The simplest path to loyal clients

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How much is a loyal client worth to you? I’m talking about the client who hires you for all their legal work, regularly sends you referrals, shares your content, promotes your events, provides a positive review, and otherwise toots your horn so you don’t have to.

Yeah, they’re worth a fortune.

It makes sense to do everything you can to cement your relationship with all of your clients, because you don’t know who might become your next champion.

Yes?

This week, we talked about doing things that make clients fall in love with you, and avoiding things that push them away. You also know, because I talk about it often, that there are other things you can do for your clients to win their hearts, things that go beyond your legal services.

Like sending them referrals and promoting their business or practice, providing a character reference when they apply for a job, and offering a shoulder to cry on when they suffer a loss.

Because when you give your clients more than they expect (and deserve) you surprise and delight them and show them why you deserve their loyalty.

But there’s something else you can do that’s even easier. Yes, you’ve heard me talk about this before, too. I think the word is “incessantly.”

Stay in touch with them. Because familiarity builds trust and trust is the key component to loyalty.

Keep your name “in their minds and their mailboxes” so they are continually reminded that you’re still doing what you do and can still help them and the people they know.

Send them an article you think they’ll like; it doesn’t have to be written by you.

Send them a pdf of a form or checklist they might find helpful.

Send them answers to questions you are frequently asked by clients and prospects, or people who attend your events.

Recommend a video, website, or app you think they might use.

Send them anything they might find interesting or helpful (or amusing). It almost doesn’t matter what it is, but send them something regularly, so that when they need help or have a question, they think of you and call you (or hit reply), and there you are.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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Lose it or use it

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Yesterday, I threw down about what to do to get your clients to fall in love with you. But there are also things you might need to stop doing.

Things you need to “lose,“ because if you don’t, you might use them and drive clients away instead of bringing them closer.

Periodically, we all need to do some self-reflection, to see if we have any habits or ways of conducting ourself that might be due for an overhaul.

Things like:

  • A bad temper
  • Arrogance
  • Being overly aggressive
  • Impatience
  • Bluntness
  • Negative attitude
  • Over-sharing
  • Talking about politics or religion
  • Lack of seriousness (when necessary)
  • Talking too much about yourself
  • Being a poor listener

And so much more.

For me, it’s my sense of humor. Sometimes, I come off as insensitive or just plain goofy.

Hey, not everyone appreciates genius.

But here’s the thing. A weakness can also be a strength.

Sometimes my sense of humor bombs. Sometimes it is a great ice-breaker. People love it when you make them laugh.

The other day, at the doctor’s office, I was a big hit. The nurse laughed her head off and told me I was funny.

“Looks aren’t everything,” I said.

Hey, I don’t ever want to lose my habit of “trying” to be funny. It comes in handy in writing, speaking, and networking.

But I do need to watch what I say, when, and to whom, and edit myself before I do something that gets me into trouble.

Nah, that would be no fun. There are nurses out there who need me.

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Don’t show your clients how the sausage is made

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The law is complicated. Your clients hire you because they believe you can wade through that complexity and do things for them they can’t do for themselves.

Most lawyers are adept at making things more complicated than they need to be. And they make a lot of money doing that. But the lawyers who are adept at simplifying things do even better.

Your clients are busy. They’re scared or confused or have other things on their mind. They want to know that you will take care of them. Get the job done. They don’t want to know everything about how you do what you do.

Just like you don’t want to know how your car works, you just want to know that it does.

So, simplify things for them. Explain only as much as they need to know, and no more (unless they ask).

That goes for your bill, too.

Explain what you did, clearly and thoroughly, but keep it simple. Itemize your bill, but don’t bludgeon them with details.

They’re paying you to deliver a delicious sausage sandwich. Tell them the ingredients, but don’t show them how the sausage is made.

How to write a bill that gets paid

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If your accountant managed your law firm

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Remember the last time you called a company about your order, your payment, or your account and what it took to get to the right department? Remember the joy of wading through a phalanx of options and when you didn’t find what you wanted, choosing any option, hitting “0” or shouting out “customer service” so you could talk to a human being?

God forbid you made a mistake and had to start over. 

Who decided this is the right way to treat customers? 

An accountant. Or committee thereof.

Bean counters counted the beans and realized that it was a lot cheaper to use automation than to hire humans to talk to people. No doubt that’s true. But what they didn’t “account” for is how frustrated customers might be battling the automated devil.

Or how much business they would lose when frustrated customers gave up and bought their wares somewhere else. 

They also didn’t think about the other side of the equation. They didn’t consider how much goodwill and loyalty they could engender, and how much additional profit they might derive, by eating the expense of providing some old-fashioned hospitality on the phone. 

I’m not saying automation is bad. Just that management should consider not just the savings, but the cost. 

How much is it worth to ensure that a customer returns to your store? How many new customers might find you when existing customers share their positive experience with you via reviews, social media, and word of mouth?

I’m not just talking about the phone. There are many areas of customer service where a company should consider spending more to make more. 

