The problem with story telling

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I once had a client who asked me to. . .

Yeah, a story.

You probably want to hear how it goes. But I’m not going to tell you that story right now, I’m going to give you some advice about story telling.

My first piece of advice is to do it. Put stories in your articles and presentations and conversations.

People love a good story, which means they’ll be more likely to read or listen to you when you tell one. They’ll be more likely to understand and remember your story, more than your other words, and remember you as the one who shared it with them.

Facts tell. Stories sell.

Second, talk about people your reader will relate to, and tell them three things:

What did they want? What did they do? What happened?

The essence of every story ever told.

Third, use “The Goldilocks Rule”: Not too much, not too little, just right.

People love stories, but they don’t have time to read them when they are impossibly long or there are too many in your emails or blog posts.

If they wanted to read a book, they’d read a book.

Which is why most of my emails and blog posts are short and sweet and yours should be, too.

The good news is that you can tell a good story in a few sentences.

Like the time a friend asked me to sign a letter she had written to her landlord, with my name and address typed at the top and filled with typos, and when I refused and told her I would write the letter, on my letterhead, she was hurt and thought I just wanted to ‘make money off her’.

One sentence.

I need one more sentence to tell you ‘what happened’.

What happened is she dropped the subject but never forgot that I ‘refused to help her’ (the way she wanted) and our friendship was never the same after that.

Stories don’t always have a happy ending.

Anyway, I’m done telling that story. I’ve got another one to tell you, but that will have to wait until next time.

If you related to my story, maybe remembered a time a friend or client asked you to do something you didn’t want to do, I’m pretty sure you’ll come back to hear another.

Which is what your readers will do when you tell them stories. But not too many or too long.

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Not many lawyers own their niche

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Wouldn’t it be nice to be the top dog in your niche? The lawyer clients listen to and want to hire above all others?

If you do, you should set your sights on doing something most lawyers never do.

Most lawyers are content with positioning themselves as an expert in their field. But every lawyer is an “expert,“ aren’t they?

The trouble is, people follow leaders, not experts. If you want to dominate your field, you need to lead your field.

How do you do that?

You do things leaders do. You speak and write and serve on boards and panels. You teach other lawyers (CLE) and are on a first name basis with influential people in your field and in your market.

And you build a reputation that attracts lots of referrals from lawyers and other professionals who know your name even if you don’t know theirs.

You should be working towards this, but it might take a minute. If you want to shortcut the process and be seen as a leader before the twilight of your career, there is something else you can do.

You can engage with your market and get them to know your name and what you can do to help them.

Email isn’t the only way to do that, but it is the simplest. It makes it easy to connect with prospective clients and professionals in your niche, and do it often.

When you are frequently “in the minds and mailboxes” of the people in your market, they get to know you and see you as a leader. Maybe ‘the’ leader.

Most lawyers are afraid to do this. They don’t email often because they don’t want to annoy their list or get spam complaints, or they’re afraid they’ll run out of things to say.

But those are just excuses.

You may say there are many lawyers at the top of their field who don’t communicate regularly with their market, and that’s true. But what did they do to get there? And how long did it take?

If you don’t have some of the advantages they had, or you don’t want to take as long as they did, start thinking about how you can get in front of your market as often as possible to establish your leadership immediately.

Email Marketing for Attorneys makes it easy

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Don’t show your clients how the sausage is made

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The law is complicated. Your clients hire you because they believe you can wade through that complexity and do things for them they can’t do for themselves.

Most lawyers are adept at making things more complicated than they need to be. And they make a lot of money doing that. But the lawyers who are adept at simplifying things do even better.

Your clients are busy. They’re scared or confused or have other things on their mind. They want to know that you will take care of them. Get the job done. They don’t want to know everything about how you do what you do.

Just like you don’t want to know how your car works, you just want to know that it does.

So, simplify things for them. Explain only as much as they need to know, and no more (unless they ask).

That goes for your bill, too.

Explain what you did, clearly and thoroughly, but keep it simple. Itemize your bill, but don’t bludgeon them with details.

They’re paying you to deliver a delicious sausage sandwich. Tell them the ingredients, but don’t show them how the sausage is made.

How to write a bill that gets paid

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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 (and 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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