A cost of doing business that pays for itself

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You have overhead. And discretionary expenses. Rent, wages, payroll taxes, equipment, advertising, and everything else, and each has it’s own category in your expense ledger.

Everything except one. Customer service.

Customer service should have its own expense category because it is clearly a cost of doing business and it should be accounted for.

The things you do for your clients–to deliver value, to give them a good experience with your firm, to “take care of them” and make them glad they hired you–has a cost.

Some money and a lot of time.

Money spent on overnighting copies at your expense, remembering birthdays and holidays, and providing extra services free of charge.

Time spent talking to clients about non-billable matters and explaining things you’ve already explained, to make sure the client understands. Time spent training and supervising your staff, to make sure they know why taking care of clients is good for business and so they are well equipped to do it.

There’s also time spent on personal development, to develop the habits and skills that make you better at serving your clients.

Add it all up and it’s a big number. Or it should be because it is a key factor in the success of your practice.

The more you give your clients, the better you care for them, the bigger your practice will grow. Clients who feel respected and appreciated are clients who hire you again and again and sing your praises to others.

Customer service also cuts down on problems. Clients who are well informed and regularly updated, for example, are less likely to call you again or complain to you and to the Bar.

Sometimes, customer service means giving clients the benefit of the doubt when they want more from you than they paid for. Sometimes it means cutting your fee or issuing a refund.

That doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to be taken advantage of or put up with abuse. It means understanding the lifetime value of a client and being willing to sacrifice a dollar today to earn $1000 long term.

Customer service is a cost of doing business. But it more than pays for itself.

Henry Ford said, “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”

Your goal is to earn more income. One of the best ways to do that is to invest in your clients.

The Attorney Marketing Formula is here

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How to make next year your best year ever

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Where do you want your practice to be next year at this time? Wherever that is, the way to get there is to identify and exploit your current “areas of opportunity”.

Areas of opportunity include

(1) weaknesses you can reduce or eliminate;
(2) strengths you can make stronger; and
(3) unexplored or underutilized strategies, techniques, tools, and relationships.

Take some time to examine your practice, and yourself, and look for areas of opportunity you can work on in the coming year.

Here are a few examples:

  • new target markets
  • new practice areas
  • strategic alliances with new business contacts
  • new places to advertise, network, speak and write
  • improving client relations
  • new skills to acquire, hire or outsource
  • eliminating bad habits
  • developing new habits
  • retraining or replacing under-performing employees
  • marketing strategies that work and should be expanded
  • new marketing strategies
  • improving website copy
  • eliminating marketing activities that use too much time
  • giving some employees more responsibilities
  • reducing overhead by cutting expenses, consolidating, negotiating
  • opening satellite offices
  • improving your brand
  • getting more online reviews
  • setting up additional websites to leverage important keywords
  • working fewer hours
  • improving billing and collection methods

There are many more.

Start by spending some time identifying major weaknesses, if any, and patching the dam.

Spend more time identifying and implementing things you’re not doing that could help you grow bigger or faster.

Spend most of your time identifying your strengths and making them stronger. Your strengths got you to your current level and, more than anything, they will get you to the next.

Client referrals are a major area of opportunity

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Suck it up, buttercup

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My wife needs a new chair for her office. Last night, we stopped at our local Staples, which is having a sale on office chairs, and she found one she liked. I had a $30 coupon in my pocket which was for phone and online orders. The plan was to find a chair she wanted, go home, and order it.

Eduardo came over and asked if he could help. I asked him if I could use my coupon if the chair we wanted was already on sale. He said he wasn’t sure but would go ask his manager.

He came back with good news. Not only could we use the coupon, we could buy the chair in the store and take it home with us. His manager would override the “online” code and make it happen.

Nice.

Eduardo rang us up. He called his manager over to handle the override. The manager came, clicked some buttons, and the deal was done.

On our way home, my wife and I compared notes about the manager’s attitude. Whereas Eduardo was friendly and helpful, the manager was a walking corpse.

He didn’t say anything–no “have a nice evening,” “enjoy your new chair,” or “thank you for shopping at Staples.” No smile, no eye contact. Nothing. He clicked some keys, threw the used coupon in the trash, and turned to walk back to wherever managers hide out.

As he walked away, I said, “Thank you for your help”. He half-turned back to me, mumbled something, and continued his retreat.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is, he didn’t do his job. If I was his district manager, I would have fired him on the spot.

