How to start a conversation with a stranger

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Being able to approach and speak to strangers is a valuable skill to have in your marketing quiver. Like any skill, you can get better with practice.

Yesterday, after my walk, I was at the park cooling down and saw a mother pushing her two youngsters on the swings. The boy, who looked about three, was chattering on about reaching the sky and asking lots of questions about outer space and rocket ships. His mother didn’t dismiss his questions, she patiently answered them.

After listening for a couple of minutes, I asked the woman if she was a teacher. She said she was before becoming a stay-at-home mom and asked me how I knew. I said, “Because you are so patient with all his questions, plus, you had some really good answers!”

Question asked. Conversation started. Compliment thrown in for good measure.

It really is (can be) that simple.

In this case, I learned something I could use to start the conversation by listening to her talk to her son, but I could have just as easily told her she had cute kids or asked how old they were.

If I wanted to continue the conversation I would have asked another question. At some point, I would have made sure to mention “my wife” and “my daughter,” however, to let her know I’m a family guy and not some stalker. Situational awareness is your friend.

Anyway, if you want to improve your conversational skills, start practicing. The next time you’re in line for coffee or sitting next to someone in a waiting room, talk to the person next to you.

If you can’t think of anything to say, ask them if they have the time. When they pull out their phone to respond, ask what model it is and if they’re ready to upgrade.

Sure fire conversation material. Maybe even better than kids.

How to get Maximum Referrals 

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What’s in your wallet? Briefcase? Desk drawer?

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When a client leaves your office, especially after your first meeting, what do you hand them? When you’re networking or running errands, what do you give to the people you meet?

It could be anything, as long as it has your name and website on it. Your business card, a brochure, your newsletter, a copy of your book or report.

I’m all for digital, but nothing beats a tangible handout for helping people to remember you and prompting them to get more information.

Put something in their hand they can take home with them and show their spouse or partner. Give them extras they can pass out to friends. “One for you, the other in case you talk to someone who might need my help”. Plant the seed and equip them to provide referrals.

Don’t rely on your handout to do the work, however. Use it as a mechanism to get their contact information. And make sure you follow-up with them, to tell them you enjoyed meeting them, to offer additional information, and to invite them to take the next step.

Marketing is simple. It’s even simpler when you have something to hand out.

The perfect handout 

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What’s new? I’m glad you asked!

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When someone asks you, “What’s new?” what is your typical reply? If you’re like most people, you say something akin to, “Not much,” am I right?

If so, you’re missing out on an opportunity to promote yourself and your practice in an easy, non-promotional way.

Instead of deflecting the question, tell people what’s new.

Share some news with them. Tell them about an interesting case you just signed up or just settled. Tell them you just hired someone new or you’re looking for someone. Tell them about moving your office, or that you’re thinking about it.

Your news, however inconsequential it might seem to you, is far more interesting than saying “not much” or engaging in small talk. News has intrinsic energy. It shows you doing things, taking action, moving forward. It tells people that you’re growing and successful.

News gives you a talking point that allows you to start a conversation with someone you just met. It also gives you an excuse to contact people you know with something to share.

Never leave home without something news to share.

What’s that? You don’t have any news? Make some. Write an article or report or a short video and post it on your website. Tell people about it–what it does and who it helps. Invite them to go see it or offer to send them a copy. Ask them to share it with people in their network who might be interested.

If you don’t have a new article, tell them about an old one and ask if they’ve seen it. Or tell them about one that you’re working on or thinking about writing.

There’s always something new.

Now, don’t keep your news under wraps, waiting for someone to ask, “What’s new?” Reach out to clients and professional contacts and share your news. Use your news as the excuse for re-connecting. “Hey, I just wanted to let you know about. . .” or “Hey, I wanted to ask if you saw. . .”

When you meet someone new, after you introduce yourself, tell them about your new article or your updated article or the article that just got mentioned on another website, and invite them to check it out.

When you always have news to share, you’ll always have something to promote. You don’t have to promote yourself or your services. Promote your article or report and let it promote you.

How to write a report worth sharing: click here

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Faster than a speeding search engine

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Information. You need it, you want it, and you have it, thanks to the search engine of your choice. But there’s something that’s often better than a search engine. In many cases, it’s faster, too.

I’m talking about experts. People who have the answer to your query on the tip of their tongue. Their real-world experience allows them to instantly provide you with answers, or at least point you in the right direction.

Unlike a search engine, you don’t get 101 links of possible solutions. You don’t get sent down a rabbit hole of never-ending research.

You ask, they answer. Done.

We all need to maintain a list of names and contact information of people who know things, and who know people. A group of folks we can call upon to quickly get information,  recommendations, and referrals.

I’m not talking about paid experts, although we need them, too. I’m talking about friends and business associates and networking buddies who know things and know people and will help us out without sending us a bill.

