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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A simple way to get more people to trust you

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It’s only logical. If people don’t trust you, they won’t hire you or return to you or refer you.

Or follow your advice.

We show them positive reviews, testimonials, awards, endorsements, and our other bona fides, and share stories about the clients we’ve helped. We write articles and give speeches, filled with proof that we know our stuff.

And it’s all good. But sometimes, it’s not enough.

Because other lawyers say a lot of the same things and because we all seem to tell people nothing but the good stuff. We make ourselves look almost perfect.

And people know we’re not.

If you want more people to trust you, the best thing you can do is admit it.

Tell people you’re not perfect. And then, prove it.

Tell them about one of your flaws, weaknesses, or mistakes.

Careful, though. Not all mistakes are created equal.

Tell them about the time you showed up late to a hearing and got yelled at by the Court. Don’t tell them about the case you lost because you sued the wrong party.

Let them see you do things you know you shouldn’t do. You don’t get enough exercise; you spend too much at the Apple store; you tell your grandkids stupid jokes.

You know, the stuff humans do.

People know you’re not perfect. When you admit it and show them a flaw or two, they’re more likely to trust you.

Probably also like you. Even if they don’t laugh at your stupid jokes.

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Onboarding

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There are two key moments in your client’s relationship with you that can make or break that relationship. The day you deliver the outcome or work product and the day they first become your client.

The first day is the most important of the two because it influences everything that happens after that.

New clients are often nervous, worried about their situation, and not yet sure they can trust you or the legal system. You may have met with them or spoken to them before, but everything changes when they write that first check.

Your new client onboarding process is your first and best opportunity to make them feel good about their decision to hire you, set the stage for a successful outcome, and lay the groundwork for repeat business and referrals.

When you do it right, the new client will have more confidence in you, be more hopeful about their situation, know what to expect and what they can do to help you help them.

No pressure.

Okay, there’s pressure. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your onboarding process, and to regularly update and improve it.

Start with a list of goals. What do you want the new client to know, what do you want them to do, and most importantly, how do you want them to feel after they leave your office?

Then, make a list of what you can do to achieve those goals.

What will you tell them about

  • Their case
  • The law
  • The process and time table
  • Contingencies, risks, and options
  • Your office, staff, and resources
  • What happens first, what happens after that
  • What to do if they have questions
  • What you want them to do, and not do
  • What to expect about fees and costs

Will you introduce them to your staff? Give them a tour of your office?

Will you give them or send them (or direct them to download) any forms, checklists, documents—things to read and things to fill out?

And, because relationships can’t be only about the work, what will you ask about them about their personal life, and what will tell them about yours?

You’re not going to give them everything on their first visit—you don’t want to overwhelm them. Figure out what you will do immediately and schedule the rest.

When they leave your office, you want them to feel a sense of relief, knowing that their problem is in good hands. You’ll prove that to them in the weeks and months that follow, but it all starts on day one.

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How to talk to a prospective client

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You’re speaking with a prospective client. You ask questions to discover what brought them to you so you can tell them what you can do to help them.

Slow down. Too much, too soon.

Yes, ask questions. You need to know what they want or need, but before you go down that road, there’s something you should do first.

Make them feel good about their decision to contact you.

They’re probably nervous. They don’t know you or trust you. They’re worried about their problem and how much it’s going to cost to do something about it.

So you want them to relax. See you as someone they can talk to. Someone who wants to help them, and not just because they’re going to pay you.

We’re talking about building rapport.

This isn’t terribly difficult to do, if you’re willing to take a few minutes to talk to them before you put on your lawyer costume and demonstrate your super powers.

Make them feel comfortable and respected. Make them feel good about their decision to contact you.

Start by seeing them “on time”. Ask if they want something to drink. Treat them like a welcome house guest, not a walking checkbook. Ask if they had any trouble finding the office or parking or how their day is going.

Yes, small talk.

When you are both seated, ask them to tell you about their situation. Give them your undivided attention. No phone calls or texts. Make eye contact, listen to them, take notes, and don’t do anything else.

Ask follow-up questions to fill in the blanks. Take more notes. Taking notes shows them that what they’re saying has value and you want to hear it.

Let them do most of the talking. If they’re angry, let them get it out. Make appropriate noises or comments to validate how they feel.

When they’ve told you their story, repeat the salient points back to them. (Refer to your notes). Give them an opportunity to hear what they told you and how it sounds, and clarify and add things they might have forgotten.

Then you can shift into problem-solving mode. Tell them the options and ask what they’d like to do.

During the conversation, listen for “commonalities”—things you or your other clients have in common with them. Kids, school, pets, industry or market, or what they do for fun.

If you have something in common, mention it. It might be as simple as saying, “Me too” or “I love that show”.

