Survival mode

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What’s the minimum you need to earn to keep your practice going? To cover your basic overhead and take home enough to keep the home fires burning?

What’s the minimum you need to cover your “nut”?

Once you have a number, figure out what you have to do to earn that. The activities you need to do to be reasonably assured that you will continue to stay afloat.

Doing this will allow you to identify the activities that are important to your practice right now. What’s essential and what isn’t.

You might realize that if you continue to work with your current crop of cases or clients, you will generate enough work now and, via repeat business and referrals, enough work to keep you going for the foreseeable future.

Cool.

On the other hand, you might realize that while you’re okay right now, you’re not replacing cases or clients fast enough to sustain revenue and continue growing, and you need to do something about that.

Or you might realize that some of your practice areas, services or marketing strategies aren’t bringing in enough revue, at least compared to other things you do. You might see value in jettisoning them or changing them and freeing up resources that are better used doing something else.

Once you have a clear picture of your current reality, take stock of other options. Everything else you could do to create growth and build your future.

Doing this exercise will help you get clear about where you are, where you want to be in the next few years, and what you need to do to get there.

This will help you plan your future

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Not many lawyers own their niche

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Wouldn’t it be nice to be the top dog in your niche? The lawyer clients listen to and want to hire above all others?

If you do, you should set your sights on doing something most lawyers never do.

Most lawyers are content with positioning themselves as an expert in their field. But every lawyer is an “expert,“ aren’t they?

The trouble is, people follow leaders, not experts. If you want to dominate your field, you need to lead your field.

How do you do that?

You do things leaders do. You speak and write and serve on boards and panels. You teach other lawyers (CLE) and are on a first name basis with influential people in your field and in your market.

And you build a reputation that attracts lots of referrals from lawyers and other professionals who know your name even if you don’t know theirs.

You should be working towards this, but it might take a minute. If you want to shortcut the process and be seen as a leader before the twilight of your career, there is something else you can do.

You can engage with your market and get them to know your name and what you can do to help them.

Email isn’t the only way to do that, but it is the simplest. It makes it easy to connect with prospective clients and professionals in your niche, and do it often.

When you are frequently “in the minds and mailboxes” of the people in your market, they get to know you and see you as a leader. Maybe ‘the’ leader.

Most lawyers are afraid to do this. They don’t email often because they don’t want to annoy their list or get spam complaints, or they’re afraid they’ll run out of things to say.

But those are just excuses.

You may say there are many lawyers at the top of their field who don’t communicate regularly with their market, and that’s true. But what did they do to get there? And how long did it take?

If you don’t have some of the advantages they had, or you don’t want to take as long as they did, start thinking about how you can get in front of your market as often as possible to establish your leadership immediately.

Email Marketing for Attorneys makes it easy

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Don’t show your clients how the sausage is made

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The law is complicated. Your clients hire you because they believe you can wade through that complexity and do things for them they can’t do for themselves.

Most lawyers are adept at making things more complicated than they need to be. And they make a lot of money doing that. But the lawyers who are adept at simplifying things do even better.

Your clients are busy. They’re scared or confused or have other things on their mind. They want to know that you will take care of them. Get the job done. They don’t want to know everything about how you do what you do.

Just like you don’t want to know how your car works, you just want to know that it does.

So, simplify things for them. Explain only as much as they need to know, and no more (unless they ask).

That goes for your bill, too.

Explain what you did, clearly and thoroughly, but keep it simple. Itemize your bill, but don’t bludgeon them with details.

They’re paying you to deliver a delicious sausage sandwich. Tell them the ingredients, but don’t show them how the sausage is made.

How to write a bill that gets paid

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One of these things is not like the other

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There are two types of prospective clients in the world. Those who don’t know you but will find you or be led to you when they need your help, and those who do know you but don’t need your help right now. 

The first group—those who don’t know you—is a very large group, essentially unlimited; the second group is comparatively miniscule.

People in both groups may hire you. It might be years from now or it might be tomorrow. They also might never hire you, but know people they can refer. 

If you could only market to one of these groups, which would you choose?

Would you choose the massive group that doesn’t know you from Adam or the small group who knows you well?

To answer that, you would have to consider the cost and complexity of getting your message in front of each group., 

Communicating with a small group of people who know you is as simple as emailing, placing a call, or walking up to them the next time you see them. 

Easy to do, zero cost. 

It’s just the opposite with the large group—expensive and/or time-consuming, but potentially worth it given their numbers.

