Lawyer advertising is expensive. Or is it?

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“How much are the ads?” is the wrong question. The right question is “how much can I profit after I pay the cost of the ads?“

Because if you spend $30,000 per month on ads but take in $150,000 in fees, that $30k ad budget looks like a pretty good deal.

The cost of ads is relative. It doesn’t matter how much you invest, what matters is how much your investment earns. Your net profit after the cost of the ads and your overhead.

Is it really that simple? Yes, and no.

Yes, because it’s just math. No, it’s not that simple because you have to consider the risks.

The risk that you won’t take in enough revenue to cover the cost of the ads (and overhead). The risk that the ads that work today won’t continue to work tomorrow. The risk that you’ll get complacent and mess up something, or you’ll let your guard down and some charlatan will take you to the cleaners.

I’ve lost a lot of money on advertising. I’ve run ads that bombed, been cheated, and spent more than it tuned out I need to spend. But I’ve also made a lot. More than enough to cover my costs and turn a handsome profit.

But if you’re considering advertising, there’s something else you need to know. You can still make a profit on ads that break even or even show a loss.

How can you lose money and still make money?

On the backend.

Your front end is the business (and revenue) you get directly from your ads. The backend is the business and revenue you get from repeat business and referrals.

If your ads bring in a client who has a lot of legal work, you might break even on the first case they hire you to handle, but get a steady stream of repeat business (and referrals) for years to come.

And all that backend profit is net profit, since you already paid the advertising costs to bring in the client.

Many attorneys lose money on every one of their ads, but make a fortune on the backend.

So, that’s the big picture. Advertising could be the best thing you ever do for your practice, but if you’re not careful, it could leave a big red stain on your books.

Fortunately, you can minimize your risks and simultaneously maximize your profits.

You minimize risk by learning all you can about advertising and not blindly turning everything over to someone else.

You minimize risk by starting small and testing. See what works on a small scale before rolling out on a bigger scale. You don’t invest $5000 on an ad until you see that the $750 version is doing okay.

I started out with classified ads. Then 1/4 page. Then 1/3 page. Then 1/2 page. And eventually, full page.

Start small and if you see a profit, continue running the ads and, eventually, expand into more ads, bigger ads, more publications or sites, and more keywords.

If profits decline, you fix things, or scale back.

You minimize risk and increase profits by continually testing other ad copy, headlines, keywords, and offers.

You can also minimize risk by targeting smaller markets and niches where there is less competition and the cost to advertise is lower. These can be as profitable as bigger markets, and are often more profitable.

Another way to minimize risk is through multi-step marketing. Instead of expecting to make the sale on your frontend ads, you capture leads and stay in touch with prospects, some of whom will “buy” weeks, months, or years down the road.

And you minimize risk by avoiding the same kinds of ads other attorneys run and making yours different or better.

Risk is part of advertising. But so is opening an office, hiring help, going to court, and everything else you do to build a law practice. That’s business.

But in business, success doesn’t require the elimination of all risk (even if that was possible). It requires intelligently managing your risks.

Same as everything in life.

How to get more repeat business and referrals

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3 ways clients can help you

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Would you like an expert to help you build a bigger and better practice? Someone who knows, likes, and trusts you, wants to help you, and is willing to do that without being paid?

Yep, we’re talking about your clients who are experts at being your client. Here are three ways they can help you.

Find out what’s working

You can talk to your clients, in a post-case interview, for example, and that might be a good idea, but sending surveys is easier and can be responded to anonymously, which will probably generate more candid feedback.

Either way, you can ask

  • What they liked about the work you did for them (outcomes, how they were treated, fees, keeping them informed, seeing them “on time”)
  • What needs improving?
  • Would they recommend you to others? What would they say?
  • Where did they hear about you (friend, another professional, saw your article or ad?)
  • Did they read any reviews? Where? What did they like best?
  • What keywords did they use in their online search?
  • Before hiring you, did they read any of your blog articles? Sign up for your newsletter? Attend your seminar?
  • Why did they choose you instead of other attorneys?
  • Do they know about your other services?
  • And a lot more

Improve your marketing

Clients can also help you improve your marketing and advertising. Show them two ads or headlines or images, for example, and ask which one they prefer. Give them a variety of topics (for your blog or newsletter or presentation) and have them choose the ones that interest them.

Ask which format(s) they prefer for consuming your content, if they like long articles or short, and how often they would like to receive it.

Ask them to tell you about their industry or market, about their work, the publications they read, leaders they follow, and organizations they belong to.

