Pro bono as a marketing strategy

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If a client asks for a discount on your fees, don’t do it. For a lot of reasons, you’re just asking for trouble.

And if you’re ever tempted to proactively offer a discount, to an individual client or across the board, be very careful. It might be the right thing to do, but too often, it isn’t.

Instead of discounts, consider offering free services.

Whereas discounts can make you look hungry, even desperate, free services can do just the opposite. They can make you look successful, generous, ready to help people who need help but might not be able to afford it.

They can also be an effective marketing tool.

Pro bono work for a non-profit can help you build your network and get you some free publicity. It also looks good on your CV.

(NB: get a letter from the non-profit specifying how much your work was worth to them; you might get a nice tax deduction, too.)

For regular business or consumer clients, giving away an entry-level service (e.g., a basic will or incorporation), offering free consultations, a free second opinion, and “first hour free,” can bring a lot of business to your door that might have knocked on another lawyer’s door.

But again, you need to be careful.

Whenever you’re inclined to offer a free service, consider making it a short-term promotion and tying it to a holiday or other special occasion, e.g., to celebrate the opening of your second office, your firm’s anniversary, or your birthday.

You might also limit the offer to new clients, to returning clients, to members of a certain class or group or organization, or the employees or clients thereof.

Done right, free services can make you look good and bring in a lot of new business.

Start small and test your promotion. If it’s working, you can repeat it or expand it; if it’s not, you can modify it or quietly retire it.

Fee and billing strategies you need to know and use

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Your best source of referrals?

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Many people say clients are your best source of referrals. They know, like, and trust you and can share their experiences with your firm with their friends and business contacts.

True, but they might not know that their friend or contact has a problem or needs to talk to an attorney. They might not know about all the services you offer or how to recognize when someone needs your help. They might not think of you when someone they know has a problem, or know what to do to refer them.

Which is why you need to educate your clients, equip them to make referrals, and stay in touch with them.

Some say other attorneys are your best source of referrals because they know when their client or contact needs the help you provide and can influence them to talk to you.

That’s true, too, but those attorneys might have other attorneys they work with and refer to, or they might not know you well enough to trust you to properly handle their client’s matter.

Which is why you need to build relationships with other attorneys, make them aware of what you have done for your clients, and stay in touch with them, before you can expect them to send you referrals.

Some say your best source of referrals are people who have previously referred clients to you. That’s also true, but only if those previous referrals were happy with you.

Which is why you have to provide your clients with great results and great service, properly thank the referral-giver, stay in touch with them, and continue to build your relationship with them.

Your best source of referrals? I don’t know who might be yours, but I can tell you one thing. It will be people with whom you have a good relationship.

Which is why you need to stay in touch with people, instead of assuming they know who you are and will contact you if they need you.

I’ve never found an easier way to do that than an email newsletter.

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What can you do to differentiate yourself?

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In the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, southern California auto dealer Cal Worthington featured an assortment of chimpanzees, elephants and other circus animals in his TV commercials. Worthington rode a bull and a pig (and referred to them as “my dog spot”), offered free ice cream and train rides for the kids, and promised to “eat a bug” if you could find a better deal on one of his cars.

Other dealers competed on price or service or selection. Worthington offered this, too. But it was his over-the-top commercials, which ran night and day, that helped him become one of the biggest dealers in the country.

Surely I’m not suggesting you do something like this to promote your law firm. Of course not (and don’t call me Shirley). I’m suggesting that if you want to differentiate yourself from the legions of other lawyers who do what you do, you need to do something to stand out.

It doesn’t have to be outrageous. Just different from what most lawyers in your niche or market say or do.

Fortunately, since most lawyers do and say the same things, are rarely do anything that might raise an eyebrow, this shouldn’t be terribly difficult.

In days past, where lawyers advertised solely in the yellow pages, some lawyers stood out by running ads in newspapers. When everyone ran one-shot ads, e.g., “Here we are, call us,” some lawyers stood out by running lead-generation ads and direct mail campaigns to build a list.

What does everyone in your field do today that you could do differently?

Commercials that are in black and white? Or commercials where someone interviews you. Maybe “editorial style” print ads that look like news stories, like I used to run.

Think. Or hire a creative team. It could be well worth it.

Note that while advertising is likely to bring you the biggest and quickest results, you don’t have to advertise to stand out.

Post something on your website, offer something in your articles or blog, do something in your presentations, and word of mouth will do the rest.

Not-so-crazy example: where other lawyers invite prospective clients to call to make an appointment or ask questions, you might say you are currently accepting new clients “by referral only.”

Different. And suggests that you are in high-demand and don’t accept everyone.

Most lawyers sing from the same hymn book and it’s hard to tell one from the other. Give some thought to what you could do to get noticed.

Marketing ideas to get you started

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Minimalist marketing

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What did you do yesterday that’s could be considered marketing?

