What kind of content does your audience want?

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You need to know what your readers want you to write about because if you don’t give what they want, or you give them things they don’t want, they might not continue to be your readers.

People want what they want.

And leave clues about what that is.

Think about your previous content that produced a response and look for ways to provide more like that. If you’re not sure, if you don’t have enough metadata to know what they like or share or comment on, ask them. Either directly in your emails and posts or via surveys.

Do they want updates on specific developments in the law? Cases, legislation, trends, and the impact on them or their business?

Do they want you to explain how you do what you do or do they want more do-it-yourself information, so they can do some things themself?

Do they want more hard information or more stories about people like them who (with your help) have solved their problems and achieved their goals? (Yeah, give that to them even if they don’t tell you they want this; they do.)

Do they want you to interview other professionals occasionally? Do they want guest posts? Do they want information about your practice area or speciality or about allied areas as well?

What are they interested in? What do they care about? What do they want to hear from you?

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell them what you want to tell them. Say what you want to say, even if they’re not ready to hear it.

When they sign up for your newsletter or subscribe to your posts, they’re telling you they want to know what you think and recommend. They want interesting and helpful information. But, as Steve Jobs said, “customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them”.

So show them what you want to show them. But don’t ignore what their replies, comments, shares, questions, or your research tells you to give them.

What to write about in your newsletter

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In my humble (but accurate) opinion

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Risk and reward. That’s what’s at stake today when you publicly state your opinion. You risk offending people who hold a different opinion, losing followers, and even losing clients who didn’t know you thought that way.

On the other hand, you might gain the allegiance of clients and followers who never knew how you felt about an issue and love you more because you do.

Opinion-based blog posts can help you win friends and influence people, or they can explode in your face.

So, lawyers, where do you draw the line?

You draw it on the side of expressing your opinion.

Because that’s why people read your blog or social posts.

If they just want straight news and information, they can get it anywhere. They follow you because they want to know what you think.

They want you to guide them, warn them, and lead them. They want to know how you see things and what you recommend.

They want your opinion.

That doesn’t mean you have to light fires and watch them burn.

Tell them what you recommend, and why. Tell them what you do, or would do if you were in their situation. But also show them both sides, contrary views, and other factors they should consider.

Because that’s what a good advisor does.

But you also convey your opinion without coming right out and stating it.

You do that every time you publish something, by the topics you choose to write about and the examples you use to illustrate them. You also do that by the subjects you choose to avoid.

Your readers might not know precisely what you think about every subject, but they get a sense of what’s important in your world, and for many subjects, a sense is enough.

Finally, while you might eventually choose to play it safe regarding a certain opinion or topic, your default should be to do the opposite.

Be edgy. Go out on a few limbs. Take some chances.

Yes, you might lose 10 followers if you go too far; I’ve done that. But you might gain 100 because you did. I’ve done that, too.

That’s what makes it interesting.

A successful life doesn’t require the complete avoidance of risk. It requires the intelligent management of risk.

Of course, that’s just my opinion.

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How to get 4 articles out of one idea

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Leverage is my name. Content my game. If you want to play this game, behold a simple way to turn one idea for an article or blog post, video or podcast, into 4.

Choose a subject. It doesn’t matter what it is—anything you know something about. It can be as simple as “torts” or “trusts” or “the rule against perpetuities” (JK).

If you’re not sure, choose something at random.

Once you’ve got a subject, write down ways you could write about that subject based on these 4 categories:

  1. Actionable (How to Do X, How I Do X)
  2. Inspirational (You Can Do X, You Can Get X)
  3. Analytical (How X Works, The Details, The Steps)
  4. Explanatory (Why it Works This Way, How Things Used to Be, What I’d Like to See Changed About X)

Let’s say you decide to write about “negligence”. Your 4 articles might be:

  1. Actionable: How to Represent Yourself in Small Claims Court, 3 Things I Always Do Before I File a Lawsuit, How to Maximize the Value of Your Case
  2. Inspirational: You May be Entitled to A and B and C, How I won a ‘Lost’ Case, What Happened When My Client Tripped and Fell and Thought it Was His Fault
  3. Analytical: How Damages are Calculated, What You Need to Prove to Win Your Case, What is The Reasonable Person Standard?
  4. Explanatory: How Our System Developed (and Why), How to Improve Our System, Why Legal Expenses Are So High

Hold on. We’re not done.

