Why you might want to take your grandma to lunch

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Let’s rap about this niche market thing I’m always talking about.

Suppose you’ve looked at a niche market but rejected it because it looks like it’s not lucrative. Let’s use the “senior” market as an example.

Most people consider the senior market to be “price sensitive,” given the preponderance of fixed incomes in that market. If you want to find the best deals on dinner, go where the seniors go. If you want to charge premium fees for your services, seniors aren’t the first demo you think of.

You might want to think again.

Not all seniors live on a fixed income. Many have investments and real property, some have retired from running businesses but still draw an income, some are still running their business, and some are quite wealthy.

These folks may identify as seniors but lack of money isn’t an issue.

Okay, what about a lack of need? Most seniors aren’t as active as they once were, most have already taken care of their estate planning needs, and many have long standing relationships with attorneys and don’t really need you.

Many, but not all.

What if you could identify well-off seniors with unmet legal needs? A niche market within a niche market.

You could own that market.

Seniors get divorced. They get into car accidents. They even commit crimes.

They have tax issues, real estate issues, investment issues, business issues. And more than a few have not yet taken care of their estate planning needs because, you know, 70 is the new 50.

And even if they don’t need you. . .they know a lot of people. They have a lifetime of contacts: family, former co-workers and employees, professionals they have hired, and centers of influence in your niche market and community.

They can send you referrals and they can introduce you to prospective clients and referral sources.

In other words, even if they don’t hire you, their contacts can be very profitable for you.

I’m not trying to get you to choose the (wealthy) senior market as a niche necessarily. I’m simply trying to get you to think outside the box about what makes a viable niche market.

Okay, that’s it for me. I’m off to an early lunch and some networking. I hear Denny’s has a great senior special.

Need help choosing a niche market? Here you go

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What’s wrong with this picture?

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Yesterday, my wife and I were speaking about some legal work we had done a few years ago. We had a question, the answer to which might lead to more work for our attorney. Unfortunately, we couldn’t remember his name.

We got lucky and found the old file and my wife called him.

He answered the phone himself. My wife explained the situation and asked the question. She said he didn’t remember us but he was very pleasant and helpful. He answered her question by telling her what we could do to handle our issue that would not entail additional legal work.

Nice.

Now, what’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong is that we didn’t remember his name.

We didn’t remember because after he did the work for us, we never heard from him again.

Not a card, not an email, nothing.

If we hadn’t found the file, we might have called another attorney.

What if we did need additional legal work? What if we had a referral?

Some other attorney would get the work.

So, for the 298,304th time, do yourself a favor: stay in touch with your clients.

The simplest way to stay in touch is an email newsletter

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Tell ’em why if you want ’em to buy

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Years ago, I read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, the lead prosecutor in the case against Charles Manson. Bugliosi presented the timeline and documented the evidence in the case in meticulous detail.

But he didn’t just describe the facts and the evidence. He explained why it mattered. He put everything together into a masterfully persuasive account, as though he was again presenting the case to the jury.

I remember thinking, “nobody who reads this would have any doubts about what happened, or the correctness of the verdicts”.

That’s what we expect of a prosecutor doing his job. It’s also what we expect lawyers to do when advising their clients.

When you tell your clients what you recommend, you must tell them why.

It may be obvious to you, but it isn’t necessarily obvious to the client. Even when it is, telling them the facts and arguments you considered helps them to see why they should follow your advice.

I’m sure you do this (most of the time). You’re not like my father who sometimes grew tired of my relentless “why” questions and said, “Because I said so!” (Wait, your dad did that too?)

Anyway, I’m sure you tell clients why they should follow your advice, but do you do that in your marketing?

I’ve seen too many ads, blog posts, articles, videos, emails, presentations, and so on, where the lawyer doesn’t tell people what to do (call, email, fill out a form, etc.), or if they do, they don’t tell them why.

Tell people why they should call, download your report, or subscribe to your newsletter. Tell them why they need a lawyer, why they should choose you, and why they shouldn’t wait.

If you want to get more clients, tell people what to do. And why.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula

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Prospecting for gold in your law practice

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When my daughter was in grade school I went with her on a field trip to Sacramento. One of the events on the agenda was panning for gold in a stream that once teamed with prospectors. They spent their days sifting through water, dirt, rocks, and sand. The more “non-gold” they got rid of, the more gold they found.

There’s a marketing lesson in this for lawyers.

If you want to find more “gold” (bigger cases, better clients), you need to get rid of as much non-gold as possible, as quickly as possible.

Why spend your time and resources courting clients who aren’t a good fit for you?

Other lawyers filter out cases and clients they don’t want after they talk to prospects. What if you filter them out before you talk to them?

