A stupidly simple source of content ideas

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You need ideas for your blog or newsletter. No worries. Just check out your competition’s websites and see what they’re writing about.

Their sites are a potential goldmine of content ideas, written from the perspective of a lawyer speaking to prospective clients.

Read through their blogs, see if they’ve covered any topics you haven’t covered. . . and. . . cover them.

You can also look for articles on subjects you have covered and see what they did differently. You might get ideas for new posts or updates on the subject.

You might agree with a post, write a similar post, and provide your own examples or client success stories.

You might disagree with a post and explain why.

If a lawyer wrote a short post, you might write a longer one and explain things they didn’t talk about.

If they wrote a lengthy post, you might write a shorter post, or a series of short posts on each of their sub-topics.

If they are in a state or country with different laws or procedures, you might write an opinion piece on why your jurisdiction should follow suit.

While you’re on their site, check out their blog comments. See what their visitors like and the questions they ask. The odds are your visitors have the same questions.

If they have a newsletter, sign up for it. They may offer additional content to subscribers that you can’t access on the website.

In short, a visit to some of your competitor’s sites is a simple way to get content ideas. Probably more ideas than you can shake a stick at.

More ways to find ideas for content: here

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Not too hot, not too cold

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When it comes to communicating with your list(s), whether through a newsletter, blog, social media or any other mechanism, you have to ask yourself, “How much is enough?” and “How much is too much?”

How often should I contact them? What is a good length or word count for my articles or posts or videos?

Because if you send them too much or too often, you might overwhelm them and lose them. They might unsubscribe or they might stop reading or listening and responding.

But the same can happen if you give them too little.

If they don’t see value in what you send them, or they don’t hear from you often enough and forget who you are, they will leave or tune you out.

That’s not necessarily fatal, however. The only metric that really counts is the amount of business you get from your articles or posts.

How many new clients, repeat clients, up-sells and cross-sells, and referrals is the only thing that matters. Everything else is nice to have but not essential, even if you could track it.

Opens? Clicks? Shares? Engagement? Hard to track, and if you have a small list, usually not worth the effort.

Capice?

Still, you don’t want to overwhelm people with too much information, any more than you want them to stop following or listening to you because you send them too little.

You also don’t want to make more work for yourself than necessary.

You want to build a “relationship” with them, so that they come to know, like and trust you, and eventually hire or refer you. You do that by providing valuable and interesting information, and making it good enough that they look forward to getting your next.

What makes it good enough? It doesn’t need to be brilliant or exhaustive. It simply needs to be interesting and relevant to your readers.

As for quantity, when it comes to a newsletter or blog post, I suggest you publish or post once a week. Often enough to keep your name in front of your list, but not so often that anyone tunes out or you can’t keep it up.

And keeping it up is important because you never know when someone will be ready to hire an attorney or has a friend who needs one.

You can publish more often than once a week. Whether or not you should do that depends on your practice area, your market, and you.

You need to find a happy middle ground, one which keeps people reading and responding, and allows you to publish regularly, without taking up too much of your time.

As for length, a few paragraphs or a few hundred words are enough, and certainly not too much. You’ll never overwhelm anyone by sending them something they can consume in 2 or 3 minutes.

Shorter posts are easier to write and take less time. You can do everything in less than an hour a week.

Not too hot, not too cold. It’s just about right.

How to build your practice with a weekly newsletter

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Did I ever tell you about the time I messed up a case?

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Success stories are valuable tools for marketing professional services. They show prospective clients that you’ve helped others solve the same or similar problems, implying that you can do the same for them.

Talk about the problems people brought to you, the pain this caused them, and the hard work you did to deliver them from misfortune.

And don’t forget the happy ending.

On the other hand, don’t make everything look too easy.

You’ll be more believable and relatable if you tell people about cases that didn’t have a happy ending.

The client didn’t listen to you or the case had problems you couldn’t solve.

You might also tell stories about times when you messed up.

Talk about a case you lost and how this affected you. Talk about your struggles to “save” people and your guilt or sadness when you couldn’t. Talk about a mistake you made and what it cost you to fix it.

