The (second) best way to get a reply to your letter

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It’s frustrating to send a letter or email to someone who doesn’t reply.

Did they get my email? Did they read it? Maybe I said something wrong. Maybe I’m not important to them. Maybe they’re out sick.

I’ve got a situation like that right now. I need to know if my accountant got my email and it’s been over a week.

I wrote again, but in the past, my emails have gone to his spam folder and he has a bad habit of not checking.

It’s about a tax matter and I really need to know, so today, instead of gnashing my teeth, I’m going to do the unthinkable. I’m going to call.

Talk to him or his staff, tell them what’s up.

Yeah, I’m going old school. Simple, isn’t it? Problem solved.

Unless I get his voicemail and he doesn’t check that.

I know a lawyer who is having a similar problem with an adjuster. He’s emailed, called and left messages, but the adjuster hasn’t contacted him and the Statute is coming up.

In that case, I’d recommend the number one way to get a response: file and serve.

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If I put someone on hold, I’ll get back to them in 30 seconds or less

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Have you ever used a service like IFTTT.COM (“If this, then this”) to automate digital functions? For example, “If I tag an Evernote note with #dropbox, save a copy of that note to Dropbox”.

Anyway, some of the “recipes” are quite handy. If you’re not familiar with the site, check it out.

Also consider how you can do something similar with non-digital processes. A series of “If/Then” formulas for you or your office procedures manual.

Examples regarding the phone:

  • “If I answer the phone, I’ll say ‘Good Morning/Afternoon, Law Offices'”
  • “If the phone rings, I’ll answer it in 3 rings or less”.
  • “If I need to put someone on hold, I’ll ask them if it’s okay first”
  • “If I put someone on hold, I’ll get back to them in 30 seconds or less”.
  • “If a prospective client calls, I’ll ask them where they heard about me (us)”.
  • “If I take a message/need to call someone back, I’ll give them a day/time window and ask if that’s okay for them”

These statements serve as agreements with ourselves that when certain conditions are met, we will do certain things, or do them in a certain pre-determined way.

By thinking these through and writing them down, we train ourselves (and our staff) to provide a consistent level of “customer service”.

We can also use “If/then” statements to improve our productivity.

For example, “If I’m recording a video, I’ll review my “video checklist” before I begin.”

We can use “If/then” agreements for any area of life:

  • “If it’s a weekday, I’ll exercise for at least 20 minutes”
  • “If I’m going to the ABC market, I’ll fill up my gas tank at Chevron on the way”
  • “If it’s raining, I’ll ask delivery services to ring the doorbell when they arrive [so they don’t leave the package to get wet”

Simple, but effective, albeit a bit Adrian Monk-ish.

Try them. You’ll thank me later.

One more: “If I liked this post, I’ll share it with a lawyer friend”

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Why will this year be different?

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When you’re making plans for the coming year, the first you should do is review the previous year.

Take 30 minutes and think about what happened last year and what you can do to make this year better.

Tim Ferriss does an annual review by going through his calendar, week by week, and noting everything that was positive and everything that was negative. He uses this information to create a list of what to do more of in the new year, and a list of what NOT to do.

Another method is to go through your calendar, your project and tasks lists, your journal, and anything else you use to manage or document your life, and ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. What worked? What did you do that resulted in progress towards your goals? Which strategies were effective? What did you do well? What are you happy about?
  2. What didn’t work (and why)? What didn’t go well for you? What strategies didn’t bring good results? What disappointed you? And why?
  3. What can you do differently? What did you learn about your situation or yourself that can help you this year? Where can you improve? What do you need to stop doing? What new or better skills can help you?

If you need more prompts, here are some additional questions to ask yourself:

  • What did I discover about myself–my strengths, my challenges, my beliefs, my methods?
  • What did I discover that will help me this year: websites, podcasts, ideas, books, channels, people, methods?
  • What new habits helped me improve? What new habits can benefit me this year? What habits do I want to eliminate?
  • What did I appreciate about last year? (Experiences, opportunities, relationships, etc.) What made me happy? What was I proud of?
  • What kept me up at night? What have I/will I change this year?
  • What goals did I fail to achieve? What will I do differently this year?
  • What will I focus on this year? What are my “activity” goals? What are my “results” goals?
  • What else can I do to make this year better than last year?

To make this a better year, let go of the things you can’t change, your regrets, negative thoughts, and find a few positive things to focus on this year.

You might ask yourself the “focusing question” posed by the authors of The One Thing–“What is the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

If that “one thing” is “improve my marketing,” let me know what I can do to help.

The Attorney Marketing Formula is a good place to start

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The most important marketing metric?

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How do you know your marketing is working? You look at your numbers.

The amount of traffic to your site, the number of new subscribers, the number of leads and conversions, tell you a lot about what you’re doing right.

If you advertise, you track keywords and publications, ad copy, headlines, and offers, so you can do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.