His job isn’t just to approve coupons. His job is to foster a pleasant customer experience. Make customers feel welcome, appreciated, and glad we chose to spend our dollars with them instead of anywhere else.

It’s the most important part of his job and he didn’t do it.

Maybe he was ill. Maybe his wife just left him. Maybe he hates his job and his life.

So what? When you show up to work, you leave your problems in your car and do your job.

You do your job even if you don’t feel like it. If you have serious issues, stay home. Take a few days off. Do what you have to do, but don’t bring your problems to work.

Nobody cares about your problems. Everyone has problems of their own. Suck it up and do your job. If you can’t do that, go work somewhere else.

As employers, we know that everyone can have a bad day. Hell, we have them ourselves. But nobody should be allowed to let their problems get in the way of our job.

How to use your website to make your phone ring

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Here’s a year-end marketing project for you

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Now is a good time to update (or start) your new client welcome kit.

A welcome letter is not enough. You should overnight new clients a comprehensive package of information, instructions, and other materials that not only make the client feel welcome but equip him to help you do your job.

Your kit should answer the new client’s questions about their case and about working with you. This will reduce anxiety, misunderstandings and calls to your office.

The kit will also help you cross-sell your other services, help you build your list, and stimulate more referrals.

What goes the kit? Information.

  • what happens next, and what happens after that
  • instructions — what to do, what to NOT do
  • office hours, appointments, parking, how to contact you and your staff, payment options, what to do in an emergency,
  • answers to FAQs and answers to questions clients often don’t ask but should
  • information about the law and procedure relative to their case or matter
  • how to navigate your website
  • your social media channels and a request to Like and Share your content
  • where to send feedback, reviews, and suggestions
  • what to say and do to make referrals
  • a list of your other services and practice areas
  • your bio, and information about your staff
  • social proof about you and your firm–reviews, testimonials, endorsements, success stories/case histories–to minimize “buyer’s remorse” and provide”talking points” the client can share with partners, superiors, etc.)

And so on.

Your kit should also include a supply of your business cards, copies of reports or books you have penned, brochures, and various “referral devices” they are encouraged to share with friends and contacts.

Include more than you think is necessary. People tend to associate “bulk” with value, so load ’em up. It’s not important that they read everything, it’s important that they see that you are accomplished, organized, professional, and prepared to help them.

You can (and should) selectively share some of the contents of your kit again at a later time, especially when it has been updated. This gives you another excuse to contact them, and another way to remind them that you can help them and the people they know.

You can also use much of this information in your kit for prospective clients. But we’ll save that for early next year.

“Referral devices” bring you more referrals. Here’s how to create them

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A confused mind says no

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Most lawyers give prospective clients two choices: hire me or don’t. There are no other options. Too often, the prospect chooses to go elsewhere, wait, or do nothing.

If you want to increase your intake of new clients and maximize your revenue, give people more options to work with you or move your relationship forward.

Here are a few examples:

  • Service A or Service B
  • Service A and Service B (at a small discount, with extra free services or other benefits)
  • Package A or Package B (with different services, features, benefits and price points)
  • Hire me or schedule a free consultation
  • Schedule a free consultation or call me with questions
  • Hire me today or download/review this (web pages, articles, your report, your planning guide, etc.)
  • Attend my free webinar/seminar this week or next month
  • Hire me or follow me (and watch my videos or read my posts)
  • Hire me today or sign up for my newsletter so I can send you valuable information

Give folks more options and you’ll increase the chances that they will choose something that’s good for you.

On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of giving people too many options. If you do that, you run the risk that the prospect won’t be able to choose and will wander (or run) away. It’s called “decision fatigue” and it’s a well-documented phenomenon.

In one study, researchers at Columbia University posed as employees at a grocery store and offered passerby samples of jams. When the researchers used six varities, 30% who tried a sample purchased a jar. When researchers offered 24 varieties, however, only 3% bought something.

Of course, hiring a lawyer is a far more complex, expensive, and intimidating transaction than buying jelly. The risks of overwhelming prospects is much greater.

Offer a few options, not dozens. But give them more options besides “hire me or don’t”.

More

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Taking inventory

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The carpets are dry and we’re almost done putting the house back together, all except my office.