Show people the human you, the imperfect you, because people know you’re not perfect and they’ll love you for being honest with them.

But be careful. You need a deft hand to do this.

It’s best to talk about failure in the past tense. Talk about what you learned from the experience and how it made you better at what you do.

You’ll hear me talk about things I did when I first started practicing, how I struggled, what I learned, and how I changed and became successful.

A failure story with a happy ending.

You also need to be selective about the issues you talk about.

If you messed up a case because you got hooked on pain meds after surgery a few years ago and finally kicked the habit, I don’t think anyone would look down on you. If you abused recreational drugs for many years, however, and only recently got clean, you might find some people worrying about you relapsing.

I was late for court once and my case was dismissed. I had to file a motion and pay sanctions to save it. I can tell that story because people understand “being late” and because I saved the case. If I lost because I blew a statute and the client sued me and won, I probably wouldn’t tell that story.

Tell success stories, mostly, but occasionally talk about things that didn’t go so well. If it was your fault, be careful. It’s easy to go too far.

If you’re not sure, have a friend look at your story before you publish it.

Because friends don’t let friends publish drunk.

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10 tips for better blog post titles

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Good blog post titles attract search traffic and social traffic and get more people reading your posts (and newsletters).

So how do you write a good title?

These10 tips should help:

  1. Write a lot of bad titles. The more bad titles you write, the more likely you are to write some good ones. Keep an idea file, mix and match phrases to create new (and better) titles.
  2. Check your stats. If one of your posts did well before, it will probably do well again. Update an old post with new information, change your opinion, show a different side of the issue, and write a new title to reflect this. Or just use the same title again.
  3. Read what other lawyers write. Agree with them, disagree, point out what they missed, use your own examples. Emulate their best titles (and subjects) and use them as prompts for your own.
  4. Numbers work well. People are drawn to specificity and order. They’re curious and want to know the “10 tips” or “7 Steps” or “5 Secrets”.
  5. Explanations and predictions work well. Readers want to know what happened and discover what’s going to happen.
  6. You can go wrong with “How to”. People use search engines to learn how to do something or find something or someone (a lawyer). A title that promises to deliver what they’re searching for is likely to draw more readers. Also good: What, When, or Why.
  7. Pain and promises. Talk about your readers’ pain, show them you understand their situation, their industry, their problems, their desires, and promise solutions and benefits,
  8. Use cultural references. Movie, song, TV and book titles, news stories, famous people, hot products, trends—things people are already thinking about, talking about, and will recognize.
  9. Mix it up. When someone visits your blog, you want them to see some variety. Use short titles and long titles, “normal” titles and “strange” titles, intriguing questions and surprising statements. Show readers you’re not like other (boring) lawyers.
  10. Have fun with it. Don’t (always) be so serious, don’t contort the title for SEO purposes, or try finding the perfect title. Write what comes into your head, play with it, twist it, kick it in the arse, be irreverent and bold. If a title makes you smile or laugh or cry, chances are it will do the same for your readers who will want to read your post to find out more.

Sometimes, the content of your post will drive your title. Sometimes, it works the other way around. I’ve written many posts with nothing more than a title.

Which means there are no rules, except one:

If you’re getting traffic, opt-ins, appointments and new business, you’re doing it right.

More ways to find and create good blog post titles

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Another day, another newsletter alternative

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Yesterday, I suggested sending an occasional “client alert” as a less-demanding alternative to the usual newsletter.

It takes less time and can bring you a lot of repeat business and referrals.

Today, another idea:

News and information for professionals and other referral sources.

You send occasional alerts or bulletins to other lawyers, business owners, and anyone else on your contact list who might like to know what’s going on in the legal world you inhabit.

You can do this for:

  • Other lawyers in your practice area
  • Lawyers in other practice areas
  • Business owners, executives, community leaders
  • Anyone you know who might send you referrals, and/or introduce you to other professionals who can.

Yes, you can include professional contacts who are themselves prospective clients, and anyone else with whom you would like to stay in touch.

One difference between this and the alert you send to clients, however.

