What’s wrong with this email?

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I got an email from someone who calls himself a “wealth manager and financial advisor”. Apparently, we’re connected on LinkedIn because his email begins, “Hi David. We’re connected on LinkedIn. . .”

He said, “I wanted to reach out to you personally and share important information on some of the recent Tax Changes for 2018 for Business Owners. Please enjoy this short video and give us a call if we can better assist you with your Financial and Estate Planning questions.”

What’s wrong with his approach? His email?

Is it that he oddly capitalized “Tax Changes for Business Owners” and “Financial and Estate Planning”?

Is he trying to impress me by making what he does look more important?

Ooh, he doesn’t just handle estate planning, he handles Estate Planning. He must be good.

Is it that he begins by saying, “I wanted to reach out to you personally. . .” and then says, “give US a call if WE can better assist you”?

We? What happened to “I”? Is he a member of the Royal Family?

Okay, these aren’t deal killers. But they aren’t unimportant. Little things make a difference, especially when you’re writing to a professional nit-picker.

I like that he’s offering information that might be valuable to me. (I didn’t watch the video, so I don’t know.) I liked that he didn’t tell me all about himself and his practice. He provided a link to his website under his signature so I could learn more about him and his practice.

I also liked that he mentioned our being connected on LinkedIn so I would know where he got my name and wouldn’t think he was spamming professionals and business owners he finds on the Internet.

But that’s exactly what his email makes it look like he’s doing.

If he had read my profile, he would know I’m an attorney or a professional, not a business owner. Wait, Business Owner. Okay, I’m also a business owner, but he didn’t do anything to personalize his message so it looks like junk mail.

He didn’t mention anything we have in common. He didn’t say anything about my business or website. He didn’t say anything about one of my posts he liked.

Had he done any of those things, I might have watched his video or visited his website. Who knows where that might lead.

But he didn’t. So I deleted his email and will never find out if he’s someone worth talking to about financial planning or how we might work together.

A cautionary tale.

Cold emails (and calls) are a viable way to build a professional practice. Even when you send them to people who aren’t social media connections.

But if you make no effort to personalize your email or connect with the recipient, you’re just wasting electrons.

How to use email to build your practice

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Clients won’t hire you until this happens

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Last week, I talked about why you shouldn’t worry about repeating yourself in your newsletter or blog. I pointed out that new people continually join your list or visit your blog and haven’t seen what you wrote before. I said you might talk about the same subject but use different (and more compelling) arguments or examples.

An astute reader, (thanks, Michael), reminded me that I neglected to mention one of the most important reasons, that when a reader hears your message the first time, they may not be ready to hear it, or ready to take action.

Clients won’t hire you until they’re ready. And there are a lot of reasons why they might not be ready the first time you talk about a subject.

They may not understand what you said the first time they read it or realize that it applies to them.

They may not trust you yet or understand how you can help them solve their problem. They may be in denial about the risks they are facing and need to hear more information.

They may think they can’t afford to hire you and need the problem to worsen before they’re willing to take the next step. They may need time to “find” the money and hearing your message again might be just the impetus they need to do it.

There are many reasons why someone might not be ready, willing, or able to hire you when they read your message the first time or the 21st time.

That assumes they actually received and read your previous message(s), something that may or may not be true.

Stay in touch with your clients and prospects and don’t worry about repeating yourself. Repeating yourself may be exactly what you need to do because clients won’t hire you (again) until they’re ready and they aren’t ready until they’re ready.

How to bring in more business with a newsletter or blog

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If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you 100 times

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I used to make an effort to avoid repeating myself in my newsletter and blog. In fact, I once set up a “reverse editorial calendar” to record topics and the dates of each post.

Not anymore.

Aside from the fact that it’s too much work for my sorry azz, it isn’t necessary. It’s okay to repeat yourself.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this very topic before. Maybe more than once. No doubt I’ll do it again.

Here’s why I don’t worry about repeating myself, and why you shouldn’t, either:

  • Every day, new people join your list and, to them, the topic is new
  • Most subscribers don’t remember seeing the topic before, or if they do, they don’t remember the details.
  • You might make the same point but cite different facts, arguments or examples.
  • You might update something you said before, providing new results, additional information or feedback from others
  • If you’re like me (and you are), you change your mind about things, so update away.
  • Some ideas are important enough that they bear repeating.
  • Some ideas are important enough that they bear repeating. See?

Anyway, if you ask me, you shouldn’t worry about what you did yesterday, last month, or last year. Write what’s on your mind today and you’ll be just fine.

Need more ideas for blog posts and emails? This will help

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Could you write an email like this?

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I just got off the phone with a young married couple who is having their first child. Josh works in tech sales. Karen does bookkeeping for a company that owns several restaurants. They were referred to me by a financial planner I know from my networking group.

They wanted to get their wills done and see if they could benefit from estate planning strategies they’d heard about from some friends.

We scheduled an appointment and I sent them to a page on my website to fill out a simple questionnaire. I also sent them information about some of the options we would discuss.

If you have questions about your estate planning options, go to [this page]. And, if you would like to talk to me about your situation or make an appointment, give me a call at [number].

— — —
No matter what your practice area, tell your newsletter readers about one of your new clients. Or tell them about an interesting case you have had in the past.

Let them see that people like them, with issues like theirs, are hiring you to help them. It reminds them about what you do and how you can help them.

Let them know that those clients were referred to you, by a client or a fellow professional. It shows them that other people trust you and look to you to help their friends and clients.

Let them know they can get information about their legal issue and your services on your website. And let them know they can call you to talk or to make an appointment.

You can add more if you want to.

You could tell them a few details about the issues in the case and what you did about them. You could add a question or two the client asked you and your answers. You could quote the client at the end of the case, expressing relief or praising you.

Let people hear what you do and how you can help them and more people will hire you. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

How to start an email newsletter

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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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