I love it when a plan comes together

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Yesterday, I poked you in the eye and dared you to write an email newsletter to your clients and prospects, or if you already do that, to do it more.

Gordon Firemark practices in Los Angeles and is a long time subscriber and friend. He told me what he does email-wise and kindly agreed to let me share it with you:

Hi David,

Just to add to what you’ve said about emails… Often the challenge for people is not knowing where to start… So having “framework” set up in advance makes it much easier.

Here’s what I do for my weekly newsletter emails.

1. Something “this week” related or personal. (i.e., “This day in legal history”, Trivia, etc.) ( This typically takes a quick google search if I don’t already have something in mind.)

2. Something “curated” – “I read this blog post about ___ and thought you should know about it…” (just bookmark it when I see it during the week)

4. Something I have created or made (video, podcast episode, blog post, or a downloadable checklist, worksheet, etc.) ( which allows me to segment the list based on who downloads what materials) (this is the heavy lifting, but I’m doing it pretty regularly. If not, I do a throwback to something I did last year, or whatever)

5. Some kind of OFFER: “Call for a consultation about [trademark registration|forming a corporation|collaboration agreement] etc.]” “Sign up for Xyz”

6. And a quick personal-feeling sign-off: “enjoy the weekend.. I’m going to the ___ film festival, what are you up to?”

And done. 6-8 paragraphs that almost write themselves. And I’ve got an appointment on my calendar each week that’s set-aside for creating this.

Easy as pie. (and if I’m coming up short on one of these once in a while, I just omit it)

I always try to ask a question that gets them to respond to me… (like I’m doing now), since the engagement improves relationships. My favorite: “What are you struggling with about XYZ these days? What problem can I help you solve?”

Here’s last week’s as an example: https://ckarchive.com/b/mvu7h5hq98od

This went out to a few thousand people on my list. I got dozens of responses to the questions about struggles (valuable data)… 5 unsubscribes, and 3 booked appointments for trademark consultation, which I predict will lead to about $5000 in business. (about half of that already in hand) Not bad.

Thanks for all you do.

-Gordon

So, there you go. Email newsletters work. And if you use a “framework” like Gordon does, you’ll have an easier time of it.

Or you can do like I do, fart out some words and click “send”. Whatever floats your boat.

Anyway, I hope this inspires you to start a newsletter and most of all, to have some fun with it.

Because if it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right.

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Forget pretty. Forget brilliant. Just fart out some words.

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When was the last time you sent an email to your list? No, not to a client about a specific case, I mean an email you send to all clients and former clients and prospective clients, staying in touch, sharing information, reminding them that you’re still in business.

Yeah, like a newsletter.

Too much time? Look, if you can’t invest 30 minutes a week for marketing, I can’t help you.

Too much effort? Me thinks not. You write every day. A little more writing won’t kill you.

Nah, there are only two reasons why you’re not doing this. The first is that you’re not sure it will be worth it. Will you really get more business? (Don’t tell me you’re practice is different. It’s not.) Anyway, the only way to resolve this debate is to try it.

What if it does work? What if you’re able to bring in several new clients each month just from writing emails once a week?

The other reason why you don’t commit to writing a newsletter is that you’re scared. What if you inadvertently say something that offends someone? What if your clients say you’re emailing too often? What if you make a sincere effort and it doesn’t work?

Get over it.

Seriously. You owe it to yourself to start or restart a simple email “newsletter” to stay in touch with the people who pay your bills and can send you referrals. You owe it to yourself to see how effective this is for building your practice.

Look, marketing doesn’t get any simpler than this. Once a week you email a few paragraphs to people you know. You share some information, a story, a resource, or anything else that strikes your fancy, and you don’t worry about making it perfect.

If it helps, don’t call it a newsletter. It’s just an email.

Yes, I know I talk about this a lot. Nag, nag, nag. I’m your annoying little brother, right? But you know why I do it, don’t you? And deep down, you know I’m right.

Learn how to start your newsletter 

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Wanna know my secret?

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A subscriber sent an email recently, praising my newsletter. I share it with you because it reveals my “secret” for building readership, fans, and clients.

See if you can spot the secret:


David

Thank you for your newsletter.

Yours is one of the few newsletters that I read everyday!!!

It always adds value and it is not always hyping the latest greatest webinar or makes me watch a 5-minute video to find out if I am even interested (which means I usually DONT watch the video).

I like how you provide value in a time efficient manner but also include a link for more information.

