Being different without being weird

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You want to stand out. Show people you’re different. Help people remember you and talk about you on social media or to their friends. You’re looking for something you can do that’s different but coming up empty.

Relax. Stop trying so hard.

You don’t have to create your own practice area or provide free pizza in your waiting room. You don’t have to do anything radically different. And you shouldn’t. You’re a lawyer, and people don’t want their lawyer to be weird.

You can be different in little ways.

I just saw a video blogger who ends his videos by telling viewers to like and subscribe, as everyone else does, but then does something I’ve never seen anyone else do. He says not to bother hitting the bell for notifications, “because honestly, you have better things to do than to look out for a notification that I’ve posted a new video”.

Small, but different.

Technically, this is bad marketing. You want your viewers/subscribers/followers to know when there’s new content for them to consume. If they don’t get notified, they may never see that new content, and that’s a lost opportunity for you to connect with them and for them to share your content with others.

On the other hand, this is great marketing.

He shows his followers that he doesn’t slavishly follow the “script” everyone else follows, and that he cares about his viewers and puts himself in their shoes.

A small difference, tiny even, but you can get a lot of mileage out of small differences.

When everyone else looks and sounds and smells the same, you don’t need to do much to stand out.

And hey, if you do serve pizza in your waiting room, don’t put pineapple on it. That’s just weird.

Get more referrals by being more referrable

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Objection, calls for speculation

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I saw a video the other day that ticked all the boxes. It was clear and concise, delivered the information viewers needed to know, and didn’t waste our time with anything else. One viewer said what many of us were thinking: “Nice, simple and straight to the point.”

Which is what we should all aspire to achieve in our websites, our letters and emails, our articles, briefs, presentations, and all our communication.

William Howard Taft said, “Don’t write so that you can be understood, write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood.”

Clarity is equally important in our bills and invoices.

A bill shouldn’t be merely a list of how you spent your time. It should be a narrative that describes your effort.

Spell out what you did in plain English, and what it means for the client. Use active verbs and specific nouns to describe the process you used to deliver the results you obtained, even if (especially if) those results aren’t yet fully realized.

In school, teachers told us to “show your work” instead of merely reporting the answer. They wanted to see what we thought and did and why.

The same standard should apply to your bill.

Show clients your work; help them see and understand what you did and why. If there isn’t room on the actual invoice, add a cover letter and spell it out.

Don’t make clients guess what you did or what you meant. Explain it to them as if they were a child. Or your teacher.

How to write a bill your clients want to pay

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How much money are you leaving money on the table?

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Every attorney has a list of prospective clients they’ve communicated with at some point but who haven’t (yet) hired them.

People who visited their website and filled out a form. People who called and asked questions. People they consulted with about their case or situation.

There are many reasons why someone who needs legal help contacts an attorney and doesn’t hire them. Some of those reasons are insurmountable. Some are an issue of timing.

They want to hire an attorney but. . .

  • They need time to get the money
  • They need to get buy-in from someone
  • They need time for their problem to worsen before they’re willing to spend the money
  • They’re still trying to fix the problem themselves
  • They’re hoping the problem will go away on its own
  • The problem did go away, but they’ve got another one they haven’t mentioned
  • They want to explore other options
  • They may have lost the attorney’s name and number

Just to name a few.

You have lists, don’t you? Lists of prospective clients who need your help but haven’t taken the next step?

Some of them will eventually contact you again and hire you.

But most won’t.

They need more information about their problem, about their options, or about your services. They want to talk to you again. They want you to convince them to take the next step, to assure them you really can help them, to tell them everything will be okay.

Unfortunately, by the time they realize this, they will have signed up with another attorney.

Which is why the expression, “The fortune is in the follow-up” is true.

If you follow up with the people on your lists, stay in touch with them, remind them you can help them (and that they still need help), and invite them to contact you again, more people will hire you.

If you don’t, they won’t.

Most people don’t buy a car the first time they visit the showroom, most people don’t get married after the first date, and most people don’t hire an attorney after one conversation.

Which is why you need to follow-up.

Write or call or use email to automate the process, but don’t leave the follow-up to them.

That’s not their job, it’s yours. And you are well-paid for it.

