Taking inventory

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Today is a holiday for a lot of people. If it’s a slow day for you, you might want to spend some time taking inventory of what’s going on in your life.

Reflect on what you’ve worked on recently and how it turned out. Think about what you’re working on now and what you have to do to complete it. Look at the list of tasks and projects you plan to start soon and identify the ones that look most promising.

Look in the digital mirror and tell yourself what you see.

Are you taking massive action to achieve important goals or are you just trying to get through the day?

Yes, you have to draft the documents, make the calls, see the people, and settle the cases. That’s what keeps the wheels turning and the people fed. But if that’s all you do, if you never think beyond what’s on your calendar for today, you make it more difficult to realize your potential.

Jim Rohn said, “A lot of people don’t do well simply because they major in minor things.”

Is that you?

We get paid in proportion to the size and complexity of the problems we solve and the assets we create. If you handle small problems all day, you earn small fees.

If you want to build a multi-million dollar practice, you need to bring in clients with bigger problems.

As you take inventory, consider not only your current caseload or list of clients but the kinds of cases or clients you want attract. Who? How many? How big?

And then ask, What am I doing to attract them?

If you don’t like the answer, you have some work to do.

Start here

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Building your law practice by design, not default

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When you need a new computer and visit a retailer to see what’s available, the sales person (if they’re doing their job) will probably ask you a series of questions:

  1. What will you be doing with it?
  2. Are there any “must have” features?
  3. Anything that’s “good to have but not required?”
  4. What’s your budget?

Your answers will help eliminate from consideration computers that don’t have the power or features you want or need or that cost more than you want to spend. From the remaining options, you can zero in on the right choice.

It seems to me that these questions can also help you make the right decisions about managing and growing your practice.

What type of work do you do or want to do?

What practice areas, niches, target markets, and types of cases or clients?

Start with the big picture. Eliminate what you don’t want so you can focus on what you do want.

Must have features?

You might say, “I don’t want partners, I want a preponderance of my clients to come from referrals, I don’t want to do any paid advertising, and I want to commute no more than 40 minutes to my office.”

Good to have but not required?

You might say, “I would like to able to work from home two days per week, I don’t want any full-time employees, and I would prefer do little or no litigation.”

What’s your budget?

How much time and money are you willing to invest to manage and build your practice?

How much on overhead (dollars and/or percentage of gross)? How much on advertising (if any)? How much time on marketing each week?

There are no right or wrong answers, of course, but thinking these things through can help you zero in on what you need, what you want, and what you’re willing to do.

No high-pressure sales people required.

For a simple marketing plan that really works, go here

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Your 30-Day Marketing Challenge

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I keep hearing about 30-Day challenges. For writing, for creating new habits, for getting your home or office organized. Apparently, you challenge yourself to focus for 30 days on something new and efficacious and work your booty off to get it done.

So, how about a 30-day marketing challenge?

Choose an area of your practice you want to improve or grow. Something you can measure like new clients or new subscribers would be good. Then, pick a number: how many in what period of time?

Notice, it’s not “how many in 30 days”? You probably won’t see the bulk of your results until well after 30 days. 

With me? 

Next, what can you do to bring about that result?

I suggest you choose one or two strategies–no more than three–because you’ve got to keep things simple (or you won’t do them). 

Got it? 

Let’s say you want to bring in two new clients per month within 90 days and you’ve chosen networking to find new referral sources as your strategy to do that. 

You can do this in person, online, or both. You can find professionals by showing up at a group (again, in person or online), or by asking your current referral sources (and clients) to introduce you, or both. 

Your plan calls for you to introduce yourself, find out what they do and tell them what you do, and look for ways you can work together. 

That’s a good plan, by the way. Simple, do-able, and likely to produce results. 

Next, set up a schedule. Every day, for the next 30 days, what will you do? Block out 15 minutes or 30 minutes or 60 minutes a day on your calendar to do it. 

You can take this challenge on your own or with a workout or accountability partner. Find someone who wants to take the same challenge or a similar one and help each other. 

You can accomplish a lot with 30-days of sustained effort. All that remains is for you to do it. 

Here you go: Lawyer-to-lawyer referrals

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Don’t make things harder than they need to be

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The new year is here and you’ve got some heap big goals. This is the year you’re going to tackle that thing, reach the new level, or (finally) stick with your resolution. 

No more delays, no more excuses, no more failures. 

THIS. IS. IT. 

Okay, I hear you. But before you get started, I have a suggestion. 

Give yourself a break. 

Cut yourself some slack for what you haven’t done. Let go of the crushing pressure to perform. Relax, detach, and let things happen naturally, easily, the way things are supposed to happen. 

Because if you don’t, you might be setting yourself for more disappointment. 