I’m sitting there now, looking at the furniture that’s in the room but not yet back in place. I’m thinking about where I want to put things, to see if I can improve my workflow and reduce clutter and visual distractions.

Of special note are the cords that power my computers and other devices. I’ve got to clean out that nest of snakes.

I’m also keen on seeing if I can remove an item or two. I have a nearly empty 4-drawer filing cabinet that should go. I don’t need it. I’ve got enough room in the closet for the few remaining paper files I’ve hung onto.

My cat just walked in, to see what’s going on. I asked if he had any ideas. He did, actually. He suggested I convert my office to a playroom for him. I told him I would consider it. You have to be civil to your co-workers.

Anyway, I may wind up putting everything back the way it was (but tidy up the cords). If I do, that’s okay, too. I looked at things from a different perspective and saw things I couldn’t see before. The late Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

It’s important to step back and look at things from a different perspective every once in a while, and not just the furniture. We should periodically examine our client mix, to see who we might want to replace. We should do the same thing with our lists of tasks and projects.

I just got a new phone and had fun deciding which apps to re-install and which ones to let go of. There’s something appealing about a clean slate. If you agree, how about coming over this weekend and helping me clean out the garage?

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Know thy enemy

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I’m like that teacher you hated who always gave homework. Today is no exception.

The bad news? This will be an ongoing project, something you need to do for the rest of your career.

The good news is that it’s not difficult and shouldn’t take up a lot of time. In fact, most of the assignment can be done by a virtual assistant and I won’t mark you down for cheating.

The assignment is to set up files for tracking the activities of your competition. Doing this will provide you with ideas for doing a better job of managing and marketing your services.

If you can identify firms or individual attorneys who regularly compete with you with ad dollars or at networking events, or elsewhere, start with them. Otherwise, pick someone (at random), in your building or at your networking events, who has the same practice areas you do.

Five or ten competitors is enough to start. Once you have identified them, look at their websites, do a search for their name(s), and see what you can find out:

  • What market(s) do they target?
  • Where do they advertise, network, speak, or publish?
  • What is their theme, message, or USP?
  • What kinds of content do they publish on their website(s) or blog(s)?
  • What do they offer prospects to drive traffic to their sites and/or get them to opt-in?
  • How and where do they use social media?
  • Which centers of influence (referral sources, endorsers, publishers, etc.) do they associate with?
  • What services do they offer? What don’t they offer?
  • Which keywords do they appear to target? Which do they seem to overlook?
  • What resources, talents, and connections do they have that you don’t have or are weaker in?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • Who are their biggest competitors?
  • How do they manage their practice in terms of personnel, equipment, and workflows?

Read their content, save copies of their ads, and make lists of where they speak or write and about what topics.

Don’t obsess over this. Just observe and make notes.

Then, periodically review your notes and look for opportunities to improve your marketing and management based on what your competition is doing:

  • Identify new target markets or market segments
  • Identify categories of referral sources you don’t currently have in your arsenal
  • Look for ways to improve your marketing messages, content, website(s), and external content (e.g., guest posts, comments, social media posts)
  • Examine your strengths and weaknesses relative to the competition; find ways to make your strengths even stronger and eliminate or marginalize your weaknesses
  • Brainstorm ways to exploit your competition’s weaknesses and overcome their strengths
  • Look for ways to improve your workflows, tools, and resources

Keep an eye on your competition. You may learn something you can use.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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The secret to my success

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Want to know the secret to my success? The secret is simple. I do a few things well.

That’s it. A few things. The “precious few” in 80/20 parlance, that deliver the majority of my results.

I run three businesses. In each business, there are only a few things I focus on to keep the wheels turning. Well, actually, one business is nearly 100% passive income and requires almost none of my time anymore. The other two businesses are flexible enough that I can work at them when (and if) I choose. So for me, at this stage of my life, my precious few are “writing, learning, and marketing.”

How about you?

If you run a law practice, your precious few probably include, “marketing, management, personal development, and work product”. Am I right?

[Sidebar: Don’t be one of those lawyers who foolishly boasts that they don’t do any marketing. Everything you do is marketing.

Every time you speak to a client you’re showing them why they should remain your client and refer their friends. Every time you give someone your card or mention your website you’re inviting them to learn more about you do. Every time you talk to a prospective client or fellow professional you’re showing them why they should do business with you. It’s all marketing. All of it.

