Client relations starts before the client hires you

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Everyone touts the importance of excellent client relations, aka “customer service”. And rightly so. 

Making our clients feel appreciated, minding our manners, giving clients more value than they expect, being fair and honest in our fees and billing, keeping clients informed–this is how we build trust, get good reviews, and generate repeat business and referrals. 

We build our reputation and a loyal client following by the way we treat our clients, at least as much as by the outcomes we deliver. And we generally do a good job of it.

But we can do better. 

Because it’s not just how you treat a client after they come to see you, it’s the entirety of the client experience, which begins before you ever speak with them. 

When someone refers a prospective client to you, what do they tell them about you? 

When a prospective client watches your video, reads your article or blog post, or hears you speak, what does your content and delivery tell them about your abilities and experience?

When they visit your website, what do they learn about your services, your experience, and what it will be like to have you as their attorney?

When someone subscribes to your list, what do you send them, tell them, and offer them, and what does that say to them about you?

And when someone contacts you, to ask a question or schedule an appointment, what are they asked, what are they told, and how do you make them feel?

Because your success depends on how you make people feel–about their case or issue and about you.

A successful legal career isn’t a series of transactions so much as a journey, and how many people you can bring with you. 

And that journey begins well before the client’s first appointment, and continues long after their last one.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System for Lawyers

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The biggest sin in marketing legal services

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There are a lot of ways to go wrong in your marketing. Here are just a few:

  • Wasting time or money on strategies that aren’t working
  • Shotgun marketing: trying to sell everything, e.g., all of your services, to everyone at the same time
  • Not pre-qualifying prospective clients
  • Chasing instead of attracting
  • Not using a “call-to-action” (telling prospects what to do)
  • Not differentiating yourself from other lawyers
  • Not following up with prospects
  • Not building a list
  • Not staying in touch with former clients

These can all cost you clients and hurt your bottom line.

The biggest sin in marketing, however, is being boring.

People won’t read boring articles. They won’t watch boring videos or listen to boring podcasts. They won’t follow boring people on social media.

You might get your marketing message in front of a lot of people who need your help or who can refer people who do, and get nowhere because they never read or relate to your message.

If you want people to hire you or build a relationship with you, you’ve got to get and keep their interest.

Fortunately, this isn’t difficult to do.

It starts with researching the people you want to attract.

Study their market or industry, their problems and desires, so you can show them you understand them and what they want or need, and are uniquely qualified to help them get it.

How to research your target market and ideal client

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2 things you need to know before your next paper or presentation

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You’re working on a presentation, paper, article, brief or book. You’re about to have a conversation with a client or prospect, negotiate a contract or address a jury. You’re writing an email for your newsletter or to someone you’d like to meet.

Any time you have a message to communicate, there are two things you need to know first:

  1. Your audience.

Who are they and what do you know about them and their situation? What’s important to them? What do they already know about you and your subject? How will they benefit from reading or listening to your message?

  1. Your purpose.

Why are you writing to or speaking with them? What do you want them to know? Why is this important? What do you want them to do after they read or listen to your message?

Give this some thought, make some notes, and then distill this information into a single sentence:

“As a result of my [talk, paper, email, etc.], they will understand [this] and respond by doing [this].”

For example:

“After reading my [email/blog post/article], they will understand the benefits for [updating their estate planning/corporate documents and the problems that can occur if they don’t], and respond by [making an appointment].”

Answering these questions before you write or speak will help you create a more effective message and make it more likely you’ll get the response you want.

[Based on this article about writing a better speech]

How to build your practice with email

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Don’t know what to write about? Here’s what to do

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When you’re out of ideas to write about in your blog or newsletter, there’s no need to panic.

You can write about almost anything.

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new computer. You’ve looked at the options, compared brands, found answers to lots of questions, and made some decisions. You may have ruled out certain brands or operating systems or options. You may have chosen your next machine.

Why not write about that?

Share the story of your quest–what you went through, what you discovered, what you decided and why. And. . .

. . .use that story as an analogy for hiring an attorney.

Tell readers what to look for in an attorney, the questions to ask and the answers they should hear.

Tell them the pros and cons of different types of attorneys or different services; explain the must-haves and the nice-to-haves.

Tell them what they need to know and do to make a good “purchase” and the problems they may have if they don’t.

Show readers you understand what they want and guide them to taking the next step.

You might end your post by telling them you’re happy with your choice of computer and relieved the hunt is over and you can get back to work, because that’s what readers want in their hunt for an attorney.

