Small and frequent

If you play online games, you know the developers of those games tend to reward you with tokens and banners and prizes of some sort. They give you small rewards frequently, rather than a big reward less often.

And you like it that way.

Each time you get something–a prize or acknowledgment of your progress–you get a small hit of dopamine. It feels good. The more often that hit is triggered, the more likely you are to continue to play that game.

You like getting to the next level in the game. You like the anticipation and the sense of accomplishment. You keep playing because there is always a next level.

But you also like it when the app gives you something unexpected.

If you don’t play online games, you may find other ways to get small and frequent reinforcement in your life. Checking off done tasks on your todo list, for example.

Knowing this, you might want to do something similar with your clients and prospects.

That is, give them reasons to feel good about you and what you’re doing for them more often.

What could you do between the start of the case or engagement and the time you settle or present the deliverables?

What could send them? How could you engage them? How could you recognize or reward them?

Each time you call your clients or send them something, assuming you’re not delivering bad news, they get a hit of dopamine. In part, because you didn’t deliver bad news, but also because your communication reminds them that they made a good decision when they chose you as their attorney.

Put on your thinking cap and brainstorm ways to touch the lives of your clients more often. Do the same thing for your prospective clients and business contacts.

A good place to start is with information. Instead of sending “everything” all at once, break it up into smaller pieces and send them more often.

Don’t make clients wait until the end of the case to hear from you. Don’t make prospective clients wait weeks or months to hear from you.

Contact your clients and prospects more often. You’ll probably find them getting hooked on you.

A simple way to connect is with an email newsletter

Will you do me a favor?

If you’re like most people, when you heard me ask for a favor you probably thought, “It depends on what it is”.

If I ask you to do something that’s

  • easy to do
  • doesn’t require a lot of time or money
  • doesn’t take you outside your comfort zone/embarrass you

. . .you would at least consider it, wouldn’t you?

If I ask you to take a survey and tell me which book title you prefer, for example, and all you have to do is click button A or button B, you’ll probably do it.

Because you like being asked for your opinion and because you want to help me. So. . . why not?

Well, your clients are no different and if you ask them for an easy favor like that, many of them will come through.

Ask them to Like your video or blog post and most will give you a thumbs up.

Ask them to forward your video or blog post to a friend, however, and you won’t get as many to do that but you’ll get some.

And “some” is good. Some are better than none.

Now, if you ask for a testimonial or a referral, you may get only a few to do it, but you would be happy with “a few” wouldn’t you?

So, take my challenge: ask your clients for a favor.

Start with something simple. Easy for you to ask, easy for them to do.

Later, as you build your “asking” muscle, you can ask for something better.

Start by asking the next client you speak with, either in person or on the phone, to do something for you.

Want a suggestion? Okay, how about asking them for the name of a real estate or insurance broker they know?

Easy to ask, easy for them to reply.

Later, once you’re comfortable asking for a name, you can start asking for an introduction.

Now, will you do me a favor? Will you forward this email to an attorney who might like to read this?

You don’t have to introduce us, just forward the email. I appreciate it and they will, too.

Easy for me to ask, easy for you to do.

Marketing is easier with email

Who stole my client?

You know how some clients just stop calling? One day they’re here, the next day they’re gone, and you don’t know why?

Sometimes, another lawyer lures them away. More often, the client wanders away on their own.

They were unhappy about something. They had a problem–with you or your staff–and decided it was time to go.

If only they had told you about the problem–you could have fixed it. You could have prevented a small issue from becoming a big one. Made amends. Made them happy.

But they usually don’t tell you. They just leave.

What can do about that?

How about this:

When you sign up a new client, tell them their happiness is important to you and that if they ever have any problems with you or your staff, any issues or complaints or unanswered questions, you want them to tell you about it.

If they will do that, you promise to fix it. No ifs, ands or buts.

And ask them to agree that they will do that.

Good, right?

Hold on. One more thing. Put this in your retainer agreement and get the client to initial it.

Your new clients will be glad they chose you as their attorney. They will see that you are serious about “customer service”.

And if they ever do have any issues, they’ll be more likely to talk to you instead of leaving without saying a word.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula

Little things that are big things


I’m going to a new place to get my haircut. One thing they do that the old place didn’t do was keep notes about me in their computer–what kind of cut, which blade setting, problem areas, and the like. 

I come in, give them my phone number, and they look up my account. It allows the stylist to get to work without having to quiz me on what I want, something I’m not good at describing and find annoying. 

What can I say, I’m a guy. 

When I need a haircut, I want to get in and out. I don’t want to think about what I want or how to describe it or try to remember that they used number 4 on the sides and 5 on top, or something else. I just want to get the thing over with. 

Ten minutes and I’m out of there. That’s what I want and at this place, I can get it. 

Recording notes on the computer is a small thing but for me,  it’s a big thing. It addresses one of my “pain points” and gives me a better experience.  

