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One of the simplest and most effective ways to build your practice

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I did a marketing consultation last week with an attorney who has an email list and uses it to stay in touch with 1100 clients, prospects and professional contacts.

That’s good.

He writes to them every few weeks or so, when he has news or information to share.

Here’s an expanded version of some of my suggestions:

He built and maintains the list manually. I told him to automate the list building by putting an email sign-up form on his website so visitors could sign themselves up. Offer an incentive–a report or ebook– to encourage them to do that.

You’ll get more subscribers by capturing “first-time/one-time” visitors to your site, many of whom need to hear more before they’ll hire you.

Use the autoresponder function provided by the email service provider to send an automated welcome message, deliver the report, and send them a series of additional messages over time.

Use the “broadcast” function of the email service to send them additional messages.

I suggested emailing on a regular schedule. Aim for weekly. You want subscribers to get used to hearing from you. You want to be “in their minds and their mailboxes” when they need your services and are ready to hire you, or they have a referral.

To write more frequently:

  1. Send shorter emails–a few paragraphs is enough
  2. Send all text emails–don’t bother with HTML, images, etc., just type and send
  3. Don’t limit your subject matter to legal matters. That’s boring for people who don’t currently have those issues. Write about consumer-related topics, personal stories, and anything else.

Make your emails informative and entertaining and use them to build a relationship with your subscribers.

This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to bring in more business.

This will help you create a report and get more subscribers

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An easy way to show your clients some love

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It’s been crazy around here the past week. We’re close to the fires and concerned about them spreading our way. Every day, the sky is filled with smoke and helicopters and planes buzzing overhead.

We’ll probably be okay but you never know.

Our credit union sent us an email that was on point. It said, “In the Wildfire Zone?” They wanted us to know that we are their number one priority and they hope we are safe. They offered some tips for being prepared in case we’re ordered to evacuate.

Things like planning where we’ll go (and making sure they take pets), having a “go bag” of clothes, supplies, credit cards, meds, and extra cash, making sure the gas tank is full, and gathering up important documents to take with us.

They also provided a link to ready.org, which has more information about evacuation planning.

Most of the emails we get from them are about “business”. It’s nice to know they are thinking about us and providing helpful information on an important topic. It’s important even for those who aren’t in the fire zone.

Note that they didn’t write the underlying information about what to put in a go bag, which papers to include in an “important papers” file or evacuation planning, they simply provided links to existing websites.

How difficult would it be for you to send your clients an email like this? About what to do in case of fire or flood, earthquake or hurricane, or other disasters?

Not difficult at all.

But your clients will appreciate you for thinking of them, nevertheless.

In fact, there are plenty of consumer-related topics you could write about: insurance, credit, crime prevention, retirement, refinancing and many more.

Ten minutes of research and some links to other people’s websites will do the trick.

For extra credit, interview some subject matter experts. Here’s how I did that and turned it into a book.

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Digging for gold on your hard drive

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You have a list. People who know who you are and are willing to listen to what you say.

If you call them, they’ll talk to you. If you write, they’ll read your letter or email. If you meet them in person and they recognize your face or name, they’ll say hello.

Your list may take many forms. It may be in a database, contact management app, or email autoresponder. It may be on paper, buried in the bowels of your closed files. It may be online, stored on the servers of various social media platforms.

But your list exists and it has value.

How much value? I don’t know. All I can tell you is that your list is much more valuable than a list of people who don’t know who you are.

Yes, I’m harping (again) on the need to stay in touch. I don’t feel right unless I do that at least once or twice a month. But today, I’m simply going to encourage you to dig out your list and organize it.

The first thing to do is segment your list into different categories. Use a code or tag or label so you can contact the people on your list with different messages or offers, and on a different schedule.

You won’t talk to current clients, for example, in the same way you would talk to professionals you met once at a networking event.