To me, this positions you as a more credible expert who gets someone’s interest by providing value so the person wants to learn more.

If I have to jump through a lot of hoops (aka watch a bunch of LONG videos) then I will probably never do it.

By the way, I have bought several of your publications and books.

Have a great day!!

He also forwarded an email he got as an example of what he doesn’t like. It was a freak show of graphics, hype, and obnoxious calls to action. A melange of “yuck”. (It was also unclear what they were even selling).

If you compare that mess with my emails, you’ll know that my secret isn’t really a secret at all.

It’s not that my emails are plain text emails instead of a “pretty” HTML newsletter, although that’s part of it. It’s not that I’m not “in your face” with aggressive sales pitches and hype and zero value. It’s not that I just say what I want to say instead of forcing you to go watch videos.

It’s not any of those things, it’s all of them. And more.

It’s the subject matter of the emails. I share ideas that can help you increase your income, be more productive, and make your day a little less stressful and a little more fun.

It’s the stories I tell, often based on personal experience, which illustrate my points and provide a glimpse into me, the person, and not just me, the attorney.

It’s my informality and (lame) humor. You may not laugh but you won’t fall asleep.

It’s that I write “to” you, not “at” you. Just the two of us, having a chat.

And it’s the brevity of the messages. In a few minutes, you get a dose of something to think about or something to do. I give homework, but it’s not overwhelming.

The secret is that I write what I would want to read. And because I was in your shoes for many years, I know what you want to read.

So there you have it. Write to your clients and prospects what you would want to read. You know them, so give them what they want.

Keep it short. Keep it real. Keep it simple. And have some fun with it.

If you do, your clients will look forward to hearing from you, praise you, and buy everything you sell.

Here’s how to use email to build your practice

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Small but tasty morsels versus a huge buffet

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As I’ve mentioned, I’m a beta tester for a plain text writing app under development. The app still has a way to go, but I’m excited about its future.

I don’t use the app every day, however. I’m using another new plain text app which is further along in the development curve. In fact, I’m using it right now to write this post.

The two apps approach releases differently. With the first app, months go by with no news and then we get a big update.

The second app provides small updates almost every week.

When I get notified that the next update is available, I get excited. Even though the updates are usually minor, I can’t wait to download the app and try it out.

But this isn’t about writing apps or software development. It’s about the psychological effect of frequent updates and why you should use them to connect with your clients and contacts.

Don’t save up all your news and information and send a big newsletter once or twice a year, as many lawyers do. Send shorter messages more often.

A few paragraphs is all you need. Mention the new article on your website. Offer a legal tip. Talk about an interesting case or client. Recommend a book, website, or app.

Say something interesting or entertaining and your clients will look forward to hearing from you.

No, they probably won’t get as excited about your news as I get about updates to writing apps. But whatever level of interest they have will be enhanced by hearing from you often instead of once in awhile.

How to get more clients online

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Your future clients are only a click away

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Justin is an attorney in Australia and a long-time subscriber and client of yours truly. In response to yesterday’s post (about doing less so you can do more of what’s important), Justin wrote:

Love this – so many blogs and “success” tips out there but I always read yours and delete virtually all the others.

You are spot on! Big fan of DW over here.

Thank you, Justin. Mission accomplished.

When it comes to legal marketing, I’m Justin’s “one and only”. He reads me and no one else. What does that mean? It means that when Justin needs help with marketing his practice, the odds are he’ll look to me.

Imagine that happening to you. Imagine that you are the only lawyer your subscribers read.

When they need legal help, do you think they’re going to go to a search engine, drag out the yellow pages, or rifle through a drawer looking for the business card of a lawyer they met at a party three years ago? Do you think they’ll ask their friends if they know a good lawyer who does what you do?

Or do you think they’ll simply check their email, find your number, and call?

How about referrals? If someone asks them if they know a lawyer who does what you do, who do you think they’ll recommend?

You. Because they know, like, and trust you. They may have never spoken to you but they have a relationship with you.

So, how do you get there? How do you become their one and only, or at least one of the few?

By delivering value. Helpful information, presented in an interesting and/or entertaining way.

And doing it frequently. Emailing often, keeping your name in front of them, reminding them about what you do and how you can help them.

The people on your email list are the future of your practice. You owe it to yourself to stay in touch with them and email is the simplest way to do that.

To learn how to do it, go here

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Attorneys should be paid by the word

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Many attorneys tell me they don’t write a newsletter or a blog because they don’t have anything to say.

I cry foul.