If we have a computer problem, we have someone who can walk us through the solution, or recommend someone who can fix it for us. If we want to find a CPA on the other side of the country for a client who is moving there, we can tap into our network and get referrals.

An information and referral network can benefit you and your clients and other contacts.

Your network makes you better at your job and helps you bring in business. It also allows you to add value to your relationships with your clients and professional contacts.

Let people know that you know a lot of people in different fields and different parts of the country and when they need information or referrals, they should contact you first.

If you know someone, great. You’re a hero. If you don’t know someone, you can find someone you don’t know and expand your network. Nothing like contacting a professional and telling them you have a client who might need their services.

Your network will make you more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Build your professional network with this

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3 ways to make networking less painful

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You know that networking is a great way to build your practice or advance your career but you avoid doing it because it makes you uncomfortable. One reason you feel that way, no doubt, is because you feel compelled to perform.

You’re supposed to be calm, cool, and collected, but you’re not. You’re supposed to come home with a pocketful of business cards but you get tongue-tied and beat yourself up for not meeting your quota.

You’ve read the books about how to make a good impression, start a conversation and keep it going, but there’s too much to remember and you’re not sure you’re doing it right.

No wonder you hate networking. It’s like handling a jury trial the day after you’ve been sworn in.

You don’t have to be good on day one. Give yourself permission to be bad:

1) Forget the rules

Be yourself. Relax. Meet a few people, shake a few hands, and go home.

If you’re uncomfortable, don’t try to act like you’re not. In fact, tell people how you feel. Poke fun at yourself. Watch and listen and don’t worry about anything else.

No agenda, no goals, no pressure. Just go somewhere there are people you don’t know and be normal.

When the pressure is off and you can be yourself, you might actually enjoy yourself, or at least not hate the experience as much as you thought you would. From there, you can grow.

2) Get a wingman

If you’re attending an event for the first time and not looking forward to it, bring someone with you, someone who is outgoing and can help you. Someone who can talk you down when you feel like calling it an early night.

If not, eventually some good soul will see you standing by yourself, come talk to you and take you under their wing. Hang out with them. Watch them introduce themselves to other people. Listen to how they start conversations.

They will introduce you to others. If they’re real good, those others will have something in common with you and you’ll be able to take it from there.

3) Start with easy

Your first time out, go to an event that is unlikely to have prospective clients or referral sources. That way, there’s nothing at stake and you can practice meeting people without fear of embarrassing yourself or blowing a great opportunity.

Go to a car show, for example, if you know something about cars, and talk to some of the vendors. Ask questions and have fun.

Allow yourself to be not very good at networking and you might just keep at it until you are.

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How to make rain at holiday parties

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I got an email from an attorney friend and subscriber who is hosting a holiday party for 80 clients, referral sources, and prospective clients. He asked me for ideas about how to get more business out of the event, “either at the event itself or soon thereafter”.

He’s a sharp cookie and an astute marketer. He buys all my stuff. Yeah, he’s that smart.

Anyway, his question is a good one. What can you do to leverage the event to build your practice? What might you say to the guests? Do you hand out anything? Announce anything? Invite them to see or do something?

The answer is no. Don’t do any of those things. Just be a good host.

You don’t want to be “that guy” who turns a festive gathering into a sales pitch. You don’t want people to question your motives for inviting them to a party.

Be a good host. Enjoy the event and make sure your guests do, too.

As host, your job is to introduce your guests to each other. Say something nice about each one and make sure the other person knows what they do. This will stimulate conversations among your guests, which is always a good thing, especially if they talk about you and how you’ve helped them. Your guests may make some new friends. They may also get some business from those new friends.

And you get the credit for introducing them, you yenta, you.

By the way, you should do this at parties where you aren’t the host. At networking events, too. Be a matchmaker. Introduce people to other people.

After your party, send everyone a note thanking them for coming. Tell them you enjoyed seeing them again (or meeting them) and you’d love to get together with them sometime soon.

No agenda. No offers. Just friends.

Later, when you meet with them or talk to them again, look for ways you can help them in their business or personal life. If you have something going on–an event, a special offer, news–go ahead and share it. But keep the focus on them.

When these people see your name on caller ID, or see your email or letter, you want them to smile and eagerly take your call or read your letter. You want them to think fondly of you and be glad to know you. You don’t want them to lump you in with everyone else who is pitching something.

They already know what you do. Stay in touch with them, help them, and when they need your services or know someone who does, they won’t call anyone else.

Learn how to grow your practice and income: The Attorney Marketing Formula

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The starving artist’s guide to marketing legal services

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Suppose that instead of you being a talented legal professional you were a talented singer. How would you go about marketing that talent?

Traditionally, you would try to get an agent or manager in the hopes that they could get you some gigs and eventually a record deal. Today, most singers market themselves. Much of this is done online, by posting videos, showing off their chops and hoping to get discovered, or simply selling their work directly.