I promised you 4 articles out of one idea, but you can use these categories to dig deeper into your subject and come up with even more ideas.

For example, if you plan to write about why legal expenses and lawyers’ fees are so high, you might come up with 4 (more) articles:

  1. Actionable: Five Ways to Reduce Your Legal Fees
  2. Inspirational: How My Client Built an 8-Figure Business Without Spending a Fortune on Lawyers
  3. Analytical: What I Spend Each Month Just to Keep My Doors Open
  4. Explanatory: Why Hiring a ‘Low Cost’ Lawyer Costs You More, Not Less

And thus, one idea may lead to dozens.

If you find yourself unable to come up a subject to write about, instead of racing around wildly searching for ideas, take something you deal with every day and know well, extrapolate concepts related to it (based on these 4 categories) and come up with 4 (or more) ideas, not one.

Love means never having to say you’re sorry; leverage means never having to say “I don’t know what to write about”.

More ways to get ideas to write about

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Color or black and white?

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Color helps convey mood, graphics direct the eye and explain the message, and other visual elements also have important jobs to do, which is why every website, PowerPoint slide, and email are infused with them.

And that’s part of the reason I stick primarily with black and white.

In a world of color, it’s easier to stand out when your message is black and white. The same is true of layout and other visual elements. Our minds tend to lump together things that look alike, and notice things that don’t.

If you want prospects and email subscribers to think of your email as a commercial message, “more of the same advertising and promotions” they see from every attorney, use lots of color and graphics and make things big and bold.

If you want people to open and read your email, however, make it look like an email.

The old-fashioned kind—plain text (or html that disguises urls but otherwise simulates plan text).

When we get email, the first thing all of us do is look for a reason to delete it. If it looks like an ad or promotion, there’s a good chance it’s going in the bin.

But we don’t delete personal email, at least not without reading it first.

Make your email look like an email. Personal and important. Solemn and professional. And more people will read it and pay attention to your words.

Other benefits of plain text email are that it makes your messages easier to read and less likely to go into a spam folder. It also saves time because we don’t have to find graphics, get permission to use them, and crop and position them.

Many of these benefits apply equally to a website, which is why mine is also primarily black and white.

I’m not suggesting everything you do adhere to a plain text model. It shouldn’t. But think about this idea the next time you create something to send or show folks who can hire or refer you.

How to use email to build your practice

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Tell me about yourself

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Everyone’s favorite radio station, we’re told, is WIIFM—“What’s in it for me?” They tell us that prospective clients don’t care about you or what you want; it’s all about them.

So make it about them.

Make your content, offers, stories, and examples about your reader or prospect. Because that’s why they’re reading your article or copy and that’s why they will hire you (or won’t).

Just tell them about your services and benefits. Leave yourself out of the picture.

No, don’t do that. You will always be in the picture because you’re the one who will help them get what they want.

If you don’t tell them about yourself, if your articles and sales pages are only about your services and offers, that’s boring. And generic. And unlikely to persuade anyone to choose you.

(NB: don’t write articles or sales copy that any other attorney could grab and slap their name on.)

If you want clients to hire you instead of any other attorney, tell them about yourself.

Anyway, aside from that, the reality is, people do care about other people and that includes little ‘ol you.

Sure, they care about themselves a lot more, but don’t for a minute think nobody wants to know anything about you.

They do. They want to hear your story. Especially if they’re thinking about hiring you.

They want to hear about your experiences working with other clients. They want to know what you think about things. They want to know where you’ve been and where you are going.

Because they want to see what it would be like having you as their attorney. But they’re interested in you even if they’re not shopping for a lawyer.

Because people are interested in and care about people.

Something else.

If your reader finds your story interesting, if they relate to you, if they feel that in some way they know you, they will be more likely to hire you.