With the client alert, I said adding your comments is recommended but not essential. With a bulletin sent to lawyers and other professionals, I suggest always including your comments.

Why? Because with clients, the alert is about staying in touch and building the relationship. That’s also true with professional contacts, but with the latter, you also want to position yourself as a thought leader in your field.

Thus, the necessity of including your thoughts.

Tell them what you think, what you’re doing with the information, and what you think they might want to do with their clients, practice or business.

Of course there are no absolutes here. Do what feels right for you and your practice.

But do something.

Repeat business and referrals are waiting for you.

How to build your law practice with newsletters

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It’s a memo, Jim, not a newsletter

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Maybe you’re not ready to write a newsletter. Or maybe you tried it and gave up.

You see the value of staying in touch with your clients, but you don’t want to take the time to do it, or you don’t know what to say.

If you’re willing to reconsider, to do a “test drive” and see if it really is worth it, I have a suggestion.

Instead of a newsletter in the usual sense—sent to anyone who subscribes—consider sending something only to your clients.

You have their email and permission to contact them. You don’t need to add a form to your website or do any list building.

You already have a connection—they know, like and trust you, so you don’t have to do anything newsletter-ish.

And you don’t have to stick to a regular “publishing” schedule. You can write to them if and when you have something to share.

In prehistoric times, when a lawyer had something to share with their clients—an article, news, case summaries, business or consumer tips, or anything else they thought might interest their clients—they’d make copies and put them in the mail.

It was a way to keep their clients informed, add value to the relationship, and remind their clients that they were still there to help them (or someone they know).

You can do the same thing with email.

Set up a file, collect articles or tips or ideas, and when you have a few, put the blurb and/or a link in an email and click send.

You can comment on the tips or information if you want to, and while this is a good idea, it’s not required.

That’s right, you don’t have to do any writing or editing or make anything look pretty. Just send.

Because it’s not a newsletter.

And because most of the value of this exercise, to your clients, and to you, is in the sending.

If you’re ready to write a newsletter, this shows you everything you need to do

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Put yourself in the top 2%

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Have you ever been reading an email or a blog post and forgotten who wrote it?

That’s the 98%.

Most lawyers who create content fall into that category. Forgettable.

The 2% are the ones people notice and remember. They’re also the ones people buy from and tell their friends about.

The rest fade into the woodwork. Because they all look the same.

They talk about the same subjects, use the same examples, and measure the temperature of their message with the same thermometer, meaning they don’t let things get too hot or too cold.

How about you?

If you want to get noticed, remembered, and followed, if you want clients to hire you instead of another attorney, you need to be in the top 2%.

That means being different and there’s no easier way to do that than to create content that’s different.

Different subjects, different appearance, different style.

Especially style.

When other lawyers write stilted prose and you use a bit of color and personality, when other lawyers say what’s expected and you are a contrarian, when they write about boring topics in boring ways and your content is interesting. . .

It won’t take much for you to stand out.

How do you do this?

Make your content interesting and helpful. Infuse your content with human interest (stories), details from your professional and personal life, and strong opinions. Be different, tell them what they need to do, and why.

Don’t just deliver information, speak to your readers. And don’t hold back.

You know you’re doing it right when you write something or say something that scares you a little.You should feel a little heat in the pit of your stomach—as if you’ve gone too far or are doing something wrong.

When you feel that heat, it means you’re on the right track.

If you aren’t feeling that burn, you aren’t trying hard enough. And your audience will know it. And lump you in with 98%.

You will get feedback. Some readers will love what you’re doing and tell you they read you every day. Some will tell you’ve gone too far and leave you for gentler pastures. (Ask me how I know.)

None of that matters. All that matters is that:

  1. Your list is growing, and
  2. Your practice is growing

If those two numbers are moving in the right direction, stay the course.

It’s not easy to show your market that you’re better than the competition, but it is easy to show them you’re different.

And now you know a simple way to do that.

Email marketing for attorneys

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If a guy named Howie wrote your newsletter

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Most lawyers who write a newsletter or blog or post articles on social media do something you would expect a sober professional would do. They write about serious topics and use a serious tone throughout.