Learn that new skill because you are drawn to it, not just because it’s on your list. Start exercising because you want to feel better, not because you’ve promised yourself you’ll lose a specific number of pounds by a specific date. 

You don’t need to work out everything in advance. You don’t need a better process or a new tool. You need to know what you want and why, and you need to know the first step. 

That’s enough planning. Let go of the rest and take that first step. 

Let your life flow. Let it be effortless. Don’t fret over the missteps, delays, or problems. Don’t think so much or worry so much. 

Just take the next step.

Next step, read this

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Here’s your plan

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With a little planning, next year could be your best year ever. 

Start by deciding what you want to improve or expand or what problems or bottlenecks you want to remove. These should be relatively high-level strategies that relate to your long-term goals. 

Things like

  • Entering a new market or niche
  • Developing a new skill or improving an existing skill
  • Offering a new service
  • Finding new referral sources/jv partners
  • Improving your billing and cash flow
  • Starting a newsletter, blog, or video channel
  • Cutting overhead
  • Trying (or increasing) PPC advertising
  • Hiring more employees/outsourcing
  • Streamlining your workflow

There are many more possibilities. 

Make a list and then choose no more than three to five strategies for the year. (If you get them done, you can go back for more).

The next step is to decide what “success” looks like for each strategy. 

What’s the desired outcome? How much/how many? When do you want this to occur? 

It might help to think about why you want this result. What will it help you do, have, or become? How will it materially improve your practice or life?

Write a short description of each desired outcome or goal. 

Once you chosen the what and why, it’s time to consider the how. How will you implement these strategies? How will you achieve these goals?

For each strategy or goal, write down specific action steps.  Make each step as simple as possible. Break up big tasks or projects into small, bite-sized pieces. 

Organize all of your action steps into logical order and add them to your task management system or calendar.

And there’s your plan. 

This will help you create a simple marketing plan

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Reverse engineering your big goals

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Let’s say you have a two-year goal of having 20 referrals per month coming into your practice from professional contacts.

How do you get there?

You get there by asking yourself, “What has to happen first?” and working backwards until you know what to do today.

Let’s say you estimate that you can achieve this goal by having 20 referral sources who send you an average of one referral per month.

You don’t have that now. What has to happen first?

You figure that to have 20 solid referral sources, you need 60 professionals who tell you they’ll do their best to send you business. You know that some will send you a few, some won’t send any, and some will send you more than a few. You can’t possibly know how it will work out, but you figure (for now) that it will average out to 20 referrals per month. (If it doesn’t, you’ll need to change your numbers, find different referral sources, or re-assess your strategy.)

So, what has to happen first?

To get 60 professionals who have the ability to send you referrals and say they will, you figure that, over time, you need to have conversations with 300. If 80% tell you no, that leaves 60 who say yes.

What has to happen first?

Before you can have those conversations, you need to make a list of candidates. Professionals who seem to have the right client base that would be a good match for you. Let’s say that to find 300 who seem to have the right client base, you need to work your way through a list of 2000.

What has to happen first?

First, you need to do some research and find lists, directories, associations, et al, with names and contact information. You also need to work on a script.

And then, you need to schedule the time to make calls.

And now, you have a plan. And you can start working on that plan.

For help on finding lists and creating scripts, get this

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What to do when you don’t have time for marketing

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Okay, you get it. You know you need to do more marketing. But you don’t have a lot of time.

Two things.

First, there is a lot you can do to market your legal services that don’t require a lot of time. Go back and read my blog posts and see.

Second, if you have more money than time, consider advertising. You don’t have to advertise your services directly. You can advertise and give away (or sell) information (books, reports, videos, etc.) and let those “sell” your services.

Hokay. What if you don’t want to advertise or you aren’t allowed to by your bar association or firm?

I would invest in an assistant (or VAs) or outside consultants/freelancers to help you:

  • Add more/better content to your website so you can get more visitors from search engines
  • Start an email newsletter so you can stay in touch with visitors who aren’t ready to hire you immediately
  • Set up landing pages focused on specific keywords/offers, to increase your opt-in rate
  • Improve web copy to get more visitors to opt-in to your newsletter and call to make an appointment
  • Add additional websites, with content for specific practice areas and/or target markets
  • Create books, reports, videos, and other content to sell or giveaway
  • Keep your website(s) updated with fresh content
  • Reach out to prospective referral sources and centers of influence in your niche, for interviews, guest posts, and cross-promotions
  • Get you interviewed on blogs, podcasts, video channels; book you for speaking engagements
  • Manage follow-ups with prospective clients, networking contacts
  • Stay in touch with former clients
  • Write articles, blog posts, presentations, guest posts (your assistants research, outline, write first drafts, edit, publish)
  • Set up and manage social media marketing campaigns, if you swing that way

You should also allocate funds for:

  • Books, courses, training (for you and staff) on marketing, sales, client relations, and productivity
  • Software to manage communications with clients, prospects, referral sources, bloggers, etc.
  • A bigger office (or second office) and additional staff to handle all of the new business you’re bringing in

What do you do if you don’t have time OR money for marketing? You advertise. Many publications offer credit so you can bring in some paying clients before you have to pay for the ads.