People like to do business with people who are like them, or who represent people like them. Don’t underestimate the value of shared experience.

Finally, thank them for coming to see you and confirm the next step, even if that’s “I’ll email you a proposal” or “Let me know what you’d like to do”.

You probably do most of the above, maybe all of it, most of the time. But when you’re busy or distracted, it’s easy to forget something or let the client see you’ve got other things on your mind.

But this is their time, not yours. So make sure you get yourself out of the way and let them have center stage.

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What do clients want from you?

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You probably talk to your clients and prospects, to find out what they like about your services (and customer service) and what they think needs to be improved.

If you don’t, you should.

But you might not get helpful or honest answers, either because the client is uncomfortable talking to you about the subject or they don’t know how to articulate it.

You can encourage your clients to post a review, or, as I suggest, wait for a client to say something positive or thank you or provide a referral and ask those clients to leave a review (and let you quote them in a testimonial), because you know they’re happy and their review is more likely to be positive.

But you also want to know when clients are unhappy so you can do something about it before things get worse.

You can keep your eyes and ears open for clues and then talk to them, but by the time you notice there’s a problem, it might be too late.

That’s why you should regularly send clients a survey, and allow them to describe their experience with your office. But if you want them to respond more often, and respond candidly, you should give them the option to do it anonymously.

Yes, you would like to know who is or isn’t happy, and the issue, but isn’t it better to know what clients like or don’t like even if you don’t know who they are?

One more thing.

Clients are funny, and by funny, I don’t mean amusing. I mean strange. Weird, unpredictable, with seemingly random likes and dislikes and preferences. You certainly can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try.

But you should look for patterns.

If a significant percentage of clients (and prospects) don’t like something, such as being kept waiting for their appointment for more than 10 minutes, or being kept on hold for more than 30 seconds when they call, you need to know that.

You might not know there is an issue or realize that you’re doing it.

Unfortunately, you may not get enough survey responses to show you a pattern.

What you can you do?

You can go online and look at reviews of other lawyers, to see what their clients complain about, and also what they like, because the odds are your clients do (or would) feel the same way about you.

Study the competition. Learn their “best practices”. Avoid their mistakes.

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Spying on clients and competitors

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Do you know what’s going on in your clients’ businesses? The latest good news? The latest dirt?

You should. And you can. Just set up google alerts for the business and their key people and you’ll get an email whenever something happens.

When someone gets sued, investigated, or arrested, when someone wins an award, gets married, or dies, you won’t have to wait for someone to tell you, you’ll know. You can contact your client and congratulate them or express condolences.

Do the same thing for their industries and major competitors. When you learn something your client may need to know, they’ll appreciate your telling them, even if they already know.

If you represent consumers, set up alerts for their employers, their employer’s industries, their places of worship, and their local markets.

While you’re at it, set up alerts for your major competitors, your practice area, your referral sources, and yourself. You need to know when someone is talking about you or doing something that interests you or may concern you, things that present an opportunity or a threat.

And yes, you can also get a lot of ideas for your newsletter or blog this way.

Go here and set up an alert or two. You can always remove it, modify it, or add more.

Automate your market (and marketing) intelligence. Let technology bring the information to you so you don’t have to go looking for it.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Know thy client

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I read an article in the Wisconsin Lawyer that provided “tips for writing in ways that attract the attention of search engines, readers, and new clients.”

It’s good information. And a good reminder about the importance and value of writing in building a law practice.

But that’s not why I’m telling you about it.

At the end of the article, in her “bio,” the author tells a story about one of her consulting clients who was unhappy with her advice:

A few years ago, an attorney I was working with called me to complain because one of their former clients gave them a bad online review. I had encouraged them to follow up with clients to thank them for their business and ask for reviews, so the bad review they received was, in their mind, my fault. It didn’t occur to me that I needed to tell attorneys that they should only ask for reviews from clients they suspected had a positive opinion of them. I now emphasize that you should never ask for a review you don’t want. It’s the legal marketing equivalent of the age-old advice that you should never ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to!

It seems so simple. Ask for reviews; don’t ask for reviews from clients who might not love ya.

You want reviews. You need reviews. Good reviews can bring in a boatload of clients.

Seriously.

So you should ask for reviews.

But how do you avoid bad reviews?

Simple.

Ask for reviews, but do it in stages:

  1. Routinely send every client a form to fill out to provide feedback about you, your services, your office, etc. Include a question asking if they would recommend you to others, and why or why not.
  2. When the client provides positive feedback and says they would recommend/refer you, ask them to post this in a review (and give them a link to the site you prefer).

Keep your enemies close. Keep your friends (and clients) closer, because you never know what they might say about you.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System

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