Knowing is the first step. Liking is second. Trusting may take more time, but the more you tell them about yourself, the more likely this is on the way.

Don’t overdo it. Don’t be one of those people who talks incessantly about themselves.

Me, me, me, doesn’t win friends or influence people.

But don’t hide yourself and talk only about your services. Make your articles and copy mostly about them but also about you.

Because if they hire you, it’s going to be about both of you.

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This post might not be right for you

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There’s a phrase you should use in your marketing that might make your services more desirable. It’s based on the concept of exclusivity, that what you offer isn’t for everyone.

And that’s the phrase.

Tell people that “it” (your services, offers, seminars, etc.) isn’t for everyone.

First, because that’s true. And your candidness is refreshing.

Second, because it makes what you’re offering more specialized, valuable, and desirable.

It’s a type of takeaway which is powerful in marketing because people want what they can’t have, especially when they had it but it was taken away. That might happen when they see your offer, think it’s for everyone, and then learn it might not be for them.

It makes people wonder if “it” is right for them and then take steps to find out. 

If it isn’t for them, they don’t need to waste their time (which is good for you as well as them). If it is right for them, they often feel the need to act immediately, to get what they need and not miss out. And if they’re not sure, they realize they need to get more information or ask questions, which is also good for both of you.

So when you say “it’s not for everyone” you might also suggest they read something or contact you to find out.

Telling folks it’s not for everyone or “it might be right for you” makes you more credible, especially compared to those who make it look like what they do is for anyone.

It can also make you more in demand because people want what others have and they might stick around long enough to find out if they can get or should get it too.

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2 questions that can get you out of a jam

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You’re blank. You don’t know what to talk about or write. Relax. I’ve got 2 handy-dandy questions you can use as your go-to idea starter.

The first question: What do I want them to know?

What do you want the reader (audience, interviewer, new contact, etc.) to know about the law, about your services, or about you?

What do you want your new client to know about his case, what you’ll do first, and what might happen?

What do you want people to know about how you can help them or why they should choose you?

What do you want your clients to know about making a referral, writing a review, or when they should update their docs?

So much you want them to know. You could write or talk for days.

Okay, second question: What do you want them to do?

What do you want your new client to send you? What do you want them to do if an investigator calls? What do you want them to tell their doctor?

What do you want the reader to do after they read your article? What do you want your website visitor to do before they leave your site?

What do you want someone to do if they have questions? Want to make an appointment? Want more information? Aren’t sure they can afford it?

Use these questions to brainstorm ideas for content, correspondence, or conversation.

If you still run dry, ask yourself, “What else do I want them to know or do?”

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Steal this blog post

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I’ve had people steal my content. One guy took one of my sales letters and published it as an ebook on Amazon.

The nerve.

But once I got over the shock of someone doing that, I realized it’s nothing to worry about, or try to stop.

You shouldn’t, either.

You shouldn’t worry about anyone stealing your content or idea. If that’s something on your mind, let it go.

You’ve got better things to do.

The time and energy you might put into stopping them could be much better used creating new content and new ideas, or building on what you’ve already done.

I know this might trigger some IP practitioners, but think about it. Even if you could stop someone from stealing and using your stuff, is it really worth the effort?

Don’t take that case.

Besides, the purloiner of your content isn’t going to do as well with it as you do because it’s your baby, not there’s.

You’re writing to and for your readers. You have a relationship with them and your content resonates with them. It has your personality and style, your stories and examples, watermarked on it, and anyone who tries to pass it off as their own is going to fall flat.

Even if someone successfully passes off your stuff as their own, even if they make a fortune with your idea, so what? If you have an abundant mindset, you know there’s plenty for everyone.

If you are worried about someone stealing your content, the best thing you can do is avoid writing generic articles and posts. Write something that carries your brand.

Spend your time creating good content, not looking over your shoulder.

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Batch and grow rich

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Just about every productivity book or article today talks about the value of batching or bunching tasks. Don’t respond to one email, they say, answer most or all of them in one sitting. Or designate “theme days”—one day a week to work on one of your projects or areas of focus.

