One step forward, two-steps back?

A tax resolution firm is running a radio ad featuring one of their satisfied clients. He says he hadn’t filed a return since 1990 and the IRS had finally caught up with him and demanded $68,000 in back taxes.

I don’t know how he could ONLY owe $68,000 after 25 years, but that’s his story. He couldn’t pay it and didn’t know what to do.

Enter the tax firm.

They did what they do, and helped him eliminate most of his indebtedness.

Here’s the problem.

As he tells his story, he laughs gleefully at his good fortune. Twice. Like he got away with something. His story, and especially his attitude, suggest to listeners that we’re all suckers for paying our taxes.

I can imagine prospective customers listening to this spot and intentionally calling another firm because it looks like this firm isn’t helping good people who fell on hard times, it’s helping irresponsible people get away with irresponsible behavior.

That’s the sub-text.

They could have conveyed the message that they know what they’re doing and can help you with IRS problems, without the negative sub-text, had they portrayed the client as “relieved” and “thankful” instead of flippant and irresponsible.

They shouldn’t have mentioned 25 years of unfiled returns, just that he’d fallen behind and couldn’t pay $68,000 the IRS said he owed. And they shouldn’t have had him laugh. Twice.

Obviously, the ad is working because the firm keeps running it. But how much better might it work if they made the client more sympathetic?

Do you make this mistake in marketing legal services?

I heard two radio commercials yesterday and IMH (but accurate) O, both made the same mistake. Listen up. This is important even if you don’t advertise.

One spot was mass tort. I don’t recall the other. Both ads used the same call to action. They told (interested) listeners to call a telephone number, presumably, to make an appointment.

What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that why the lawyers are advertising? Isn’t that how the listener with a legal issue is going to get the help they need?

Sure. But here’s the thing. For every person who calls, there are perhaps ten people who “almost” call but don’t.

The ad caught there attention, they have the legal issue, or think they do, they need help, but for a multitude of reasons, they don’t call.

Maybe they think their problem is different. Maybe they’re scared and not ready to talk to someone. Maybe they don’t trust you. Maybe they think they’ll have to pay. Or they know the consultation is free but think they will have to pay after that (and can’t afford it). Maybe they think the person they talk to won’t answer any questions unless they come to their office. Maybe they’re busy and can’t take time off work. Maybe they didn’t write down the phone number. Maybe their dog threw up and the next day they forgot to call.

Lost of reasons. But the ads give the listener only two options: call or don’t call.

And most don’t call.

What if there was another option? What if they could learn more about their issue and the possible solutions, find out about the law and procedure, and learn about the lawyer’s background and how they have helped lots of other people with this problem?

What if they could get many of their basic questions answered without having to talk to anyone? What if they could sell themselves on taking the next step?

What if the ads told the listener to go their website, where they could get all of this, and more?

Do you think some of the listeners would do that? And if the website does a decent job of educating them and making them feel comfortable with these lawyers and their ability to help them, do you think more people would call or use the email contact form?

If more people did that, do you think these lawyers would get more clients?

Look, some of the listeners to these commercials are going to go online anyway, to see what they can find out about the problem and possible solutions. Your ad reminded them to do that.

What will they find? Which of your competitor’s website will they land on? Which of them will they hire instead of you?

In marketing your legal services, yes, you should give out your phone number and tell prospective clients to call. But you should also give them your website, so that if they’re not ready to call, they can get to know, like, and trust you, so that when they are ready to do something, the lawyer they call is you.

Marketing legal services with your website. Go here

Want to sell more legal services? Stop trying so hard.

According to a study by Twitter, tweets that don’t include a #hashtag or @ mention generate 23% more clicks than tweets that do.

Read that again. It’s important. Even if you don’t use Twitter for marketing.

“After missing Wall Street revenue estimates, Twitter released a study advising people on how to use one of its new ad units — direct response ads. While this study is geared towards advertisers, it may also prove to be good practical advice when posting any kind of tweet that’s designed to drive a specific result, such as clicking on a link to your website or sales page.”