How to use an email newsletter to follow-up

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Not too hot, not too cold

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When it comes to communicating with your list(s), whether through a newsletter, blog, social media or any other mechanism, you have to ask yourself, “How much is enough?” and “How much is too much?”

How often should I contact them? What is a good length or word count for my articles or posts or videos?

Because if you send them too much or too often, you might overwhelm them and lose them. They might unsubscribe or they might stop reading or listening and responding.

But the same can happen if you give them too little.

If they don’t see value in what you send them, or they don’t hear from you often enough and forget who you are, they will leave or tune you out.

That’s not necessarily fatal, however. The only metric that really counts is the amount of business you get from your articles or posts.

How many new clients, repeat clients, up-sells and cross-sells, and referrals is the only thing that matters. Everything else is nice to have but not essential, even if you could track it.

Opens? Clicks? Shares? Engagement? Hard to track, and if you have a small list, usually not worth the effort.

Capice?

Still, you don’t want to overwhelm people with too much information, any more than you want them to stop following or listening to you because you send them too little.

You also don’t want to make more work for yourself than necessary.

You want to build a “relationship” with them, so that they come to know, like and trust you, and eventually hire or refer you. You do that by providing valuable and interesting information, and making it good enough that they look forward to getting your next.

What makes it good enough? It doesn’t need to be brilliant or exhaustive. It simply needs to be interesting and relevant to your readers.

As for quantity, when it comes to a newsletter or blog post, I suggest you publish or post once a week. Often enough to keep your name in front of your list, but not so often that anyone tunes out or you can’t keep it up.

And keeping it up is important because you never know when someone will be ready to hire an attorney or has a friend who needs one.

You can publish more often than once a week. Whether or not you should do that depends on your practice area, your market, and you.

You need to find a happy middle ground, one which keeps people reading and responding, and allows you to publish regularly, without taking up too much of your time.

As for length, a few paragraphs or a few hundred words are enough, and certainly not too much. You’ll never overwhelm anyone by sending them something they can consume in 2 or 3 minutes.

Shorter posts are easier to write and take less time. You can do everything in less than an hour a week.

Not too hot, not too cold. It’s just about right.

How to build your practice with a weekly newsletter

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Did I ever tell you about the time I messed up a case?

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Success stories are valuable tools for marketing professional services. They show prospective clients that you’ve helped others solve the same or similar problems, implying that you can do the same for them.

Talk about the problems people brought to you, the pain this caused them, and the hard work you did to deliver them from misfortune.

And don’t forget the happy ending.

On the other hand, don’t make everything look too easy.

You’ll be more believable and relatable if you tell people about cases that didn’t have a happy ending.

The client didn’t listen to you or the case had problems you couldn’t solve.

You might also tell stories about times when you messed up.

Talk about a case you lost and how this affected you. Talk about your struggles to “save” people and your guilt or sadness when you couldn’t. Talk about a mistake you made and what it cost you to fix it.

Show people the human you, the imperfect you, because people know you’re not perfect and they’ll love you for being honest with them.

But be careful. You need a deft hand to do this.

It’s best to talk about failure in the past tense. Talk about what you learned from the experience and how it made you better at what you do.

You’ll hear me talk about things I did when I first started practicing, how I struggled, what I learned, and how I changed and became successful.

A failure story with a happy ending.

You also need to be selective about the issues you talk about.

If you messed up a case because you got hooked on pain meds after surgery a few years ago and finally kicked the habit, I don’t think anyone would look down on you. If you abused recreational drugs for many years, however, and only recently got clean, you might find some people worrying about you relapsing.

I was late for court once and my case was dismissed. I had to file a motion and pay sanctions to save it. I can tell that story because people understand “being late” and because I saved the case. If I lost because I blew a statute and the client sued me and won, I probably wouldn’t tell that story.

Tell success stories, mostly, but occasionally talk about things that didn’t go so well. If it was your fault, be careful. It’s easy to go too far.

If you’re not sure, have a friend look at your story before you publish it.

Because friends don’t let friends publish drunk.

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Put yourself in the top 2%

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Have you ever been reading an email or a blog post and forgotten who wrote it?

That’s the 98%.

Most lawyers who create content fall into that category. Forgettable.

The 2% are the ones people notice and remember. They’re also the ones people buy from and tell their friends about.

