Tripping over your marketing message


I heard a radio ad for a company selling gold. It offers a free guide to gold investing as a lead magnet.


The spot ends with the tag line: “We promise to add massive value before asking for your business.”

What do you think about that proposition?

I’ll tell you what I think. I think it sounds weird. And gimmicky.

Don’t promise to add value, just do it.

When you say that’s what you’re going to do, you sound like you’re saying something a consultant or copywriter advised you to say, to build trust.

But it doesn’t build trust. Just the opposite. It sounds like you’re trying too hard, suggesting that you have something to hide (even if you don’t).

Tell me about this “value” you’re promising. Tell me about the guide you’re offering. What will I learn? How will I be better off?

That’s what they should talk about.

The word, “massive” doesn’t help. It makes it worse. It calls attention to their offer and not in a good way.

Finally, everyone knows they’re going to ask for their business. They’re not scoring any brownie points by revealing that “secret”.

They tried, but all they’ve done is call attention to their marketing instead of their offer.

True, all of this is in the ear of the beholder. Some may think the ad is okay, or better than okay because it’s different. 

Different is good. Unless it’s not.

Tell prospects how you are different, in a good way


We love practicing law!


I got a postcard from a real estate broker team in my area looking for listings. The first thing you read on the postcard is a series of bullet points:

  • We LOVE Real Estate!!!!
  • We LOVE our clients! Thank you for your support over the years.
  • We LOVE listings! We get the most eyes on your property.
  • We LOVE negotiating! We fight hard for your money.
  • We LOVE selling houses! That’s what we do best.

And so on.

Anything wrong with this? Plenty. 

Whether real estate broker or attorney, clients don’t hire you because you like what you do. They hire you because of what you can do for them.

A postcard featuring what YOU like about what you do doesn’t get the job done. Especially when that’s what you lead with. 

In any marketing communications–websites, emails, ads,  postcards, or anything else, you have a few seconds to catch the prospect’s attention and compel them to continue reading. 

Talking about YOURSELF first doesn’t do that. Instead, talk about what’s on the reader’s or listener’s mind, what’s going on in their world (and their head). Talk to them about their problems and desires. Then talk to them about your solutions. 

The bullets on this postcard mention some benefits: “We get the most for your property, We fight hard for your money, We get the most eyes on your property,” but they aren’t “in focus”.

The brokers are in focus–what they love, what they’re good at. 

In addition, the benefits in these bullets are weak and common. You read them and your eyes glaze over. 


You have to get the prospect’s attention before they will read the content of your message. You can’t do that by telling them about yourself, you have to talk about them.  

You have to tell prospects what’s in it for them. What benefits do you offer? How can you help them become better off? Quantify and dramatize the benefits; you can’t bore anyone into hiring you. 

And you have to tell prospects why they should choose you instead of anyone else who says the same things. How are you different? Why are you better? What do you offer that others don’t?

Because if you say the same things everyone says, you’re really saying nothing. 

One more thing. Putting a pretty picture and “Happy Valentine’s Day” on the front of the postcard doesn’t help. 


I might not be the right lawyer for you


Scrivener is my favorite writing app for long documents. I use it on two Windows machines and my iPhone. 

But Scrivener has a flaw.

Because of the way the software is built, you can’t use iCloud to sync between devices, you have to use Dropbox. 

(Funny, I use another writing app that doesn’t play well with Dropbox; I have to use iCloud to sync.)

Anyway, on the App store, Scrivener generally gets great reviews, but there is a chorus of complaints from customers who want to sync via iCloud and are PO’d that they cannot. So they give Scrivener one- or two-star reviews and call it a day.

The sales page says that syncing “requires a Dropbox account (not compatible with iCloud” but it’s a footnote and, apparently, a lot of folks miss it. 

If I was in charge, I would put the “no iCloud”disclaimer up front and center.

I would explain the technical reason why you can’t use iCloud and talk about why had to do it this way so that customers could get certain unique features that are key to Scrivener’s greatness. 

This will cut down on bad reviews but it should also lead to more sales to customers who are intrigued enough by the unique features of the app that they’re willing to switch to Dropbox to get them. 

In sales, this is known as “admitting your flaws”. It’s designed to reduce objections, buyer’s remorse, and bad reviews. Telling customers the flaws of your product or service before they discover them on their own builds trust and allows you to turn a weakness into a strength.

It works the same whether you’re selling software, houses, or legal services. 

I heard from an immigration attorney recently who isn’t an “accredited specialist” in his country because he doesn’t do the type of work that the accreditation accredits. He wanted to know how he should handle this on his website and other marketing. 

He should be upfront about it.

Admit his “flaw”. Explain that he specializes in a different area of immigration law and that accreditation isn’t required to practice in this area. 