The theory is that other clickable parts of a tweet are distracting users from clicking on the link you want them to click. Twitter’s Anne Mercogliano says this doesn’t mean you should avoid using hashtags completely, however:

“If you’re trying to join a conversation, you should absolutely use a hashtag… But for driving for a specific click that you’re looking for off Twitter, the less noise that you put in between [the better].”

Why is this an important lesson even if you don’t use Twitter? Two reasons.

First, I agree that giving people too many choices can lower overall click-through rate–in your tweets, ads, emails, on your web pages, or any other form of marketing. If you give prospective clients in your office too many options for hiring you, for example, you may increase the odds of them choosing not to hire you at all.

(Or they might make a poor choice due to “decision fatigue”.)

The other reason for lower click-throughs is that prospects respond better to advertising that doesn’t look like advertising. If your tweet looks like an ad, a commercial effort rather than a friendly sharing of information, people are more likely to ignore it or see it as less trustworthy.

In other words, you’ll get fewer click-throughs if it looks like you’re trying too hard to get people to do something.

I’m not suggesting you avoid a call to action in your content. Not at all. You need to tell people what to do. But be aware that if you try too hard, especially on social media which has been traditionally been ad-free, you may get fewer people doing what you want them to do.

Sell more legal services online. Go here

Another way to stand out and get noticed

Yesterday I talked about making your ad look like an article or feature story and thus get noticed and read.

Because people tend to ignore ads.

If your ad looks like an article, more people will read it. More readers eventually means more clients.

Are there any other ways to make your ad get noticed?

I’m glad you asked.

Another way is to get noticed is to make your ad. . . what’s the word?. . . oh yeah, UGLY.

Lost of copy, tiny print, random layout, “noisy” messages—-anything but pretty, anything but normal.

Why? Because in a sea of normality and prettiness, ugly stands out. People will notice your ad because it looks different.

When all the other ads look like they were designed by a slick graphic artist, your ugly ad gets noticed.

You still want the ad to be easy to scan and read. White space, short sentences and paragraphs, bullet points and sub-heads. But it should look different.

The same goes for your website and emails.

Show people that you’re not “advertising” you are telling them something they need to know. Put the magic into the words, not the photos and design.

When other lawyers use html emails, make yours plain text. When other lawyer’s websites use the same templates and layouts used by every other lawyer, along with stock photos of The Scales of Justice, law books, and courthouse steps, make yours look anything but the same.

Be different.

Of course you don’t want to be so different that you scare people off. Clients have definite expectations about what a lawyer does and what they look like and you need to give them what they expect.

When you use a photo of yourself you should be wearing business attire. If you use a photo of your office, it needs to look like a law office.

Be different, but not weird.

Do you know what to put on your website? Find out here

Advertising legal services Gary Halbert style

Suppose a reporter for a decent sized publication contacts you for an interview. They heard about something you did and they want to do a story.

Nice.

They write the story and run it. They mention some of your accomplishments, quote you several times, and generally make you look like a stud.

Very cool.

Your phone starts ringing. A lot of people saw the article and want to talk to you about their case or legal situation. You sign up some new clients.

Awesome sauce.

The article includes a link to your website and your website heats up with traffic. You see a big bump in email subscribers and social media followers.

Who knew?

As a result of that interview, your practice starts to take off. You have your best month ever.

What do you do next?

You want the momentum to continue, so you take that article and run it as a paid ad in other publications in your niche market. You’ll probably have to add the words “paid advertisement” somewhere on the page but that’s no big deal.

Every time you run the ad you get more business. So you keep running it, bringing in more clients, making more money.

One reason the ad works so well is that it doesn’t look like an ad. It looks like a feature article or news. More people read articles than read ads and more readers translates to more business.

There’s just one problem. The odds of a reporter contacting you to interview you are pretty slim. If they did, the odds that they would do a puff piece that makes you look like the best lawyer in town are almost non-existent.

So don’t hold your breath.

Instead of waiting for the reporter who will never call. . .

. . .write the article yourself. Or hire someone to write it. Make sure it looks and reads like a newspaper article, and then run it as an ad.

