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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Playing with words

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Sometimes, I get an idea for a blog post, write it, and add a title. Sometimes, I start with a title and start writing without knowing what I want to say.

It’s all good. And sometimes, it’s a lot of fun.

The other day, I read the phrase, “Use it or lose it” which we’ve all heard a thousand times and thought I could use this as the title of a post about the value of practice and keeping your “instrument” well tuned.

I thought I might get a good article out of it. But I’m weird.

When I see a phrase like “Use it or lose it,” I play with the words. I turn them around, mix and match them with other words, punch the sentence in the face, kick it in the groin, and see what happens.

Sometimes nothing happens. Sometimes, something interesting emerges and I use it.

In this case, I turned “Use it or lose it” into “Lose it or use it” and wrote about “losing” bad habits so you don’t use them and make bad things happen like alienating your clients.

And I got a pretty good article out of it. Arguably better than what I would have written had I stuck with the original meaning of the words.

If you’d like to add a creative spark to your writing, consider playing with your words. It can help you look at things differently and generate ideas you might never have thought of.

Try it. Go find a quote, aphorism, song or movie title, or other pop culture reference, and give it a poke in the eye. Twist and turn it and see what you come up.

If nothing else, you’ll come up with something original that people will notice and remember.

It works especially well when you start with something well known. Your readers will recognize something familiar in your title and be curious. Is this a typo? Is something missing? What’s this all about?

And read your article to find out.

If so, mission accomplished.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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If God wrote your blog post

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You sit down with your favorite hot beverage, ready to write your blog post, only to find that it’s already written. You look at the blinking cursor and the words on the page and realize that during the night, God himself wrote your post. 

What do you suppose the Lord would write? The eleventh commandment? A call for world peace? Would He demand something? Explain something? Promise something?

I don’t know. All I know is that whatever He wrote, it would be important. His words would be magnificent and would change the world forever.

I also know that anything you or I might write will never be that good, or that important. 

What we write isn’t unimportant. We inform and inspire people. We help them gain clarity and make better decisions. But while we might like to think so, our blog posts and articles aren’t earth-shattering or history-making.

Most people will read what we write, learn something, smile or groan, and get on with their day. 

So, if you haven’t written a blog post lately, if you’re on your 27th edit, if you’re searching for the perfect words for your perfect message, stop all that fussing, publish that sucker, and get on with your day.

Your worlds won’t change the world, although they might change the life of someone who reads them. 

But don’t think about that or you’ll never get the thing done. 

How to write blog posts that make the phone ring

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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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Selling legal services, et. al.

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Let’s clear this up once and for all: Lawyers sell legal services.

There, I said it.

It doesn’t make you a salesperson, but you can’t deny the fact that when someone hires you, a sale takes place.

The more of your services you sell, the more you earn. Pure and simple.

But that’s not all you sell.

Clients pay for your legal services, but what they want and expect you to deliver, what they really pay for, are solutions to their problems.

They hire you to get the benefits you deliver.

Get better at selling those solutions and benefits and you will sell more of your services.

Hold on. We’re not done.

You also sell clients the “experience” of working with you. How your clients feel having you in their corner, how you treat them and make them feel appreciated, and everything else under the ‘client relations’ banner.

Do a good job of this and your clients will stick around, return, and tell others. Mess up and they won’t.

It’s all selling.

But before clients can see any of this, before they hire you, there’s something else they buy (and you sell).

Your reputation.

You’re judged by your record of accomplishments and the things people say about you.

Even when your reputation is stellar, you still need to sell it because many clients can’t discern this. To most clients, we all look alike.

It’s called “reputation management” but it’s really just more selling.

I’ve got one more for you. Something else you sell.

You sell information.

About the law, problems and solutions, the how-to’s,—via your articles and posts, reports and books, presentations and other content.

Clients don’t pay for this information but you need to sell them on reading or listening, because this information shows them you know what you’re doing and can deliver the solutions they want.

Get better at selling this information and you get more leads and prospective clients contacting you, pre-sold on hiring you.

In fact, if your information is good enough, it will do most of the selling for you.

Which is why I repeatedly tell you to create a blog and newsletter.