He should do this because some prospective clients are no doubt wondering why he isn’t accredited, as they see other lawyers are. 

Give them a good explanation and most of them will not only be satisfied, they’ll see that you specialize in precisely the services they need (instead of everything) and thus see you as the better choice. 

He added, “It’s interesting because just yesterday I was reading the website of a competitor who is an accredited specialist and I was more drawn to his personal story about why he does migration than his credentials. If I was a potential client of his that’s what would get me.”

Me too. 

What to put on your website


No, I guess I can’t handle the truth


I heard a radio ad for a nutritional supplement. The ad began with, “Studies show the average person needs ten servings of fruits and vegetables per day.”

I don’t know if that’s true but it doesn’t sound true. Or maybe I don’t want to believe it because there’s no way I’m going to eat ten servings of fruits and veggies every day (and I like fruits and veggies).

In marketing, you can’t depend on the truth. Your premise or promise has to have verisimilitude—the appearance of truth or, “the quality of seeming real,” according to Merriam-Webster.

If it doesn’t, it will be rejected, or require a lot more proof than you have or are prepared to offer.

The ad then compounded the problem, claiming their product supplies the nutritional equivalent of 30 servings per day. Maybe it does. But coming on the heels of their first statement, I’m still riding the “I don’t buy it” train.

What could they have done differently?

They could have said “studies show that 7 out of 10 people don’t eat enough fruits or vegetables each day,” (if that’s true) and then talked about their product.

I’d buy that.

Or they could have said, “If you’re only eating three servings of fruits and vegetables per day, studies show you’re not getting enough of the vitamins and minerals you need. . .”

I’d buy that, too.

And then, I might listen to the what they’re selling.

Tell the truth in your marketing. Unless the truth sounds unbelievable.


The practice you want, the marketing you’ll need


Yesterday, I saw an article with the title, “The retirement you want, the money you’ll need”. Good title. I took it and wrote the title of the post you’re reading now.

The point? You can get ideas for content and headlines just about anywhere. But only if you’re looking for them.

And by looking, I don’t mean scouring through blogs or your incoming email hunting for ideas. I mean being open to ideas finding you and being ready to write them down when they do.

I find ideas in many places. You will, too. Make sure you have an “idea” file or tag, read widely and deeply, and write down anything that strikes you, even if it seems silly or done-to-death. Develop the habit of finding and recording ideas first. Quality can come later.

Had you encountered the original title that inspired this post, you might have come up with a headline like, “The settlement you want, the lawyer you’ll need,” “The security you want, the legal protection you’ll need,” or, “The lawyer you want, the questions you’ll need to ask”.

Like these? They’re yours.

Developing the habit of collecting titles and ideas will pay many dividends. Continually fill your idea folder, regularly sift through it, and you’ll never run out of things to write about or effective headlines or titles to describe them.

I save my ideas in Evernote


Not all clients are alike


You have older clients and younger clients, clients who speak a second language and clients who speak another second language, wealthy clients and middle-class clients, business clients and consumer clients, and different clients for each of your different services.

Each group of clients is different. They need different services, they want different benefits, and they will respond to different offers.

They don’t read the same books or blogs, listen to the same stations or watch the same channels. They live in different parts of town and hang out with different people. They patronize different businesses, insurance and real estate agents, and tax professionals.

Some have to use a credit card or dip into savings to pay your fee. Some can write you a check. Some need lots of legal help, some might not need you ever again.

The point? You need a different strategy for each type of client, each market segment and each service you offer.

Go through your client list for the last few years and look for patterns. Create a profile of your ideal client for each service, for each market segment.

Then, when you write to them or speak to them, when you do a presentation for them, share content with them or advertise to them, you can tailor it to them. Use words and examples that resonate with them. Use stories of clients like them who have had similar issues and benefited by hiring you.

A lot of work? Yes. But it might allow you to double your income, lower your marketing costs, and bring in a better crop of clients.

This will help


The art of scaring clients


I  heard an ad for a tax remediation firm. It did a lot of things right, including telling business owners the bad things the IRS can do to you if you don’t pay.

It was a long list of scary things, and very aggressive. They can do this, they can do that, they can even take your business.

What, they don’t pull down your pants and spank your tushy?

Anyway, you’ve heard me prattle on about the importance of scaring prospective clients. You know that “fear of loss” is more powerful than “desire for gain.” And you know that you are doing clients a favor if, by putting the fear of God in them, you get them to (finally) take action that is in their best interests.

You scare them to get their attention. You scare them to get them to take your message seriously. You scare them to get them to call or fill out a form or download your report.

But sometimes, you can scare them so much they don’t do any of those things. They shut down and stop listening.

A little context.