Legendary copy writer, Gary Halbert, was a master of editorial style advertising. He sold me on the idea of running ads that don’t look like ads. When I was advertised my first marketing course in bar journals, all of my ads looked like articles.

Newspaper style headline. No graphics or photos. Quotes from me, talking about the benefits, as though I had been interviewed by the author of the “article”.

And they worked. Those ads brought in millions of dollars in sales.

Editorial style ads (“advertorials”) will also work for advertising legal services.

Superbowl commercials: spending millions and getting pennies

Last night, I watched almost all of the Superbowl commercials back to back. I had heard that they were mostly a poor lot, with a handful of standouts, and that’s pretty much what I found.

But I didn’t watch merely for entertainment value. I wanted to see if any of these multi-million dollar creations did something that is essential in advertising. On this, they all failed miserably.

Toyota ran a good ad, about a man driving his daughter to the airport. Visually and emotionally effective. If they asked for my opinion before they ran it, here’s what I would have said:

Okay, Toyota, this ad is going to be seen by hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Many viewers will associate your name and brand with a positive message (what it means to be a father), and that’s good.

In addition to that, how would you like to have the names and email addresses (and zip codes) of a million future car buyers who saw that spot and wanted more information about your vehicles?

That would be cool, wouldn’t it? You could send them an online brochure, more videos, and an invitation to come in to their local dealer for a test drive.

You could also notify them when their dealer is having a sale, remind them when the new models are in, and send them special offers on maintenance and accessories.

On holiday weekends, you could invite them to come get free hot dogs and hamburgers and balloons for the kids. While they are in your dealer’s parking lot, they can get a free assessment of the trade-in value of their current vehicle, and take a test drive of the new model.

If you had this list and did these things, do you think you might sell more cars?

I think so, too.

So, here’s what I suggest. Instead of ending the ad on an emotional note and hoping for the best, put an offer in the ad. Offer viewers something they might want, like a 0 discount coupon on their next Toyota, and tell them how to get it. Tell them to go to a specific page on your site, provide their name and email and you’ll send it to them.

You’ll easily spend 0 per head on newspaper and TV ads to bring in prospective customers, but that’s money down the drain if they don’t buy. With a coupon offer like this, it costs you nothing unless someone buys a car.

Alas, they didn’t hire me and there was no offer in the ad. They missed out on a prime opportunity, and so did all of the other advertisers.

Many ads had a website, but in small letters at the bottom of the screen, almost as an afterthought. None had an offer. No incentive to visit the website and no call to action telling viewers what to do, and why. I watched the Victoria’s Secret spot several times, just to make sure I didn’t miss it, but no dice.

A few ads came close. They said things like, “To see more. . .”, and directed viewers to a specific page, but didn’t provide enough specifics or incentives to get anyone to take action.

I saw a lot of hashtags. Great. More people who know your name but don’t go to your website or sign up on your list.

These are billion dollar companies who spend millions on ads that don’t accomplish a fraction of what they could.

Why? Is it because they don’t know what they could do? In many cases, yes. They are so caught up in image and brand, and so far removed from actually selling anything, they are clueless about how to increase their bottom line. Others know but think that direct response advertising is beneath them.

Foolishness.

The lesson is simple. In every ad, in every piece of marketing collateral you circulate, offer something prospective clients or customers would want enough to identify themselves to you, and tell them what to do to get it.

It’s okay to use puppies and beautiful women to get their attention, but once you have it, get them to your site and onto your list so you can stay in touch with them and actually sell them something.

If my dentist managed your law practice

My dentist send me an email that said:

NORDSTROM GIFTCARD GIVEAWAY

INVITE A FRIEND AND WIN A NORDSTROM GIFTCARD!

Introduce friends, family and co-workers to our office, and when they come in for their appointment between now and February 19th, you will be entered into a drawing to win a 0 NORDSTROM Giftcard!

The rest of the message said when the drawing would take place and that the “New patient must complete routine exam, cleaning and x-rays to qualify for drawing entry. One entry per person seen in the office.”

Not bad. Get more referrals, total cost: $100.