You would also need to consider the element of trust. 

The small group knows, likes, and presumably trusts you. They’ll read your email and take your call. If they need your help, they’ll probably hire you. If they know someone who needs your help, they’ll probably give them your name. 

It’s a much different story with the large group to whom you are just a name in a directory or ad, or someone they’ve heard about but have questions, doubts, and fears. 

This group might hire or refer you, but you have a lot of work to do before that happens. And while you’re in the process of doing that, they might be just as likely to hire someone else.

There are many other factors, but based on size, cost, and trust, which group would you choose? 

The good news is you don’t have to choose one group. You can market to both. 

Early in your career, or if you’re not getting enough work from the people who know you, you’ll no doubt invest more in the larger group of people who don’t. Eventually, when you’re busy and making bank, you might focus primarily on the group of people who know you, because why wouldn’t you?

Over time, your goal should be to increase the number of people who know and trust you and to deepen your relationships with them. 

But, people die and retire, businesses go out of business, and good relationships sour. So it would be smart to continue getting your name in front of the masses who don’t yet know you, and continue to do that until you die, retire, or go out of business.

Enjoy the low-hanging fruit. But keep a ladder nearby.

How to choose your target market and ideal clients

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They key to effective marketing

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You want to bring in new clients and better clients and have them send you lots of referrals, don’t you?

Okay, no brainer.

You also want this to happen almost effortlessly, without requiring a lot of time or effort.

More empty-skullery

Now, you might think I’m going to give you a complicated formula for achieving this—a long list of things you have to know or do.

But I’m not.

I’m just going to give you one thing you need to do. Because if you embrace it and do it, it will bring you everything you ask.

I’m not exaggerating. It was the key to my success in my practice and my businesses. The “one thing” that made everything else work.

It’s not a strategy, technique, or tool. The key to effective marketing is simply understanding your market.

To know all about the market or niche and the people in it. What they want, what they need, what they talk about and worry about. Because the more you know your market, the more you’ll know what to say to them to get them to see you as the solution to their problem.

Not just one solution, the best solution.

The more you understand them and the world they occupy, the more easily you can relate to them and they to you. And the more likely they will be to say yes, give you all their legal work, and refer their friends and business contacts.

Study your market and the people in it. Learn about their fears and insecurities, their pain, their desires, their fears and their doubts.

Yes, it is that simple.

Of course, in order to know your market, you have to have a market. This will help you choose the right market for you.

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If your accountant managed your law firm

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Remember the last time you called a company about your order, your payment, or your account and what it took to get to the right department? Remember the joy of wading through a phalanx of options and when you didn’t find what you wanted, choosing any option, hitting “0” or shouting out “customer service” so you could talk to a human being?

God forbid you made a mistake and had to start over. 

Who decided this is the right way to treat customers? 

An accountant. Or committee thereof.

Bean counters counted the beans and realized that it was a lot cheaper to use automation than to hire humans to talk to people. No doubt that’s true. But what they didn’t “account” for is how frustrated customers might be battling the automated devil.

Or how much business they would lose when frustrated customers gave up and bought their wares somewhere else. 

They also didn’t think about the other side of the equation. They didn’t consider how much goodwill and loyalty they could engender, and how much additional profit they might derive, by eating the expense of providing some old-fashioned hospitality on the phone. 

I’m not saying automation is bad. Just that management should consider not just the savings, but the cost. 

How much is it worth to ensure that a customer returns to your store? How many new customers might find you when existing customers share their positive experience with you via reviews, social media, and word of mouth?

I’m not just talking about the phone. There are many areas of customer service where a company should consider spending more to make more. 

That goes for law firm, too.

I encourage you to consider spending more to make clients feel welcome and appreciated and giving them an exceptional experience with your firm. Look for “pain points” and areas of friction your clients and prospective clients might experience and put some money on the line to fix them. 

But don’t just fix them. Turn those pain points into your areas of strength.

It might give you a competitive advantage over other firms that listen too much to their bean counters and don’t listen enough to the people who pay them.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Focus on what you can control

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With marketing, or anything else, there are things you can control and things you can’t. Do your sanity a favor. Don’t focus on, measure, or worry about things you can’t control.

You can’t control how many prospective clients will book an appointment after they see your presentation or read your email. But you can control how many presentations you do and how many emails you send.

You can’t control how much traffic you’ll get to your blog or how many visitors will share your content. But you can control how many posts you write.