I’ll give you a minute.

Some lawyers might say they posted a new article or sent out their newsletter. Some might say they let their ads continue to run. Some might say they worked on a new presentation, updated their LinkedIn profile or About page or shared something on social media.

Most lawyers, I’m afraid, would have to admit they did nothing.

Just a fact, Jack.

If you find yourself in that category, I understand. You were busy doing some actual work. But if you want the actual work to continue to come in, you might want to make a point of doing something marketing-related on a regular basis.

Here’s what I suggest might be your baseline:

Every day, you either call someone or email someone (your choice). It could be a former client, a prospective client, a lawyer friend, a professional you’d like to know, a blogger or podcaster who is influential in your target market, anyone—again, you’re choice.

You make one call or send one email and your marketing is done for the day.

It can’t be that simple, but it is.

Do that every workday and you’ll see things happen.

Someone will want to hire you, refer to you, or ask you if you can help them. Someone will tell someone about you, share your page or presentation, or ask to interview you. Someone will visit your website to see if you have some information about their situation or to find out more about what you do.

You’ll see more traffic and more leads, build your email list, get more people hearing about what you do and how you can help them or their clients, and yes, get more new clients and repeat business.

I promise.

Sure, you can continue to do whatever else you do that’s marketing-related. But if you embrace the idea of sending one email or making one call a day, and you do it consistently, you may find yourself not needing to do much else.

What do you say when you email or call? Ah, that’s a subject for another day. But I’m glad you asked. It means you’re thinking about doing this and that’s a good sign.

For now, you might start making a list of people to call or people to email. Or, you might just pick up the phone and call someone, or open your email and write to someone, just to say hello. Because that counts.

One more thing. Open your calendar or task app and add a new recurring task. Because if you’re going to do this, you might want to be reminded to do it, at least until it is a habit.

More ideas in The Attorney Marketing Formula

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How much money are you leaving money on the table?

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Every attorney has a list of prospective clients they’ve communicated with at some point but who haven’t (yet) hired them.

People who visited their website and filled out a form. People who called and asked questions. People they consulted with about their case or situation.

There are many reasons why someone who needs legal help contacts an attorney and doesn’t hire them. Some of those reasons are insurmountable. Some are an issue of timing.

They want to hire an attorney but. . .

  • They need time to get the money
  • They need to get buy-in from someone
  • They need time for their problem to worsen before they’re willing to spend the money
  • They’re still trying to fix the problem themselves
  • They’re hoping the problem will go away on its own
  • The problem did go away, but they’ve got another one they haven’t mentioned
  • They want to explore other options
  • They may have lost the attorney’s name and number

Just to name a few.

You have lists, don’t you? Lists of prospective clients who need your help but haven’t taken the next step?

Some of them will eventually contact you again and hire you.

But most won’t.

They need more information about their problem, about their options, or about your services. They want to talk to you again. They want you to convince them to take the next step, to assure them you really can help them, to tell them everything will be okay.

Unfortunately, by the time they realize this, they will have signed up with another attorney.

Which is why the expression, “The fortune is in the follow-up” is true.

If you follow up with the people on your lists, stay in touch with them, remind them you can help them (and that they still need help), and invite them to contact you again, more people will hire you.

If you don’t, they won’t.

Most people don’t buy a car the first time they visit the showroom, most people don’t get married after the first date, and most people don’t hire an attorney after one conversation.

Which is why you need to follow-up.

Write or call or use email to automate the process, but don’t leave the follow-up to them.

That’s not their job, it’s yours. And you are well-paid for it.

How to use an email newsletter to follow-up

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Give yourself permission to be a beginner

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When you started practicing law, there were a lot of things you didn’t know and couldn’t do.

You put on a good face and hoped nobody figured out that that this was your first oral argument or your first negotiation.

You were nervous. Wished there was another way. But you did it.

Because you had to.

You took the chance that you would mess up or be found out, and you got away with it. Today, you can laugh at the memory of how awkward you felt and how bad your first efforts must have looked.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, says, “It is impossible to get better and look good at the same time. Give yourself permission to be a beginner.”

You did that when you were new and felt you had no other choice.

How about today?

What new skill are you avoiding learning because you don’t want to look bad or feel uncomfortable? What’s on your marketing to-do list, for example, that you keep telling yourself you’ll get around to but never do?

What are you not doing because you do have other options?

If you want your practice to continue to grow, you might have to pretend you don’t have any choice. You have to do what you’ve been avoiding or you won’t make the rent.

Because that might be the only way you’ll give yourself permission to be a beginner.

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Someone needs your help

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Imagine you have a lawyer friend who asks for your advice.

Not about legal matters, about marketing.

They are in the same practice area as you and want your advice about getting more clients and increasing their income.

What would you say to them? What would you tell them to do?