That goes for law firm, too.

I encourage you to consider spending more to make clients feel welcome and appreciated and giving them an exceptional experience with your firm. Look for “pain points” and areas of friction your clients and prospective clients might experience and put some money on the line to fix them. 

But don’t just fix them. Turn those pain points into your areas of strength.

It might give you a competitive advantage over other firms that listen too much to their bean counters and don’t listen enough to the people who pay them.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Selling legal services, et. al.

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Let’s clear this up once and for all: Lawyers sell legal services.

There, I said it.

It doesn’t make you a salesperson, but you can’t deny the fact that when someone hires you, a sale takes place.

The more of your services you sell, the more you earn. Pure and simple.

But that’s not all you sell.

Clients pay for your legal services, but what they want and expect you to deliver, what they really pay for, are solutions to their problems.

They hire you to get the benefits you deliver.

Get better at selling those solutions and benefits and you will sell more of your services.

Hold on. We’re not done.

You also sell clients the “experience” of working with you. How your clients feel having you in their corner, how you treat them and make them feel appreciated, and everything else under the ‘client relations’ banner.

Do a good job of this and your clients will stick around, return, and tell others. Mess up and they won’t.

It’s all selling.

But before clients can see any of this, before they hire you, there’s something else they buy (and you sell).

Your reputation.

You’re judged by your record of accomplishments and the things people say about you.

Even when your reputation is stellar, you still need to sell it because many clients can’t discern this. To most clients, we all look alike.

It’s called “reputation management” but it’s really just more selling.

I’ve got one more for you. Something else you sell.

You sell information.

About the law, problems and solutions, the how-to’s,—via your articles and posts, reports and books, presentations and other content.

Clients don’t pay for this information but you need to sell them on reading or listening, because this information shows them you know what you’re doing and can deliver the solutions they want.

Get better at selling this information and you get more leads and prospective clients contacting you, pre-sold on hiring you.

In fact, if your information is good enough, it will do most of the selling for you.

Which is why I repeatedly tell you to create a blog and newsletter.

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How well do you know your clients?

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Some lawyers do their best to get to know their clients on a personal level, not just during the pendency of the case or matter, but thereafter.

Some lawyers don’t.

The first group may be described as adopting a “relational” approach to building their practice. The latter group, those who do the work and move onto the next client, are said to take a “transactional” approach.

The advantage of a relational approach is that it tends to lead to long-term relationships, which are more likely to result in repeat business and referrals. The lawyer also may get to know the client’s personal and/or business contacts, leading to additional clients and opportunities.

The disadvantages are that it takes time to build relationships, as well as interpersonal skills and being comfortable with a higher degree of transparency.

The transactional approach avoids those disadvantages, but tends to miss out on some of the advantages.

Bottom line, the transactional approach looks at the short-term—the size of the case or the number of billable hours, while the relational approach focuses on the long-term and the lifetime value of the client.

Is one approach better for you than the other? Or should you consider a hybrid approach, as many lawyers do? Many lawyers adopt a transactional approach with most clients and build relationships with their best ones.

Because there are only so many hours in a day.

I recommend a slightly different approach.

I recommend building relationships with all of your clients, just not all in the same way.

Because there are only so many hours in a day, I recommend staying in touch with all of your clients via email, and investing personal time with your best clients.

You absolutely can build relationships with your clients (and others) via email.

You can and you should.

To learn how, get my course on email marketing for attorneys

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Make this your next project

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Before you do anything to bring in new clients, your next marketing project should be to win back former clients and engage or re-engage prospective clients with whom you’ve lost touch.

Former clients know, like, and trust you. Prospective clients may not trust you yet, but they know who you are and have given you permission to contact them.

Send them one or more emails. Reintroduce yourself and your services to people who can hire you or refer you, immediately or down the road.

It’s one of the most effective marketing strategies you can use.

What do you say to them?

Some clients left because they were unhappy about something. They should probably be called and you should be prepared to apologize and make amends. A surprising number will come back and forget all about their differences.

Most clients don’t have an issue, they simply drifted away. So, hearing from you again, even if you don’t say anything special, may be enough to get them re-engaged.

And, you can write about almost anything. Here are some ideas to grease your wheels:

  • Just checking in/How are you?/Thinking about you (It’s amazing how well this works)
  • It’s time. . . (to update something)
  • Have you moved? (Verify their contact info)
  • Check out this (article, video, post)
  • Happy birthday (or holiday)
  • It’s our anniversary (of working with you)
  • I’d like your opinion about (something)
  • I have a question for you
  • A client success story
  • A client who didn’t (do something and got hurt) story
  • A gift to you (free ebook, training, form, checklist)
  • Let’s connect (your social media channels)
  • I’m sorry (for not staying in touch)
  • News (about you, your services, a legal issue) that can affect them
  • An invitation to an event
  • Yeah, just about anything

A few guidelines:

  • Write from “you,” not “the firm”
  • Be yourself; speak plainly
  • Build on what they already know and value
  • Consider including a special offer
  • Tell them what to do (call to action)
  • Invite them to join or re-join your newsletter (so you can continue to stay in touch)

You invested time and money to bring in these clients and connect with these prospects. What might happen when you connect with them again?