Anyway, divvy up your list as appropriate to your practice. You might do something like this:

  1. Current clients
  2. Former clients
  3. Prospective clients you’ve met (e.g., free consultations, meetings at networking events, attendees at your presentations, etc.)
  4. Professionals, business executives, centers of influence, you’ve worked with.
  5. Newsletter subscribers
  6. Social media friends and followers
  7. Etc.

You can further segment your list into sub-categories. Your client and former clients, for example, could be classified in terms of annual billing (you to them), types of cases or engagements, frequency, recency, background, industry, and so on.

Your list of professionals might be broken down by specialty, their target markets, number of referrals they’ve made to you (and you to them), mutual clients or contacts, boards or organizations they are connected to, and so on.

Your prospect and email lists can be coded to identify the nature of their inquiry, if and when they’ve attended your events, and other information.

Once you’ve done that, you can create a plan for staying in touch with everyone.

Is all this worth really necessary? Only if you want to get more clients, bigger cases, more referrals, more traffic, more introductions, and build a more profitable practice more quickly and at much lower cost.

Okay, you hate me. I understand. You want that but this sounds like too much work.

Fine. Start with your former clients, going back five years. Email them something. I don’t care what it is. Say hello. Say you’re updating your records. It doesn’t matter.

Two paragraphs. What have you got to lose?

The better question is, what do you have to gain?

Keeping in touch with your list 

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C’mon, you know you want to

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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

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If not email, what? If not now, when?

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You know that it’s much easier (and less expensive) to get a client to hire you again than to get a new client. You know that the number one reason people who can refer (or refer more often) don’t do it is that they “just didn’t think about it”. You know the value of staying in touch with prospective clients until they are ready to hire you.

So, what are you doing to stay in touch?

Regular mail is expensive. You can’t possibly call everyone on the phone, even if you wanted to. Social media is not the answer. A Christmas card once a year won’t get the job done.

Nothing personal, but my guess is that if you’re not using email to stay in touch with clients and contacts, you’re not staying in touch at all.

And that’s sad because it means you’re working too hard and spending too much to bring in business.

Email is cheap. It’s easy to use. And it’s the simplest way to remind people about what you do and how you can help them.

You don’t have to write every day, or even once a week.

You don’t have to write brilliant prose. A few hundred words about something you saw online, a client story, a smartphone app you like, and you’re golden.

C’mon, what do I talk about half the time? Nothing that’s going to wind up in the National Register, that’s for sure.

More important than what you say is that you say something often enough to remind people that you’re still around. So they call you instead of another attorney.

Two lawyers. One sends an email to his clients and contacts once or twice a month, the other never does. If that’s all you know about these two lawyers, which one do you think will get more repeat business and referrals?

I know, I tell you this a lot. Two reasons. First, many lawyers still don’t use email or use it enough, and I feel duty-bound to remind them. Second, it’s easy for me to do that because all I have to do is type a few words, click a few buttons, and within a few minutes, you’re reading it.

What a concept.

How to use email to make your phone ring

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Why you should zig when everyone else zags

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You really don’t want to stand out, do you? You’ve heard the reasoning behind it and you get it, but if you have a choice, you’d rather blend in with all the other guys and gals who do this legal thing.

You want to be left alone to do your work. You don’t want people to pay attention to all your typos and blemishes and weird ideas.

And yet, you must. You must put yourself “out there”. You must take the risk.

If you don’t give people reasons to notice you, remember you, and hire you (instead of any other lawyer), you shouldn’t be surprised when nobody does.

So, baby steps. Start with something easy. It almost doesn’t matter what it is so long as its different from what most lawyers do.

I’ll give you one. Email. When every other lawyer (and other professional) sends fancy newsletters, with pretty pictures, stylish formatting and modern layouts, do the opposite.

Plain text.

Go on, I dare you. It is a very simple way to stand out.

Plain, ugly, mono-type. The plainer the better. Like I do. Your newsletter won’t look like everyone else’s. It won’t look like something you bought from a company. It won’t look like a commercial product.