You would probably start by asking questions.

What do you do now to bring in business? How well does this work? What have you tried before? Why did you stop? What other strategies have you considered?

You’d want to know what’s working for them and what isn’t, what they like and what they’re good at.

And then, you’d probably tell your friend to continue doing what’s working and look for ways to improve his results. And you’d suggest some additional strategies to consider.

Yes?

Okay.

You’ve probably figured out that this other lawyer we’re talking about is you. You’re having this conversation with yourself.

And you should because it’s often easier to see answers for others than for yourself.

If I asked you those questions, your answers would help clarify where you’re at and where you want to go, and we would then talk about what to do to get there.

You can have that same discussion with yourself, because you already know many of the questions—and the answers.

Questions, answers, marketing plan: The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Two birds. One stone.

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You: “I want to help my best clients and referral sources but I’m not always able to provide referrals.”

Also you: “I need more ideas for content for my blog and newsletter and social media.”

Me: Pay attention to what your best clients and referral sources are doing and talk about that in your blog, newsletter, and on social.

When they have news or post new content, when they announce an upcoming event or get an award, when they run a promotion or launch a new product or service, share it.

Re-post their news release or article. Share their links. Ask them questions and quote them.

They get free publicity, traffic, leads, and new business.

You get free content for your blog, newsletter, and social media.

Also you: your best clients and referral sources see you promoting them and helping them and most of them will want to do the same for you.

Actually, that’s three birds with one stone. But who’s counting?

How to take a quantum leap in your practice

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A simple business development productivity system

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You want to bring in new clients and build your practice. You have a list of projects that will help you do that.

You might want to work on your website or start a newsletter, update your social media profiles, consolidate your contact lists, or watch videos about a new note-taking app you’ve heard so much about.

But you’re not doing them.

You scheduled time to work on X this week but when you sit down to do it, you realize you don’t have enough time, you need to do more research, or you just don’t feel like doing it.

So you do nothing.

“I’ll work on that next week,” you tell yourself, but do you?

There’s a simple solution.

Instead of scheduling to do X (today, this week, next), schedule time to work on business development (marketing, operations, systems, etc.), and keep of menu of projects to choose from during that time.

So when you don’t feel like working on X, you can work on Y or Z.

Here’s how you might set this up.

  1. Make a list of 5-10 projects or tasks you are committed to working on soon.
  2. Choose a day of the week to work on “Business Development” for one hour. A Wednesday afternoon, a Saturday morning, or whatever.
  3. Set up a weekly recurring task in your task management system, calendar, or reminder app, or use a free email service like FollowUpThen.com, so that every week you are prompted to work on business development for one hour.
  4. Add your list of 5-10 tasks or projects as sub-tasks, or a link to your list.
  5. Each week, when your system prompts you to work on business development, look at your list and choose something you want to do.

This week, you might write an email or two. Next week, you might outline a new presentation. The following week, you might modify your new client intake form.

You always have several options and it doesn’t matter which one you choose. Each week, you do something related to business development, and that’s better than doing nothing.

Ready to work on a newsletter? Here’s all you need

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Why not you?

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Youtube thought I’d be interested in watching an attorney explain what to look for when choosing a family law attorney.

The video is made to look like an interview, with the attorney explaining what to look for and what to ask. It’s less than 2 minutes and looks like it was recorded in her office.

Nothing fancy. She probably had a member of her staff record it on a phone.

Under the video, she lists her website, phone number, and an offer for a free consultation. There’s also a transcript of the video.

I offer no comment on the content, although I would stay away from mentioning an hourly rate, even as an example as she does.

Some viewers will think it’s too high and won’t call. Others won’t call because they think it’s too cheap.

Anyway, this is the type of video any attorney could make and post in about ten minutes.

If you’re a novice at making videos, it doesn’t get any easier than this.

You could do it facing the camera, speaking to prospective clients, or like this one, as a simulated interview. The latter has the advantage of looking less like a commercial and suggests that the attorney is someone worth interviewing.

The video has very few views, but that’s another issue. I don’t know what the attorney has done to promote it, but there are many options.

I’d start by optimizing the video with keywords a prospective client is likely to use in searching for information or help.

A video like this one, explaining “How to find a (your practice area) attorney” is a good choice, but I’d add “in (your city or area)” because that’s what a prospective client would no doubt include in their search.

And then I’d create other videos, explaining the law, procedure, risks, options, and other questions frequently asked by prospective clients.

This weekend, set up your phone on a tripod and speak into it. Record some information about your field or about your practice, or both.

Upload your video or videos and if you’re self-conscious about them, put them on “private” for now.

You’ll be only a click away from having a new source of traffic, subscribers, and clients. You’ll also have some great outtakes to show at your next office party.

Ask your clients and contacts to share your video. It’s a simple way to get more referrals.

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