You can’t control how many bloggers will say yes to your offer to write a guest post. But you can control how many you ask.

I know, you want to sign up more clients, get more followers or subscribers, and put more butts in seats. You want to get more referral sources, bring in more six- and seven-figure clients or cases, and live the freak’in dream.

But you can’t control any of that. You can only control what you do, not what you want to happen as a result.

You can ALSO set a results-based goal—to sign up 5 new clients this month, for example—but keep that in the back of your mind.

In the front of your mind, and in your daily or weekly planner, focus on how many ads you’ll run, how many emails you’ll write, or how many people you’ll talk to.

Here are lots of things you can do

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Wait, I’ve got more research to do

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Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday, specifically the “do” part of “learn, do, teach”.

I have a theory that says, “the more you research and plan, the less you do,” because there’s always more to learn and better plans to create.

I know. I am regularly plagued by research-itis and the only cure I’ve found is to put down the books, pick up the axe and start chopping.

Old Abe said he would spend four hours sharpening his axe and one hour chopping down the tree (or something like that) but what he didn’t say was, “When the axe is sharp enough, commence chopping.”

But that’s surely what he did and we should do the same.

When you’re “sharp” enough,“ start the project. Write and send the email, plunk down some cash and run a few ads, get in front of an audience and start presenting—and see what happens.

If you don’t like the results, or you want to improve them, do more research, revise your plan, and resume chopping.

Ah, but how do you know if you know enough to start?

Here’s a rule of thumb that might help you:

If you’ve been thinking about doing something for more than a few days, you probably know enough to commence chopping.

This will help

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Learn, do, teach

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Want to get better at marketing your legal services? Find a lawyer and teach them what you’ve learned. Mentor them and guide them from where they are to where they want to go.

We learn the most when we teach what we know because we have to make sure we understand the information and can explain it to someone who doesn’t.

We also have to have done what we’re teaching.

Learn, do, teach.

You’ve already learned a lot. Probably more than you realize. You’re reading my newsletter and, presumably, other newsletters and blogs. You’re taking notes, thinking about how you can use the information, writing down questions and ideas to explore.

But what have you done?

Have you started a newsletter? Are you talking to other professionals about a marketing alliance? Have you sent your information to your clients they can use to identify people who might need your help?

Whatever you’ve done or are in the process of doing, you can start teaching it. When you come across something new, something you’d like to learn, ask yourself, “How could I teach someone what I’m learning?”

What would you tell them? Show them? Ask them to do?

Teaching can mean writing about it. Or speaking about it. Or talking to someone one-to-one and explaining the idea.

You’ll be able to inspire them by telling them what it was like for you when you got started, and what you did to get good at it. And, as watch them and answer their questions, you’ll also inspire yourself. You’ll realize how much you know and can do and then push yourself to do more.

Okay, it’s time. Think about a lawyer you know who might like to know what you know. It’s time to rattle their chain.

How do you bring up the subject? Ask them a question about what they’re doing. Or forward them one of my emails and ask them what they think.

If you’d prefer to talk to a stranger, visit a forum where lawyers talk about marketing and join in the conversation.

What’s that? You don’t feel qualified to teach or mentor anyone about marketing?

Listen up:

You don’t need to know everything about a subject to teach it. You just need to know (and have done) more than the guy or gal you’re teaching.

See ‘ya in the teacher’s lounge.

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If God wrote your blog post

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You sit down with your favorite hot beverage, ready to write your blog post, only to find that it’s already written. You look at the blinking cursor and the words on the page and realize that during the night, God himself wrote your post. 

What do you suppose the Lord would write? The eleventh commandment? A call for world peace? Would He demand something? Explain something? Promise something?

I don’t know. All I know is that whatever He wrote, it would be important. His words would be magnificent and would change the world forever.

I also know that anything you or I might write will never be that good, or that important. 

What we write isn’t unimportant. We inform and inspire people. We help them gain clarity and make better decisions. But while we might like to think so, our blog posts and articles aren’t earth-shattering or history-making.

Most people will read what we write, learn something, smile or groan, and get on with their day. 

So, if you haven’t written a blog post lately, if you’re on your 27th edit, if you’re searching for the perfect words for your perfect message, stop all that fussing, publish that sucker, and get on with your day.

Your worlds won’t change the world, although they might change the life of someone who reads them. 

But don’t think about that or you’ll never get the thing done. 

How to write blog posts that make the phone ring

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