A different take on Areas of Focus

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Most people who use a task management app or system separate their Areas of Focus (or Areas of Responsibility), so that when they’re working, they only see their list of work-related tasks, and when they’re not working, they see tasks or errands related to their personal life.

Many people use just two top-level categories—work and personal. Others break down their responsibilities into narrower categories.

I have 3 businesses and separate my tasks according to which business they belong to. I have a fourth category for personal matters. This works well for me but I’m always looking for different methods, especially since there is a lot of overlap between the things I do.

The other day, I watched a video by someone who separates her tasks not by job or business or other area of her life, but by the activities she performs.

To illustrate, using her activity-based approach, a practicing lawyer might categorize his or her responsibilities into these 7 areas:

  1. CREATE (blog posts, newsletters articles, podcasts, videos, social media posts, books, ads, presentations, etc.)
  2. CONNECT (interviews, networking, joint ventures, social media)
  3. LEARN (marketing, CLE, productivity, personal development, writing, etc.)
  4. MAINTAIN (admin, risk management, IT, client relations, bill paying, investing, etc.)
  5. ROUTINES (planning, processing, calendaring, training; personal routines and chores–exercise, meditation, journaling, self-care, shopping, etc.
  6. LEISURE/SPIRITUAL (rest, fun, family, miscellaneous interests, charitable, etc.)
  7. WORK (cases, client work)

This got me thinking. I’m not yet committed to changing my top-level Areas, but I am looking at using tags or labels to identify my different activities and responsibilities so I remember to schedule and do them.

I thought I’d pass this along to you in case you’d like to do the same.

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Plan 9 from Mars

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We often do it. Spend too much time planning, too little time doing.

We want something, it’s important, and our fear of failure makes our inner perfectionist raise his fussy head and insist that we iron out all the kinks before we start.

It’s usually better to just start.

Because it’s not the plan that gets us there, it’s the work.

The plan gives us a place to start. A first step, maybe two or three. It gives us something to work towards, but we still have to do the work.

Nothing happens until you do.

The best way to achieve your goals: Start before you’re ready.

Write something, call someone, or ask someone for something. Take the first step, then the second, and see where it takes you.

You’ll make mistakes, spend too much money, get sidetracked with other things, but in the end, you’ll go further, faster, because you took action instead of trying to figure it all out.

If you want more clients, your plan should be to choose a marketing strategy and get busy.

You don’t need to learn everything you can about that strategy; you don’t need to figure out what you’ll do next week or next month, or even tomorrow, you need to take the first step right now.

Any step will do.

A simple plan for marketing your legal services

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If they say it, it must be true

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Clients pay for your advice but often don’t want to hear it.

They don’t want to hear bad news, expensive or painful solutions, or what they did wrong.

But hear it they must.

So, you have a choice. You can tell them what they need to hear or you can get them to tell themselves.

Because if you say it, they can doubt it and fight you or blame you; if they say it, it must be true.

So, you present the facts, the whys and wherefores, the options and risks, the process and costs, but hold back on telling them what to do.

Let them figure that out for themselves and tell you what they want to do.

Spanish philosopher Baltasar Gracian said, “When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, not of the light he was unable to see.”

Remind them what they told you they wanted (or didn’t want) and ask questions. Lots of questions.

Questions about what’s important to them, about what they would think or do if something happened (or didn’t), about what they would think and how they would feel.

Ask questions and repeat their answers back to them, so they can hear what they’ve said and how it sounds.

“What you’re saying is. . . is that right?” Keep doing that until they decide. Guide them, but don’t decide for them.

If they ask what you recommend, go over what they’ve told you they want/prefer/want to avoid, and let them respond.

Sometimes, they’ll ask, “What would you do in my situation?” or “What do you recommend?”

What should you do when they ask that?

What do you think you should do?

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Tell me about yourself

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Prospective clients ask about the law, their case, their options. They ask about fees and deadlines and process. They ask about a lot of things but they rarely ask about you.

Why you became a lawyer, what you like most about what you do, what you do best and what isn’t your cup of tea.

They usually don’t ask but you should be prepared to answer questions like these in case they do.

It’s also good to have answers to these types of questions to share with prospective clients, seminar attendees, and interviewers, even if they don’t ask.

Give people a few nuggets about what makes you tick.

Tell them about a case you had that was especially difficult and what did you did to beat the odds. Reveal something about something you may be embarrassed to admit but that helped you become a better lawyer or human being. Talk about something you are proud of and want the world to know, even if it has nothing to do with practicing law.

