Your success comes down to this

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One of the biggest misconceptions about an attorney’s success is the idea that their legal services are the most important part of the equation.

They’re not.

Clearly, your services are important. But not the most important factor.

It’s not the outcomes you deliver, either. It’s not the benefits you offer. It’s not value or your reputation or any of the things that make people trust you and have confidence in your ability to help them.

Although these are important, too.

The most important factor in your success is something else, and it’s right under your nose.

It’s you.

Your personality. The way you speak, the way you make people feel about their case and their future.

And how you make them feel about themselves.

It comes down to this:

When you make people feel good, they want you by their side–advising them, protecting them, and working with them.

Before a client buys your services, they buy you.

Thats why you have no competition. Because there is only one you.

I can teach you how to get in front of more people. I can give you things to say and do. I can help you improve what you’re already doing.

The rest is on you.

It starts with your values. What you believe about yourself and your world, what you deem important.

The essence of who you are.

Your values determine your attitude–how you feel about your clients and how committed you are to serving them.

Your attitude affects your activities–your work, sure, but also the way you treat your clients and prospective clients–all of the things that constitute “client relations”.

Your activities determine your results. How people feel about your work and about you.

And how they feel about themselves for choosing you.

It’s all about the relationship

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Video killed the radio star

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Video marketing is big and will no doubt get bigger. But it’s not the only way to get your message in front of prospective clients and, as I’ve said before, it’s not necessarily the best way.

Some reasons:

  • The user needs to take time to watch a video that’s longer than a couple of minutes and many people won’t do that.
  • Not everyone has the ability to watch a video; even if they have their phone with them, they may not have privacy or a good signal.
  • While you can fast-forward (or “scrub”) through a video, it still takes time to watch it and the user may miss something. A document, on the other hand, can be scanned and your message received and understood (an impression) in a few seconds.
  • Viewers may be spoiled by the production value of the videos they usually watch. If you’re not good on camera or don’t want to spend time on editing, etc., if your videos aren’t first-class, prospective clients may conclude that your legal services aren’t, either.
  • It will usually take you more time to produce a video than a written message.

Video do offer advantages in marketing. For one, they give you the ability to help prospective clients get to know and like you before they speak to you.

Videos can play a role on your website and/or social media channels. You can answer FAQs, explain how you work with clients, show visitors where to find articles and resources on your site, and re-purpose or share content from you blog or newsletter.

If you use videos, however, I suggest you also supply a transcript so people can scan your message if they can’t or don’t want to watch your entire production.

Okay, that’s marketing. Videos can also play a role in improving your client relations.

When someone becomes a client, they are more likely to spend time watching a video from you, and more forgiving if your efforts aren’t up to Cecil B. DeMille standards.

How could you use videos to improve client relations? Some ideas:

  • A general video “welcome letter”–welcome to your practice, introduce them to staff, show them your library, conference room, etc.
  • A “personal welcome letter”–use their name, tell them you’ve started on their case, hold up a copy of their file, show them a screen cap of their name in your calendar system, etc.
  • FAQ’s–answer questions new clients typically have about how things work, the steps, what happens when something (bad) happens, etc.
  • Testimonials from other clients. Yes, you’re showing this to clients but testimonials from other happy clients can help attenuate “buyer’s remorse”. (This might be a way you can use testimonials if you are otherwise not allowed to do that in your marketing.)
  • Client ‘training’–getting ready for a depo or court appearance, etc.
  • Updates–here’s what’s happened so far, here’s what’s next.
  • Videos of you speaking (or on a podcast), so they can see they hired the right attorney for the job.

Some things to think about and work on, yes?

Now, I could have recorded this post in a video for you. But would you have watched it?

You would if you had hired me and paid me thousands of dollars.

If you’d like to do that, let me know and I’ll be happy to record it for you.

More ideas for your website

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White space. The final frontier.

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Yesterday, I encouraged you to put more white space in your life. Don’t try to fill every minute with activities–give yourself room to breathe and think and recharge.

Today, I’m encouraging you to do the same thing for your clients.

Especially clients with a stressful legal situation or who aren’t used to working with attorneys.

What can you do to give them more white space?

A few ideas:

When you send documents, don’t weigh them down with everything all at once. Dole it out. A little to start, a little more on another day. Let them know there’s more, but give them time to digest what you’ve already sent.

Preface your message with an executive summary–a few paragraphs that tell them the bottom line–so they don’t have to wade through everything to find out what happened or what you recommend.

