It’s easier to keep your clients happy than to get new ones

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We hired a new gardener recently because our previous one didn’t show up, or call, or text. He’s missed days before, but always let us know, so we figured he’d flaked out and moved on to greener pastures.

Turns out he hadn’t.

We got a text from him yesterday, asking why we removed him from our gated community’s guest list. “Is there a problem? Did I do something wrong?”

We filled him in. He got angry. But didn’t explain why he didn’t show up, contact us, or respond to our numerous texts.

So, he lost our account, and the tree-trimming gig he was booked to do later this month. We know he needs the money because he continually nickled-and-dimed us about everything, and because he mentioned needing the money in his last text.

We have needs, too. We need to know that our yard is being taken care of by someone we can count on.

Maybe he’ll learn a lesson from this. Maybe he’ll realize how important it is to take care of your customers, and that it’s easier to do that than to find new ones.

Hey, I hear a lawnmower outside. Guess out new gardener is here. Right on time. Just like he promised.

Marketing is everything you do to get and keep good clients

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Keeping clients

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My wife called to cancel a service we no longer need. After a few questions, the girl who answered the phone turned the call over to her manager.

He asked more questions. Were we unhappy with the service, did the rep do something wrong, is there anything the company could do to get us to stay, how about a free month of service?

Normal questions.

When we didn’t bite, the manager played the guilt card. He pointed out that the rep would suffer financially from our departure.

If that’s part of the script, they need a new script. Even if that strategy works, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

I’m guessing they’re getting a lot of cancellations right now and they’re feeling the pinch.

Anyway, the experience reminded me to remind you that having a retention strategy in place is important for lawyers.

When a client calls to tell you they’re leaving or they’re unhappy with something or they want you to stop working on their case, you should be prepared to ask questions, put out fires, and keep them on board.

And be prepared to work things out with them when they say (or it appears) they can’t afford to continue.

Think it through, write it out, spitball it with your team, and make sure everyone is trained on what to say and do.

Because it’s going to happen.

But, here’s the thing. There’s only so much you can say or do and only so many clients will stay.

That’s life.

What you can do is prepare their exit for their eventual return and for referrals.

Tell them you understand, accommodate their needs, apologize if appropriate, tell them they’re welcome back if their situation changes, and wish them well.

And whatever you do, don’t play the guilt card.

How to get former clients to send you referrals

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I don’t like your attitude, bub

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My wife and I went out for a ride yesterday. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed getting out of the house. We drove towards the beach and went to a grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner.

Outside the store was a young lady wearing a mask and offering to disinfect shopper’s carts. She greeted us warmly. On our way out of the store, she told us to have a nice afternoon.

On our way home, we remembered something we needed and stopped at another grocery store.

My wife stayed in the car while I walked up to the store. In front was an older man with a similar disinfectant set-up as the first store.

But this guy wasn’t friendly. He didn’t greet me.

As I walked up to the store, he said, “Do you have a mask? You can’t come in here without a mask.”

I had a mask in my pocket. I brought it with me just in case we went someplace that required it.

Like this store.

I could have put on the mask but I didn’t. There was something about the way this guy said what he said that rankled me. He was scolding me and I didn’t like it.

I didn’t complain, I simply turned around and walked back to my car.

The store lost my business yesterday.

Anyway, this isn’t about whether or not your establishment has a mask policy.

It’s about the subtle messages you send to your customers or clients that may push them away from you when you should be doing just the opposite.

It’s about lightening up a bit, and going out of your way to brighten their day, especially now when everyone seems to be on edge.

They say people make up their minds about you within 4 seconds of meeting you. Given my experience yesterday, I’d say that’s about right.

When you’re ready for your practice to take a quantum leap

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I’ve got good news and bad news

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Have you ever asked a client, “Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?”

You might want to stop asking.

It turns out it’s better to give the bad news first and finish with the good news. According to research, people remember an experience more favorably when you finish the conversation on a positive note.

Psychologically, we prefer experiences that improve over time.

So, give clients the bad news first.

It works the same for you.

When you have to deliver bad news to a client, schedule them early in the day. That way, your day will end on a positive note.

Get the hard stuff out of the way so you can end the day on a high note.

I love it when a plan comes together.

How to get referrals without asking for referrals

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How are you doing?

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I haven’t connected with you in a while and thought I’d check in and see how you’re doing.

Or something like that.

Go through your phone or your email and contact your clients and other people you know. Say hello. Share a positive thought. Let them know you’re thinking about them.

It’s called networking and it’s a good idea on any day but especially today, when the world is on lock down and everyone is going a bit stir crazy.

And yes, you can do this with business contacts.

Remember opposing counsel on that case you had last year? That vendor you met at a conference? The web guy you hired a few years ago?

Them, too.

Ask about their work or ask them about a colleague you both know or ask them how they’re holding up.

What you say isn’t really that important. What’s important is that you show up in their in box.