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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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How to convert more prospects into clients

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Between you and a new client is your website. And your articles and blog posts, sales pages and other content. It’s the same on social media, in your presentations and interviews.

And if you do what many lawyers do, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

What do they do? They publish a lot of long-winded, heavy-handed, technical, and otherwise boring content.

And you can’t bore someone into becoming your client.

The solution is simple. Leave out the boring parts.

Edit, cut, simplify. Make your content and copy interesting and easier to read.

And make sure people want to read it by telegraphing your message.

When someone comes across something you wrote (or recorded), they should immediately know that your article or video is for them. Put benefits in the title or headline. Let them see what they’ll learn or get or be able to do if they invest a few minutes reading.

And I do mean a few minutes.

Long articles and copy have their place. But that place isn’t at the entrance to your website or sales funnel.

Up front, keep it brief. You want them to read or watch, not save it for later.

Ever see a movie that took waaay too long to get to the action? You got bored, maybe you fell asleep, maybe you didn’t stick around to watch the whole thing.

Cut those scenes out of your movie.

Get their attention. Tell them what’s in it for them. Get them nodding their head and telling themselves they’ve found someone they need to talk to.

Okay, you get it. Cut out the boring parts and lead with benefits. What else?

There isn’t anything else. Because if people don’t read or listen, they’re not going to hire you.

Assume your readers are impatient, distracted, distressed, and have many other options.

Because all of that is true.

Don’t bury the lead. And don’t expect them to watch your movie if they can’t stay awake

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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7 ways to grow your law practice with videos

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Everybody (and their brother) likes to watch videos and you can use them to build your practice.

You don’t need expensive equipment or software or spend a lot of time recording and editing. And you don’t have to appear on camera.

Because it’s not about the videos, it’s about the content.

Here are 7 ideas for videos to make that content:

  1. Explain something. Tell people about the law, legal issues in the news, teach them how to do something, share your opinions, and anything else your market would like to know about your area of expertise.
  2. Interview someone. Ask another lawyer a series of questions about their practice area. Interview your business clients, authors, bloggers, and subject-matter experts. Ask a friend to interview you.
  3. FAQs. Invite your subscribers, clients, or followers to submit questions and answer them.
  4. Talk about your work. Describe your services, who might need them, and when. Tell folks what you can do to help them and how to get more information or take the next step.
  5. Show how you make the sausages. Demonstrate your document creation software, calendaring system, research systems; explain how you open a new file, investigate, or prepare for trial.
  6. Recommendations and reviews. Software, books, websites, businesses, trade shows, courses—anything you recommend or have heard good things about.
  7. Promote your other content. Show folks your website, blog, articles, books, podcasts, newsletter, and other videos, and your upcoming presentations or publications. Tell them what they’ll learn and encourage them to read, watch, listen, subscribe, and share.

You can also re-use content you’ve previously created. Convert your blog posts or articles into videos (read and record), upload your presentations, podcasts, webinars, or panel discussions.

Post your videos on your channel and blog and encourage others to share them on theirs.

You’ll get more traffic, subscribers, followers, leads, repeat business and referrals.

You might also have a lot of fun, you ham.

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Don’t just do something, sit there

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Do the work, bill the client. That’s what brings in the bacon. Or the kale if that’s your thing. Billable work is your bread and butter. (Okay, now I’m getting hungry.)

But your work involves more than dictating, drafting, and negotiating. At least it should.

You need time when you’re not outputting but inputting.

Digesting information you can use to create content (to bring in more business), to better understand and relate to your clients’ industry or niche, and to have something to talk about when you’re not talking about the law.

You also need time to learn about marketing, productivity, technology, and other subjects that help you improve your skills and drive the growth of your practice. And CLE, to make sure you’re at the top of your game.

Building a successful practice requires more than cranking out billable work.

You should embrace the idea of spending time doing no “work” and instead, doing nothing but soaking up information.

Put time for this on your calendar. Blocks of time every day for reading and listening and taking notes, and to ponder what you’ve learned and how you can use it.

It may feel like this you’re goofing off. You may feel guilty watching videos or reading something from me and tell yourself to get back to work. But learning is just as important as doing, because it helps you do what you do better.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System — everything you need, nothing you don’t

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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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