Have you ever spoken to an attorney?

Give them a minute and they’ll talk non-stop about their latest case, complain endlessly about a client who drives them crazy, or tell you all about a jerk attorney who makes their life miserable.

They’ll brag about a big case they just settled or a prestigious client they just signed up. They’ll opine about the law in their field or about an appellate case that is about to be heard.

If they’ve been ill or injured, they’ll share all the gory details. If they bought a new snowmobile or boat, they’ll go on and on about their new toy. If they just came back from Italy, they’ll tell you why you need to go.

Blah blah blah–it’s almost like they’re getting paid by the word.

No, attorneys have lots to say, about a lot of subjects. Fortunately, we can use our verbal alacrity to write a newsletter.

The trick is to have something to say that your clients and prospects want to hear.

Here are some ways to find out what that is:

  • Go through your email inbox and see what they’re asking you
  • Send them an email and ask them to submit questions; invite them to do the same thing on social media
  • Visit sites like Quora where people ask questions and lawyers answer them
  • Visit other lawyers’ blogs and see what they write about
  • Visit other lawyers’ blogs and social media profiles and look at comments and questions posted by readers and followers

You can supplement this by writing about things like what you like about being a lawyer, and what gives you pause. You can educate your readers about the law and procedure in your practice areas. You can share news about their industry or local market.

You can write profiles of your business clients. You can interview other professionals who work in your niche market. You can comment on articles and posts written by others who write about topics similar to your own, agreeing or disagreeing with them, and sharing your experience with the same subject.

You can also share a smattering of personal information about yourself, your hobbies and outside interests, movies you like, restaurants and books and software you recommend. Your readers want to know about you, the person, not just you, the lawyer.

There is no shortage of subjects you can write about that your clients and prospects would like to know.

If you ever feel that you’ve run out of things to say, you can repost what you’ve written before. You can do that because you will always have new people joining your list who haven’t read anything you wrote in the past. And because the people who have read your previous posts won’t remember most of the details. And because your prior opinions, experiences, and observations may have changed.

I don’t buy the “nothing to say” argument and you shouldn’t, either. Pretend you are getting paid by the word and I’ll bet you never run out of things to say.

How to build your practice with a blog and/or newsletter

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Thinking like a lawyer? Fine. Just don’t write like one

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Stop. Really, just stop. Stop writing like a lawyer when you communicate with your clients and prospects. You cannot bore anyone into hiring you or sending you referrals.

And let’s face it, most legal writing is boring, even to other lawyers.

Write the way you must in your briefs, motions, and memoranda. Shovel in the prophylactic latinate phrases and legal terms of art in your contracts, leases, and trusts. Write the way lawyers write when you’re being a lawyer.

Just don’t do it in your emails or newsletter.

I know it can be difficult to switch roles. But if you want to attract business, you have to know when to put the law dictionary back on the shelf.

It takes practice. It takes a fair amount of re-writing. Having someone edit your early drafts is a good idea.

But you can do it.

Actually, it’s easier than you think.

You already know what to do. “Write like you talk” and “Imagine you’re speaking to a client sitting in the office” will get you most of the way there.

The hard part? Letting go. Unclenching your sphincter muscles because your brain is telling you that writing naturally and informally isn’t professional.

The solution? A stiff drink.

Hemmingway said, “Write drunk, edit sober”. You probably shouldn’t follow that advice literally, but you can do the next best thing by giving yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.

Write quickly. Pour it out. Let your fingers fly. Get it down on paper any way it wants to come out and don’t give it another thought because nobody is going to see your first draft.

The first draft is just for you.

Write every day. You will get better, and quicker. Eventually, you’ll be able to flip a mental switch and instantly turn off the legal draftsman and turn on the communicator.

You need both, of course. You need the lawyer to do the work, of course. But you need the communicator to bring in the work.

How to use your communication skills to get more referrals

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$80,000 with one letter

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Yesterday, I (once again) danced up and down on my keyboard in an effort to convince you to use email for marketing your legal services. I suggested that a simple weekly email to clients and prospects might bring in enough repeat business and referrals to make you a very happy camper.

A subscriber, an attorney friend who no longer practices, wrote and said my email reminded him of a time when he sent a letter to all of his former clients:

“Back when I practiced law, my New Years resolution one year was to create a new profit center for my practice. So I wrote a letter to all of my old clients – about 200 people — announcing that I was now also handling wills and trusts.

That one letter made me about $80K the next year.”