Your words will be appreciated and, no doubt, reciprocated. Sometimes, your message will lead to a phone call or a video chat. You might learn something interesting or valuable.

You will keep your name in front of people who haven’t thought about you in a long time. You’ll strengthen your relationships with others.

Will this bring you repeat business? Referrals?

It might.

But don’t do it for that reason. Do it because it makes you feel good to brighten someone’s day.

How to get referrals from lawyers and other professionals

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The best marketing you can do right now

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Phones quiet? Not a lot of work coming in? Courts closed?

Now would be a good time to do some marketing.

But what?

The same kind of marketing I nag you about all the time, only now you have time to do it on a bigger scale.

It’s one of the simplest and most effective kind of marketing a lawyer can do.

Get on the blower and blow.

Call your clients (and former clients) to say hello, wish them well, and ask if there’s anything you can do for them.

Works well during good times. Should work like gangbusters now when people are concerned about the future and not too busy to take your call.

Don’t expect to get any work when you call, but don’t be surprised if it does.

Right now, you may learn what your clients want to know so you can get the answers for them and share those answers with your other clients and in your newsletter.

If someone need help with something you don’t do, you can refer them to someone who does, earning Brownie points with the client and the professional or business owner to whom you refer them.

Mostly, you’ll strengthen your relationship with the people who once put bread on your table and who will again.

They’ll appreciate you and remember that you thought about them, and while others wrote to them and wished them well, you were the one who made a personal call.

Mark my words, when things get back to normal and they need legal help or know someone who does, they’ll be calling you.

So, how many clients will you call this week?

How to use a newsletter to build your practice

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Something good about COVID-19

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One good thing about what’s happening right now is that it gives you plenty to write about in your newsletter or on social media. Your clients and subscribers will appreciate hearing from you, especially if they’re staying home from work.

For starters, you could write about what you’re doing to protect yourself, your staff, your clients, and visitors to your office.

One firm sent me an email describing a few things they’re doing, including following social distancing practices in the office, disinfecting after each visit, and conducting appointments via Zoom.

You could summarize and opine about the latest news coming out of DC, your state, and your local community. What’s going on that they might have missed and what do you think about it?

You could offer advice about how to get your money back due to event cancellations.

You could provide advice about estate planning, a topic many people seem to be especially interested in (or need to know about) right now.

(If you don’t do estate planning, ask a fellow lawyer to provide you with information you can pass along to your clients and subscribers.)

More than information, your clients and subscribers want to see that you’re calm, cool, and collected. That you’re prepared but not panicked and that you’re there for them if they need you.

Most of all, they want to hear you say that everything will be okay.

If you don’t have a newsletter, now would be an excellent time to start one.

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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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80 percent of client relations is just two things

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Ah, client relations. The key to repeat business and referrals.

The key to fewer complaints and better reviews.

The key to lower marketing costs and higher profits.

And 80 percent of it just two simple things.

The first one: be nice.

Treat your clients with respect, do what you said you would do, bill on time, and show them you care about them as individuals and not just as a source of income.

Treat them the way you’d like to be treated if your roles were reversed.

See, I told you it was simple.

The second: stay in touch. Also simple.

While you’re handling the case or matter, keep them informed. Send copies of everything, explain everything, and show them everything you’re doing for them.

Between cases or matters, stay in touch via email at least, to strengthen your relationship and show them what else you can do for them or for people they know.

And, that’s it.

You know what? That’s not 80 percent of client relations; it’s probably 90 percent. Maybe more.

And so simple even a lawyer can do it.

Email is the best way to stay in touch. Here’s how to do it right

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You should read this

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Some people think we shouldn’t tell people what to do. We should give them the options and let them decide.

Tell them what they “could” do, not what they “should” do.

I understand the sentiment but when someone looks to you for advice, they want you to tell them what to do.

When a client hires you to advise him, you can (and should) present different ways to do it, but then, tell him which option is best. They’re paying for your experience and judgment. They want to know what you recommend.

When you tell them, you’re telling them what they “should” do.

Tell your clients what they should do.

(Yes, I’m telling you what you should do. Not what you might do. You can choose to follow my advice or reject it. But at least you know what I recommend.)

You should also tell your newsletter and blog readers and presentation attendees what to do. With less specificity, of course, because you don’t know the specifics of their situation. But if you have recommendations about what someone should do in a given situation, tell them what to do.

I saw an article this morning about this subject in the context of employers and employees. The article said we should tell our staff what they “could” do, not what they “should” do.

Yes, you want to empower your staff to think for themselves and not come to you with every little issue, but if you want your secretary to call someone or email someone or bring you something, telling them what they could do or might do is just silly.

You’re not going to say, “I’m running late for my 2 O’clock with Mr. Jones. You could call him to re-schedule.”

You’re going to tell your secretary to call.

Be nice about it. Say please and thank you. But tell her.

That’s what you should do.

Questions about what to write in a newsletter? Here are the answers

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