It will look like an email. Which is why it will stand out. And why it gets read.

Make your email look like a personal communication, not an ad. It’s an easy way to stand out and build a relationship with the people on your list.

You do know how to write an email, don’t you? You just put your lips together and. . . okay, nevermind. We’ll talk about that another time.

Need ideas for your newsletter? Get them here

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Cleaning up your email inbox

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How much of your day is spent writing and responding to email?

Yeah, a lot.

When you don’t get through it, not only can bad things happen (mistakes, missed opportunities, unresolved problems, broken promises, etc.), these “open loops” weigh on your subconscious mind and bedevil you. (The Zeigarnik effect is the psychological tendency to remember uncompleted tasks.)

So, if you don’t have your email inbox under control, here’s a reminder to make it so and a checklist of what to do, courtesy of David Allen (Getting Things Done):

  1. Take out the trash. Go through the inbox and delete everything you don’t need or want. Just do it, already. (Or, archive them if you’re not sure.)
  2. Use the “two-minute rule”. Any actionable emails that you can read and reply to (or complete the required action) in two minutes or less, do it.
  3. Tag/file/label “waiting for” items. If you ordered something and you’re waiting for it arrive, if you tasked someone to do something and you’re waiting for them to complete it, move the corresponding emails to a folder or label them accordingly. (I forward them to Evernote.) Tip: when you confirm by email that someone will do something, cc or bcc yourself and label that email “waiting”.
  4. File/tag “action” items. Anything you need to do that will take longer than two minutes should be filed in an “action” folder or tagged or labeled accordingly. (If forward these to Evernote, too).
  5. File reference material. For emails that don’t require action but you want to keep, move them to their own folder or tag or label them. (Once again, I forward these to Evernote.)

When you’re done, your inbox should be empty. I did this several years ago, over a period of several days, and it felt great to get it done. Everything was out of sight and in the place it needed to be and I knew where to find it. Nothing screaming at me for attention. No open loops.

Try it and let me know what you think. (I already know what I’ll do with your email.)

Evernote for Lawyers

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How to build your law practice with a drawing or contest

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A great way to build your email list, and thereby your client list, is to conduct a contest or drawing. Basically, you announce the contest to your existing list (and/or on social media, etc.), and offer one or more prizes as an incentive.

If you have a way to track “referrers” to your list, you can reward people who send you the most traffic or sign-ups. If not, you can conduct a random drawing (eenie, meanie, minie, moe) and bestow your prize or prizes on whomever your index finger lands on.

You can contact influencers (bloggers, professionals with a list, etc.) and allow them to invite their subscribers or clients to participate. You’ll get exposure to their list, including the ones who don’t sign up for your list.

But what should you offer as a prize?

The best option is a package of your legal services.

The winner gets a service you offer (or a portion thereof), or a package of services, at no cost and with no obligation. If they already have had that service or otherwise don’t need it, they can give their prize to someone else.

Why is this the best option? Because it will attract people who are interested in your services rather than random people who sign up to win an iPad. The biggest reason for making your services the prizes, in case you haven’t figured it out, is that every prize winner becomes a client.

Choose an entry-level service or a segment of a larger service you can give away. If you charge hourly, give away two hours (or whatever) towards any of your services. Or, do something bigger with a grand prize and several smaller prizes.

Oh yeah, once you’ve conducted your first drawing (and seen the results), you can then (a) extend the deadline (and get even more subscribers) and/or (b) do it again in 90 days.

Try it, you’ll like it. So will everyone who signs up.

Marketing online for attorneys: here

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Can I randomly email businesses promoting my firm?

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Attorney J. B. writes and asks, “Can I randomly email businesses promoting my firm?”

I respond, “I don’t know, can you?”

Okay, I didn’t say that. But I thought it. Blame my seventh grade English teacher.

Anyway, here’s what I have to say on the subject: Don’t do it.