A business owner who hasn’t paid Uncle Sam knows that bad things happen. They’ve gotten the delinquent notices and notices of intent and seen the penalties and interest accrue. They may even know that they can lose their business. But they think they have time. Or they’re in denial about how bad things really are.

They rationalize, procrastinate, and compartmentalize, and when they hear your message of doom and gloom, it’s too much to handle so they tune it out.

What should you do instead? You should provide some relief.

Yes, the ad talks about getting rid of liens and paying off the debt with pennies on the dollar. But it doesn’t tell them how they will feel to finally get this monkey off their back.

The ad should get them to see, in their mind’s eye, how good they will feel and what they’ll be able to do once this problem is taken care of. Tell them about other clients who have been in their shoes and are now sitting pretty.

Give them some hope. Give them something to look forward to. Show them the light at the end of the tunnel.

So you need a mix. A warning and a promise. Pain and pleasure. Blackness and light.

You also have to let them hear your compassion and understanding. Talk to them like a fellow human being who wants to help them, instead of blaring at them like Big Brother.



4 words that helped me pass the bar exam


In law school, as we learned how to ‘think like a lawyer,’ we learned the importance of being able to look at both sides of an issue and argue either one. On exams, that’s precisely what we did.

On exams, I routinely used a four-word expression to transition from one side to the other: “On the other hand”.

No doubt, you did too.

We need to remember those four words when crafting (or signing off on) a marketing message (presentation, ad, conversation, etc.) directed to prospective clients.

Prospective clients know there are alternatives to hiring you. When you acknowledge this, you gain trust. You don’t look like a salesperson, you look like an advisor.

So you might say, “Here are your options:”

  1. “You could do nothing. That may work out if. .  On the other hand. . .”
  2. “You might wait and see if X happens. If it does, you should be okay. If it doesn’t. . .”
  3. “You could handle it yourself (e.g., write a letter, talk to the other lawyer). But, you’re taking the risk of [bad things that could happen])”
  4. “Or, you could let me handle this for you. Here’s what I’ll do. . .”

Given these options, most prospective clients will make the decision that’s best for them, which is usually the one that’s best for you.

How to get more repeat business and referrals


Shut up and take my money


You know how when you’re negotiating you start with common ground? You review the things you agree on, first, before you talk about anything else?

You do the same thing when addressing a jury.

You want to get your audience nodding their heads in agreement. You want them to see that you are rational and believable because you’re talking about something they already know is true. You want them to trust you, at least insofar as what you’ve talked about so far. And you want to narrow the scope of your conversation with them so you can take them where you want them to go.

It works this way in marketing, too.

That’s why you need to know your prospective clients’ background, experience, and beliefs before you craft (or sign off on) a presentation, email, ad, or other marketng message.

What do they know? What do they want? What do they believe to be true?

Your message to someone who has never used an attorney is going to be different than a message to a long-time consumer of legal services. Your message to someone who knows they need help and is trying to decide which lawyer to hire will be different than a message to someone who is in denial about their problem.

If you want people to relate to you and your message, you have to speak to them in language that resonates with them.

It’s easier to do that when you target niche markets instead of anyone with a checkbook and a legal problem in your practice area.

This will help you find the right niche for your practice


C’mon, you know you want to


Can you approach someone you don’t know but want to speak to via email? Yes, you can. Just make sure you send a personal email, not a “form letter”.

Your first order of business is to get the email opened. A great way to do that is to write something that makes the recipient curious.

Like (I hope) the subject line of this email did you.

But then you and I “know” each other. I can be a little playful. If this was the first time I communicated with you I would (probably) not use that as the subject. Instead, I might use something like this:

“Quick question”.

I got an email with that subject not long ago and yes, I did open it.

Because I was curious.

This may not suit you, however, or your market. What then?

Well, you don’t want to appear too familiar. So “Hey there. . .” won’t make the cut.

You can’t bore someone into opening an email. So forget about using “I hope you’re doing well”.

And you don’t want to come off like you’re selling something, so, “May I send you some information about our xyz services?” is a dog that won’t hunt.

So what can you say to make ’em curious?

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Okay, cheap trick. Having more fun. I’m not going to tell you what to say. That’s something you have to figure out.

If you were writing to me, what might you say to get my attention and make me curious to read your email (other than “Quick question”)? What’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Do you have an accountant? If he didn’t know you from Adam, what might you say to make him curious?

(“This is about your wife” would get your email opened, but. . .)

Start paying attention to (unsolicited) emails you get that make you curious enough to open. Write down the subject they used. Spend time brainstorming other ideas.

Put your list away for a week or two. When you come back to it, you’ll see a lot of subject lines that make you cringe and say, “Oy vey, what was I thinking” but you may also see a few gems.

Go ahead and try one.

C’mon, you know you want to.

Build your practice online