Make your documents and correspondence easier to read by using, yes, lots of white space. Use short sentences, short paragraphs, and bullet points, so they can scan and get the gist of the document without having to read every word.

Consider highlighting key words or phrases, with bold or CAPITAL LETTERS, or other visual cues.

Instead of a monthly newsletter covering everything under the sun, break it up and send a shorter newsletter once a week.

You can also add white space in meetings and phone calls. Keep them short, get to the point quickly, and only tell them what’s essential for them to know. Then, tell them where to get additional information if they want it and invite them to ask questions.

In your writing, conversations, and presentations, number your points. Then, as you begin, tell them how many points you’re going to cover.

When you begin with, “There are five reasons I’m recommending you take the offer,” the client knows what to expect and is better able to absorb your message.

When you speak to a client, you can help them relax and feel more confident by letting them hear that you are relaxed and confident. If you’re in person, use body language (eye contact, smiling, relaxed posture).

Give your clients more white space and you will make it easier for them to hear you, trust you, and follow your advice. When you make it easier for them to work with you, they’ll make it easier for you to do a good job for them.

How to write an effective email newsletter

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Should you hug your clients?

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A 2017 study underscores the importance of providing physical contact with infants, especially when they are distressed.

In fact, the study says that cuddling can “actually affect babies at the molecular level, and the effects can last for years.”

So, human touch is important to little humans. What about for grown-ups?

When a client is upset or needs reassurance that everything is going to be okay, I don’t need a scientific study to know that giving them a hug is just what the doctor ordered.

But I also know that in today’s PC climate, hugging a client can get you into a heap of trouble.

If your motherly or father instincts tell you the client needs comforting, I think it’s worth the risk. But I’d probably ask permission, make sure the door is left open, and not hug them too long.

If you’re not sure, there are other things you can do that might be “close enough”.

A pat on the shoulder might do the trick. Or a warm handshake and eye contact that sends them a virtual hug.

You could be a bit more solicitous–asking if they’d like some water, handing them a box of tissues, and offering additional words of comfort.

You could tell them a story about another client who had a similar situation or concern and that everything worked out okay.

Whether physical or verbal or a little bit of both, consider giving your clients a hug when they need it. It could be just what the doctor ordered.

Marketing is everything we do to get and keep good clients

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The four motorcycle riders of the apocalypse

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Early this morning I heard a very loud motorcycle gunning it down our otherwise quiet residential street.

Why so loud? Doesn’t he know people are still asleep?

I thought his indiscretion might be because

  1. He’s late for work.
  2. Force of habit. He’s always pushed the speed limit and continues to do that without thinking.
  3. He’s a jerk. He likes to ride fast, he wants to show off his expensive toy, and he doesn’t care if it bothers anyone.

Anyway, it made me think about the things lawyers sometimes do that might not serve us, doing things too quickly or habitually or just not thinking about others.

The times we rush through a presentation or a meeting because we’re late for something else. When we rush, we might miss something or leave a bad impression on our audience.

Lesson: slow down, leave enough time.

The way we do the same things we’ve always done the same way we’ve always done them. Conducting a deposition, for example, asking the same questions in the same order, without thinking or listening or paying attention to body language.

Lesson: mix things up, try a fresh approach from time to time.

The way we sometimes talk about ourselves too much instead of letting the other person do most of the talking. Not only do we risk coming off as uncaring, we may not get all the information we need to do a good job for our client.

Lesson: talk less, listen more.

So yeah, that’s what I thought.

But wait, there are four horsemen. That’s only three.

Okay, Sherlock.

I asked my wife if she heard the motorcycle this morning and told her what I was planning to write about. I told her the three reasons I thought the guy was gunning it through our street.

She said, “Or, he needed to give it more gas to get up that hill.”

Yeah, didn’t think about that.

Something else lawyers sometimes do, but shouldn’t: thinking we’ve got it all figured out.

If you know you don’t have it all figured out, here’s what you need

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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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Yikes, found this on Yelp

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We were looking for a roofer and had several bids. Before we chose, my wife looked at reviews for the candidates.

One roofer who was in the running had mostly excellent reviews. But one review stood out, which I’ve edited slightly to protect the guilty:

“[The owner] wouldn’t even go on top of the roof to take a look, making excuses that it’s a 3-story building and that ladders are heavy. He then proceeded to quote me for a repair, which I called him on for not even going to the roof to take a look. I’ve never seen anyone look so dumbfounded, like I was just supposed to roll with it?”

