Not too hot, not too cold

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When it comes to communicating with your list(s), whether through a newsletter, blog, social media or any other mechanism, you have to ask yourself, “How much is enough?” and “How much is too much?”

How often should I contact them? What is a good length or word count for my articles or posts or videos?

Because if you send them too much or too often, you might overwhelm them and lose them. They might unsubscribe or they might stop reading or listening and responding.

But the same can happen if you give them too little.

If they don’t see value in what you send them, or they don’t hear from you often enough and forget who you are, they will leave or tune you out.

That’s not necessarily fatal, however. The only metric that really counts is the amount of business you get from your articles or posts.

How many new clients, repeat clients, up-sells and cross-sells, and referrals is the only thing that matters. Everything else is nice to have but not essential, even if you could track it.

Opens? Clicks? Shares? Engagement? Hard to track, and if you have a small list, usually not worth the effort.

Capice?

Still, you don’t want to overwhelm people with too much information, any more than you want them to stop following or listening to you because you send them too little.

You also don’t want to make more work for yourself than necessary.

You want to build a “relationship” with them, so that they come to know, like and trust you, and eventually hire or refer you. You do that by providing valuable and interesting information, and making it good enough that they look forward to getting your next.

What makes it good enough? It doesn’t need to be brilliant or exhaustive. It simply needs to be interesting and relevant to your readers.

As for quantity, when it comes to a newsletter or blog post, I suggest you publish or post once a week. Often enough to keep your name in front of your list, but not so often that anyone tunes out or you can’t keep it up.

And keeping it up is important because you never know when someone will be ready to hire an attorney or has a friend who needs one.

You can publish more often than once a week. Whether or not you should do that depends on your practice area, your market, and you.

You need to find a happy middle ground, one which keeps people reading and responding, and allows you to publish regularly, without taking up too much of your time.

As for length, a few paragraphs or a few hundred words are enough, and certainly not too much. You’ll never overwhelm anyone by sending them something they can consume in 2 or 3 minutes.

Shorter posts are easier to write and take less time. You can do everything in less than an hour a week.

Not too hot, not too cold. It’s just about right.

How to build your practice with a weekly newsletter

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Did I ever tell you about the time I messed up a case?

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Success stories are valuable tools for marketing professional services. They show prospective clients that you’ve helped others solve the same or similar problems, implying that you can do the same for them.

Talk about the problems people brought to you, the pain this caused them, and the hard work you did to deliver them from misfortune.

And don’t forget the happy ending.

On the other hand, don’t make everything look too easy.

You’ll be more believable and relatable if you tell people about cases that didn’t have a happy ending.

The client didn’t listen to you or the case had problems you couldn’t solve.

You might also tell stories about times when you messed up.

Talk about a case you lost and how this affected you. Talk about your struggles to “save” people and your guilt or sadness when you couldn’t. Talk about a mistake you made and what it cost you to fix it.

Show people the human you, the imperfect you, because people know you’re not perfect and they’ll love you for being honest with them.

But be careful. You need a deft hand to do this.

It’s best to talk about failure in the past tense. Talk about what you learned from the experience and how it made you better at what you do.

You’ll hear me talk about things I did when I first started practicing, how I struggled, what I learned, and how I changed and became successful.

A failure story with a happy ending.

You also need to be selective about the issues you talk about.

If you messed up a case because you got hooked on pain meds after surgery a few years ago and finally kicked the habit, I don’t think anyone would look down on you. If you abused recreational drugs for many years, however, and only recently got clean, you might find some people worrying about you relapsing.

I was late for court once and my case was dismissed. I had to file a motion and pay sanctions to save it. I can tell that story because people understand “being late” and because I saved the case. If I lost because I blew a statute and the client sued me and won, I probably wouldn’t tell that story.

Tell success stories, mostly, but occasionally talk about things that didn’t go so well. If it was your fault, be careful. It’s easy to go too far.