Two things come to mind:

(1) You could use something like this in your law practice, and

(2) If you do, you can get more bang for your buck than my dentist

First, let’s put aside the notion that you can’t do something like this in a litigation practice. You can. Not necessarily to get clients immediately, although you might, but to build your email list, which will eventually lead to new clients.

Now, how could you get bigger results than my dentist?

For starters, how about something obvious like having the drawing for the referring parties instead of (or in addition to) the new clients?

Hello. . . ?

Yes, it’s nice that you’re going to enter my friend in a drawing if I refer him, but how about something for me? Give me a reason to think about this for more than the three seconds it takes me to delete your email. . . let me imagine that I might win this thing. . . let me get excited and start thinking about who I could refer. . .

Okay, what else?

How about not requiring the referral to actually hire you?

It should be enough if they only have a free consultation, or even if they just schedule one. Or only opt into your list.

The name of the game is getting people to know about you and how you can help them. It’s about building your list.

Get more people on your list and you’ll get more clients.

The prize doesn’t need to be won by someone who referred a client (or became a client). So what if the “winner” is someone who refers ten people, none of whom become an immediate client? As long as your list is growing, your practice will be growing.

What else?

Well, you might offer a bigger prize.

Assuming your margins are higher than a dentists (arguable, I know), you can afford to offer the winner more than $100. You may not have to, it’s true, because winning anything is exciting. But a $250 prize sounds much more exciting, especially at Nordstrom where $100 would only buy you one shoe. For another $150, you might get a lot more participation.

You could also offer more prizes, e.g., three or five winners. Or you could offer a big first prize and lesser value second, third, and fourth place prizes.

NB: if you’re thinking of awarding prizes based on the number of referrals, i.e., the winner being the one who refers the most clients, do your homework re possible legal and ethical issues.

One more thing.

How about promoting your drawing to people who aren’t your clients? Contact other professionals you know (and ones you don’t know) and offer the same deal. Why not offer this to anyone in town (through your blog, social media, ads or mailings, or word of mouth)?

Would it be okay if you got referrals from strangers, people who have themselves never hired you, people who only send referrals so they can get a shot at winning a prize?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Promote your practice with a tasty holiday promotion

A local real estate agent sent me a card for Thanksgiving. It says, “Thanksgiving is the perfect time to remember special clients and friends like you. . .” It closes by saying, “Wishing you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving!”

I don’t know this agent and I assume she sent this card to many of my neighbors. If she’s like most real estate agents, she has a “farm” of 300 or 500 contiguous homes she targets. She advertises to us, mails cards and note pads or calendars and such, and otherwise keeps her name in front of us so that when we’re ready to sell, we’ll think of her.

Anyway, what made this card different is the offer. It says, “Email to order your complimentary FRESH APPLE or PUMPKIN PIE by Monday November 17, 2014” followed by her email address. It continues, “Delivery is Wednesday, November 26, 2014, 2:00 to 6:00 PM”.

Now, what does this accomplish? Well, I assume she will drop off the pies herself and get to meet the homeowners, give them her card, and possibly offer a free home evaluation. If they’re not home, she’ll drop off the pie with her card or note attached, and follow up with a call to make sure they got the pie.

But it’s not about the pies, or meeting homeowners. It’s about creating an impression. It’s about standing out amongst all of the other agents in the area. It’s about anchoring her name with the pie promotion and being remembered for it.

That’s why you create a farm, and that’s why you build a list. So that when the client is ready, your name will be in their “minds and mailboxes”.

My guess is that no more than 25 out of 500 homeowners will request a pie. She’ll pay perhaps $3 per pie, plus the cost of the mailing, so maybe $300. She may get a couple of homeowners who want the free home evaluation, and that may turn into a listing. Or not. But more than a few homeowners who aren’t ready to sell will remember her when they are.

In addition, some of the people who got her offer but didn’t request a pie might be interested in a home evaluation. They may also know people who aren’t on the agent’s list but who are looking for an agent, so she could also get some referrals.

Anyway, could you use an idea like this in your practice? Next month for Christmas or next year? Or any other time?

What could you offer? Who would you mail to?

