Why we don’t do things we know we should

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My dad always told his business clients not to sign any contracts without showing them to him first. More often than not, they didn’t listen, usually because they didn’t want to spend the money. 

No doubt you’ve seen the same thing in your practice.

Why don’t clients listen? 

For the same reasons you don’t do things you know you should.  

You’ve repeatedly heard from me and others about the value of staying in touch with your clients and prospects. You’ve heard that you should delegate more of your work and not try to do everything yourself. You’ve heard about the value of improving your writing, speaking, and interpersonal skills.

You know these things, but don’t always do them.

Maybe you don’t want to spend the money, or the time. Maybe you’re busy. Maybe you intend to do them but forget.

But the biggest reason you don’t do these things, and others, is that you don’t believe they are important. Or important enough. Because if you did, you would.

Think about it, if you truly believed that staying in touch with your clients and contacts via a weekly email (for example) could help you double your practice in less than a year, you would do it, wouldn’t you? 

If your clients truly believed that calling you before they sign a contract would save them a lot of money and a lot of grief, they would do it. 

Reminders help. Accountability helps. But if you want to change your clients’ behavior, or your own, work on their (and your) belief.

Show clients and prospects what happened to other clients who didn’t follow your advice. Show them testimonials and positive reviews and success stories of people who did.

Because if you say it, they can doubt it. If your other clients say it, it must be true.

Build your practice with a weekly email newsletter

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When you have nothing new to say

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Do you ever feel like you’re repeating yourself? Saying the same things again and again in your newsletter, blog, or on social media? Talking about the same services, the same problems and solutions? Making the same offer? Promoting the same event? 

You want to stay in touch with your list (and you should), but if you keep saying the same things, they’re going to tune out. 

Or will they? 

They tuned in because they’re interested in the things you know and share. So don’t change your message. Change the way you present your message. 

As a friend of mine puts it, “Change the wrapping paper around your core idea and you can repeat the same message every time you connect. . . but it will feel new and different”. 

The simplest and often the most potent way to do that is to tell a different story. 

It can be something simple—something your client or another party said or did, a question they asked, how you met them, or something you thought about the facts or the law. 

You can write about almost anything and make your blog post or article interesting. . . and different. 

You can even write about your pets.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you may recall that I used to have cats and wrote about them from time to time. I’d talk about things they did or about a recent trip to the vet and how long they kept us waiting before they saw us, and use this as an example of how not to treat your clients in your waiting room. 

You can use things that happen to you personally or in your practice to add color and interest to your message, without changing your message.  

Change the wrapping paper and you can keep readers interested and engaged no matter how often you deliver your message. 

How to use an email newsletter to build your practice

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Speaking of mistakes. . . 

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I’m subscribed to an email list and every time this company writes to me, they make the same mistake. They change the name of the “sender”. 

One week it’s Mary, the next week Sally and Melinda, people I don’t know. The only way to tell that the email is from the company I know is to open it.

Why make people do that? Why take the chance of confusing people, getting people to delete the email unopened, or sent to spam.

Not good. And completely unnecessary.

If you’re smart, and I know you are, you put your name in the sender field, not your firm’s name, not your administrator’s name, your name—first and last—because the email is from you. 

You want people to recognize your name and read your email because it is from you. Even if the subject doesn’t promise a benefit or make them curious.

Even if it’s click-bait-y or goofy like many of mine. 

Your email isn’t just a conveyer of information and offers. It is also a means by which to build relationships with people who can hire you or refer you.

Which they will do if they know it is you who is writing to them.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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Start with what, not how

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I’m guilty of this myself. Trying to figure out how to do something or improve something when that’s the wrong question to start with.

The right question is, “What do I want?“

Because when you know what you want (to be, do, or have), you can almost always figure out how.

Asking “how“ before you know “what“, often leads to wasting time on less important projects or goals.

Finding solutions without a problem.

Example? You’re trying to figure out how to set up a new website. All your energy is dedicated to looking for ways to do that, or finding people who can do it for you.

If you had first asked, “What do I want?” you might have realized that you want more opt-ins to your email list, and while a new and improved website might help, there are other things you can do to get what you want that don’t require a new website.