The rest fade into the woodwork. Because they all look the same.

They talk about the same subjects, use the same examples, and measure the temperature of their message with the same thermometer, meaning they don’t let things get too hot or too cold.

How about you?

If you want to get noticed, remembered, and followed, if you want clients to hire you instead of another attorney, you need to be in the top 2%.

That means being different and there’s no easier way to do that than to create content that’s different.

Different subjects, different appearance, different style.

Especially style.

When other lawyers write stilted prose and you use a bit of color and personality, when other lawyers say what’s expected and you are a contrarian, when they write about boring topics in boring ways and your content is interesting. . .

It won’t take much for you to stand out.

How do you do this?

Make your content interesting and helpful. Infuse your content with human interest (stories), details from your professional and personal life, and strong opinions. Be different, tell them what they need to do, and why.

Don’t just deliver information, speak to your readers. And don’t hold back.

You know you’re doing it right when you write something or say something that scares you a little.You should feel a little heat in the pit of your stomach—as if you’ve gone too far or are doing something wrong.

When you feel that heat, it means you’re on the right track.

If you aren’t feeling that burn, you aren’t trying hard enough. And your audience will know it. And lump you in with 98%.

You will get feedback. Some readers will love what you’re doing and tell you they read you every day. Some will tell you’ve gone too far and leave you for gentler pastures. (Ask me how I know.)

None of that matters. All that matters is that:

  1. Your list is growing, and
  2. Your practice is growing

If those two numbers are moving in the right direction, stay the course.

It’s not easy to show your market that you’re better than the competition, but it is easy to show them you’re different.

And now you know a simple way to do that.

Email marketing for attorneys

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Tell me about yourself

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Prospective clients ask about the law, their case, their options. They ask about fees and deadlines and process. They ask about a lot of things but they rarely ask about you.

Why you became a lawyer, what you like most about what you do, what you do best and what isn’t your cup of tea.

They usually don’t ask but you should be prepared to answer questions like these in case they do.

It’s also good to have answers to these types of questions to share with prospective clients, seminar attendees, and interviewers, even if they don’t ask.

Give people a few nuggets about what makes you tick.

Tell them about a case you had that was especially difficult and what did you did to beat the odds. Reveal something about something you may be embarrassed to admit but that helped you become a better lawyer or human being. Talk about something you are proud of and want the world to know, even if it has nothing to do with practicing law.

People prefer to hire and refer and work with lawyers they know, like, and trust. A simple way to foster knowing and liking is to share some insights into who you are and why you do what you do.

Tell them about your values, your philosophies, your raison d’être.

Yes, people mostly want to know about what you can do to help them, their clients, friends, readers or listeners. But they also want to know something about the person who will do the helping.

If you’re in doubt about how to say it, tell a story. Tell them about something you did and what it meant to you or about a client you helped, how they were better off because of it, and how you feel about that.

What you do and how you do it are important. Just as important is why.

How to take a quantum leap in the growth of your practice

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It’s all about you

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Your services aren’t unique.

You may put your own spin on them, offer lower fees or other benefits, package and present them differently, but in truth. . . .

You and your competition offer essentially the same services.

And clients are just a five-minute search away from choosing another lawyer.

Yes, the quality and scope of your marketing plays a role. But in the realm of professional services, that can only do so much for you because a professional services practice is built on relationships.

So how do you get clients to choose you instead of the guy next door? That’s simple.

Put more of YOU into every aspect of your practice.

Because YOU are original.

And because clients buy you before they buy your services. They choose you and stay with you because of you.

Simple as that.

How do you put more of yourself into your practice?

  • Show people how you think by writing and speaking more openly, and more often
  • Champion the causes that are important to your target market; let them see that you care about the things they care about
  • Share some details about your personal life—what you do outside of work, your family, what you do for fun. Let people get to know the “real” you, not just the “lawyer” you
  • Judiciously share some of your flaws and blemishes. Let people know you’re human (just like them)
  • Own up to errors and mistakes; give clients the benefit of the doubt on billing issues.
  • Build relationships with clients and prospects and the professionals in your network. Stay in touch, mostly via email, so they can learn more about who you are, what you do, and how you work with your clients.