Lead gen

Ask your clients to share your content, tell others about your upcoming events, hand out your handouts, or invite friends to schedule a free consultation.

Ask them to provide a testimonial and a review.

Ask for referrals and introductions.

Will your clients help you? Not only are most (satisfied) clients willing to do that, they are flattered that you asked.

So, ask.

Marketing is simple when you know The Formula

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Onboarding new clients

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No doubt you give new clients information about what will happen with their case or matter—a general timeline, a list of steps, what to send you, what to expect, when you will update them, how to reach you in an emergency, and other do’s and don’ts.

This is good because

  • It helps you do a better job of protecting and serving them
  • You’ll have fewer issues because of misunderstandings
  • You can better manage clients’ expectations about what will happen, and when
  • Your clients will be impressed by your thoroughness and professionalism, and thus more likely to trust you and follow your instructions
  • Your clients will feel well taken care of, and thus more likely to stick with you, refer you, and say good things about you

One benefit you might not have considered is that you’ll get more referrals doing this because the information you provide shows that referrals are a common and makes the process easy and non-threatening. (See Maximum Referrals for more.)

As I say, I’m sure you do this. But you should do it more.

More means providing this information in more formats:

  • Handouts you give them or mail them
  • Email autoresponder sequence (break it up into smaller pieces, sent over time)
  • FAQs on your website
  • A dedicated ‘new client’ section of your website
  • Videos, webinars, audios

More also means

  • Sending the information every few weeks or months, to make sure they have it, haven’t misplaced it, remind them to read or listen, and to see if they have questions
  • Talking to them about parts of the instructions when they are in the office or on the phone
  • Sharing success stories about how your clients are benefitting from this information
  • Giving them forms and checklists in addition to written instructions

This is important because people

  • Lose things
  • Don’t read everything
  • Don’t understand everything
  • Need to be reminded to read things and do things
  • Process information differently (all at once vs. drip, read vs. video)
  • Are often distracted by life, especially when they are occupied by a legal issue
  • Might not realize how serious you are and need to hear it again and again
  • Might have trouble explaining what you want them to know or do to people who need to know and/or assist them; (tell them to share your information and let you explain it)

The more you do this, the better your clients’ experience will be with you and your staff. Which is good for them and good for you.

It means extra work, but you’ll be glad you did.

How to talk to clients about referrals

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Getting unstuck

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It happens. You’re spinning your wheels or losing ground. What’s worked for you before no longer seems to. You’re bleeding money or exhausted out of your mind, scared or frustrated or angry, or all of the above.

You’re stuck and don’t know what to do about it.

The answer is to do something. Change something. Try something and keep trying until you get your mojo back.

Because you can. Nothing has to stay the same. Trust me. I’ve been there. And lived to tell about it.

I have some suggestions for you. To get you thinking. Maybe you’ve tried some of these already, or thought about trying them. Maybe you need to hear them again before you’re willing to try them, or try them again.

Quickly read through this list of strategies and note anything that catches your eye. Come back to it, meditate or journal on it, or talk to someone about it.

And then try it.

  • Fix a health issue. You can’t move forward if you’re not feeling well or don’t have enough energy. Maybe you need a new eyeglass prescription. Maybe you need to get off some meds. Maybe you have an addiction you need to free yourself from. Maybe you need to eat better or sleep better.
  • Fix a relationship issue with your spouse, child, law partner, employee, or friend.
  • Change your marketing. Try a new strategy, eliminate something, expand something. Learn more, get help, change your process. Your troubles might all go away when you’re able to get some new clients or better clients.
  • Hire someone: an office manager, a virtual assistant, a business coach, a consultant. Maybe you need a new accountant or financial advisor. Bringing some new ideas and/or personalities into your life might be just what the doctor ordered.
  • Fire someone. Someone who is making things worse, not better.
  • Change your practice area or target market. Something more lucrative or a better fit for you.
  • Delegate more. The source of your “stuckness” might simply be that you’re trying to do too much yourself. My philosophy: Only do those things that only you can do; delegate everything else.
  • Find an accountability partner to keep you on track.
  • Cut overhead. What can you eliminate? What can you reduce? Could you renegotiate your lease or move to another building? Find cheaper alternatives for anything? Every dollar you save allows you to do something else.
  • And/or. . . spend more on things that are working.
  • Farm out unprofitable cases; refer out troublesome clients.
  • Simplify (everything).
  • Make your workspace more pleasant to work in. Change the lighting or the furniture; get rid of the clutter. Buy some plants.
  • Track your time. You might find a lot of waste.
  • Reduce your work hours. Take more breaks. Take a vacation. Get more sleep.