When you create a profile of your ideal client, make a list of clients and cases that aren’t ideal. If you handle plaintiff’s personal injury cases, for example, your second list might include fender benders and soft tissue injuries.

Then, create a page on your website and describe the clients who aren’t a good fit for you.

You’ll stand out for being honest and transparent. You’ll build trust and create higher perceived value for being selective. You’ll attract better clients who see that unlike other lawyers, you don’t take anyone as a client.

Be honest about what you don’t want. You’ll get rid of more dirt and find more gold.

Need help figuring out who you do and don’t want as a client? Get this

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Get bigger by thinking smaller

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Seth Godin just said what I’ve been telling you for a long time: niche it.

Actually, he put it this way:

“When you seek to engage with everyone, you rarely delight anyone. And if you’re not the irreplaceable, essential, one-of-a-kind changemaker, you never get a chance to engage with the market.

The solution is simple but counterintuitive: Stake out the smallest market you can imagine. The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve.”

In other words, target small niche markets and own them.

Godin says that when you focus on “the minimum viable audience,” your message is more powerful and more effective, and as your influence in that market grows, word of mouth about you will spread throughout the market and into others.

In other words, you get bigger by thinking smaller.

Godin says that this is how big companies and brands got that way. “By focusing on just a few and ignoring the non-believers, the uninvolved and the average.”

Focus on your ideal clients and the influencers in your chosen niche markets. Get to know them. Serve them. Let them see your dedication to their market.

Forget about the rest. Let other lawyers fight over the rest, while you get the lion’s share of the best.

Want help choosing your target market? Here you go

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You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em

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If a professional poker player managed your law office, one of the first things he would do is talk to you about hand selection. He’d show you, mathematically, why you should play the hands where the odds are in your favor and, unless you’re planning to bluff, fold the rest.

Play the odds. You’ll win more hands and the hands you win will have bigger pots. The hands you lose won’t cost you as dearly.

In college, I played a lot of poker. Most people didn’t know what they were doing. They’d play just about every hand, often going “all in” merely because they could. By the time the game broke up, they almost always went home empty handed.

You don’t want to do that. You don’t want to waste time and money in your marketing. You want to maximize your wins, minimize your losses, and go home a winner.

Playing the odds starts by choosing the right clients to target. Instead of targeting “anyone” with a legal problem you can solve, as most lawyers do, let your competition fight it out for the bottom eighty or ninety percent of the market while you target (and win) the better clients at the top.

If networking is a mainstay of your marketing, instead of spending your time at generic meetings (e.g., chamber of commerce, local mixers, referral groups, etc.), where you meet professionals who can’t send you much business, or the right business, choose small organizations comprised of your ideal clients and the people who can refer them.

If you advertise, don’t bid on the same keywords as your competition hoping to outspend them. Bid on cheaper “long tail” keywords that target smaller niche markets.

If you rely on “one shot” marketing, hoping to turn first-time website visitors into clients, you’re leaving too much money on the table. It’s much more profitable to capture visitor emails and stay in touch with them and convert them over time.

To be successful in marketing, you don’t need to the best player. As long as you play the hands where the odds are in your favor, and avoid the hands that aren’t, you’ll do just fine.

Marketing is more effective when you know The Formula

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Mom always said, “Don’t play ball in the house”

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If your parents were like my parents they told you not to talk to strangers. This was meant to protect us, of course, but it stunted our ability to learn discernment, to think for ourselves about who we’re speaking with and whether or not they pose a threat.

It also kept us from broadening our experiences and trained us to keep to ourselves.

I propose you eschew mom’s advice. Not only should you talk to strangers, you should go out of your way to do it.

Talk to people you don’t know. Learn their story. Find out what they do. Tell them what you do and see what they say about lawyers and legal issues.

You’ll learn how people think about the world and about your community. You will sharpen your interpersonal skills and train your brain to be open to new experiences.

Talking to strangers will also provide you with fodder for your newsletter or next presentation. You’ll have stories to share with your family, your co-workers, and friends.

And who knows, you might meet someone who needs your services.

Lunch hour is a good time to meet strangers. Walk up to someone and ask a question or pay them a compliment.  Ask if they work nearby. Ask what they do.

This works anywhere. Even in places like NYC where eye contact can be seen as a mortal threat.

Practice the art of talking to strangers. Your life will be richer for it.

Your website can help turn strangers into clients

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An imperfect plan implemented immediately

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Of all the lawyers who read yesterday’s message about reaching out to other professionals to see if they are open to some kind of referral relationship, how many do you think actually did it? How many will?

My guess is that most are still thinking about it, weighing the pros and cons, trying to figure out the best way to go about it, and most will eventually do nothing.

And that’s sad because the only way to get results is by taking action. As General George Patton said, “An imperfect plan implemented immediately and violently will always succeed better than a perfect plan.”