Or you do what many of us did when we were starting out (or struggling): anything you can think of to bring in some business, so you never have that problem again.

Start your marketing with the right formula

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How to help clients find you

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Yesterday, I said your marketing should be focused mostly (or exclusively) on attracting people who are already looking for an attorney, or looking for information about their problem and the available solutions.

How do you do this? How do you help prospective clients find you so you don’t have to find them?

Here are five simple and effective ways to do that:

  1. Set up one or more websites with search-engine friendly content. When someone looks for an attorney, or looks for information, they find your site. When they visit, they see content that helps them understand their situation and their options, and learn how you can help them. If they’re not ready to hire you, they should be encouraged to sign up for your email list to get more information (which allows you to stay in touch with them).
  2. Create free or paid content–books, reports, videos, audios, etc.–that provide solutions and demonstrate your expertise. Distribute paid content via bookstores. Distribute free content via other people’s newsletters and blogs and via social sharing.
  3. Make yourself available for interviews and/or to write guest posts on websites frequented by your ideal client.
  4. Advertise your services and/or your free or paid content in your local or niche markets.
  5. Build a small army of clients and professionals and other “friends of the firm” who know how to recognize your ideal client, how you can help them, and the best way to refer them.

To learn how to create a website that attracts prospective clients, get this. To learn how to get more referrals from your clients, get this. To learn how to get more referrals from lawyers and other professionals, get this.

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Setting up your marketing budget

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Yesterday, I talked about planning what you will do to reach your ideal clients, i.e., connecting with prospective clients directly, via referral sources and other indirect means, or both. I said you should also decide how much time and resources you will dedicate to each method.

In other words, what’s your budget?

How much money will you invest this year in advertising, websites, referral marketing, email marketing, and whatever else you intend to use?

One thing you can do is to talk to your accountant. Have them set up a “chart of accounts” for you to include different categories of marketing expenses, and then provide you with an approximation of what to budget for each category. If your accountant represents other attorneys and firms, they will be able to make more informed suggestions.

If you want to put money into pay-per-click advertising for your real estate practice, for example, based on their knowledge of what other clients in your market are spending, they can tell you whether you should budget 00 per month or 00, or if you can get started with just 0.

If nothing more, this will give you a place to start.

You should also create a “time budget”.

How much time will you invest in marketing each week? What will you do during that time? On what days and at what times will you calendar to do those activities?

If your plan calls for joining a new networking group, for example, you’ll want to book the meetings on your calendar. You’ll also want to book time during the week to do other things relative to attending those meetings, e.g., following up with new contacts.

If you don’t know how much time to budget, talk to people who belong to the same or similar groups.

The primary purpose of creating a marketing budget isn’t to limit what you do or how much you will spend, however. The primary purpose is to force you to think about what it will actually take to carry out your plans and how committed you are to doing them.

Without that forethought, you are more likely to waste resources and get poorer results. Or not get started at all.

Here’s how to get more referrals without spending a lot of time

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Who will you invite to the dance this year?

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Goal setting, planning, and all that good stuff. It’s almost time to sharpen your pencil and map out the new year.

When it comes to marketing, once you decide on your target market and ideal client, the next thing to decide is how you will reach them. Will you market to clients directly? Will you target referral sources? Will you do both?

Don’t leave this to chance. Think it through. A few things to consider:

  • Where do you get your clients now? Referrals from clients? Professional referrals? Your website? Advertising? Look at your numbers so you can do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.
  • What do other lawyers in your practice area do to get their clients that you’re not doing, or not doing enough?
  • What mechanisms can you use to reach your audience, e.g., blogs that accept guest posts, groups where you can speak and/or network?
  • What are you good at and enjoy? Writing, speaking, networking? How can you do more?
  • What are your resources–time, money, knowledge, experience, employees/outside help, friends and professional contacts?
  • What are you unable to do (by your bar or firm)? If you can’t advertise to prospective clients, perhaps you can advertise to referral sources. If you can’t advertise your services, perhaps you can advertise your book or seminar. If you can’t use client testimonials, perhaps you can use professional endorsements.

If you decide to market to both clients and referral sources, you also need to decide how much of your time and resources to allocate to each.

You don’t have to decide everything before the year starts but you should start thinking about these things. They’ll help you get focused and get better results.

Ideal client? Target market? Marketing plan? This is what you need

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