You record the number of new clients you get each month, and where they came from. You track your revenue, and which types of work and which types of clients are producing it.

But there’s one number that is arguably more important than any other: the number of clients who hire you again.

It’s a number many professionals take for granted. They assume that if their client needs them again, for the same or other types of work, they’ll call on them.

But that’s not always true.

There are many reasons why clients don’t return. And when they don’t, you need to find out why.

Some things you can fix. Some you can’t. But you can’t do anything if you don’t know who needs you but doesn’t return, and why.

That’s why you stay in touch with your clients after the initial engagement. That’s why you talk to them, survey them, and build relationships with them.

You want to know what’s going on their life or business and see what you can do to help them, and remind them that you’re just a call away.

Ultimately, if a client needs your help and doesn’t return, there is only one acceptable reason: they can no longer afford you. But you need to know that, too, so you can refer them to an attorney in their price range.

If the work you do typically doesn’t have much return business, e.g., consumer bankruptcy work, your key metric should be referrals.

If a client can refer other clients to you, but doesn’t, you need to find out why so you can do something about it.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System for Attorneys

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Thank you (and a challenge)

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Thank you for being a loyal reader of my blog and newsletter and for everything else you do.

Thank for your comments and questions. They help make me better at what I do.

Thank you for your reviews and testimonials. They show other lawyers that “this stuff really works” and encourage them to take a chance on me.

Thank you for sharing my content with colleagues. It helps me build my list and my business.

Thank you for buying my books and courses and hiring me to coach or consult you. Your support helps me continue to do what I do.

So, thank you. I appreciate you and want you to know that.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m sure you’re telling your clients and others that you appreciate them. Most people don’t say thank you, and when you do, don’t for a minute think it goes unnoticed.

Which leads to my challenge:

Send a “thank you” email to someone every day.

Send a thank you to a new client. You probably already did that; do it again.

Send a thank you to a fellow professional for sending you an article or for sharing your article with their clients.

Send a thank you to a prospective client for considering you as their attorney.

Send a thank you to someone who referred someone to you, even if they didn’t hire you.

Send an email to opposing counsel, thanking them for making your job a little less miserable.

Send a thank you to a personal friend, for being your friend.

Put “thank you” on your daily calendar, to remind yourself to thank someone for something. Train yourself to look for reasons to tell someone you appreciate them.

What will happen when you do?

You’ll make someone feel good about what they’ve done, and about themselves, making it more likely they’ll do it again.

You’ll feel good about yourself for remembering to shine a light on someone’s good deed or ongoing support.

You’ll stand out in a world where most people don’t say thank you, or don’t say it enough.

Imagine waking up, opening your email and waiting inside was a message from someone telling you how much they appreciate you. Imagine what you’ll think about that person.

Make a daily “thank you” email your new habit. You may be surprised by how much it improves your career and your relationships.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Client relations starts before the client hires you

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Everyone touts the importance of excellent client relations, aka “customer service”. And rightly so. 

Making our clients feel appreciated, minding our manners, giving clients more value than they expect, being fair and honest in our fees and billing, keeping clients informed–this is how we build trust, get good reviews, and generate repeat business and referrals. 

We build our reputation and a loyal client following by the way we treat our clients, at least as much as by the outcomes we deliver. And we generally do a good job of it.

But we can do better. 

Because it’s not just how you treat a client after they come to see you, it’s the entirety of the client experience, which begins before you ever speak with them. 

When someone refers a prospective client to you, what do they tell them about you? 

When a prospective client watches your video, reads your article or blog post, or hears you speak, what does your content and delivery tell them about your abilities and experience?

When they visit your website, what do they learn about your services, your experience, and what it will be like to have you as their attorney?

When someone subscribes to your list, what do you send them, tell them, and offer them, and what does that say to them about you?

And when someone contacts you, to ask a question or schedule an appointment, what are they asked, what are they told, and how do you make them feel?

Because your success depends on how you make people feel–about their case or issue and about you.

A successful legal career isn’t a series of transactions so much as a journey, and how many people you can bring with you. 

And that journey begins well before the client’s first appointment, and continues long after their last one.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System for Lawyers

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Managing your marketing assets

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What you focus on grows (and improves). So it makes sense to pay attention to the tools and resources that help you build and manage your practice.

Make a list of your marketing assets. Start with your clients. Yes, all of them, past and present.

Each client can bring you repeat business and referrals. They can promote your content and events, send traffic to your website, provide testimonials and reviews, introduce you to other professionals they work with, give you ideas for blog posts, support the businesses and causes of your other clients and contacts, and the list goes on.

If they’re not on a list, it’s too easy to forget them.

Next on your list: anyone who has ever provided you with referrals and/or anyone who is influential in your target market and, therefore, could send you referrals.

Your employees are an asset. They can help (or hurt) you in keeping clients and others happy. Add them to the list.

You know a lot of other people who should also be on your list–prospective clients, potential referral sources, people who provide services to you (copywriters, consultants, artists, other experts), bloggers, editors, centers of influence in your niche market, colleagues and friends who inspire or encourage you, etc.