New services? New solutions? Original ideas? They’re great, if you’ve got them. But you don’t need them.

Because there’s no one else like you and clients buy you before they buy your services.

Why email is still the best (and easiest) way to build your practice

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Tooting your horn when your horn needs tooting

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When you win a big case, get an award, or achieve an important milestone, don’t keep it a secret.

Tell people about that great testimonial or endorsement you received. Tell people about the results you obtained for a client.

Don’t hide your light under a bushel.

Tell you clients and prospects about your accomplishments, because they want to know they are dealing with a lawyer who knows what they’re doing. It validates their decision to hire you or send you referrals, or tips the balance in your favor if they haven’t yet taken that step.

Share your good news, especially if it suggests you’re growing–your new hires, new offices, new clients, new services or new practice areas.

When you write a (new) book, start a video channel, update your website, start a newsletter, or get invited to speak at a prestigious event, let everyone know.

It’s not bragging if it’s true.

And if it’s true, it can help you.

On the other hand, while your clients and business contacts like knowing they work with a lawyer who is smarter than the average bear, nobody really cares that much.

It’s nice, but they’re a lot more concerned about themselves.

So, toot your horn when your horn needs tooting, but don’t lay on the horn.

Because that can get annoying. Maybe even make some people jealous.

How much is too much tooting? I’d focus mostly on the big stuff, the stuff that moves the needle, and the stuff that directly benefits your clients and contacts.

Tell them about cases you win that make new law or receive a lot of press. Tell them about your new office, your new services, or the new content on your website.

But don’t ignore the review you got from a client who thanked you for being so supportive and working hard to help them. Or the new software you installed that makes things easier for you and your clients.

And when you toot, make sure you look good doing it.

Be brief, say you’re honored or thrilled, thank the people who need to be thanked, and move on.

Toot well, my friend.

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‘Til your daddy takes your T-Bird away

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I’m guilty of this myself. Too much information in my articles and posts. Telling you what and how, why and when. Giving you bullet points and instructions, telling you what to do and how to do it.

There’s nothing wrong with the how-to’s, of course. It’s just that there are other things to talk about.

Suppose you and I were buds. We get together for to hang out, shoot the shite, bring each other up to speed on what’s going on.

We have a few adult beverages and share a few laughs. In other words, we have some fun.

Why can’t we do that online?

We can and we should.

When we write a blog post or article, when we record a video or podcast, when we post on social media, we don’t have to be “all business, all the time.”

That doesn’t mean being unprofessional or always going for the laugh. It means letting down our hair, speaking or writing informally, and sharing information and ideas that aren’t strictly law-related.

If you had an interesting day, tell people about it. If your son or daughter tells you something funny that happened in school, share it. If your neighbor charges his Tesla at night and you can hear that annoying electric hum through the wall of your house and it drives you crazy, mention it–like I just did about my neighbor.

We can also have fun playing with language. One way is to use phrases your readers don’t expect you to use. You feel me? Are you picking up what I’m laying down?

You know, fun.

Now, you may be wondering, why. Why should we put fun in our writing or speaking, or for those of us who do it already, why should we do it more?

Because our readers want us to.

They want to see our human side. They want us to make them smile. They want to have more fun, and and they don’t want us to give them homework every time they hear from us.

Yes, we should teach our readers something. But we can do that and also entertain them for the few minutes it takes for them to read what we write.

It’s called infotainment. A friend of mine describes it as “Education wrapped in candy.”

Give your readers their peas and carrots but also give them dessert.

You may find it difficult to do this, to loosen up in front of an audience who is used to you being straight. But you can do it (it just takes practice) and when you do, you’ll be glad you did.

You’ll enjoy writing more. You’ll get more replies and engagement from your readers. You’ll build a following instead of just a list of people who consume your content.

Which means you’ll also get more business.

Start slowly. Add a sprinkle of lighter material here and there. One way you could do that is to make your usual (boring) legal point and then use a colorful analogy or story to illustrate it.

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Give it a try. You might find you’re good at it. You might enjoy it immensely. It might give new life to your writing and speaking.

One thing’s for sure. Your subscribers will love it.

They’ll look forward to your next post or email or presentation, and they’ll tell their friends about you, because you’re not like all those other (boring) lawyers.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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