If you’re not sure, have a friend look at your story before you publish it.

Because friends don’t let friends publish drunk.

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Two birds. One stone.

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You: “I want to help my best clients and referral sources but I’m not always able to provide referrals.”

Also you: “I need more ideas for content for my blog and newsletter and social media.”

Me: Pay attention to what your best clients and referral sources are doing and talk about that in your blog, newsletter, and on social.

When they have news or post new content, when they announce an upcoming event or get an award, when they run a promotion or launch a new product or service, share it.

Re-post their news release or article. Share their links. Ask them questions and quote them.

They get free publicity, traffic, leads, and new business.

You get free content for your blog, newsletter, and social media.

Also you: your best clients and referral sources see you promoting them and helping them and most of them will want to do the same for you.

Actually, that’s three birds with one stone. But who’s counting?

How to take a quantum leap in your practice

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The Law of the Lid

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In John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, the first law is “The Law of the Lid”. It says that our effectiveness is determined by our leadership abilities.

This doesn’t mean only our ability to lead others. It means our ability to lead ourselves.

It’s about personal growth. If we want our business or practice to grow, we must grow. We are “the lid” in our practice or business, or life. To achieve more, we have to raise our lid.

I was thinking about this the other day as I thought about a friend of mine who, for lack of a better word, is a know-it-all.

He has an answer for everything and doesn’t listen to anyone.

Including me.

I’m a lot older, more experienced and successful. I know he trusts me. He may even look up to me. But he doesn’t listen to me.

He doesn’t ask my opinion about anything, argues with me when I offer it, and makes it clear that there’s nothing I can tell him.

Because he already knows everything.

He has a lot of good qualities but hasn’t achieved the level of professional and personal success I know he wants, because of his “lid”–his unwillingness to seek out and listen to the advice of people who can help him.

Do you have any friends like this? Any clients?

I tell you about my friend not because I have suggestions about how to deal with a person like this. We can be there for them when they want our counsel, but they have to decide to do that on their own.

No, the reason I tell you about my friend is that you may want to ask yourself, as I often ask myself, “Am I like that?”

Do I listen to the advice of others? Or do I think I don’t need to do that because I already have all the answers?

Listening doesn’t necessarily mean following. It means considering and weighing that advice in the context of our own experience.

Something we can’t do if we’re a know-it-all.

We may not be a know-it all. We might be nothing of the sort. But we all have a lid. A limit to what we can achieve because of what we know, what we believe, and what we do.

No matter what our lid might consist of, we can raise our lid by working on ourselves.

By reading and learning, by practicing, by taking action and measuring our results.

And by listening to the advice of others who know things we need to know.

If you need more clients, take my advice: this is a good place to start

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Use a trigger list to identify people you don’t know you know

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One of the first things you do when starting a new business or professional practice is to make a list of people you know. If it’s been awhile for you, this might be a good exercise to go through again.

Going through your high school, college or law school yearbook, for example, might help you remember people you used to know but haven’t spoken to in years.

Looking at a map might prompt you to recall your days living in another city and remember some people you knew.

Searching online lists of occupations or businesses might prompt you to remember people you know or used to know in those occupations or businesses.

As you remember names, add them to a list to contact in the future. If you remember faces but not the names, put them on a list to track down.

Is this worth the effort? You tell me.

Some people you connect with might have work for you. They might know people who need your help.

Someone might ask you to speak at their event. Someone might want to read your book or see your presentation.

And some might share the link to your website in their newsletter or on their blog, exposing your name and website to thousands of people in your target market.

Saying hello to someone you used to know could lead to dozens or hundreds of new clients for you.

Would that be worth it?

On the other hand, you might get nothing more than the opportunity to talk to some old friends and recall some old times.

Would that be worth it?

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A simple business development productivity system

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You want to bring in new clients and build your practice. You have a list of projects that will help you do that.