Tuesday might be marketing day. Thursday afternoon might be time to catch up on your reading or research.

It’s more efficient this way because instead of starting from scratch each time, we can leverage the different states of mind and pacing of different activities . Sometimes, you also benefit from the economy of scale, meaning you get more out of each task because you’re doing them in batches, alongside other, similar tasks.

One area this is true is in content creation.

If you write a weekly blog or newsletter, each time you sit down to come up with a topic, you’re starting from scratch. You have other things on your mind, and switching contexts to do something different can be difficult, especially if you’re behind.

It’s much easier to write when you don’t have to find a topic, you already have one lined up.

That’s where batching comes in.

The next time you brainstorm a topic, brainstorm several. Don’t limit yourself to just today’s topic, find topics for the next week or month or longer.

Not only will this save time and allow to write without pressure, it also allows you to develop themes for your blog or newsletter, making your content creation even easier, and arguably easier.

For example, this month you might write a series of posts about trending issues in your field. Each post could talk about a different case or argument or one of the stakeholders. One post might talk about the history, another post about the future.

One idea, several topics.

Another example would be a series of posts about the stages of handling a case:

  • Intake
  • Investigation
  • Liability
  • Damages
  • Demand
  • Negotiation
  • Settlement
  • Litigation, discovery, trial, post-trial. . .

You could get one or several posts about each of these stages. If you do a weekly blog or article, you could get three months’ worth of topics around that one theme.

Note, you don’t have to publish those posts sequentially. You could instead spread them out over six months and fill in the other weeks with content around a different theme.

Another way to create topics in batches might be to make a list of resources you recommend to your readers or clients—consumer tips or agencies or business organizations, for example.

Dedicate each post to sharing one or more of those resources, along with your experiences, observations, or explanations.

Another idea might be a series featuring some of your business clients’ businesses or products. Or a series based on war stories from several notable cases you’ve had.

Once you have a list of topics, put them on a content calendar or in your reminders app, and the next time you have a post due, you won’t have to scramble to find a topic.

You might also want to schedule your next brainstorming session, to come up with your next theme or bunch of topics.

Where to get more ideas and how to use them

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Should lawyers outsource content creation?

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You can hire people to write blog posts and newsletters and other content. Should you?

It depends on what you intend to do with it.

If you intend to use your content to connect with people who can hire you or refer you, the answer is no.

Write your own content. You can’t outsource you.

People connect with you and hire you because they relate to you. They hire you not just because of what you know, but because of who you are.

Let them hear your voice, not a generic voice speaking about generic legal issues. Let them hear about the cases and clients you’ve helped and what you did to help them.

Let them get a taste of your personality and a sense of what it is like to have you as their attorney.

You can have people help you with research and editing your content, but that content should come from you.

On the other hand, if you intend to use content to generate traffic and leads, for advertising and direct mail and other purposes where a “generic” you might be sufficient, it’s okay to hire people to create that content for you.

Some attorneys buy “canned” newsletters from companies that provide the same newsletters to many attorneys. The attorneys don’t pretend this content is coming from them, however. It is (or should be) positioned as “from the firm”.

Attorneys who buy canned content know (or should know) this content won’t do much more for them than allow them to put something in their subscribers’ mailboxes and remind them they are still around.

There’s nothing wrong with this.

It’s better than sending no content to clients and prospects. Much better.

Some attorneys send out a canned newsletter and also write their own content, which they publish in a separate newsletter.

Their content is by them and from them and uses stories and examples from their practice. It is this content that builds trust and relationships with readers.

Similarly, some attorneys outsource content for a blog, and use that blog to attract search traffic. They might have several such blogs, each focused on different practice areas and keywords and markets, all of which send traffic to their regular website or into their lead capture funnels.

But again, they don’t (or shouldn’t) position that blog or those blogs as having been written by them.

They might also write their own content, but, as with a newsletter, it should be separate from the outsourced lead generation blog.

Outsourcing some of your content creation might be right for your practice. But it will never do what your own content can do.

How to write an email newsletter that brings in more business

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