Weeding out the riffraff


I heard a radio spot the other night by an ad agency describing how they helped a client company increase their sales dramatically, and inviting listeners to consider hiring them for their business. At the end of the spot, the announcer said, “…starting at just $9,000 a week…” and then gave the phone number to call.

My first thought was, “What kind of small business (which are the bulk of the advertisers on that station) have that kind of an ad budget?”

The answer, of course, is small businesses that are making a lot of money. And there are a lot more than people realize.

Plus, if you have a successful ad campaign, as new sales are made, you re-invest the initial week’s $9,000 ad buy over and over again. You can thus do a half-million dollars of annual advertising with a fraction of that much to start.

Anyway, next question: why did the ad agency announce the minimum investment an advertiser would have to spend to hire them? Because if they didn’t, they would talk to a lot of people who think they can get started with $1000 or $1500.

If you get a lot of calls from prospective clients who can’t afford you and don’t hire you, you should consider doing something similar.

In your ads, on your website, in your presentations, or when anyone asks, tell people what it takes to hire you. No, not your fees precisely. The minimum retainer or your smallest “package,” so they know whether or not they are in the ballpark.

There are times when you may want to keep things a little fuzzy, however. Some clients might get sticker shock when they first hear “how much” but have the money and pay it, once they consider the alternatives.

Another way to weed out prospective clients who are too small or otherwise “not right” for you is to spell out who you’re looking for in terms of revenue, number of employees, locations, or other factors that relate to size and ability to pay.

You can also do this with consumer-oriented practices. If you do estate planning or asset protection, you could promote your services to people with assets in excess of a certain amount. If you handle family law, you might promote your services to clients with a child custody dispute.

You can also target wealthier clients by running ads in publications for investors, direct mail to people who own larger homes, or by networking with accountants, financial planners, and insurance brokers who have the clientele you want to attract.

If you want bigger clients, stop promoting your services to “anyone” and start promoting them to bigger clients.

Here’s how to get bigger referrals (and more of them)


What’s your second favorite method for marketing legal services?


Let’s face it, referrals are pretty much everyone’s favorite marketing method.

What’s not to love? Clients come to you, pre-sold, so you sign up a high percentage. They tend to be better clients than the unwashed masses who find you online. They are less likely to complain or try to mico-manage you. They tend to stick around longer. And they are themselves more likely to refer.

We love us some referrals, don’t we?

Anyway, other than referrals, what’s number two on your list of favorite marketing methods?

Me? No question about it. Advertising.

Advertising gives you control. You run an ad and if it works you continue to run it. And run it more frequently. And buy bigger ads. And run ads in more publications or on more sites.

If your ads don’t work, you change something–the headline, offer, copy, publication or list–until you find the right combination.

You can start with a small budget. If your ads work, you scale up. If they don’t, you pull out.

You can use ads to test new markets, new services, and new offers.

You can advertise your services directly, or you can advertise your seminar, book, or report, and build a list that produces clients over the long term.

Advertising can bring in clients fast. Run an ad this morning and you can have new clients this afternoon.

Yep, advertising works. I’ve done a lot of it over the years and swear by it. It’s my number two pick, however, because you have to know what you’re doing. (The preponderance of horribly ineffective attorney advertising proves my point.)

So, start with referrals. Make them the foundation of your practice-building strategy. Then, if you have a mind to, use advertising to scale up your practice, but take your time to do it right. Your referral-based practice will give you the time to do that.

If you do it this way, referrals first, you’ll also have more flexibility with your advertising. You can run ads that break-even, for example, because you have a system in place for getting referrals from those new clients.

Make sense? Good. Now go make some dollars.

Marketing legal services via referrals


You won’t know for sure unless you try it (again)


You say you don’t like networking but have you given it a fair chance? Maybe you’ve been doing it wrong. Maybe you haven’t met the right people. Maybe you haven’t done it enough to get good at it.

So how can you say it’s “not for you”?