Look at what’s happening in your practice or personal life. The odds are there’s something you can use in your next post.

I’ve written posts about my cats, shopping with my wife, hiring service people for our home, stories about cases and clients, things I see online, things I see on my walk, and much more.

You can, too.

You don’t need to write more than a few sentences about your experience, a question someone asked you, a video you saw, or a thought that crossed your mind.

You can write about almost anything.

How to write emails that bring in repeat business and referrals

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How much, how often?

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Information overload is clearly a thing.

According to a 2014 study by UC San Diego, each day we spend an average of 11.8 hours consuming media on our devices, the equivalent of 174 full newspaper’s worth of information.

That’s approximately 113,000 words per day, and this is increasing 2.4% each year.

So it’s not surprising to hear many people tell those of us who write a blog or a newsletter or produce videos or other content to cut back.

But I’m not cutting back and neither should you.

Because we have people with problems that need solving or goals they wish to achieve, and the information we send them helps begin the process.

So, let other people cut back. Not us.

When you send out valuable and/or interesting information that educates clients and prospects about their problems and the available solutions, you give them hope for a better future.

And you can’t do that too much or too often.

Where many marketers go wrong, however, is by sending out information that’s not helpful or interesting, so people stop reading it and forget your name.

Which doesn’t help anyone.

The message is simple. Write something people want to read and send it often, because you don’t know how many times they need to be reminded that you have the solutions they seek, or when they’ll be ready to take the next step.

How to write content people want to read

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Do you want to see something really scary?

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Lawyers sell hope and opportunity. We sell money at a discount. We sell relief.

We tell stories to show prospective clients what it will be like when they hire us to help them.

But we also tell stories of what it will be like if they don’t.

Fear is an important tool in our toolbox and we use it to motivate people to act.

We describe the worst case scenario, enumerate the potential losses, and estimate the potential expense. We dramatize this in our web copy and consultations, and it works. People sign up because they’re afraid of what might happen if they don’t.

So, use fear. Scare your prospects into taking action. You’re doing them a favor, motivating them to do something they need.

But. . . don’t overdo it.

Because if you scare them too much or too often, many people shut down.

They stop listening. They stop reading your emails. They cancel appointments.

So, how much fear is enough but not too much?

Publicly, meaning on your website, newsletter, articles or presentations, offer lots of hope and a sprinkling of fear. Let them know about potential risks or problems, share a story or two of things that went wrong for people in their situation, but don’t go into a lot of detail–or do it too often.

You want them to take the next step, not keep looking for a lawyer who offers hope and opportunity.

Privately, in a consultation or on the phone, you can give them more than a sprinkling of fear. How much, you’ll have to decide in the moment.

How much is at stake? What’s their level of sophistication? How do they feel about their current situation?

Ask lots of open-ended questions and get them talking. They usually tell you everything you need to know to get them to take the next step.

How to get more people on your list to take the next step

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If you don’t like marketing, do this instead

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If you’re the kind of attorney who says, “I didn’t go to law school to be a salesperson,” or who just doesn’t like marketing in any shape or form, I have a suggestion.

No, I’m not going to tell you you can stop doing it, or that you can outsource all of it. I’m going to tell you to change the way you think about it.

I’m guessing you don’t actually hate the idea of writing things or talking to people, or even how much time it takes or how much it costs.

What you don’t like is letting anyone see you do it.

Because they might think you need the work.

Thus, my suggestion.

Don’t use the word “marketing”.

Substitute the word “communicating,” because that’s really all you’re doing.

You communicate with clients and former clients, prospective clients and professional contacts, and other people in your warm market–sharing information and updating them about what’s going on with you.

You don’t have to “push” or promote; just stay in touch.

You also communicate in the “cold market,” via ads, social media posts, articles, interviews, networking, and presentations. You don’t know these people, yet, but you can communicate with them just the same.

Telling them something, offering them additional information, asking them to contact you if they questions.

It’s not marketing (okay, it is), but it’s also communicating, something you’re good at.

So, if the word marketing leaves a bad taste in your mouth, take a bite out of the word communicating.

All you have to do is decide with whom you will you communicate, what you will say, and how you will get your message to them.

I suggest you start with your warm market, and use email. You can learn everything you need to know, here.

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Why some clients think their attorney is a cold bastard

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Listening is one of the most important skills for an attorney. Too often, an attorney will hear what the client or other person said, decide they understand their point, and immediately start formulating their response.