They should be on your list, too.

Your marketing assets also include:

  • Your website(s)
  • Your email subscriber list
  • Your social media profiles
  • Your marketing documents and other collateral (reports, ads, sales copy, emails, templates, keywords, etc.)
  • Ideas for posts, articles, promotions
  • Notes about your niche market and the key people in it
  • Stories, jokes, examples for presentations, etc.
  • Blogs and authors you follow

And we could go on.

They all have value to you. Add them to your list so you don’t forget them.

Once you have a list, pay attention to it. Schedule days to review your list and associated notes so you can nurture your relationships, update and improve your content, and get ideas for what to do next.

Quantum Leap Marketing System for Lawyers

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On-boarding new clients

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Remember your first day of school? You were scared, you didn’t know anybody, and you didn’t know what was going to happen or what was expected of you.

You may have wanted to go home.

To some extent, your new clients feel the same way. They’re nervous about their case, they don’t know you, and they don’t know what’s going to happen.

Part of your job is to alleviate their fears and doubts and make them feel good about their decision to hire you.

You want them to understand what’s about to happen, what to expect from you, and what you expect from them. You want to equip them to work with you, to help you achieve a good outcome for them.

And you want to set the stage for repeat business and referrals.

You need an on-boarding checklist that spells out what you will do, and when, with links to forms, emails, and lists of things you need to do or tell the new client.

Things like:

  • Introduce yourself, your staff, and your partners
  • Learn about their family, their employees, their other advisers
  • Inquire about other possible legal issues
  • Provide information about their case–the law, the procedure, the timetable, and the process you follow
  • Answer their FAQs
  • Orient them to the tools and processes you use to communicate with your clients (and ask them which apps or methods they prefer)
  • Give them a “tour” of your office and/or a virtual tour of your website and the resources available to them
  • Educate them about “what else” you do, ie., other services, practice areas
  • Provide reports, referral cards, etc., they can hand out
  • Provide exemplars of positive reviews you’ve received and links to sites where they can leave one if they’re happy with your work
  • Give them homework, to get them involved in the process
  • Send a thank you note, a welcome gift, and add their birthday to your card list

Your checklist should encompass what you will say and do at their first appointment and thereafter.

Your clients are your most valuable asset. A checklist can ensure you continue to invest in them.

How to create “referral devices” that bring in new business

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The best piece of advice I ever received as an attorney

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I didn’t learn it in law school. I don’t remember my father (attorney) talking about it. I didn’t read it in a book.

The best advice I ever received came from my grandfather.

He wasn’t an attorney, he was a business owner, farmer, and commodities trader. He made and lost fortunes in his lifetime and taught me a thing or two about business and life.

When I passed the Bar and opened my first office, he visited me, pointed at the top drawer in my desk, and told me that when I get a new client, the first thing I should do is open that drawer and tell the client to drop the cash in it.

Indelicate, yes, put but sound advice.

And I wish I had always followed it.

Clients who didn’t pay me, or pay me in full, were usually the ones I didn’t ask to pay in advance.

Lesson learned.

I hear from lawyers with clients who haven’t paid or slow-pay or try to weasel out of paying in full. Maybe you’ve had one or two.

Getting paid in advance, or at least getting a big retainer, will eliminate most of that, I tell them.

Yeah, but it will also eliminate them from hiring me, I can hear them thinking. And that’s true. But is that a bad thing?

Even if you need the money and believe it’s worth the risk, in the long run, having a (reasonably) strict policy about getting paid up front will serve you well, but not just in terms of cash flow.

It will also help you build your practice with a better crop of clients.

Clients who can and do pay you, on time or early, refer other clients who can do that, too. These types of clients also tend to have more legal matters and are prepared to pay higher fees if you give them what they want.

Should you ever make exceptions? Sure. But make them exceptions, not the rule.

Get the Check: Stress-Free Legal Billing and Collection

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Screening new clients before you take their money

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It’s one thing to “drop” a client who hasn’t paid or who has been a pain in your gluteus maximus. It’s something else to not let them sign up in the first place.

What do you do to eliminate problem clients in advance?

Do you talk to them on the phone before they’re allowed to make an appointment?

Do you do a background check? Ask for references? Do you accept new clients “by referral only”?

What do you ask at the initial interview? What red flags do you look for?

If you suspect they might be trouble, do you ask for a bigger retainer or require full payment in advance?

Do you do this yourself or do you have them talk to someone else first, e.g., your administrator?

And what, if anything, do you say or do in your marketing to filter out the bad apples?

Every practice is different. Criminal defense lawyers, we feel your pain.

Every lawyer is also different. You might be more relaxed than the firm down the street, or more careful if you’ve been burned before.

But one thing is certain.

You should think about this subject and create a plan, before the next prospective client calls.

Get the Check: Stress-Free Legal Billing and Collection

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