Okay, back on the record.]

Let’s start with “areas of focus”. You run a law practice, you have a personal life. That’s two. You might also do charitable work, be active in your church, or have a hobby or outside interest that’s important to you.

What are your precious few areas of focus?

Next, for each area of focus, think about the precious few things you focus on (or need to).

For your practice, what are the precious few things you do for marketing?

You may focus on a few types of clients, niche markets, or practice areas. Your strategies might include client referrals, professional referrals, and driving traffic to your website. If you advertise, your precious few might include a group of niche publications, keywords, or offers that deliver the majority of your results. You might create content, build a social media following, or speak or network in the “real world”.

What are they? What are precious few in your marketing?

For work product, you might derive most of your income from a certain type of case or client or a certain type of work. What are your precious few?

For management, you might focus on new client intake procedures (although that’s also marketing), billing, and document management. You might focus on hiring the best people, training, or building culture. What are your precious few?

For personal development, you might work on building a new habit, improving a particular skill, or acquiring a certain type of knowledge. What do you focus on? What are your precious few?

In the end, success comes from doing a few simple things. It can’t be any other way. You can’t do 100 things and expect to do them all well. You can’t focus on 100 things you can only focus on a few.

I built my practice with referrals. It was one of my precious few.

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Your two most valuable employees

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I’ve mentioned before that the most valuable person in a law office is the person who answers the phone. They project that oh-so-important first impression of you and your office. They make people feel welcome and valued and glad they dialed your number instead of someone else’s.

When the phones are busy, they deftly handle the rush, putting callers on hold without making them feel abandoned and coming back to them with a sincere “Thanks for holding, how may I direct your call?”

They are professional but friendly. Helpful but not servile. Efficient but not mechanical. They are even-tempered, never letting anyone upset them or bully them.

They protect you and enforce your rules. When you don’t want to talk to someone, they cover for you, and callers never know.

The person who answers the phone is your most valuable employee. Make sure you find the right person for the job and pay them well.

And make sure that person isn’t you.

Don’t answer the phone in your office. It’s bad posture. It says, “I’m not busy enough (successful enough) to have someone answer the phone for me.

If you’re working late or in the office on the weekend, okay. You can explain. Otherwise, hire someone or hire a service to handle the phones for you.

There’s another important job that you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t be the one who asks for money or calls clients when they’re overdue. Let your administrator, bookkeeper, or accountant do that. Let them be the bad guy.

Stress-free billing and collection for lawyers: Get the Check

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If your mom managed your law firm

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When we were kids our moms made sure we followed the rules. We ate our peas, did our homework, studied for tests, and told them if we were going to be late for dinner. Our parents wanted to protect us and get a good start in life so they made us follow the rules. Or else.

If your mom managed your law firm, she would do the same thing.

She’d make sure you did your work, calendared every date, filed every document, and billed every client. If a client didn’t pay, she’d be on the phone, reminding them and threatening to call their mom.

No doubt, she’d also make you tidy up your office at the end of the day.

You would be more productive and profitable but nobody wants their mom telling them what to do, or telling everyone embarrassing stories about something we did when we were six.

Besides, we have administrators to do most of the things our mom would do.

The problem is, an administrator does what you tell them to do, not the other way around.

So you need self-discipline. Which is loosely defined as doing things you need to do whether you feel like doing them or not.

Self-discipline means conquering procrastination and developing consistency. Not because your mom made you but because you made yourself.

One way to develop self-discipline is to start small. If you find it difficult to do marketing 15 minutes a day, start with 5 minutes. Or one minute. Or start doing it once a week.

Develop the habit of doing it consistently, first, and go from there.

Another way to develop self-discipline is to first develop it in other areas of your life. If you are undisciplined about following your task management system, start by getting self-disciplined about reading every day or going to bed 30 minutes earlier.

Someone said, “How you do anything is how you do everything,” and if that’s true, when you develop discipline in one area of your life, it helps you become disciplined in others.

A good place to start is with physical activity. Taking a twenty-minute walk three days a week, for example, is easy to do and easy to measure. You’re either doing it or you’re not.

Walking will not only improve your health and give you more energy, it will help you to become more disciplined about doing more cerebral activities like writing, personal development, or marketing.

Walking is also good for getting ideas. Where do you think I got the idea for this post?

Does your website need more content? This will help

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