Waaay better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

As far as I know, my friend didn’t make any crazy-special offer. He merely contacted people who knew, liked, and trusted him and shared his news.

And, as far as I know, he only sent one letter. Would he have earned more if he had written again? No doubt. Because some people may not have received his first letter. Some might not have read it. Some might not have been ready to take action. A second (or twenty-second) letter may have arrived at precisely the time when they were ready to say, “take my money”.

You’re thinking: “Okay, this sounds good but what if I’m not starting a new practice area?”

Well, how about partnering up with other lawyers in other practice areas and recommending their services, in return for them doing the same for you? Know any good accountants, financial planners, insurance or real estate brokers? Business owners with products or services you like?

Yep, you can do the same thing with them. But only if you have a list.

If you don’t want to recommend anyone else’s services for some reason, just keep your name in front of your peeps. When they need your services (again), or know someone they can refer, well, there you are–in their email inbox, a click or a dial away.

Hold on. You’re thinking, “If they need me, they’ll call me. They’ll look up my phone number or go to my website. I don’t have to stay in touch with them, they’ll find me.”

Some will. Most won’t.

I know. I signed up hundreds (thousand?) of clients who, when asked for the name of the attorney who represented them in their prior matter said they didn’t remember. And that’s why they were sitting in my office instead of the office of their former attorney who didn’t stay in touch.

Email is easy when you know how. Here’s how

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Getting paid to write a weekly email

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I know you don’t have a lot of time but would you write and send out a weekly email if you were paid $1000 per week to do it? How about $2000? $5000?

Would you find the time to send an email every week if it meant increasing your income by hundreds of thousands of dollars per year?

You betcha.

Well guess what? Although nobody is going to pay you that much to write a weekly email, if you write that email to your clients and prospects (and referral sources), you’ll be able to pay yourself.

Yeah, it’s called marketing. And email is about as simple as it gets.

You have to build a list. You can use your website to do that. Add a form and invite visitors to sign up.

You have to have something to say. You’re a lawyer. You have something to say about everything.

You have to be disciplined. That’s why God created the calendar.

You have to start. That’s the hard part. And the most important.

Do me a favor. And by me, I mean yourself. Send an email to some people you know and say something.

Where to start? How about telling them you’re thinking about starting an email newsletter and asking them to submit a legal question? How about summarizing (or copying) something you wrote in the past and sending that? How about wishing them Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, happy holidays, or whatever floats your boat?

Just say something. Anything. And watch what happens.

Here’s how to start

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3 reasons your email newsletter isn’t working

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As you can imagine, I get to see a lot of attorney’s email newsletters. Most have “problems”. If your newsletter isn’t working for you, if it’s not bringing in business or it’s taking up too much of your time, here are 3 probable reasons and what to do about them.

You’re writing a “newsletter” instead of an email

You can call it a newsletter but you’ll be much better off sending simple emails. Most newsletters get deleted. Or they are set aside to be read later but forgotten. That’s because most newsletters (especially from attorneys) are too long and too dry.

Instead, send an email. Short and sweet. 300-400 words, not 1500. An email from you (not your firm). Tell them what you’re doing. Tell them about your clients. Weave in a few words about the law, but focus on people, not statutes and decisions.

Use your emails to help your readers get to know you better. Show them how you can help them but keep it light and interesting and personal.

And forget about making it pretty. Graphics get in the way and take time to find and use. Just send text. Like a real email. When every other lawyer and vendor is sending “pretty” emails, yours will stand out.

You don’t email often enough

Once a month isn’t enough. People need to hear from you or they forget about you. If you’re writing interesting emails and delivering value (tips, resources, recommendations, etc.) they’ll want to hear from you.

Weekly isn’t too often. Even daily isn’t too often, if you’re up to it. And if you send short and simple emails, instead of trying to cram “articles” and “news” into one long missive, you’ll have the time to email more often.

No, your subscribers might need you right now (or ever) but they know people who do. Write often and you’ll get more referrals.

You’re expecting too much, too soon

Give it time. Your readers need to get to know and trust you. They need their problems to mature and get painful enough to decide to call you. They need time to save the money to pay you or to convince another decision maker that you’re the one to hire.

You also need time for your list to grow big enough so that there are enough “ready to go” prospective clients on it at any given time.

The biggest problem with email “newsletters”? Not having one. Done right, they can bring you all of the business you can handle, and then some.

If you don’t have an email list, start one. If you have one but it’s not working for you, you can fix it.

Learn more about using email to build your practice here

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