Okay, an issue. But something that could be fixed, right?

The owner of the company didn’t try to fix it, however. Instead, he posted this response:

“Wow, what a cheap shot coming from a loser that can’t even take a verbal roof quote, let alone pull the trigger and get it fixed. What would make you think I owe it to you. You got a simple quote with a guarantee. . . to fix 1 simple leak. . . But then again, what would you know about maintaining a roof, you’re just a Big Crybaby.”

Needless to say, we crossed this roofer off our list.

His response is practically a master class in how NOT to respond to a bad review. How many jobs has he lost, and will continue to lose, because of it?

I have long said the best way to handle a bad review is to ignore it. Let the weight of the good reviews “bury” the stinkers.

Given the current state of “the world,” today I think I would revise that and admit that there are times when you simply have to respond.

I’m not going to give you any guidelines about when you should or shouldn’t do that, however. I’ll wimp out and simply say, “it depends.”

But I will say that if there is a review you believe needs a response, you probably shouldn’t do it yourself.

Have someone respond on your behalf. (No, not your lawyer.) Someone in your office who will remain calm, cool, and collected and make you look good.

Someone who won’t sound defensive or argumentative or make excuses.

Someone who will provide a thoughtful and caring response, apologize if appropriate, offer to make things right, and then invite the client to continue “the conversation” in private.

So it doesn’t turn into an online battle, and so you can indeed make it right.

You may not be able to placate every unhappy reviewer, but you can show the world that you tried.

Client relations made simple

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Making sure the client understands

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The only thing worse than explaining something to a client and finding out he didn’t understand you is not finding out.

You talked, they listened, but they lost you somewhere along the way.

If they let you know, you can repeat what you said or explain it further. But if they don’t tell you and find out later they misunderstood, what happens?

Bad Times at Ridgemont High, that’s what happens.

And they blame you. Even if you did a great job of explaining and they didn’t listen.

They might have been thinking about what you said just before this. Or worried about their legal situation. Or thinking about what they have to pick up at the market on the way home.

It doesn’t matter why they didn’t understand, you have to make sure they do, for their sake and for yours.

Especially if it is a complex issue or an important decision.

How do you do that? Besides putting it in writing and asking them to sign off?

You ask them to repeat back to you what you just told them.

Have them restate what you said and tell you that’s what they understood. Ask if they have any questions before you continue.

Hold on. You also need to do this when they say something.

Restate what you heard and ask them to agree that this is what they meant.

Then you can put it in writing.

Happy clients bring repeat business and referrals

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How I annoy my wife

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I saw this subject line in my email inbox today and I had to have it. I thought I’d add it to my list of headlines and subject lines and ideas and use it someday.

Hey, why not today?

And why not write this without reading the other guy’s email?

No peaking. Write your own damn email.

Actually, I get a lot of writing ideas from the emails in my inbox and suggest you do the same. But today, I thought I would challenge myself to write this with nothing to go on but the subject line.

So, how do I my wife? Let me count the ways. . .

I’ve been married a long time. If my wife wrote this, I’m sure she would have a long list. I thought about letting her write a “guest post” but realized I’d have to untie her and feed her and I’ve got a busy day.

And, there you go. The first thing that annoys my wife (I know she would say) is my warped sense of humor.

Sometimes silly, sometimes stupid, often inappropriate.

I get a lot of groans. And I am often reminded that I’m repeating something my grandfather used to say decades ago and, oh yeah, it wasn’t funny then, either.

But, I make her laugh often enough that she hasn’t left me. Or poisoned me.

(I can’t stop.)

Another thing I do that annoys her is talking incessantly about an idea or a project I’m planning, to the point where she (rightly so) tells me, effectively, to [do it] or get off the pot.

Okay, that’s all I’m going to fess up to. Now, would you like to know how she annoys me?

Yeah, right. Remember, I’ve been married a long time. That didn’t happen with me telling tales about things my wife does that annoy me.

Not that there are any.

So, forget that. It’s your turn.

But I don’t want to know how you annoy your spouse, I want to know how you annoy your clients.

What do you do that irritates them?

Ask yourself. Ask your staff. Ask your spouse. (Trust me, they know, even if they never come to your office.)

And ask your clients.

You probably have a few close clients you can talk to. Encourage them to be honest with you. Or, send out a survey and allow them to respond anonymously.

Because it’s important to know these things, so you can clean up your act.

Because you don’t want your clients to leave you. Or poison you.

Need more ideas for your newsletter?

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