“What” is more important than “how”.

If you’re not sure of what you want, or even if you are, a good follow-up question to ask yourself is “why?” Why do I want that? Why is it important to me?

The answer to that question will confirm that what you said you want is indeed important and valuable to you, (or it isn’t), and provide you with the motivation to move forward.

Why do you want more opt-ins? Because this is a simple way to get what I want: more clients from the visitors to my website.

First, figure out WHAT you want (and why). Then, figure out HOW to get it.

Email marketing for attorneys

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Email marketing done wrong

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It’s funny, the guy who sent me this email is a successful blogger with a big email list. So he should know better. 

He sends emails to his list announcing each new blog post. That’s good. But the subject line in those emails all say, “New Update on [his blog]”.

That’s bad. 

Nobody is interested in knowing there’s an update. So what? Why should I care? 

You have to tell them why they should care. 

The purpose of an email subject line is to “sell” the recipient of that email on opening it. 

Make them curious. Entice them with benefits. Or both. 

Don’t just send them an email. Tell them why they should open it. 

If the recipient knows the sender, they may give them the benefit of the doubt and open the email. Will they do that week after week?

Who knows?

If they’re busy, if they’re a new subscriber and don’t yet know that you consistently deliver value, they may skip your email, assuming that (like so many other emails they receive) it’s nothing but a sales pitch. 

Or they might save it to read later, but we know that “later” often never arrives. 

The subject line of your email is the key to getting your email read. It is a headline. It must capture the attention of the recipient and convince them to stop scrolling and open your email. 

And “New update. . .” isn’t going to get the job done.

If your email is meant to announce your new blog post and your blog post has a good title, the simplest thing to do is to put that title in the subject line of your email. 

There are other options, but this works most of the time.

So, why doesn’t this experienced blogger do that? I don’t know. But don’t do what he does. 

And don’t do what he does in the body of his emails, either.

The only content in his emails is a hyperlinked copy of the title of his blog post. Nothing else. 

Why is this a mistake? Because while the title/headline might be enticing, it might not be enough to get subscribers to click the link. 

And the goal isn’t to open the email, it’s to get subscribers to read your post.

You have two options for accomplishing this.

Option one is to use the body of the email to sell them on clicking the link. Tell them more about the benefits they get from your post, share how others have benefitted from this kind of information, say something about why you’re qualified to present this information, or otherwise prove that reading the post will be worth his time. 

And yes, you could enclose the first few paragraphs of your blog post (and the link to continue reading). 

Option two is to enclose the entire blog post in the body of your email. 

That’s the way I do it. 

When you get my email, you don’t have to click anything to read my latest post. You can read the post right there in your email inbox. 

I know, by doing it this way, I get fewer people going to my blog. That would improve my traffic and engagement numbers, and make it more likely that when someone finishes reading the post, they’ll read something else on the blog. 

But I think it’s worth it. 

It’s worth it because by making it more convenient for you to read my post, you’ll be more likely to do it. And get the benefits thereof. And become interested in hiring me or buying something from me or contacting me to learn more.

Which you are less likely to do if you can’t read the post without going to my blog.

The goal is to get more people (1) to open your emails and (2) read your content. Because it is your content that convinces people to take the next step.  

Email marketing for attorneys

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This isn’t for everyone, but it might be for you

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I came across this line in an email. I wrote it down to share with you because it’s a great way to sell legal services (or anything else).

  • It gets attention and makes the reader curious about what “it” is
  • It adds credulity by “admitting” it isn’t for everyone (and not trying to persuade everyone)
  • It suggests exclusivity, which creates desire; people want things that are for a select group, especially if they are told they might not qualify to be in that group
  • It imbues the writer or advertiser with strength and confidence, which are attractive traits (especially in a lawyer)
  • It almost forces the reader to continue reading, to find out more

Of course “it” isn’t for everyone; few things are. But including a line like this in your headline or the body of your message might make your reader “hope” that it is for them, making it more likely they will look for a reason it is.

Look for a way to include a message like this in your marketing. It isn’t for everyone, but it might be for you.

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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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When you SHOULDN’T do email marketing

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Email marketing rocks, for reasons I’ve spoken about many a time. But it’s not for everyone.