You might find one or two former clients who hire you again or send you a referral.

You might find a handful of prospective clients who decide they’re ready to get started.

And you might find yourself smiling all the way to the bank because you’re bringing in an additional ten or twenty or fifty thousand per month that would have otherwise passed you by.

Why not write a few emails and find out?

Email marketing for attorneys

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Some bad reviews are good

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A client didn’t like your work or didn’t like you. It hurts to hear their words and realize you were the cause of their dissatisfaction, or at least they thought you were. Worse is the idea that their words might influence others to stay away.

But bad reviews are sometimes good for you.

How’s that?

When a client leaves a negative review and points out things they didn’t like, as long as they aren’t lying or fueled by misdirected anger, they’re providing you with valuable feedback you can use to improve what you do.

They’re telling you things they might never say to you directly—things they want you to do or stop doing, for example, or ways you can make the client experience better.

You might disagree with them, but if that’s how they feel, there’s a good chance other clients feel the same way.

And you need to know that so you can do something about it.

Don’t dwell on their harsh words, but don’t ignore them completely. Mine the value in what they say. Their review might cost you some future business, but it also might lead to a wave of glowing reviews and new business once you make some changes you didn’t realize you needed to make.

There’s another way negative reviews can help you. They can deter other clients who aren’t a good fit for you.

If you work from home and don’t have a full-time staff, for example, some clients might not want to hire you. Better they should know this before they hire you and find things to complain about.

If you’re the type who doesn’t sugarcoat your advice or baby your clients and someone complains about your bluntness or lack of empathy, it might lead to fewer clients who need handholding and more clients who appreciate the cut of your jib.

Bottom line, you might get more of the clients you want to work with and fewer of the kind who make you wish you’d gone to med school.

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Some clients are trouble

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Some clients are sharp. Some aren’t. Some clients follow your instructions. Some don’t. Some clients make a good witness. Some don’t. Some clients will be a major pain in your ass. Some will be even worse.

You’ll find out eventually what each new client is like, but wouldn’t you like to find out right away?

Sure you would.

If you know a client doesn’t listen or will do things that hurt their case, you need to know that so you can keep an eye on them.

My advice? Give the new client a homework assignment and see what they do.

Ask them to download a form and fill it out, read something and answer a few questions, or call you with some information.

Simple stuff any client can do.

If they don’t do it, make excuses, or ask for more time, you’ll have an idea of what they’re going to be like.

If you’re not sure, give them another assignment.

Yes, they might be busy or forgetful. It doesn’t matter. You need to know if you can count on them.

Some clients need more hand holding. You might need to send written instructions instead of merely asking them to do something when you speak, or send additional reminders about upcoming appointments, deadlines, or things they need to start working on.

Part of your job is to make sure your clients help you do that job.

You could do something similar with your professional contacts. I did that with a lawyer I met at a retreat. We talked about working together on a project that could benefit both of us, decided we would talk about it the following week and scheduled a phone appointment.

The day came, I called, he didn’t answer. I left a message, reminded him about our phone appointment, and asked him to call me.

He didn’t. So I was done with him.

If I couldn’t count on him to keep a simple phone appointment, I knew I couldn’t count on him for anything.

If you want to know what someone will be like to work with, ask them to do something and see if they do it.

Because how people do one thing is often how they do everything.

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Get more feedback and reviews

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I need new eyeglasses and went for an exam the other day. I was impressed with the thoroughness of the exam and the help the optometrist’s staff provided me with choosing the right options. They took their time, answered all my questions, and dutifully laughed at my dumb jokes.

My original plan was to get the exam at the optometrist’s office and buy the glasses somewhere less retail. But I changed my plan and bought from the optometrist.

I didn’t even negotiate. Bad lawyer.

I bought from them because they did such a good job with me, I felt a little guilty buying elsewhere, and because they made it so easy for me to say yes and be done with it.

Great service and convenience cost me more, but it was worth it.

Your clients will often “pay retail” for the same reasons.

The next day, I got an automated request for a review from the doctor’s office. But as much as I was happy with them and would recommend them, I didn’t respond because the email said the review would automatically be posted online and would include my full name.

No option to provide feedback anonymously, or to provide a review with just my first name and last initial.

So now, the doctor won’t get a review or feedback about what I thought they did right and what they could improve. (I had two small issues I would have “complained” about if I could have responded anonymously, or at least privately.)

Don’t make that mistake.

Ask all your clients for feedback and have it come back to you, not automatically made public.

If the feedback is negative, you don’t want that posted online.

If the feedback is positive, reply to the client, thank them, and ask for permission to post their feedback (review) online, or ask them to do it and give them the link.

And whatever you do, if you want more reviews, give the client the option to provide one without using their full name.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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