Converting clients to advocates

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You want your clients to send you referrals, promote your events, share your content, provide positive reviews, and otherwise help you expand your reach and grow your practice.

You deliver good results and treat your clients with respect, and because you do, some of your clients will advocate on your behalf simply because they like you and want to help you and the people they know.

If you want more clients to do that, however, and do it more often, make it easier for them to do it.

One thing you can do is provide them with tools (hash tags, review templates, sample language for social media posts, emails they can forward to friends, etc.) so they can share their experiences with you.

Another thing you can do is make it easier for them to recognize your ideal client by providing them with a description.

Teach them what a good referral looks like, what they should tell them about you, and the best way to make the referral.

The more you inform and equip your clients to advocate for you, the more likely it is that they will do that.

How to equip your clients to send you more referrals

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Choosing the right clients

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When I was ten years old I went to summer camp for two weeks. Sleeping in cabins, swimming and fishing in the lake, archery practice, softball, campfire songs.

I loved every minute of it.

Our counselor was cool. He didn’t talk down to us or boss us around. He was like an older brother and we could talk to him about anything.

I had so much fun I went back the next year.

But the second year was different.

Same woods and lake, same games and activities, different counselor. And I didn’t get along with him at all.

The details aren’t important. What’s important is that as much as I loved my first year at camp, that’s how much I hated my second year.

Because of the counselor.

The people in our lives make a difference.

If you know people you don’t like, don’t associate with them. Spend time with people who make you feel good.

That includes your clients.

Spend time with clients who appreciate you and support you. Clients you like to be around.

Those clients tend to know people like themselves and can refer them to you. You’ll probably like them, too.

You can’t choose your camp counselor but you can choose your clients. And you should.

How to get more referrals from your clients

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Sorry, I hired another lawyer

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I’m sorry. I hired another lawyer. You probably want to know why.

It wasn’t because of your services. You’re a good lawyer and I had no complaints about the work you did for me.

It wasn’t poor “customer service”. You always kept me informed about my case, answered my questions, and made me feel appreciated.

It wasn’t fees. I thought your fees were reasonable and I had no issues with your billing practices.

It wasn’t personal. I liked you and got along fine with your staff.

So, why did I hire another lawyer?

Because I had a different legal matter and didn’t realize you could help me with it. You didn’t tell me about your other practice areas, or if you did, it was a long time ago and I forgot.

I asked a friend if he knew any attorneys who practiced in this area and got a referral.

Why didn’t I call you to find out if you could help me or ask you for a referral?

Honestly, it never occurred to me.

I haven’t heard from you since you finished my case a couple of years ago and you know what they say, “out of sight, out of mind”.

I wish you had told me about the other matters you handled. I wish you had stayed in touch. I’ve referred several clients to my new lawyer but I would have sent them to you.

An email newsletter is an easy way to stay in touch with clients and prospects

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Why clients choose you

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You ask your clients, “How did you hear about me?” Good. That’s important to know because it lets you do more of what’s working and less of what’s not.

Another helpful question to ask is, “Why did you choose me/our firm as your attorney?”

The odds are you were hired because of one or more of these reasons:

  1. They know you. They’ve hired you before or know you (or one of your employees) personally. Or, they follow you on social media, came to your seminar, or subscribe to your newsletter.
  2. They were referred to you. They know one of your clients, a professional or business contact, or someone else who recommended you.
  3. You offer something other lawyers don’t offer–better results, different services, house calls, etc.
  4. They chose you randomly. They saw your ad or found your website and saw that you do the kind of work they need, or your office is close to their house or on their way to work.

You can’t do much about the third and fourth reasons on this list. Where you can shine is with the first two. Which are about. . .

Your reputation.

You want clients and contacts to know, or be told by others who know you, that you are good at your job, but more importantly, that you are passionate about what you do.

You love your work, you love helping your clients, and it shows.

You give your clients extra time and attention. You make the evening call to see how they’re holding up after they get bad news. You go out of your way to help them with advice and recommendations and information that go beyond your legal services.

You show your clients you really do care about them.

Ultimately, most clients, certainly the best clients, choose you because of YOU.

Client relations is everything

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Once is not enough

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Marketing legend Dan Kennedy who passed away recently once noted something he learned from consulting clients in the dry cleaning industry. He said that if you get a new customer to return to your store three times in a relatively short period of time, they’re likely to be your customer for life.

The banking, insurance and investment industries also know that getting a customer to open three accounts or buy three of their products makes it much more likely the customer will stick with their company.

I can’t imagine why this wouldn’t also be true for lawyers and firms.

Get your clients to hire you for three different matters or cases, and the odds are they will keep you as their lawyer for life.

Assuming you don’t give them a reason not to, of course.

Does this fall into the category of interesting information or can you do something with this little gem?

No doubt you do whatever you can to get first-time clients to return and “buy” your other services, and you don’t stop with three.

But perhaps now, knowing the magic of the number three, you’ll work a little harder to get a first time client to hire you again, and a client who has hired you twice to hire you a third time.

Maybe you’ll work a little harder to get them to do that sooner, rather than later.

Maybe you’ll offer your clients an incentive to do that.

Invest a little at the beginning of your relationship to create a lifetime of client loyalty.

Yes but, what do you do if most of your clients only need your service one time and you don’t have any other services to offer?

You might break down your service into smaller parts. Get them to hire you for part one and then offer them parts two and three.

You might promote to them the services of another lawyer you recommend and stay involved during the engagement (ie., go to the first meeting, get cc’d on progress reports, etc.)

You might get clients to engage with you in other ways such as attending a seminar in your conference room or online. They might not need to hire you again but attending your seminar does fill in the gap between first time/one-time client and lifetime client (and source of referrals).

Get your clients to hire you again, sure, but if you can’t do that, get them involved with you in some way after the first engagement.

Good client relations leads to referrals

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Small and frequent

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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

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Will you do me a favor?

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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

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Who stole my client?

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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

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Little things that are big things

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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. 

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Reviews happen

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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

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