There are a few situations where a lawyer in private practice probably shouldn’t do email marketing.

Such as. . .

(1) Your firm or jurisdiction doesn’t allow it

There’s a difference between cold email, sent to strangers, and permission-based email sent to clients, business contacts, subscribers, and others who have opted in to a list or otherwise want to hear from you.

If you want to use email to build your practice, make sure your firm understands the difference. If they don’t and you can’t convince them or find exceptions (and you like your job), email marketing isn’t for you.

(2) You don’t need or want more business

You’ve got all the work you can handle, earn more than you can possibly spend, and are reasonably certain that this will continue. You don’t have a reason to do email marketing, or any marketing at all.

(3) You don’t believe it works for your practice

Why wouldn’t staying in touch with clients and business contacts result in repeat business and referrals?

I’ll give you a minute.

But hey, if you really believe it’s not right for you, you shouldn’t do it. Your heart won’t be in it and, frankly, you’ll find a way to mess it up to prove that what you believe is true.

(4) You don’t want to do it

That’s legitimate. There are a lot of marketing strategies that work incredibly well for a lot of lawyers I don’t want to do, and I don’t.

To each his or her own.

And that’s all I can think of.

Note, I didn’t mention “not enough time” or “don’t know how”. I don’t buy either of these. Any more than I accept “I tried it and it didn’t work.”

Like anything, it works if you want it to. It doesn’t if you don’t.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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Lede, follow, or go home

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If you want more people to read what you write, write a headline that flags them down as they go sailing by and “forces” them to pay attention.

Because if you don’t, they’ll won’t, and they will (probably) move on and read something else.

One way to get their attention is to write something unusual, as I did with the archaic, journalistic spelling of “lead” in the headline of this post. It makes you stop and wonder if I misspelled the word or I mean something else.

For a second or two, you’re reading and, therefore, a bit more likely to continue reading.

Remember, you can’t bore people into reading. So do something different, interesting, or fun.

But that’s not the only way to do it. You can’t go wrong promising benefits, asking a thought-provoking question, or sharing a surprising fact, statistic, or quote.

You can also win friends and influence readers by leading with a story.

People want to hear what happened to your client, your friend, your friend’s client, or you.

Your headline should be simple, make the reader curious, and give them a reason to read your first sentence. Of course, that first sentence has to be good enough to get them to read the second sentence.

You can also get attention with images and other visual elements: charts, lists, color, bullet points, sub-heads, unusual typography, and a P.S. (in a letter or email).

But while all the above is true, it’s also situational. If you’re writing to someone who knows you personally, or to your list of regular readers, to some extent, you can assume you have their attention and can get away with being clever, mysterious or weird. People who know you are probably going to read what you write because they know you and want to hear what you say.

Which is why you will find more than a few of my headlines make you question my sanity and want to see my bar card.

Just having fun. Because if it’s not fun for me, I’m pretty sure it won’t be fun for you.

And if it’s not fun, why bother?

How to write something people want to read

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Some people are weird

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Some prospective clients just don’t get it. They hear the reasons, want the benefits, understand the urgency, have the resources, and still say no.

What’s up with that?

Why don’t they see the value of saying yes?

Don’t get your panties in a festival trying to figure it out.

Yes, examine all of your marketing collateral and look for ways you can make things clearer or more compelling. See if you can find stronger testimonials or more relevant success stories. Do what you can to improve your services and offers.

And stay in touch with them.

Stay in touch with them until they buy or die. And when they die, stay in touch with their heirs until they buy or die. And when they buy, stay in touch with them until they buy again or buy something else you offer, or send you referrals.

Never stop marketing to anyone. Unless someone’s a jerk and you don’t want them, or their referrals..

But if you want them and you’ve done everything you can do to get them to say yes, and the answer is still no, move on.

Again, don’t stop emailing. Keep them on the list. When I say “move on” I mean focus your time and emotional energy on other people.

Because some people will never “get it” no matter how compelling their need, or how clearly or how often you communicate.

Some people are weird.

Just the way it is.

You’re a problem solver, not a miracle worker. Go find some other people who want you to solve their problems in this lifetime.

Email marketing for attorneys

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