But they also audition at clubs and restaurants and network with people in the industry. They build relationships with people who can hire them, advise them, and introduce them to people who can help their career.

The Internet makes marketing easier and less expensive, but it doesn’t change the fundamentals.

Use the Internet to meet more people. Use it build your list and get your name out to the world. But don’t stop there. Talk to the people. Meet them in person if you can. Find out what they want or need and then help them find solutions.

Like building a singing career, marketing legal services is very much about relationships. There’s a lot of “you” in it. You can hire people to help you with websites and advertising, but never forget that the client doesn’t sign up because you have a great ad campaign or website, they sign up because of you.

Marketing legal services online–go here

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Marketing legal services: let other people do it for you

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You don’t want to blog or do a podcast but other people in your niche do. They need people to interview and people to write guest posts.

You, for example.

Find blogs and podcasts and video channels in your niche and introduce yourself to the head guy or gal. Compliment their work. Promote their content to your lists. Comment on their posts. Get on their Hangouts and contribute to the conversation.

Stay on their radar and eventually they will ask if they can interview you. In fact, once they know who you are, let them know that you are available and you’ll probably move to the front of their list.

By helping them, you help yourself. Your interviews and posts will get your name and contact information in front of people who need your services or who know someone who does. You’ll get more traffic to your website, more followers on social media, and more subscribers for your list. New clients will be next.

Remember, they need content and they can only create so much themselves. They need people like you to help them. As you help them, you help yourself.

The more you get your name out there, the more other bloggers and podcasters will seek you out. Marketing will get easier for you. Instead of doing one interview this month you’ll have three interviews this week.

Soon, your target market will see you “everywhere” and they will know that when they need a lawyer who does what you do, you are the one they want. Other professionals will see that you are in demand and choose you for their referrals.

Help others with their marketing and they will help you with yours.

Learn more about marketing legal services online, here

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Won’t you be my neighbor?

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My wife and I have lived in their house for over 20 years. We don’t know most of our neighbors, however, and we like it that way. We like our privacy and, we think, most of our neighbors do, too.

But what’s true for a home isn’t true for a business. At least it shouldn’t be. One of the easiest ways to get more referrals is to get to know your neighbors.

Most of the professionals and businesses near your office have local clients or customers. If you handle consumer or small business matters, they are a natural source of referrals for you, if not potential clients themselves.

Okay, you get this. What can you do to start getting some of that business?

You could mail something to them, and that’s better than nothing, but why not simply knock on their door?

Introduce yourself and ask for their card and perhaps a brochure. What’s your “excuse” for doing that? You don’t need one, but if you think you do you could tell them you were “in the building” (that’s true; you don’t have to tell them why you were in the building), you saw their name on the door or on the building directory and wanted to find out (more about) what they do.

Which is also true.

Give them your card, tell them to have a nice day, and you’re done.

When you get back to your office, send them a one or two sentence email that says, “Great to meet you”. If you feel bold, you might also say you’ll keep them in mind if you have a client or meet someone who might need their products or services. Do not ask them to do the same.

That’s enough for now. Actually, that’s quite a bit. You have a new contact who has a favorable impression of you.  You did comb your hair and wear a clean shirt, right? Great. You’ve opened new doors to endless possibilities.

To get referrals from lawyers and other professionals, use this

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My take on gun control

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I have a very strong opinion on the gun control issue. I’d like to share it with you but I would be a fool if I did. I write about marketing, not politics or policy. Telling you my opinion on an emotionally charged issue like gun control might satisfy my need to express myself, but from a marketing standpoint it would be a mistake.

I might lose half of my readers who disagree with me. If I represented a special interest group or had a talk show or forum of some sort where “taking sides” was part of the deal, fine. But I don’t, so why unnecessarily alienate people who might hire me?

As a friend of mine colorfully advises, “Don’t shit on your money”.

And that’s my advice to you.

There is a way to talk about issues like gun control, climate change, abortion, and the like without stabbing yourself in the back. You do that by writing about those issues as though you were writing a Bar exam essay.

Present both sides of the issue–the legal arguments and the body of law–in an unbiased manner. The facts and arguments on one side, and then the other. Leave out the conclusion altogether, or couch it in terms of “if/then”.

State the facts and keep your opinion to yourself.

Your clients and prospects, readers and listeners, will appreciate you for educating them about both sides of the issue and for giving them credit for making up their own mind. You have presented a valuable service to them, and haven’t pushed anyone away.

I know, it’s hard to keep mum about what we think, especially when we have strongly held opinions about important issues. But we just can’t go there.

When I see what some people post on Facebook, I have to bite my tongue and watch cat videos to calm down. But I don’t comment. I also don’t like political posts I agree with. I don’t let anyone know my opinion.

Lately, however, I’ve taken to un-following people who reveal their foolishness through their posts. I’m not their client or prospect, so it doesn’t matter, but if I were, their opinions might cost them a small fortune.

What to write on your website or blog

 

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