A critical marketing skill

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Marketing requires a number of skills. One of the most important and valuable is the skill of being able to look at things the way prospective clients and others do.

Most people could use a little practice in this area.

This morning, on my walk, I saw a sign pointing to an open house. The name of the agent was on the sign, along with her phone number. I noticed that the phone number had a 714 area code, whereas the open house, where I am, is in the 949 area code.

I’m pretty sure the agent doesn’t live in the 714 area. It’s too far. My guess is that the agent used to live in 714 but moved here and kept her number. A lot of people do.

Another possibility is that the property is a “one-off” listing she’s handling in my area.

Here’s the thing.

When prospective clients, buyers or sellers, see her 714 number, some of them might think, even on a subconscious level, that she’s not the best agent for the job because she’s not local.

That’s just silly, isn’t it? Most people won’t even notice the area code. Most of those who do notice won’t care.

But some will, and instead of putting aside their doubts (or asking her about it), they’ll go with another agent.

This won’t happen often. It really won’t. But if it only happens once every other year and you factor in the loss of repeat sales and referrals, over the next ten years she could lose a bundle.

I may sound a bit nutty for thinking this, but if you don’t at least think about how people might interpret your actions and messages, you’re not thinking like a marketer.

Nutty people buy and sell houses. And hire attorneys.

It’s important to consider things like this. As you create marketing documents, update your website, talk to referral sources and prospective clients, speak, write, email, or do anything else to communicate with the world, before you click the send button or open your mouth, take a moment to do a “safety check”.

Think about how people might interpret your message. Think about the words you use and the context where your message will appear. Consider the details and nuances.

Because if you don’t, somebody else will.

Make your website great again

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Different vs. better

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You often hear me urge you to tell prospective clients (et. al.) how you are “better or different” from other lawyers who do what you do.

What’s the difference?

“Better” means that you deliver more value or better results. It might also mean that you give your clients better service–making them more comfortable with you and the process.

And it might also mean that you do things for them that go beyond the core services you are hired to deliver. An example might be your reputation for helping clients find other professionals, vendors, or business connections, for matters unrelated to the legal work you’re doing for them.

Okay, what about “different”?

Different often means you do what you do in ways other lawyers don’t do it. You conduct the first interview personally, for example, instead of having a staff member do it. Or you make house calls. In communicating with your market, your job is to translate how your differences are  “better” for the client.

Being different is also a way to stand out in a crowded market. You might always wear purple neckties, for example; that’s different, not better, of course. But if people remember you via your signature color, you’ll have more opportunities to talk to prospective clients and show them how you are better.

Look for ways to differentiate yourself from other lawyers. Show them how you are better. If you aren’t better, be different. You do that by being yourself.

Ultimately, most clients aren’t going to hire you because you offer dramatically better legal services than other lawyers. They’ll hire you because of you.

How to earn more without working more: the formula

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It’s not about how much you know or how good you are at what you do

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Education marketing is about showing your market what they need to know about their legal issues and the available solutions. It’s about teaching them the benefits of taking action and the risks of delay.

That’s why you create content and deliver it to your target market. But if that’s all you do, you’re not doing enough.

Effective content isn’t about showing people how much you know. It’s not about showing them how good you are at what you do. It’s not about those things because effective marketing isn’t about you, it’s about your audience.

Your articles, posts, and presentations need to map what you know and what you do to the fears and desires, wants and needs of the people consuming your content.

Think about your ideal client. What keeps them up at night? What are they worried about? What do they fear might happen?

What keeps them going during the day? What are they working to achieve? What makes their sacrifices worthwhile?

Once you know what makes them tick, show them how you can help them get what they want.

You do that by speaking to them, not at them.

Engage them. Show them that you truly understand their situation–their problems, their pain, their desires–either because you’ve been in their shoes before or because you’ve worked with and helped people in that situation.

Tell stories about your clients and former clients who are like them. Describe their background, occupation, and legal situation. Use the terminology common to their industry or market. Use quotes from people they recognize.

Turn up the heat and acknowledge your reader’s pain. Dramatize their problems and warn them, in no uncertain terms, of what might happen if they don’t take action or they make the wrong decision.

Wake them up and shake them up and tell them what to do to get relief.

Don’t deliver a white paper, sell them on taking the next step. Because you can’t help anyone until they do.

How to write a report that gets prospective clients to call you

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Antici. . . pation

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I’m excited! I just got a text telling me the storage rack I ordered Saturday night will be delivered today before 8 pm. But I know better. I’ve been tracking the package and know it’s at our local post office right now so I’m pretty sure it will get here this afternoon.