You might want to work on your website or start a newsletter, update your social media profiles, consolidate your contact lists, or watch videos about a new note-taking app you’ve heard so much about.

But you’re not doing them.

You scheduled time to work on X this week but when you sit down to do it, you realize you don’t have enough time, you need to do more research, or you just don’t feel like doing it.

So you do nothing.

“I’ll work on that next week,” you tell yourself, but do you?

There’s a simple solution.

Instead of scheduling to do X (today, this week, next), schedule time to work on business development (marketing, operations, systems, etc.), and keep of menu of projects to choose from during that time.

So when you don’t feel like working on X, you can work on Y or Z.

Here’s how you might set this up.

  1. Make a list of 5-10 projects or tasks you are committed to working on soon.
  2. Choose a day of the week to work on “Business Development” for one hour. A Wednesday afternoon, a Saturday morning, or whatever.
  3. Set up a weekly recurring task in your task management system, calendar, or reminder app, or use a free email service like FollowUpThen.com, so that every week you are prompted to work on business development for one hour.
  4. Add your list of 5-10 tasks or projects as sub-tasks, or a link to your list.
  5. Each week, when your system prompts you to work on business development, look at your list and choose something you want to do.

This week, you might write an email or two. Next week, you might outline a new presentation. The following week, you might modify your new client intake form.

You always have several options and it doesn’t matter which one you choose. Each week, you do something related to business development, and that’s better than doing nothing.

Ready to work on a newsletter? Here’s all you need

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Not all clients are created equal

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Some clients are worth more to you than others. I’m not just talking about billing or cases or revenue, or even the value of the referrals they send you—or could.

I’m talking about the people they know and could introduce you to. The doors they could open for you for networking, speaking, and publishing content. The information they have about their industry or market or local market, information that can lead you to opportunities you didn’t even know existed.

I’m also talking about the value these clients represent to you by allowing you to be seen with them. When important people in your niche see you interviewing other important people in your niche, for your blog or channel, the value of your “stock” tends to go up.

Because we are known by the company we keep.

Hold on. If you primarily represent consumers, if your clients don’t have the status and connections we’re talking about, you’re not out of luck. Your professional contacts can also provide this value.

Your homework: identify 5 or 10 of your top clients and/or professional contacts and go to school on them.

Study them and their business or industry. Find out more about what they do, how they do it, and who they know. Figure out what they can do for you (or your clients), and. . . what you can do for them.

What do they need? What do they want? What are their problems and goals?

If you can, interview them. Spend more time with them. Tell them you want to get to know better. Ask questions and take notes.

The things you learn will help you take your relationship to the next level.

Your research will help you do a better job for them as their lawyer, and for your other clients in that niche or practice area, and help you assist your inner circle in ways that go beyond your core services.

Good for them. Good for your other clients and contacts. And good for you.

There you have it. Off you go. You’ve got people to talk to and notes to take.

Make sure you have a copy of this in your backpack

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10 tips for better blog post titles

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Good blog post titles attract search traffic and social traffic and get more people reading your posts (and newsletters).

So how do you write a good title?

These10 tips should help:

  1. Write a lot of bad titles. The more bad titles you write, the more likely you are to write some good ones. Keep an idea file, mix and match phrases to create new (and better) titles.
  2. Check your stats. If one of your posts did well before, it will probably do well again. Update an old post with new information, change your opinion, show a different side of the issue, and write a new title to reflect this. Or just use the same title again.
  3. Read what other lawyers write. Agree with them, disagree, point out what they missed, use your own examples. Emulate their best titles (and subjects) and use them as prompts for your own.
  4. Numbers work well. People are drawn to specificity and order. They’re curious and want to know the “10 tips” or “7 Steps” or “5 Secrets”.
  5. Explanations and predictions work well. Readers want to know what happened and discover what’s going to happen.
  6. You can go wrong with “How to”. People use search engines to learn how to do something or find something or someone (a lawyer). A title that promises to deliver what they’re searching for is likely to draw more readers. Also good: What, When, or Why.
  7. Pain and promises. Talk about your readers’ pain, show them you understand their situation, their industry, their problems, their desires, and promise solutions and benefits,
  8. Use cultural references. Movie, song, TV and book titles, news stories, famous people, hot products, trends—things people are already thinking about, talking about, and will recognize.
  9. Mix it up. When someone visits your blog, you want them to see some variety. Use short titles and long titles, “normal” titles and “strange” titles, intriguing questions and surprising statements. Show readers you’re not like other (boring) lawyers.
  10. Have fun with it. Don’t (always) be so serious, don’t contort the title for SEO purposes, or try finding the perfect title. Write what comes into your head, play with it, twist it, kick it in the arse, be irreverent and bold. If a title makes you smile or laugh or cry, chances are it will do the same for your readers who will want to read your post to find out more.