Anyway, one lawyer wrote to tell me he went for it and reported his results.

He’s a sole practitioner and identified a lawyer in his field who manages a mid-sized firm in a nearby country. The firm does a lot of marketing and could be a big source of referrals for him.

He sent the managing partner information about a new law in his country which might be relevant to some of the firm’s clients. The partner wasn’t aware of the new law and appreciated him for bringing it to his attention.

The solo broached the subject of mutual referrals between the two firms. He offered to add a link to the firm’s website on his website and asked if they would do the same for his.

He also asked if the firm would be willing to provide a (brief) free consultation to people he refers to them.

The partner said they would gladly provide a free consultation. The firm has a lawyer they already work with in his country, however, so they can’t post the link to his site or send him referrals. But, he said, when they have a matter that is outside their lawyer’s area of expertise, they would be happy to send the referrals to him.

An imperfect plan? You tell me:

  1. The solo can now promote the firm’s free consultation to his current and former clients, adding value to his relationship with them.
  2. He can promote the free consultation to prospective clients in his country who might have interests in the nearby country.
  3. By posting a link to the larger firm (and saying something nice about them), he will identify as having a relationship with them, and thus augment his credibility and prestige.
  4. He has opened the door to future referrals from the firm.
  5. Emboldened by these results, he can approach other firms in the other country and work out similar arrangements.

Not bad for a couple of emails to someone he didn’t know.

How to get referrals from other lawyers

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Put this in your pipe and smoke it

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Suppose I am a notary who works near you. I call you and offer to provide my services to your clients for a few hours each week, at no cost to you or your clients.

Interested?

You can promote this as an added benefit to your clients. You can put “free notary services” in your advertising and on your website and attract more prospective clients.

And it won’t cost you a dime.

I’m willing to do it because it lets me introduce my services to lots of new clients.

Do we have a deal?

Okay, you like the idea but you’re not getting calls from notaries offering this.

Well, you could ask someone in your office to take the class and become a notary, or you could do it yourself. That’s good, but how about thinking bigger?

How about picking up the phone and calling some notaries, to see if they like the idea of getting some free exposure. Why is this better than doing it yourself?

Because some of their notary clients will need legal services.

And there you are.

Many real estate agents are notaries, and open to a bit of creative marketing. Or you might partner up with a real estate attorney who has a notary in the office (assuming you don’t compete with them). Accountants, escrow officers, mortgage brokers, and banks also have notaries.

If free notary services doesn’t work for your practice, find something that does.

Make a list of the types of professionals and small businesses that target the same clients you target. Contact them and see if they have a free or discounted service you could offer to your clients. Or a free consultation. Or free information.

Then, see if you can do the same for their clients.

Are you picking up what I’m laying down?

More ways to work smarter

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Are you a finicky lawyer?

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I told you about a program I saw profiling a 20-year-old woman with a strange and dangerous addiction to sugar. She drinks 30 cans of cola a day and is on the fast track to a major illness.

The program is called “Finicky Eaters”. My wife found replays on YouTube. We’ve since seen episodes about a guy who has eaten nothing but cheeseburgers for the last 25 years (yep, three meals a day), the gal who eats nothing but french fries, and another about a man who likes to eat raw meat and little else.

As far as I’m concerned, this is more than finicky eating, it’s a sickness. Had these folks not received professional help, they would no doubt be looking at debilitating illness or death.

I was thinking about these poor souls on my walk this morning. It made me think about how many lawyers also have unhealthy habits with respect to their practices. Although usually not fatal, these habits prevent them from reaching their potential.

Many lawyers steadfastly refuse to delegate, for example. Doing all the work themselves can add stress and lead to burnout. It also limits their income. (I know, there’s a trade-off. If you’re not careful, delegating can lead to other problems. Note to self: delegate, but be careful.)

When it comes to marketing, many lawyers also have bad habits. They get set in their ways, refusing to try new strategies, or update old ones, and find themselves falling behind the competition.

How about you? Do you have any bad habits about how you manage your practice? Things you do that you shouldn’t, or things you should do but don’t?

Do you continue doing something a certain way because that’s how you’ve always done it, or because that’s how everyone else does it?

Do you stay in a bad partnership out of habit or fear that the alternative might be worse?

Do you continue paying for products or services you no longer need or could replace with lower-cost or better alternatives?

Start a new habit today of regularly examining what you do and how you do it. Pay attention to your habits, routines, and go-to strategies and consider what you might change or improve.

If you decide that you’re doing fine and no changes are necessary, I have one last suggestion for you: get someone else to take a look. Ask a friend, or hire a professional, to examine your ways and tell you what they see.

Because most of those finicky eaters didn’t realize they had a problem until someone else pointed it out to them.

Are you getting all of the referrals you want? 

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