I thought network marketing wasn’t for me until I found something I couldn’t refuse and made a fortune with it. I learned that I could do it without compromising my values or being someone I am not. And, whereas I didn’t stick with it in the past, this time, I gave it the time it was due and it made all the difference.

There are a lot of ways to market legal services and you should try as many of them as you can. If you’ve tried them once and they “didn’t work” or you “didn’t like them,” try again. You may find that things have changed, or that you have changed. What was once off the table may become a valuable practice building tool for you.

Start by learning as much as you can. If advertising has always been distasteful to you, for example, or you haven’t considered it because your bar rules forbid it, keep learning. You may discover a way to do it that “you never thought of”. Here’s an example: instead of advertising your practice, your services, or yourself, advertise your book, report or seminar. Sell it or give it away and let it sell readers on you.

Next, find some practitioners who use these methods and study them. What are they doing? How are they doing it? Can you make some changes that better suit your style and market?

Finally, if you’re still not crazy about a marketing method, consider other ways you can get the benefits of that method without a lot of personal involvement. Delegate to staff or to VAs or hire an outside company to do it for you.

In other words, you don’t have to love something to profit from it.

Don’t be like many attorneys: stubborn, closed-minded, stuck in your ways. The world is changing and if you don’t change it with it, you may be left behind.

Start or restart your marketing with a plan


You could be in big trouble if you don’t read this


AIDA is an advertising acronym that speaks to the elements of an effective ad or marketing message. The letters stand for “Attention, Interest, Desire, Action”. “Attention” is first because unless and until you have the reader’s or listener’s attention, there’s no point in presenting anything else.

One of the most effective ways to get the reader’s attention is to say something that speaks to their self-interest. Something they want or something they fear.

If you are a criminal defense attorney, for example, your ad’s headline might use words like, “handcuffs, jail, guilty, or sentencing”. Or about the charge itself, e.g., DUI.

It’s the same for email. You want to get the recipient’s attention and get them to open the email because if they don’t open it, you’re not going to get them interested in what you’re selling.

But email has some other considerations, as illustrated by an email I got this morning from The State Bar of California:

“Dear State Bar Member,

We have received numerous calls and emails alerting us to a fraudulent email being distributed with the following subject line: “The State Bar of California Complaint.”

Please be advised that this email is not from, or authorized by, the State Bar. If you receive one of these fraudulent emails, please do not respond or click on any attachments. Delete it immediately. These emails are NOT from the State Bar of California and may contain links to files that open malicious software.”

The subject line in the referenced email would get many lawyers to open it, wouldn’t it? It speaks to one of our greatest fears. That fear would override our knowledge that Bar complaints, like notices from the IRS, only arrive via regular mail.

So plus one for getting attention.

The spammer probably wasn’t selling anything but was looking to do harm, but suppose they were selling something like information on how to avoid ethics violations or services in the event of being so charged? Putting aside the fact that the email was unsolicited, we’d have to admit that the headline worked because it got us to open it.

The problem is that it was unsolicited email and there are some additional rules.

If instead of an email the same headline was used in a print ad, or in a letter sent by regular mail, we’d read it wouldn’t we? If there was a legitimate offer we probably wouldn’t complain to the state Bar. And we might be more likely to buy something because once the advertiser got our attention, however provocatively they did so, we saw that they offered a product or service we wanted to buy.

Context is crucial in marketing. It’s okay to be provocative and take risks. More than okay, it’s often a great way to get attention. Just make sure you don’t break the rules to do it.


You stink and nobody should hire you!


A recent article highlighted an increase in lawyer advertising among personal injury firms in major markets in response to “a slowdown in legal services and increasing competition”. The latest trend among some advertisers are ads where lawyers attack their rivals.

The thrust of these ads is to point out the shortcomings of other firms in an attempt to scare prospective clients away from them and into the loving arms of the advertiser.

A marketing consultant noted the reason for the growth of this type of ad: “The law-firm category here is just so cluttered,” she says. “They’re all saying the same thing.”