People prefer to hire and refer and work with lawyers they know, like, and trust. A simple way to foster knowing and liking is to share some insights into who you are and why you do what you do.

Tell them about your values, your philosophies, your raison d’être.

Yes, people mostly want to know about what you can do to help them, their clients, friends, readers or listeners. But they also want to know something about the person who will do the helping.

If you’re in doubt about how to say it, tell a story. Tell them about something you did and what it meant to you or about a client you helped, how they were better off because of it, and how you feel about that.

What you do and how you do it are important. Just as important is why.

How to take a quantum leap in the growth of your practice

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Just because it’s free doesn’t mean anyone will buy

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You offer a free consultation. A free ebook, report or other download. A free seminar, or even a free introductory service.

But just because it’s free doesn’t mean you’ll get any takers. You have to sell your freebies as much as you do your paid services.

Prospective clients don’t want to load up their hard drives with useless reading material that’s little more than a sales pitch for an attorney’s paid services. Or consult with an attorney who won’t give them any meaningful advice and will only push them to sign up.

And that’s what most prospective clients think about your free offers.

It’s up to you to show them the benefits they get by downloading your report or booking an appointment.

What will they learn? What will they be better able to do? What do they get and why should they trust you?

Give them the details. And tell them how other clients have benefited by downloading your report or speaking to you. Better yet, show them testimonials from those other clients so they can hear it from them, not you.

In the eyes of a prospective client, nothing’s really “free”. You’re asking them to spend their time and/or risk making a mistake.

They’re afraid. They don’t know you. They don’t trust you. And other lawyers offer the same freebies you offer.

Ease their concerns. Show them it’s safe to give you their email address or some of their time and show them how they will better off if they do.

Because just because it’s free doesn’t mean anyone will buy.

Get more clients and increase your income: The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Learn, do, teach

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You learn about marketing. You do it and get good at it.

Life is good.

Life gets even better, however, if you take what you’ve learned and teach it to your professional contacts.

Teach them some things you’ve learned about marketing professional services, from me and others.

Teach them how to identify their target market and ideal client, and why it’s important to focus.

Teach them how to get more referrals from their clients and their professional contacts.

Teach them about using content to attract more prospects and show them what they can do to help them.

Teach them about the power of staying in touch with clients and prospects and the best ways to do that.

Teach them by sharing information and by the power of your example. Tell them what you’ve done to bring in new business, repeat business, bigger cases and better clients.

Share your process, your forms and checklists. Show them how you market your practice without spending a lot of time or breaking the bank, and how they can do the same.

As you do this, they will also learn more about you—your target market and ideal client. They’ll learn how to recognize them and the best way to refer them.

As you do this, you will train a small army of new referral sources for your practice.

They’ll appreciate you. They’ll want to help you. And they’ll have more clients or customers coming in that they can refer to you.

And they will, since no other lawyer is helping them this way.

This will help you identify and approach prospective referral sources

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A better way to ask for referrals

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Asking for referrals is easy. But the way you ask can make a big difference in the results you get.

Mary Kay Ash taught her distributors the right way. She said,

“When asking for a referral, don’t ask if they know someone who wants what we’re offering. Instead, ask for someone who has a problem we can solve.”

Why is this better? Because it gets the listener to focus on their friends’ problem or desire, not your products or services.

When you ask a client this type of question, in their mind’s eye they can see their cousin who is in a bad marriage or their friend whose daughter just had a baby and might need to prepare a Will. They might know an entrepreneur who needs to incorporate or a business owner who has mentioned having trouble with his employees.

If they say they know someone, ask them to give their friend your card.

Still, this may not be right for your practice area, or it may feel too aggressive.

In that case, another way to ask is to do a “referral bypass,” and yes, that’s something I just made up.

Instead of asking for a referral to a prospective client, ask for a referral to a professional or business owner who sells to or advises people in your target market.

The kinds of people who may know people who need your services, now or in the future.

When they say they have a friend who sells insurance to medical professionals (if that’s your target market), ask for a few details and if the friend sound like someone you might like to know, ask if they would introduce you.

Or, tell them you’ll look them up and ask if it would be okay to mention their name.

Contact the referral, introduce yourself, tell them you have a mutual friend or client or colleague, and ask them to tell you more about what they do. If all goes well, at some point they’ll ask you to tell them more about what you do.