Don’t laugh. My wife does most of the shopping around here so when I get a chance to buy something for my office, I get excited. Even if it’s just a rack to hold some stuff. (You should see me when I’m waiting for a new laptop to be delivered.)

Anyway, I do have a point. The point is that we all need to be aware of how our clients feel when working with us, or more accurately, how they want to feel. We need to know this so we can we can help them get a taste of those feelings before they hire us.

If you handle adoptions, you know your clients get excited when they hear good news from you. They wait by the phone, anticipating your call. In your conversations with prospective clients, in your articles and blog posts, in your marketing documents, you’ll want to talk about what that’s like and share how you feel being able to help people experience one of the happiest days of their lives.

If you handle criminal defense, you know the sense of relief your clients experience when you’re able to tell them that some or all of the counts against them have been dismissed. On your website, blog, videos, or podcast, you’ll want to describe the relief your clients feel when you’re able to deliver that kind of news.

If you handle business transactions or estate planning, you know that your clients enjoy peace of mind and a sense of pride about getting their paperwork done and their business or loved ones protected. That should be the central theme in your marketing.

Give some thought to what your clients want to feel as a result of hiring you. It’s never about the paperwork, the settlement, or the outcome, ultimately, it’s about how they want to feel.

Figure out what those feelings are. Then, do what you have to do to make sure they experience them.

Happy clients are referring clients. Here’s how to make it so

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Lie, cheat, and steal your way to success

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It’s corny but true. You can (and should) lie, cheat, and steal your way to success.

Lie in bed at night thinking about what you can do the next day to get more clients and increase your income.

Cheat some time during the day from your other activities and dedicate it to marketing.

Steal the best ideas from other lawyers, and especially from businesses since most lawyers are terrible marketers.

Solid advice because it gets you to focus on marketing and primes you to continually look for ideas you can steal, well, borrow from others.

Let’s talk about that.

We’re talking about finding what others are doing that’s working and emulating it. Using the essence but not the actual words. Modifying what others are doing to suit your practice, market, and style.

Start here: :

  • Set up a swipe file to collect emails, articles, ads, blog posts, and such, that other people are using to promote their practice or business.
  • Subscribe to other lawyers’ email lists and blogs. Do the same for other types of professionals and service businesses.  Copy things you like and also things you don’t like (so you’ll know what to avoid).
  • Study the emails, etc., you like and ask yourself why you liked them. Make notes. Try your hand at writing it differently.
  • With each new email, ad, video, or piece of content, ask yourself why you opened it or why you watched it. What words or images caught your attention?
  • Once you began, what compelled you to continue? What did they promise or imply? What benefits did they offer? How did they get you to read all the way to the end?
  • Pay extra attention to headlines, sub-heads, email subjects and bullet points. Also note calls-to-action. You may not know why they are effective but if they resonate with you, put them in your swipe file and review them again later.
  • Did you buy what they offered? If so, why? If not, why not? What closed the deal for you? What objections did they overcome? Where did they miss the boat?

Go back through your swipe file periodically and ask yourself what you could use or adapt. What ideas, what offers, what words could you use in your marketing?

Keep reading and watching and studying. Train your marketing eye. Study the content and conversations around you, not with the eye of a consumer or colleague but with the eye of a marketer.

You would be amazed at what you can learn, and what you can steal.

Marketing is easy when you know The Formula

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Two guys walk into a bar…

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When I was in high school I used to call a popular “joke line”. Most of the jokes were clean but the occasional salty joke made this teenager’s day.

The recordings were under a minute and rotated throughout the day. They were professionally produced, with an announcer and intro music. The call was frequently updated with new material. I listened to it for several years.

One thing always puzzled me. I couldn’t figure out how they made any money. There were no commercials or sponsors; nothing was promoted except the call itself. And no, it wasn’t a 900 or 976 number where you were charged by the minute or by the call.

So, what was the point?

Were they testing material for a stand-up act? Trying to find sponsors but never did?

I finally concluded that whoever did these calls did them for no other reason than to have fun.

I thought about this on my walk the other day and made a note to share it with you. To remind you to put some fun into your newsletter or blog or presentations. Not jokes, fun. Lighthearted observations or stories that put a smile on the face of your reader or listener or make them recall a happy time in their lives.

As far as I know fun is still legal in this country and God knows we can all use more of it.

Know what’s really fun? Getting referrals

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Darth Vader would have made a terrible lawyer

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You have a marketing voice and it can make or break you.

Your marketing voice is the personality you present in your writing, in your presentations, and in conversations. It paints a picture of who you are and what it would be like to work with you. Your voice either attracts people to you or pushes them away.

If you sound arrogant, overly aggressive, or overly formal, you push people away. If you sound weak or overly casual, you do the same.

