How to make the law interesting to lay people

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When you write or speak about the law to a lay audience, you have several objectives:

  • You want them to understand their problem, their risks, and their options
  • You want them to know why they should talk to a lawyer
  • You want them to see why the lawyer they should talk to (hire) should be you
  • You want to inspire them to take the next step

Before you can do any of that, you have to get them to read or listen. You have to get their attention with your headline or title, and make your article or presentation interesting enough to compel them to take that next step.

Here are some guidelines for creating more interesting articles and presentations:

  • Talk about people more than concepts
  • Talk about cure more than prevention
  • Talk about benefits more than features
  • Talk less about the law and more about “what this means to you”
  • Don’t warm up; get to the point and stay there
  • Assume they don’t know much; don’t assume they know nothing
  • Talk to them, don’t lecture them; ask questions to bring them into the “conversation”
  • More show, less tell; use examples and analogies that are familiar to your audience
  • Get them to feel something; use dramatic stories
  • Minimize and/or explain jargon
  • Don’t write about history or precedent unless necessary
  • Don’t tell them everything; be thorough but not dispositive

How do you know you’ve done it right?

Your audience will ask questions or make an appointment or go to your blog and read more.

Watch your email, your phone, your stats, and your bank account. If your content is interesting, your numbers are growing.

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New clients need TLC

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They may be sharp. Sophisticated. Tough as nails. But new clients don’t yet know your wicked ways and could benefit from a little hand holding.

That goes double for clients who aren’t all of the above.

So, you give new clients lots of information, about you and how you work,and about their case and what to expect.

You tell them what’s going to happen, explain what happened, and spell out what will happen next.

And you encourage them to ask lots of questions. But you don’t wait for that, you contact them often and keep them informed.

You show them you’ve done this before and will take good care of them.

But while you want them to know everything they need to know, you don’t want to overwhelm them.

Don’t send them everything all at once.

No firehoses allowed.

One way to slow your roll is to space out your onboarding email sequence so they don’t get everything on day one.

You might send them an introductory email that thanks and welcomes them, gives them some basic information, and makes them feel good about their decision to hire you.

A follow-up email sent in a day or two can provide them with more information, a checklist or timeline, and links to articles on your website they might want to see.

Subsequent emails, over the ensuing days or weeks, can supply more details and resources, and lots of encouragement.

You might want to number the first few emails. If you plan to send them four emails in the first few days or the first week, for example, number them “1 of 4,” “2 of 4, “and so on, so they know what to expect.

Make sure the final email in your initial onboarding sequence explains when they will hear from you again about (a) their case, and (b) other information—about the law, other legal matters they need to know about, how to’s, recommended resources, and more.

You know, your newsletter.

How to use an email newsletter to build a more successful law practice

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A little pain goes a long way

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People buy legal services to solve a problem. The bigger the problem (or potential problem they’re trying to prevent), the more motivated they are to do something about it.

They’re in pain and want relief. It’s your job to remind them about that.

In your presentations, articles, posts, videos, reports, and other marketing documents, the best thing you can do for your reader and prospective client is to remind them that they are in pain, or will be if they don’t take action, and tell them why their pain is unlikely to go away by itself.

Tell them what their problem is costing them—or will cost if they do nothing.

Tell them about ancillary problems this might cause and what those might cost.

Tell them about how bad things can get if they ignore the problem or wait too long to do anything about it.

And then present the solution you offer and tell them how to get it.

But don’t just “mention” their pain, dramatize it. Make sure they feel it in their gut. Get them to imagine the worst-case scenario and feel the urgency of their situation.

But (and this is important) don’t overdo it.

You don’t want to come off as an alarmist or make them think you’re trying too hard to get their business.

Easy on the drama queenery.

The other reason for not overdoing it is that you don’t want to scare them off.

If you frighten them too much, pile on the urgent talk, rail at them to do something immediately, they might put their head under the covers and do nothing.

Or run into the welcoming arms of another lawyer who sounds more sympathetic and hopeful.