Okay, one more. Try a side-hustle.

No, really. A business project unrelated to your current career or practice. Not as a way to supplement or replace your income, although that might happen, mostly as a way to shake the cobwebs off of you by doing something completely different.

You’ll learn new ideas, meet new people, discover different ways to market your services or build your career.

You might also have some fun, which might be the very thing that’s missing in your life.

Yes, this means diverting time and money away from your core business. But doing something else part time might be just what you need to jumpstart your core business.

If this isn’t in the cards for you right now, at least study other business models. I learned how to market my legal services, in part, by looking at what other professionals and business owners do.

The answer to getting unstuck is to do something different. Find something and run with it.

Quantum Leap Marketing System for Attorneys

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Taking inventory

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I watched a video about tasks, tools, and processes for creatives and thought the information was helpful for lawyers. Helpful because it provides a framework for thinking about your work and how you can do it more efficiently and with better results.

We’re told that tasks fall into 4 types of categories, Administrative, Consumption, Documentation, and Creative, and as I thought about what I do in my work in this context, I starting thinking about what I could eliminate, delegate, automate, speed up, or otherwise improve. You might do the same.

Administrative

Administrative tasks include calendaring, conflict management, bookkeeping, client communication, website updates, file management, HR, individual task management, and so much more.

We spend a significant percentage of our day doing or managing these tasks; they are the most obvious category to delegate or automate.

Consumption

Cases, articles, books, blogs, courses, podcasts, newsletters, videos, seminars—it’s a long list.

You can streamline this category by cutting out some sources of material you regularly turn to, subscribing to services or newsletters that curate this information for you, more audio and less text, and by assigning the “first pass” for some of this content to someone who works for you.

Documentation

This includes taking notes on client matters, and notes on the other material you consume, recording ideas, storing documents, and the software and systems you use to retrieve this information.

Creative

This is your output—how you get paid. It includes your legal work—drafting, negotiating, writing, speaking—and everything you do for marketing.

You might not want to delegate all of this, but you can get help with research, investigation, first drafts, editing, and follow-ups.

As you consider these categories, think about your situation and what you want to improve. Go through a typical week or month and document what you do.

  1. Tasks. Brainstorm every function performed by you and the people who work for you (or outsources).
  2. Tools. Note the software and hardware you use on the computer, browser extensions, phone apps, paper and folders, etc. It also includes forms, templates, checklists, reminders, and more.
  3. Processes. How you do what you do. This will take the most time to document, but is likely to deliver the most benefits.

If you don’t want to do all this right now, at least use this as a checklist to think about how you use your time and what you could do to use it better.

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Should you outsource your law firm marketing?

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Hire people and let them do your marketing?

Yes, and no.

You save time by not doing everything yourself. And you get to borrow the skills and knowledge of experts who can do many things faster and better than you. You pay a price for this but if the people you hire are good at what they do, they’ll make you money.

Sounds compelling. So why do I say “yes and no”?

Because there are some things you will always do better than anyone else.

Two things, in particular.

First, a marketing consultant or firm can create articles, presentations, newsletters, and other content for you, and it will be well-researched, grammatically sound, and clearly articulated, but they can’t speak with your voice or your authority, because they don’t have your experiences, your philosophies, or your personality.

Hire others to advise you or assist you if you want to, but don’t delegate all of your content creation to them.

Second, no marketing expert can build personal relationships with your clients and professional contacts for you.

As a professional, this is your most important and valuable job.

Yes, even more important than doing the legal work. You can hire attorneys to do most of that under your supervision, but if you ask those attorneys or anyone else to build relationships for you, the only relationships they build will be between the client and themself.

No matter what kind of practice you have, or want to build, repeat business and referrals are key to your long-term success.

Don’t put that in the hands of anyone else.

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Ask this question before you decide

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You’re thinking about doing something for your practice. Something that will take time and resources away from something else. You see the benefits of starting a blog or newsletter, for example, but you’re not sure if you want to commit to it.

But it could be anything. Hiring a new clerk, using a new app, moving your office, offering a new service, or reducing your work hours.

Whatever it is, before you decide, ask yourself, What’s the hidden benefit?

You know the primary benefit. If you start a blog or newsletter, you’ll be able to bring in more clients. The hidden benefit is that it will make you a better writer, and a faster writer, which can help you in all aspects of your marketing and legal work.

Maybe you’re thinking about recording a podcast or videos. The benefit is that you will be able to connect with your audience more deeply because they’re not just hearing your words, they’re hearing your voice.