What do you say when they ask that question? How do you answer when someone asks, “What do you do?”

There’s a right way to answer that question and you can read all about it in my book, How to Sell Your Legal Services in 15 Seconds or Less.

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How to get more referrals without asking for referrals

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Three things I know about you:

  1. You understand that your clients and contacts could send you more referrals than they now send you;
  2. You know that asking for referrals is an effective way to get more of them, and
  3. You don’t want to ask.

What if you could get more referrals without asking or saying anything?

You can. I promise.

All you need to do is give your clients and contacts information—a report, a letter, a brochure—that explains:

  1. The services you offer, problems you solve, and benefits you help people achieve. Provide examples for each problem and/or service.
  2. The types of clients and cases that are a good match for you, and how to recognize them.
  3. What to do when they recognize someone who might need your help, now or in the future. Tell them what to say, what to tell them about you, and the best way to refer them.

In other words, write something that tells your clients and contacts what you want them to know and do, and makes it easier for them to do it.

When you do that, you will get more referrals.

If they have sent you referrals before, they will send you more.

If they’ve never sent you referrals, they will be more likely to start.

Your report or letter tells them everything they need to know and tells them that referrals are a normal part of your practice and a simple way to help the people they know get the help they need.

Bottom line: more referrals, without saying or asking for anything.

You can learn what to put in your report or referral letter, how to distribute it, and other strategies for getting more referrals, here:

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If a guy named Howie wrote your newsletter

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Most lawyers who write a newsletter or blog or post articles on social media do something you would expect a sober professional would do. They write about serious topics and use a serious tone throughout.

While that’s generally the right call, they risk being uninteresting, predictable, and just plain boring.

All work and no play made Jack a dull boy.

Eventually, readers and followers stop reading and following.

Which kind of defeats the purpose of publishing content and staying in touch with people who can hire you and send you referrals.

If this sounds a bit like your story, take heart. The solution is simple.

Put some fun in your writing.

A dash, a dollop, a sprinkle can go a long way.

You don’t have to do a stand-up routine, just make make the occasional wry comment or play on words.

You don’t have to be silly, just report something amusing you saw or heard.

You don’t have to go completely off topic, just include a side note here and there.

You want your readers to look forward to hearing from you because they know you’re going to say something interesting or something that puts a smile on their face.

And they’ll love you for doing that because most lawyers don’t.

One place to start is in your titles and email subjects. Take what you’ve written and see if you can juice it up. Make people curious about what’s inside.

That’s what I did with the title of this post.

Start collecting interesting headlines and titles you see in the articles and emails you read, the ones that make you curious and want to continue reading. You may be able to use them by changing a word here and there to come up with something suitable for your readers.

You’ll also get better at writing your own.

You can make your articles and emails more interesting and fun to read by including things like a surprising statistic, a bold prediction, a pithy quote or a relevant story.

Give readers a taste of color or contrast, something to think about and remember. They’ll have fun reading your article and eagerly await your next.

Email marketing for attorneys

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Build a simple system first and improve it over time

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Your marketing plan, or any plan for that matter, should be as simple as possible. So simple it can be written on the back of a napkin. So simple you (and your team) can easily understand it, remember it, and follow it.

If your plan is simple, you’ll be more likely to follow it. If it is both simple and well thought out, it will (eventually) allow you to build an empire.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA tells us:

“Gall’s Law states that all complex systems that work evolved from simpler systems that worked. If you want to build a complex system that works, build a simpler system first, and then improve it over time.”

A law practice has many systems—marketing, HR, continuing education, training, compliance, client onboarding, risk management, and on and on. For the practice to succeed, each of these systems must be successful and you need a plan for each system.

Start with marketing. Because if you don’t get and keep good clients, you won’t have a practice to manage. And because marketing drives revenue and revenue will help you build the other systems.

Your plan won’t be perfect, just something you can do and you want to do. A flawed plan relentlessly and enthusiastically implemented will always beat a complicated plan that sits on your hard drive and never sees the light of day.

And you can improve your plan over time.

What’s in a (simple) marketing plan?

  1. The services and benefits you offer
  2. Your target market and ideal client
  3. How you will help prospective clients find you
  4. What you will say and do to persuade them to hire you
  5. What you will do to keep them and get them to send you referrals

Answer these questions and you’ll have your plan. Execute that plan and you’ll be on your way to building your empire.

How to write a simple marketing plan

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