you do is look at the numbers. You have to learn to trust you gut.

Good ideas often reveal themselves when you’re in the middle of doing other things. So, make sure you try lots of things, and give them enough time to show you what they’ve got.

When you’re ready to take a quantum leap in your marketing, go here

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If you don’t like marketing, do this instead

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If you’re the kind of attorney who says, “I didn’t go to law school to be a salesperson,” or who just doesn’t like marketing in any shape or form, I have a suggestion.

No, I’m not going to tell you you can stop doing it, or that you can outsource all of it. I’m going to tell you to change the way you think about it.

I’m guessing you don’t actually hate the idea of writing things or talking to people, or even how much time it takes or how much it costs.

What you don’t like is letting anyone see you do it.

Because they might think you need the work.

Thus, my suggestion.

Don’t use the word “marketing”.

Substitute the word “communicating,” because that’s really all you’re doing.

You communicate with clients and former clients, prospective clients and professional contacts, and other people in your warm market–sharing information and updating them about what’s going on with you.

You don’t have to “push” or promote; just stay in touch.

You also communicate in the “cold market,” via ads, social media posts, articles, interviews, networking, and presentations. You don’t know these people, yet, but you can communicate with them just the same.

Telling them something, offering them additional information, asking them to contact you if they questions.

It’s not marketing (okay, it is), but it’s also communicating, something you’re good at.

So, if the word marketing leaves a bad taste in your mouth, take a bite out of the word communicating.

All you have to do is decide with whom you will you communicate, what you will say, and how you will get your message to them.

I suggest you start with your warm market, and use email. You can learn everything you need to know, here.

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Help your clients help you

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You want your clients to provide you with testimonials, reviews, and referrals. Many are willing to do it but don’t do it because they don’t know what to write or how to do.

Help them. Teach them what to do and show them how to do it.

You can put instructions on a web page or in an email that goes out towards the end of the case or engagement.

You can provide them with checklists, sample language, and examples of what other clients have said or done.

You can teach them what a good referral looks like, what to say to their friend about you, and what to do to comfortably make the referral.

You can also create a review/testimonial template–something like this:

Testimonial/Review Template

  • I contacted [lawyer/firm] because. . .
  • I needed/wanted [desired outcome]
  • The result was. . .
  • One thing I liked best was his/her/their. . .
  • I will hire [them] again if I need [more legal work/updates/other]
  • I would recommend [lawyer/firm] to people who need. . .

You could also provide clients with a handful of good reviews (or testimonials) you’ve received. Not only will this give them ideas about what to say about you, it will also empower them to do it by providing social proof that this is what satisfied clients do.

Make it easier for your clients to provide reviews, testimonials, and referrals, and you’ll get more of them.

Get more referrals by teaching your clients how to make referrals

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