I don’t know if other hair cutting establishments record notes but, as I said, the last place didn’t and that’s one reason why I go to the new place.

I do have a point and no, it’s not on top of my head. My point is that you should be looking for things you can do for your clients that address their pain points and give them with a better experience with your office. 

It might be something other lawyers do (but don’t promote). It might be a little thing. But if you choose the right thing or things, you’ll give your clients a reason to come back to you when they need help, or tell others about you, as I recently did when my son-in-law was in town and needed a haircut. 

Reviews happen

Positive reviews are important. Maybe even critical. I’ve heard that 84% of people trust an online review as much as if a friend had referred them.

So yeah, you want reviews.

I know, all you can think about is getting a stinker from some nutjob who thought you weren’t going to charge for [whatever] or who complains that you took 25 hours to get back to them instead of the 24 you promised.

Sorry, Charlie, bad reviews are going to happen. In fact, clients are much more likely to leave a review when they’re not happy than when they are, so that risk will always exist.

Unhappy clients are emotionally driven. They’re going to tell the world how they feel just because that’s how they roll.

Your multitude of happy clients is less likely to leave reviews. They need to be prompted, reminded, and made to feel like their reviews are important.

The bottom line: ask clients for reviews. You’ll get a preponderance of positive ones and they’ll drown out the ones who reside in crazy town.

According to a recent study, more than 50% of the people you ask for a review will provide one. The numbers are probably less for legal clients who want to protect their privacy but if only one in five leaves a review you should be way ahead.

Tell them which site you prefer and give them the link. Tell them how reviews help other people who are looking for a lawyer choose the right one. Tell them how much you appreciate them for taking a few minutes to help you.

Just DON’T ask for Yelp reviews, however, because, I just learned, it is against their TOS and you don’t want the Yelp police coming after your azz.

While you’re at it, you should also ask clients for referrals. Here’s how

Do you charge for “micro advice”?

Many business attorneys won’t talk to a client without the meter running. So many clients don’t call their attorney before they make important decisions, often to their detriment.

The client then has to pay the attorney to fix their mess, often a lot more than they would have paid had they gotten advice in advance.

In the short term, the attorney makes out. In the long run, maybe there’s a better way for both client and attorney.

What if attorneys let their clients know they won’t charge them for “micro advice”? A quick call to find out if they’re going in the right direction, a question or two to see if they do (or don’t) need something else?

I heard that’s what many smart business attorneys do.

I concur.

You want your clients to call you often and they’re more likely to do that if they know they won’t be charged by the nanosecond. Maybe they have something that needs your help, maybe they don’t, but it’s better for both of you to find out.

How is this better for you? For one thing, it builds trust. The client sees that you’re looking out for them, not just sucking them dry.

It can also lead to more work for you. In the short term, if they need your help, you’ll be able to show them why. In the long run, by looking out for your clients, you help their business grow and you can grow with them.

Yes, some clients will (try to) take advantage of you. You will have some line drawing to do. But most clients will appreciate you for “not being like all those other attorneys”. You’ll earn their loyalty and their referrals.

This isn’t just for business attorneys. It’s a good policy for all clients. Even one-off clients can send referrals.

Referrals are good for your fiscal health

Some attorneys are their own worst enemy

You’ve heard me say it before: to build a successful practice, with lots of repeat business and referrals, you should focus on clients, not cases.

Don’t look at what a single matter is worth to you. Look at what the client can bring you over their lifetime or the lifetime of their business.

The initial case might be small. You might earn a negligible fee. Sometimes, you might not earn anything. But if you focus on treating every client like they are worth a fortune to you, eventually, some of them will be.

The guy who has a fender bender today could have a catastrophic injury next year. The small startup that can barely afford to talk to you today could become your biggest client in a couple of years.

And every one of them can send you referrals, send traffic to your website, say nice things about you on social media, and tell their friends or contacts about your upcoming event.

Clearly, this doesn’t mean you can give every client the same amount of attention. Your best clients should get more of your personal time. See them, talk to them on the phone, build a relationship with them that goes beyond the work.

The rest of your clients should be nurtured with email, letters, and calls from your staff.

Whatever you do, don’t be like some attorneys who believe that doing a good job for their clients is all they have to do. They don’t understand that clients come back not just because you did a good job but because of how you made them feel.

How to get clients to send referrals

Dead clients don’t pay your bills

One of the best sources of new clients is old clients, that is, former clients who haven’t hired you for a while. That’s one reason I repeatedly pound on you about the value of staying in touch.

Anyway, if you haven’t been doing that, or even if you have, there’s something else you can do to “re-activate” lapsed clients.

In the mail yesterday was a letter (remember those?) from a dentist I don’t know but with a return address that sounded vaguely familiar. I’m always curious to see how professionals market themselves so I opened it. Inside was a $100 gift card, good towards any treatment with this dentist.