They may be right in their assessment, but one of the most important parts of listening is showing the other person you are.

When a client thinks you’re not listening, they think you don’t care about them or their case, or you’re not good at your job. Either way, they think less of you.

Effective listening isn’t passive listening, however. Just being quiet isn’t enough. The client needs to know that you not only hear them, you understand them.

A few Do’s and Don’ts.

  • DON’T do other things during the conversation (other than taking notes). If you can’t give the other person your undivided attention, because you’re late for a meeting, for example, explain this and re-schedule.
  • DO make eye contact. Nothing says “I don’t care about you” more than avoiding the other person’s gaze. (I’ve seen professionals do this more than once; it’s unnerving).
  • Ask questions, to clarify and amplify what happened, what they think about it, and what they want.
  • Acknowledge and validate their feelings, based on what they say and how they appear. “I can see you’re frustrated/angry. . .”, “I can see why that would be a problem. . .” , “I’d feel the same way if I were in your shoes”.
  • Repeat it back to them. A great way to clarify what they’re saying is to repeat it. “What you’re saying is. . . right?” “Let me make sure I understand what happened. . .”, “So you want your investment back and a public apology, right?”
  • “Is there anything else?” Don’t assume they’ve told you everything. Continue to prompt them to tell you more, until there’s nothing left to tell.

Yeah, I know, some of this is just good lawyering skills, but it doesn’t hurt to have a refresher.

It also doesn’t hurt to hear how you sound from the client’s perspective, so record the conversation and play it back, latter, over a stiff drink.

If you have the client’s permission, play the recording for someone you trust to give you an honest assessment of your listening skills.

Something else:

It’s also important to show people you’re listening when you reply to their email, letter, or text. But that’s a subject for another day.

Good client relations leads to repeat business and referrals

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If you want more clients, don’t use your thesaurus

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Yeah, we’re smart folks. We can research the hell out of a subject, wrangle all the facts, present cogent arguments, and persuade other smart people to change their minds.

When you visit many lawyer’s blogs, read their articles, or hear them speak, you have to be impressed by their acumen. And their vocabulary.

The problem is, when a lawyer does this in their marketing, they usually shoot themselves in the foot.

If you want to get more clients and increase your income, keep things simple and short. Focus on the basics, not the minutia.

On the web, people tend to search for general information about their legal situation. If you try to impress them, they often wind up leaving. If you give them what they’re looking for, you get more traffic, more leads, more subscribers, and more clients.

In addition, when you write simply, you don’t have to do much research or spend a lot of time crafting fine prose. You already know this stuff and you can spit it out in a few minutes.

When you stick with the basics, more people will read and understand you. You’re helping them get to know, like, and trust you.

Finally, your goal in marketing is to make people curious, not satisfy their curiosity. So don’t tell them everything. Stick to the basics and if they want more, they have to hire you.

Which is kind of the point.

If you want to make your phone ring, here’s what to put on your website

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Oh the pain, the pain

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If you ever watched the campy 1960’s TV series Lost in Space, you may recall one of Dr. Smith’s signature expressions.

If not, perhaps you recall the old Verizon TV commercials where the spokesman walked around town, speaking on the phone, repeatedly asking the other party, “Can you hear me now?”

What do these two have in common? Right, the pain.

The Verizon spots dramatized the biggest pain point for customers of other carriers, poor signal quality and dropped calls.

We all literally said, “Can you hear me now?” as we moved to find a better spot.

This demonstration set the stage for Verizon’s promise of better coverage and clearer signals, which landed them a lot of new customers.

In your marketing, you should do what Verizon did: market to the biggest frustration felt by your prospective clients.

Find your prospective client’s pain point, about their legal situation or their current attorney, and build your marketing message around this.

What makes them angry or keeps them up at night? What troubles them most about their legal issue? What is their biggest complaint about their current attorney?

Talk about that, and promise they won’t have that problem when they hire you.

Make the pain, and the relief you promise to deliver, specific to your practice area and market, because not everyone is frustrated by the same things. But if you need an idea, consider the nearly universal pain point for clients, “My lawyer never calls me back”.

Build your marketing around your prospective clients’ pain and promise to take away that pain. You can’t go wrong with that formula.

By the way, you may have noticed that the actor who portrayed the spokesman in the Verizon ads is now the spokesman for Sprint.

Oh the pain, the pain.

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