But that’s always been true. Whether it’s a big firm advertising on TV or a solo lawyer with a simple website, lawyers have always had messages that “said the same thing”. But is “going negative” a viable option for differentiating yourself?

I don’t know but since most lawyers probably won’t do it, I’d rather talk about something every lawyer can do.

In The Attorney Marketing Formula, I showed you many ways to differentiate yourself from other lawyers. It’s actually not that difficult to stand out from the crowd and show prospective clients why they should choose you instead of any other lawyer. With a little bit of thought, you can show them why you’re different or better, without saying a word about any other lawyer, negative or otherwise.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to make yourself a part of the marketing message.

You are unique. You have a personality, a background, a story that is uniquely you. When you are the face of your firm, you will get noticed. Clients will choose you because they “know” you, even if what you do is essentially the same as other lawyers.

Put your face and your voice in your TV and radio ads. Put your photo and your words in your print ads. Talk about yourself on your website, on your “About” page and throughout your content. Write in the first person. Make yourself a part of the story.

Let prospective clients see you and get to know you, because it is you that they hire.

If you have partners or work for a firm, it’s no different. Market yourself, not your firm. Remember, nobody hands out your business card to a referral and says, “Call my law firm”. They say, “Call my lawyer,” and then talk about you.

Don’t ignore the firm. The firm’s capabilities, reputation, and resources all help. But at the end of the day, it’s you the client will speak to and hire. So show them who you are before you show them what you do.

More ways to differentiate yourself here


Thinking is hard but it pays well


If you have multiple practice areas or offer a variety of different services, which one or ones do you promote?

Your best sellers? Your weakest? Your most profitable?

Do you lead with a low priced “entry level” service, seeking to create a new client, and then offer additional services through upsells and on the back end? Or do you lay out all of your wares up front and let the client choose?

If you advertise, which service(s) do you feature? Or do you offer information to build your list and talk about specific services only after they subscribe or inquire?

What do you highlight on your website? When you speak or write, what examples do you use? When someone asks you about your work, what do you say?

If you are a family law attorney, handling divorce and adoptions, but you’re not getting much adoption work, do you double your efforts and promote that or do you continue to advertise and promote divorce? Or do you do both?

Even if you have one practice area and offer one service such as plaintiff’s personal injury, you still need to decide where you will focus. Do you list a variety of different injuries, types of torts, or causes of action, or just one?

These are things you need to think about because they are fundamental to your “brand” and to how you conduct your marketing activities and spend your marketing dollars.

They are, of course, also an argument in favor of specializing. It’s a lot easier to make decisions about where to advertise or network or speak when you offer fewer services to a smaller segment of the market.

But I’m not going to bust your chops about that today. I’m just going to remind you to spend some time pondering these things and making some decisions.

You thought I was going to give you the answers? Sorry. No can do. It’s too complicated. There are too many variables. You have to answer these questions yourself.

All I can do is ask the questions and encourage you to explore your options.

I can also point out that the ultimate way to answer these questions is to test and measure your results.

Run ads for two different practice areas or services and see which one brings in the most inquiries or leads, which one converts to the most dollars on the front end, and which one results in more profits long term.

So you advertise your divorce services and your adoption services and see.

Testing allows you to make a decision based on hard evidence. That’s the “science” of marketing.

Of course marketing is also an art. Don’t ignore your instincts or your heart. If you think your market is ready to learn more about adoption, or you’re passionate about the subject, go for it. Even if the numbers don’t add up.

For help sorting things out, get this


How to get your clients to advertise your firm


Would you spend $30 on a client who agrees to advertise your firm?

If so, how about giving your new clients a collared polo or golf shirt, with your firm’s name and website on the breast, as a welcome gift?

If you hand out 100 shirts this year, that’s 100 people walking around town advertising your firm. Your clients aren’t a passive billboard, however, they are interactive. People will ask them about the name on their shirt and your clients will say nice things about you.