Don’t randomly send email to prospective clients promoting your firm. If you do:

(a) you’ll be subject to penalties from the spam-gods, from your bar association or law society, and from ISP’s who designate your email as spam and relegate it (and other emails you send) to the Internet sub-basement;

(b) you’ll fall flat on your tush. You might get some business out of it but not as much as you want and it won’t be worth it. See “a” above.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t email prospective clients. But you’ve got to do it right.

(a) Don’t email “randomly”. Learn something about the prospective client and send them a “personalized” email.

Go through their website and learn something about the business and the people who own or run it and say something about this in your email. Say something nice about their business or about their website.

Find a connection between them and you or someone you know. You know one of their customers? Great! Say that. You know their accountant, broker, vendor, supplier, neighbor, landlord, competitor, a former employee. . . great! Say that.

Show them that your email is anything but random.

(b) Do NOT promote yourself or your firm. Resist the urge to say anything about yourself, what you do, or why you’re the best thing since sliced bread.

The moment you do something like that, you lose. They write you off as someone who just wants their business and is wasting their time.

If you’re lucky, they’ll delete your email. If you’re not, they’ll mark you as spam and remember you as that clueless lawyer who spammed them.

No bueno.

(Sign your email with “Esq.” or “Attorney at Law”. Put your website address in your email signature. Just a link. No promotional copy. If they’re interested in finding out about you, they’ll click and take a look.)

Clear?

So, what might you do instead? Lots of things. Here’s an easy one: Send them a link to an article you found online about their industry, about one of their customers, or a prospective customer for them.

(Send a link, don’t attach the article.)

What will this accomplish? Not much by itself. But it might open the door to future communication with them, and right now, that’s as good as it gets.

Over time, there are other things you can do to get to know the principals of the business and for them to get to know you.

Want to speed things up? Send them a referral. Introduce them to someone you think they need to know. Promote their merchandise or services or their content.

Now you’re talking.

Don’t subscribe them to your newsletter. Don’t (yet) ask if they want to subscribe. Don’t move too quickly. You don’t even know if they need a lawyer (or a new one) right now. That might not happen for a year or ten.

Take your time. Woo them. Don’t “Harvey” them.

Marketing online for attorneys

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I’ve got a legal problem and I need your advice

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A man contacted me with a legal problem. He explained what had happened and asked, “What should I do?”

I said, “You should get our your checkbook and write me a big fat check with lots of zeros in it. In fact, empty your bank account. I’m good at what I do, my advice is extremely valuable, and I don’t work for free. So pay up, bub, or get lost and never darken my doorstep again.”

And then I woke up.

I think it was my subconscious mind reminding me to be nice, explain prospective clients’ options, tell them your policy regarding fees and retainers, and ask them what they wanted to do.

Damn subconscious. What, did it graduate from a seminary? Work for the state bar? Talk to my wife?

I was thinking about this and wondering why I ever bothered to go to law school. I’m not cut out for being nice to people. What was I thinking?

And then I woke up. I realized I wasn’t a lawyer after all, I was having a nightmare about the last few decades and none of it was true.

What a relief. Being a lawyer is hard. You have to talk to people and do things for them and you don’t earn anywhere near what most people think. Law school is a scam!

Can you guess what happened next? Yep, I woke up. Realized it wasn’t a dream, I was an attorney, and I had an email to write and send you. So I got busy and wrote down what you just read.

The point? The point is it’s Friday, most of us didn’t lose our home to a Cat 5 hurricane, we don’t live in Venezuela or North Korea, we have our health, people who love us, work we care about, (and the ability to change anything if we want to), and we all need to lighten up. Have some fun with this thing before it’s over.

My challenge to you: write a semi-silly email (that actually makes a point) and send it to your clients and prospects. Make stuff up. Pretend it’s April Fool’s Day. Write something you would never otherwise write, just to see who’s out there and who’s paying attention.

I promise you, it will be a lot of fun. Especially if you actually send it.

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