If you do something like this, I have a suggestion. Instead of asking people to send you an email to accept your offer, tell them to go to a page on your website with a form to fill in their name and email address. This way, they will subscribe themselves to your email list, allowing you to send them more information, offers, and invitations.

The other things this will do is get them to your website, where they can read your articles, offers (i.e., free consultation, download your report, etc.) and begin the process of getting to “know, like, and trust” you.

Okay, gotta go. All this talk about pie is making me hungry.

The three quickest ways to get new clients

You want (need?) new clients and you want them fast. You want them today. Next week at the latest.

I understand and I can help.

Here are three quickest ways to get new clients:

1. Referrals

Not only can you get clients quickly through referrals, those clients tend to be better clients. Because they trust the person making the referral, they are more likely to hire you, more likely to follow your instructions, and less likely to complain or argue about fees. They are also more likely to refer other clients.

The simplest way to get referrals is to ask for them. Contact your clients and former clients and professional contacts and social media contacts and ask for referrals. You can do this in an email, letter, post, or phone call. Say, “Who do you know. . .[who fits the description of your ideal client/might have a specific legal need]. Ask them to have these people call your office to schedule a free consultation or visit a page on your web site to learn all about how you can help them.

Instead of asking for referrals directly, you can ask indirectly. You do this by offering a copy of your free report, ebook, planning guide, checklist, coupon, or other goody, and telling your contacts they can forward your email or share you post with anyone they know who might want one. Give them a download link to make it easy. For step-by-step instructions, get The 30 Day Referral Blitz.

You’ll get referrals, build your email list (which will lead to more new clients and more referrals), and self-referrals, i.e., people who hear about your request or offer and contact you with their own legal matter.

2. Advertising

If you get it right, advertising is an incredibly quick way to bring in new business. You can place an ad today and have new clients calling within minutes.

The key is to test different headlines, offers, and media/lists, until you find a combination that works. When you do, repeat those ads, and run them more often and in more media.

You can offer your services directly, or offer a free consultation or other incentive for new clients. You can also offer your free report, planning guide, etc. Which leads me to the third method of getting clients quickly.

3. Special offer to your list

If you don’t have a list, you need to build one immediately. Include prospects, friends of the firm, people who have attended a seminar, newsletter subscribers, former clients, and other people in your target market. People who know who you are and what you do.

If you have a list, you know you can make things happen with the click of a button.

Send your list an email and remind your subscribers about what you do. Some of them need your services right now and will contact you. Others will know people who need your services and refer them.

Spice up your email with a time-sensitive special offer, something that gets the maybes off the fence. Your special offer could be a bonus service for new clients who come in this week, a one-time discount for new clients, something extra for returning clients, or you can get creative. For example, you could enter all new clients into a drawing for free tickets to the World Series or dinner for two at a good restaurant.

You wanted quick, you got quick. Go forth and slay ye some new clients.

Create a referral blitz in your practice with this

Build trust by admitting a flaw

A well-known copy writing principle for making an ad or offer more believable is to admit a flaw. When you admit that your restaurant often has a two hour wait to get seated, or that it takes 23 minutes of bicycling to burn off the calories in a can of coke, as a recent Coke ad declares, you appear more trustworthy.

Sometimes, your admitted flaws are benefits in disguise. The two hour wait for a table suggests that you have great food and that it’s worth the wait. The Coke ad was thought to be an attempt to counter a film in which, “a health advocate states that a child would have to bike for an hour and 15 minutes to burn off the calories in a 20-ounce Coke.” By comparison, 23 minutes doesn’t seem so much.

For lawyers, admitting a flaw may be a good strategy in a trial, in a negotiation, or in speaking with a prospective client. The trick is to find something about you, your client, or your position, that shows a vulnerability, but doesn’t go too far.

Telling a prospective client you don’t have a lot of experience with his particular matter, for example, may be admitting to a flaw that causes the client to look elsewhere. On the other hand, your honesty may be exactly what the client needs to hear for him to decide that you’re the lawyer he wants.

Admitting that clients may have to wait up to thirty minutes after their scheduled appointment time to see you, because you’re so busy, may be an effective strategy. But maybe you better start serving great food.

Want more ways to build trust? Get this.