If you get one or two new clients this way, you’ll cover your investment. The rest is pure profit.

Of course, that’s just for this year. Most people continue to wear clothing after one year, especially if it still looks good on them. And every year they wear it is more “free” advertising for you.

Yes, you could buy $10 t-shirts instead, but some people don’t wear t-shirts and t-shirts are unlikely to hold up as well. But t-shirts can work, too.

Make sure you give shirts to your staff. If you have casual Fridays, office parties, or other firm events, everyone should wear them. You too.

You can give shirts to former clients, networking friends, and people in your office building you’re friendly with, especially if they work in an office that targets clients and customers who would be suitable for your practice.

You could also order a smaller quantity of more expensive “Tommy Bahama” style shirts and use those for special clients or special occasions (e.g., awards, milestones).

Have fun with this. Take pictures of people wearing your shirt and put them on your website. Hold drawings or contests and offer a shirt as one of the prizes.

Oh yeah, in case you’re wondering. . . I take an XL.


A simple plan for quickly bringing in new clients


There are lots of ways to bring in new clients. Referrals, writing, speaking, networking, and other “reaching out” methods all work. But nothing is quicker than advertising.

Done right, an ad can pull in new clients within minutes after it appears.

Not only that, in the online world especially, advertising gives you unprecedented control over your message–where it appears, how often it runs, and who sees it.

You can test different headlines, copy, and offers, to find out what works best. You can start out with inexpensive PPC and classified ads, and when your ads are working, increase your budget to maximize your return.

Maybe you don’t like the idea of advertising. I understand. But don’t hang up the phone until you hear what I propose., because what I propose could be your ticket to quickly growing your practice.

Many lawyers who reject the idea of advertising do so because they think it’s unprofessional or inconsistent with the image they want to portray. Or they believe it “won’t work” for their type of practice or their target market.

I’m not going to debate any of that right now. Instead, I’m going to propose a different idea.

Instead of advertising your firm or your services, what if you advertised a book or a report?

The spotlight wouldn’t be on you, it would be on the report.

Many attorneys write books and other information-based “products”. What’s wrong with advertising them, either for sale or as a free giveaway?

Nothing. Nothing is wrong with that.

Okay, so you have to write a book or report. But you could do that in a weekend.

“The 30 Day Referral Blitz” shows you everything you need to know to quickly write a “Special Report” you can advertise, and use for other marketing purposes.

You could also hire someone to write the report, or help you write it, but don’t overthink this. If you can pass the bar exam, you can write a report that prospective clients will want to read.

Once your report is written, you advertise it and give it to prospects who visit your website (or a separate website dedicated to the report, if you want) in return for signing up on your email list. Your website can handle the sign-ups and delivering your report, automatically.

Then what?

Your report provides your prospective clients with valuable information on a subject that interests them. It also shows them how you can help them. If they like what they see, and they’re ready to hire an attorney, you’ll probably get the call.

And this can happen immediately. Some prospects will request your report, see what you do, and call you even before they read the report.

Others will read the report, follow links to your (other) website where they can learn more, and then hire you.

Some won’t be ready to hire you, but they’ll be on your email list and you can send them additional information about what you do and how you can help them. When they’re ready to hire an attorney, there you will be–in their minds and their (e)mail boxes.

It doesn’t get simpler–or quicker–than that.

The 30 Day Referral Blitz shows you how to write and deliver your report


Why should I hire you? Really, tell me why?


You make some big promises in your marketing. At least I hope you do. I hope you tell prospective clients that you offer something that’s different and better than what other lawyers offer.

I also hope you explain the “reason why” you are able to do that.

I heard a radio commercial the other day for a Toyota dealer. The copy said that they have lower prices than other dealers. Okay, fine. But a lot of dealers claim they have the lowest prices. So hearing “lowest prices” usually goes in one ear and out the other.