State the problem. Agitate the problem and the pain it is causing or could cause. Present the solution. And close by talking about the benefits of that solution.

Always offer hope.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to do all of the above is to tell them about one or more of your other clients who were in the same situation before they came to you—and how they’re doing now.

A little pain goes a long way, but only if you also offer hope.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Who is Elvis Presley?

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I did a double take when I came across a video with a woman looking at a picture of The King as she queries, “Who are you?” Turns out she knew who he was but hadn’t heard him sing a particular gospel song and was stunned at what he did with it.

But there are people, of all ages, who don’t know Elvis or Frank or Bing or other greats from the past.

Why do I mention this? To remind you that when you’re speaking or writing to a general audience, not everyone will know what you mean when you make a cultural or historical reference. And if that reference is important, it’s probably a good idea to add some context, to help them appreciate the reference and better remember your point.

If you “explain” too much, however, you risk a good portion of your audience rolling their eyes and thinking less of you for talking down to them.

“Of course Peggy Lee sang, ‘Is that all there is?‘ Who doesn’t know that?“

So, as a practical matter, you shouldn’t assume your audience knows nothing, any more than you should assume they know everything.

How do you find the right balance? You have to know your audience. And appeal to your ideal client rather than everyone who might visit your digital door.

If you’re writing about estate planning, for example, and your ideal client is in an older age group, don’t even think of explaining you mean Presley, not Costello.

Nor should you spend a lot of time explaining the need for estate planning. You can safely assume your readers know they need estate planning; that’s why they’re reading your blog.

Know your audience. Be aware of the need to explain certain things, but not others. Err on the side of explaining too much rather than explaining nothing.

And be cautious about using the phrase, “as you know”.

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One word you usually won’t hear me say

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I write about marketing and productivity. What to do, how to do it, how to do it better, at lower cost, in less time, and with better results.

You usually hear me describe these ideas as strategies, techniques, methods, advice, best practices, and the like, but I don’t call them “tips”.

To my ear, “tips” are like candy—tasty but lacking nutritional value. The word implies the information is commonplace, light-weight, and for a general audience. I associate “tips” with the content of articles in pop culture magazines and consumer-oriented blogs and channels.

Not the kind of information I want to convey to you or, I would think, you want to deliver to your readers.

Yes, it’s just a word, but it lacks gravitas. It’s not the type of word we expect to hear in content created by experts, professionals, and other serious-minded people.

At times, you may think me a wild and crazy guy, but I hope you never think of my ideas that way.

We all read articles that contain tips because we think we can quickly skim the article and find one or two interesting facts or nuggets we can use. That’s not a bad thing.

What’s bad is when we avoid reading the article entirely because we’re busy, we think we know most of the tips already, and we prefer to invest our precious time consuming content we think will be more valuable.

Speaking of tips, may I offer you one? Yeah, so can everyone else.

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What you’re really selling as an attorney

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I hate to break it to you, but nobody wants to buy your legal services.

Ultimately, clients buy emotional states. They buy relief from pain and problems; they buy safety and security; they buy a path to a more prosperous future.

They hire you because they believe you can transform them from where they are to where they want to be.

Your services are merely the tools you use to do that.

They could get the results they seek from many other attorneys. They choose you because they believe you can deliver what they want.

Their belief comes from what they see on your website, what they read about you (or by you), and what others say about you.

If they’ve read your articles and posts, you showed them you understand their problem or desire and have the knowledge and experience needed to deliver what they want. If they met you, either casually or for a consultation, you said or did something that made them feel good about you and convinced them you were the right choice.

Your clients chose you and future clients will, too, because of the overall package you present; your services are important, but not the only element in that package.

Before you write any kind of marketing message or meet a prospective client or potential referral source, consider the experience you’re offering and make your message about that.

Start by understanding what your clients want and how they will feel when they get it. Show them you know what they want and then show them how you can help them get it.

Marketing is easy when you know The Formula

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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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