I don’t live anywhere near his office so why was he mailing this to me? With a quick search online, I figured it out.

It seems that the dentist I went to nearly ten years ago has retired and moved out of state. Before he retired, he took on a young partner, the dentist who send me the gift card. So, basically, my dentist sold out and moved out.

Mystery solved.

Anyway, the gift card is the size of a credit card and made of hard plastic. If you’re using gift cards in your practice, this is a good way to do it. Doesn’t cost you anything unless they use it and if they use it, well, Bob’s your uncle.

So, if you have former clients you’d like to bring back to the mother ship, why not send them a gift card? (The company that produced this card is www.vivaconcepts.com. I don’t know anything about them and don’t endorse them, I just wanted to tell you where you could get some information.)

The letter enclosed with the gift card said that the end of the year is almost upon us and that “now would be a good time to give the gift of a bright holiday smile, and remind you to utilize any unused insurance before it expires.”

Following this, it says, “Enclosed is a gift card for any treatment you may need addressed. You can also give this card to a family member or friend.”

Bingo. Don’t need any dental (or legal) work? You may know someone who does.

It’s called a referral, in case you’re new around here.

Clients can and do give referrals. Here’s how to get more

How many people work for you?

How many people work for you? I don’t just mean employees. Or freelancers. Or outside companies you hire from time to time. I mean everyone who helps you in some way and gets paid to do so.

One? Ten? Twenty? Fifty?

Not even close.

The answer is probably in the hundreds. Maybe a lot more.

Impossible? Not really. Not if you re-think the meaning of “work” and “paid”. See, you’re forgetting about all of your clients and former clients. They work for you, too, even if they don’t show up at your office every morning.

How’s that?

They work for you by keeping their eyes and ears open for people who need your services. They work for you by sharing the content on your blog or newsletter or your posts on social media. They work for you by inviting people to your events.

True, they may not be very good at their job. But that’s just as much your fault as their’s.

If you don’t talk to your clients about referrals and other ways they can help you, most won’t know what to do. Or if they do but they haven’t heard from you in months or years, they forget to do it.

It’s up to you to educate them so they can do their job.

You can do that by posting a “How you can help us” page on your website and putting a copy in your “New Client Welcome Kit.” You can do that by staying in touch with them so they see your name and think about you and what you do.

It’s also up to you to praise them when they do a good job and, if possible, to recognize them for their good work in front of others.

You do that with real employees, don’t you? Praise and recognition? (If you don’t, you might want to put that on your list).

Okay, you get it. You see how all of your clients and former clients and everyone else on your list of contacts can help your practice grow. You also know that with a little help from you, they will be more likely to do it.

So we’re good, right? You know what you need to do?

Hold on. I said they get paid and you want to call me out on that. You can’t pay clients for referrals, nor would you want to.

Ah, but there are other ways to get paid in this world besides cold cash.

Why do you suppose anyone ever gives you a referral? Or forwards your email or report to someone they know?

Because they know someone who needs your help and they want to help them. They feel good doing that, helping a friend or client avoid pain, achieve a goal, or solve a problem. They feel good when their friend thanks them for introducing them to you, sparing them the risk and time of trying to find someone on their own.

Your clients also enjoy helping you. Yes they do.

Sure, they paid you and they got what they paid for (or more). But they like you and want to see you succeed. It makes them feel good to know that they were a part of that success, especially when you express to them your appreciation.

You do that, right? Say thank you to your clients when they do something nice for you? You should. It’s part of their “compensation” and if you don’t pay them, if you take them for granted, they might not want to work for you anymore.

Yes, there’s a big workforce available to you. Help them do a good job for you and they’ll make you glad you did.

Here’s how your clients can help you

What breed of dog does your client own?

What’s the name of the last client you spoke to? How well do you know them?

Are they married? What’s their spouse’s name?

Do they have kids? How old are they?

What part of town do they live in? Do they play any sports? Do you know the name of their accountant, tax preparer, and insurance agent? How about the name of their dog?

I know it’s difficult to build a personal relationship with all of your clients but how about some of them?

Or are you the type who does the work and that’s the end of it?

No communication, no relationship, nothing from you. If they contact you again, fine. Otherwise, you don’t have time for them.

Please say that’s not true. Please say you make an effort to get to know at least some of your clients and that you make it a habit to stay in touch with all of them.

If you don’t, it’s not too late to start. Reach out at least one client this week and have a conversation with them. Take a few minutes to find out something about their personal life. Write it down so you’ll remember it. Verify their email address so you can stay in touch.

Every client you do this with represents potential growth for your practice. Even if they never hire you again, they can send referrals, introduce you to other professionals, share your content, promote your events, and send traffic to your website. Oh yeah, they can also write a positive review about you, including how much they appreciate that you stay in touch with them after the work was done.

Before you spend another hour attending a networking event and talking to strangers, how about networking with the people who already know, like, and trust you?

Start here