But then the ad explained why they are able to offer the lowest prices. They said, “We sell more Toyotas than other dealers in [the market], so we get more Toyotas allocated to us, and that’s why we can sell them to you for less than other dealers”.

It’s not brilliant, but it does explain WHY this dealer can sell you a car for less. They back up their assertion with a fact that makes their claim to lower prices more credible.

You need to do the same.

In your ads and on your website, in your presentations and on all of your marketing documents, give prospective clients the “reason why” you are able to do what you say you do. Your assertion is more believable and powerful when it is backed up with facts or logic or with a story that illustrates its veracity.

If you say you have a lot of experience in your field, tell them how many years, how many cases, or how many clients. Or tell them some of your accomplishments or accolades that are consistent with a lawyer who has a lot of experience. You teach CLE or serve as an arbitrator or Judge Pro Tem? Wow, you must have a lot of experience.

If you say you work hard for your clients, tell a story about a case that was thought lost and how you burned the midnight oil, hired another investigator or expert, talked to witnesses again, or reviewed your research or notes, and found something that allowed you to win the case.

In other words, don’t just make empty promises, say something that proves what you say.

Your “reason why” needn’t be remarkable or unique, however. In a world where most attorneys offer no reasons why, stating that you can call up every single state and federal decision published in your field of practice since 1892, right from the iPad you carry in your briefcase, may be enough to “prove” that you are the better choice.

So tell me again, Why should I hire you?

For help in formulating your “reason why,” get The Formula


I’ve got a list, her name is Sal. 15 miles on the Erie Canal


A personal injury attorney friend sent me an email. He said, “I have a list of about 500 auto repair facilities. I want to approach them via letter, include a copy of my book [for auto accident clients], and ask for referrals.”

He wanted my opinion, particularly about what he could say that might motivate them to send him business. He said he can’t promise to send them referrals.

“I don’t think you’ll get too far sending a letter,” I said, “unless you enclose a blank check.”

These are body shop owners. You might as well be negotiating with the mob.

Many (most?) body shops have lawyers they “work with” (meaning they pay them for referrals). If not the owner themselves, the manager or someone who deals with customers is getting kickbacks from lawyers for their referrals.

They don’t care how good you are as an attorney. They care about “how much?”

At least that’s what you have to assume.

Not all of them. But enough to make the proposed project more than a bit challenging for someone who isn’t willing to offer illegal kickbacks.

Okay, let’s assume that 40% don’t take kickbacks. I know that’s probably crazy but hey, I’m feeling magnanimous today. Out of a list of 500, that means you might have a shot with 200.

But, some already have lawyers (in your area) they send business to. No cash changes hands, but they do get some referrals from those lawyers, not necessarily on a quid pro quo basis, but because they do good work or provide those lawyers’ clients with additional service and value.

So now, still guessing here, let’s say that leaves 20 body shops who might be open to sending you referrals. How do you find out which ones? You have to talk to them and feel them out. And you probably have to do this yourself since they need to feel you out, too. And the best way to do this is to do it in person.

So. . . how about if we look at another idea?

What if, instead of asking for referrals you contact the shop owners and ask them if they accept advertising. Your letter (or a phone call) will weed out a lot of them and that’s exactly what you want. Some will be open to advertising, probably those who don’t accept kickbacks and aren’t already committed to other lawyers, and you can talk to them and negotiate a deal.

You put up a sign in their waiting room, buy space on their invoices or on their paper floor mats, a banner on their website, and so on. You pay them $X dollars per month and see what happens.

You can also provide them with a display rack for your books which they can put on their counter and sell your books to their customers at a discounted price. They keep 80-100% of the sales price as their advertising fee. You’ll probably have to offer them an additional fee on top of that for putting your rack in a prominent place, like food companies do with grocery stores.

Another option: you provide free copies of your book which they can give to their customers as a way to provide extra value to them and distinguish themselves from other lawyers who don’t. You might have to pay them a monthly fee in addition, but everything is negotiable, right?

How to get referrals without paying for referrals