While that’s generally the right call, they risk being uninteresting, predictable, and just plain boring.

All work and no play made Jack a dull boy.

Eventually, readers and followers stop reading and following.

Which kind of defeats the purpose of publishing content and staying in touch with people who can hire you and send you referrals.

If this sounds a bit like your story, take heart. The solution is simple.

Put some fun in your writing.

A dash, a dollop, a sprinkle can go a long way.

You don’t have to do a stand-up routine, just make make the occasional wry comment or play on words.

You don’t have to be silly, just report something amusing you saw or heard.

You don’t have to go completely off topic, just include a side note here and there.

You want your readers to look forward to hearing from you because they know you’re going to say something interesting or something that puts a smile on their face.

And they’ll love you for doing that because most lawyers don’t.

One place to start is in your titles and email subjects. Take what you’ve written and see if you can juice it up. Make people curious about what’s inside.

That’s what I did with the title of this post.

Start collecting interesting headlines and titles you see in the articles and emails you read, the ones that make you curious and want to continue reading. You may be able to use them by changing a word here and there to come up with something suitable for your readers.

You’ll also get better at writing your own.

You can make your articles and emails more interesting and fun to read by including things like a surprising statistic, a bold prediction, a pithy quote or a relevant story.

Give readers a taste of color or contrast, something to think about and remember. They’ll have fun reading your article and eagerly await your next.

Email marketing for attorneys

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Would you write more often if you could do this?

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A blog post or newsletter can be brief. A few paragraphs, even a few sentences.

As long as you say something valuable or interesting.

Seth Godin and others do it. I just did it. You can, too.

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‘Til your daddy takes your T-Bird away

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I’m guilty of this myself. Too much information in my articles and posts. Telling you what and how, why and when. Giving you bullet points and instructions, telling you what to do and how to do it.

There’s nothing wrong with the how-to’s, of course. It’s just that there are other things to talk about.

Suppose you and I were buds. We get together for to hang out, shoot the shite, bring each other up to speed on what’s going on.

We have a few adult beverages and share a few laughs. In other words, we have some fun.

Why can’t we do that online?

We can and we should.

When we write a blog post or article, when we record a video or podcast, when we post on social media, we don’t have to be “all business, all the time.”

That doesn’t mean being unprofessional or always going for the laugh. It means letting down our hair, speaking or writing informally, and sharing information and ideas that aren’t strictly law-related.

If you had an interesting day, tell people about it. If your son or daughter tells you something funny that happened in school, share it. If your neighbor charges his Tesla at night and you can hear that annoying electric hum through the wall of your house and it drives you crazy, mention it–like I just did about my neighbor.

We can also have fun playing with language. One way is to use phrases your readers don’t expect you to use. You feel me? Are you picking up what I’m laying down?

You know, fun.

Now, you may be wondering, why. Why should we put fun in our writing or speaking, or for those of us who do it already, why should we do it more?

Because our readers want us to.

They want to see our human side. They want us to make them smile. They want to have more fun, and and they don’t want us to give them homework every time they hear from us.

Yes, we should teach our readers something. But we can do that and also entertain them for the few minutes it takes for them to read what we write.

It’s called infotainment. A friend of mine describes it as “Education wrapped in candy.”

Give your readers their peas and carrots but also give them dessert.

You may find it difficult to do this, to loosen up in front of an audience who is used to you being straight. But you can do it (it just takes practice) and when you do, you’ll be glad you did.

You’ll enjoy writing more. You’ll get more replies and engagement from your readers. You’ll build a following instead of just a list of people who consume your content.

Which means you’ll also get more business.

Start slowly. Add a sprinkle of lighter material here and there. One way you could do that is to make your usual (boring) legal point and then use a colorful analogy or story to illustrate it.

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Give it a try. You might find you’re good at it. You might enjoy it immensely. It might give new life to your writing and speaking.

One thing’s for sure. Your subscribers will love it.

They’ll look forward to your next post or email or presentation, and they’ll tell their friends about you, because you’re not like all those other (boring) lawyers.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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