People expect a lawyer to sound like a professional. Not too hot or too cold. They want you to be strong and confident but even-tempered. Friendly and approachable but not a pushover. They want you to speak to them, not down to them. They want you to be conversational, not academic.

A little toughness. A little charm.

Your marketing voice–on your website, in your newsletter, in your presentations–should resonate with your target market. It should attract them and inspire them to connect with you. It should make them trust you and choose you to represent them.

If your marketing voice is working for you, great. If not, get some help. Get a marketing pro or a writer to look at your writing and presentations and give you some advice. Or hire them and have them do a makeover.

How to write a report that attracts new clients

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Fake news, fake reviews–does anyone really care?

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I know you’re honest and only speak (and publish) the truth. You don’t fudge numbers, embellish facts, or exaggerate results.

At least not intentionally.

But guess what? All of your efforts to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth may be for naught if the truth you tell doesn’t appear to be true.

There’s even a word for it: verisimilitude, meaning “the appearance of truth”. When it comes to marketing, appearance is everything.

I’ve seen a lot of new books lately, by unknown authors, that have 40 four- or five-star reviews within a few days of publication. It doesn’t take a genius to see that these reviews are predominately fake, written by paid reviewers who haven’t read the book.

But even if every one of these reviews were real and honestly earned, many would doubt their veracity because there are too many, too fast and because they seem too good to be true.

Lesson: don’t fear negative reviews. If you’re getting mostly positive reviews for your practice (or books), the occasional less-than-positive review actually helps you because it makes the sum of your reviews more believable.

Lesson: look at your presentations and written materials with the eye of a prospective client. If something looks too good to be true, you need to do something about it. If you’re reporting great results in a case, for example, explain why and how you got those results (and that they aren’t typical).

In the short term, fake reviews can work. Just like fake news, they’ll fool enough people to get some short term results. In the long run, however, the truth–or the lack of verisimilitude–catches up with them.

How to write content that brings in more clients

 

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What?

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In college, I had a professor who mumbled. I sat in the front row and could usually figure out what he was saying but sometimes he also spoke at a low level and I couldn’t understand him at all.

One time, I raised my hand and said, “Could you mumble a little louder?” Everyone laughed, including my professor. (All was okay. He later wrote me a recommendation letter to law school).

Now, as you probably know, I get a lot of emails from lawyers. To my chagrin, many of these professional communicators (that’s who we are, after all), are just as difficult to understand as my mumbling professor.

Frankly, they can’t write their way out of a paper bag.

It’s one thing to send an informal email to someone you know. You don’t always have to format properly or use the King’s English. But you can’t send emails that make people think, “What the hell did they just say?”

Clarity is right up there at the top of the effective communication mountain. If people don’t understand you, you can’t expect to persuade them of anything. They’re not going to learn what you want them to learn. They’re not going to get your jokes.

If your legal documents are muddled, if your closing arguments are a mishmash of thoughts, if your marketing documents and presentations are as mushy and boring as a bowl of oatmeal, you’ve got some work to do.

How do you improve? Read more. Find models of clear writing and study them. Write more. Write something every day and re-write it as often as necessary. You can ask someone to read and critique your writing, and maybe edit it. You might take classes or read books about writing.

You don’t ever want someone to wonder what you just said. As Robert Louis Stevenson put it, “Don’t Write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood.”

Clear instructions on marketing your practice

 

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Nobody says, “Call my law firm”

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When one of your clients gives your business card to a friend or colleague who might need your services, they don’t say “Call my law firm,” they say, “Call my lawyer”.

They have a relationship with you and it is you they are recommending. They may know and work with other lawyers in your firm, they may think highly of the firm as a whole, but you are their lawyer and you are the person they want their friend or colleague to speak to.

When I see letters or emails signed, “For the firm,” I shake my head in amazement at the lack of personalization. Why put distance between yourself and your client? You wouldn’t call a client and say, “This is Jones and Smith calling,” would you? You’d say your name. You would use theirs. It should be no different in writing.

Professional services are personal. Even if the client is part of a big company, you should nurture your relationship with them as an individual. It’s okay to send out a “Welcome” letter from the firm but that letter should be in addition to a personal letter from you. The client chose you as their lawyer, or if they were assigned to you by a partner, you should conduct yourself as if they did.

A law firm can advertise and build a brand, but when it comes to working with clients, the personal relationship is paramount. Don’t sign letters “for the firm” and don’t have a secretary or assistant sign for you. Personalize everything. Show the client that you are fully invested in your relationship with them. If you do, when someone they know needs a lawyer, your client will hand them your card and say, “Here, call my lawyer”.

Are you getting all of the referrals you want? Here’s how to get more

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