Sometimes, the content of your post will drive your title. Sometimes, it works the other way around. I’ve written many posts with nothing more than a title.

Which means there are no rules, except one:

If you’re getting traffic, opt-ins, appointments and new business, you’re doing it right.

More ways to find and create good blog post titles

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Another day, another newsletter alternative

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Yesterday, I suggested sending an occasional “client alert” as a less-demanding alternative to the usual newsletter.

It takes less time and can bring you a lot of repeat business and referrals.

Today, another idea:

News and information for professionals and other referral sources.

You send occasional alerts or bulletins to other lawyers, business owners, and anyone else on your contact list who might like to know what’s going on in the legal world you inhabit.

You can do this for:

  • Other lawyers in your practice area
  • Lawyers in other practice areas
  • Business owners, executives, community leaders
  • Anyone you know who might send you referrals, and/or introduce you to other professionals who can.

Yes, you can include professional contacts who are themselves prospective clients, and anyone else with whom you would like to stay in touch.

One difference between this and the alert you send to clients, however.

With the client alert, I said adding your comments is recommended but not essential. With a bulletin sent to lawyers and other professionals, I suggest always including your comments.

Why? Because with clients, the alert is about staying in touch and building the relationship. That’s also true with professional contacts, but with the latter, you also want to position yourself as a thought leader in your field.

Thus, the necessity of including your thoughts.

Tell them what you think, what you’re doing with the information, and what you think they might want to do with their clients, practice or business.

Of course there are no absolutes here. Do what feels right for you and your practice.

But do something.

Repeat business and referrals are waiting for you.

How to build your law practice with newsletters

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It’s a memo, Jim, not a newsletter

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Maybe you’re not ready to write a newsletter. Or maybe you tried it and gave up.

You see the value of staying in touch with your clients, but you don’t want to take the time to do it, or you don’t know what to say.

If you’re willing to reconsider, to do a “test drive” and see if it really is worth it, I have a suggestion.

Instead of a newsletter in the usual sense—sent to anyone who subscribes—consider sending something only to your clients.

You have their email and permission to contact them. You don’t need to add a form to your website or do any list building.

You already have a connection—they know, like and trust you, so you don’t have to do anything newsletter-ish.

And you don’t have to stick to a regular “publishing” schedule. You can write to them if and when you have something to share.

In prehistoric times, when a lawyer had something to share with their clients—an article, news, case summaries, business or consumer tips, or anything else they thought might interest their clients—they’d make copies and put them in the mail.

It was a way to keep their clients informed, add value to the relationship, and remind their clients that they were still there to help them (or someone they know).

You can do the same thing with email.

Set up a file, collect articles or tips or ideas, and when you have a few, put the blurb and/or a link in an email and click send.

You can comment on the tips or information if you want to, and while this is a good idea, it’s not required.

That’s right, you don’t have to do any writing or editing or make anything look pretty. Just send.

Because it’s not a newsletter.

And because most of the value of this exercise, to your clients, and to you, is in the sending.

If you’re ready to write a newsletter, this shows you everything you need to do

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