The hidden benefit is that you will improve your oral presentation skills, making you better from the stage, in interviews, and in the courtroom.

Another example.

You’re thinking about rejecting a small case. The benefit is that you won’t have to invest valuable time doing something with a small payoff.

The hidden benefit might be that you will learn about a new industry or market, or meet other professionals in that market, leading to a lot of bigger cases and clients.

Okay, one more.

You’re thinking about sharing my website and newsletter with other lawyers. The benefit is that you’ll strengthen your relationship with them, making them more likely to share marketing ideas with you and possibly willing to send you more referrals.

The hidden benefit is that by helping them learn how to get more clients, they will have more clients they can refer.

Before you decide to do something, or not do it, always ask, “What’s the hidden benefit?”

Because the hidden benefit might turn a no into a yes or a someday into today.

How to use a newsletter to build your practice

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Owning your practice vs. running your practice

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There’s a lot going on in an active law practice; if we’re not careful, we spend most of our time reacting to what happens instead of making things happen.

We handle the cases, work with the clients, fight the fights, put out the fires, send out the bills, and then we do it again. And again.

We don’t do enough (or any) planning. Or managing our plan. We don’t decide what we want to happen, and what we’ll do to make it happen.

We just keep busy doing what’s in front of us.

But if you’re in charge, there are things you need to do to make sure the practice runs the way you want it. One of these is to manage your numbers.

Tracking how many, how often, and how big. But not just the ultimate results (new clients, revenue, etc.) but the numbers that drive those results.

These are your KPIs—your “Key Performance Indicators”. They include things like advertising dollars spent, keywords, networking events attended, articles and blog posts, consultations, social media campaigns, and whatever else you do to drive traffic to your website and prospective clients to your door.

You need to know your numbers. So you can do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.

Don’t obsess over the numbers. But do watch the trends. But don’t rely solely on the numbers. Your instincts and judgement are also important.

Running a practice means keeping an eye on what’s going on. Or hiring people to do that and keeping an eye on them.

One more thing.

If you don’t run your own practice, if you work for someone, you still need to track your numbers. So that when it’s time for a performance review and you’re asked what you been doing, you’ll have some numbers to show them.

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Another reason to write your own reviews

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Yesterday, I talked about taking the nice things clients say about you, your services, and the way they were treated, putting their words into writing, and asking those clients to post a review at your favorite review site.

You get better reviews that way, and more of them.

But this is based on clients spontaneously thanking you or otherwise saying nice things to you or about you. What if they don’t? Or don’t do it enough?

You can send your clients surveys and ask for their feedback, and you should. You’ll find out what they like but may not say, and what they don’t like (so you can fix it).

But there’s something else you can do.

Sit down, sharpen your pencil, and write the review you would love your clients to write.

Yes, out of thin air.

And make it good.

Even if the things you write in that review aren’t true. Actually, especially if they aren’t true. Because this review isn’t really a review, it’s a wish list. A summary of the things you would like clients to say about you in the future.

Now for the good part. After you write this review, ask yourself, what would I have to do to get my clients to say things like this about me?

And do them.

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3 things you should do every day

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Every day, there are 3 things you should do.

The first is client work, obviously. Get the work done, the bills billed, the clients happy, and the bills paid.

The second thing is running the joint. Yes, marketing and management of your practice.

That’s true even if you work for a firm. You still want to bring in new business, build your brand or reputation, and do things that help you grow your practice and career.

It includes things like creating content, building relationships with influential people in your niche, strengthening relationships with your clients to foster repeat business and referrals, supervising and training your team, and improving your systems and workflows.

Third on the list, but no less important, is to work on yourself. We’re talking about personal and professional development. The stuff that makes everything else work.

It means improving your legal knowledge and your writing, speaking, and interpersonal skills. It means getting better at communicating, negotiating, and leading and managing people. And keeping up with technology.

So, 3 things every day.

Think of these 3 areas as legs on a stool. You need all 3 or the stool won’t stand.

How should you allocate your time? One third each? Not practical. Some days, you have nothing but client work and no time to do anything else. Some days you have other priorities.

But if you’re a rule-of-thumb type of person, that rule should be to do something in each area every day.

Even if that means making one call on your lunch hour or reading a couple of pages before you go to sleep.

Keep your hand in all 3 areas and do your best to not let a day go by without all 3.

Create recurring tasks in your task manager or calendar or habit tracker. Make this a habit.

Don’t let your stool get out of balance.

How to get more referrals from your clients

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