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Create a better marketing message by keeping it simple

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The best marketing messages are simple. They are easy to understand and easy to remember, and the ideas embodied in them affect the reader or listener on a basic emotional level.

The same can be said for any message.

The strength of a simple message is in its clarity. The reader or listener grasps the message on its face, without explanation or documentation, and without delay. It says what it means and it means what it says.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Do not write merely to be understood. Write so you cannot possibly be misunderstood.”

But how does one do that?

Ultimately, this is a function of the writer’s or speaker’s understanding of the essence of the message and their ability to communicate it. In other words, it takes some skill and effort. But there’s a lot you can do to make your message simpler, clearer, and more effective, even if you’re not (yet) a great writer.

Make your message about fewer ideas

Include a few key points in your message, not everything you could say on the subject. This is true no matter who your audience is, but even more so for a lawyer seeking to influence lay people.

Be brief

Spare the details. Don’t write pages when paragraphs will do. See if you can convey the same idea in a sentence or two.

Most people want no more than the bottom line and a fact or two that supports it. You should have additional information available, however, for those who want it. On your website, for example, put your message on the home page; provide links to the details for those who want to drill down to get them.

Write at a fourth grade level

You want your message to go from the page or the lectern to the recipient’s brain at the speed of thought. You don’t want anything slowing it down. So use shorter paragraphs and sentences, and simpler words. “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do,” Mark Twain told us.

Use repetition

No matter how effective your message is, it will be more effective if it is repeated often. Repetition helps people understand, accept, and remember your message. It is key to earning their trust and their business.

Think of your message as a campaign speech, if that helps. You address the same handful of ideas and repeat them over and over again, to new crowds and to your die-hard supporters alike.

Repetition makes your message stronger and affects people at a deeper level. The first time they hear it, they may be critical and doubtful. After they’ve heard it several times, they are better able understand and accept the message. Eventually, after they’ve heard your message repeatedly, they can remember it and articulate it to others.

And that’s what you want.

You want your clients and prospects, friends and followers, to know what you stand for and what you promise, and you want them to easily share that message with others.

Need help crafting an effective marketing message? Try this

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How well do you know your stuff?

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A number of years ago I was in Texas attending an event related to one of my businesses. The room was filled with several hundred attendees waiting to hear the featured speaker who was scheduled to do a training. Unfortunately, he had the flu and couldn’t speak.

One of the event organizers knew me and asked if I would be willing to fill in. I had nothing prepared but I said yes, got on stage and did a 30 minute training. I was able to do that, without notes or preparation, because I knew the subject matter. I had trained many times before, both on stage and on conference calls, and was able to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Even if you don’t regularly speak or train or address a jury, you should be able to do the same thing.

You know your area of expertise cold, don’t you? You should be able to explain what you do in a cogent manner. The challenge is to make it interesting enough to engage your audience, so they will remember what you said, and remember you.

So here’s my charge to you. Flesh out a five minute talk about some aspect of what you do. Start with a few bullet points, then add an opening and a closing.

Open with a story, a startling statistic, or a provocative question. Share stories about cases or clients you’ve had, to illustrate your material and to bring it to life. Close with a summary and tell them what you want them to do.

Practice your talk. Record yourself delivering it. Get good at it, because even if you’re never called upon to deliver it to a live audience, it will help you become better at communicating what you do.

Wait. You’re not done. You should also prepare a 20-minute talk, and be prepared to deliver it if called upon. A standard talk you could do at a luncheon or on a webinar. Who knows, you might find you like speaking and have a new way to bring in business.

Finally, prepare a one-minute talk. This will probably be the most difficult, but also the one that you are most likely to deliver.

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Stop trying to make everyone like you

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Believe it or not, some people don’t like me. Okay, maybe it’s not me they don’t like, they don’t like my writing.

They think my ideas “aren’t for them”. My writing style makes them uncomfortable. They don’t think I understand them or can help them.

You know what? I don’t care.

For one thing, I never hear from them. They quietly leave my email list or stop visiting my blog. They’re gone, like a fart in the wind, and will probably never return.

The other reason I don’t care is that they aren’t my target market. I don’t write to them, or for them. If they don’t “grok” me, they probably don’t trust me and my ideas and thus they aren’t going to hire me or recommend me.

If I cared about what they thought and tried to appeal to them, I would have to water down my style or homogenize my ideas. If I did that, I would be doing a disservice to the ones who do like me: my prospects and clients.

So, I ignore them and continue to do my thang. And the more I do that, the more I attract people who like what I say because they know I’m talking to them.

One of the reasons I pound on the idea of targeting niche markets instead of marketing to “everyone” is that it allows you to connect with the people in that niche on a deeper level. By your examples and stories and yes, even your style of writing, they think, “he gets me”. That synergy leads to more clients, more referrals, and more positive word of mouth.

That doesn’t happen when you try to please everyone.

Seth Godin put it this way recently:

When we hold back and dumb down, we are hurting the people who need to hear from us, often in a vain attempt to satisfy a few people who might never choose to actually listen.

It’s quite okay to say, “it’s not for you.”

Write to the people who get you. Ignore the ones who don’t.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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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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Career day for fourth graders

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Did you attend your child’s third or fourth grade class for career day? Do you remember explaining what a lawyer does and making it as interesting as possible? Tough to do when you’re competing with Joey’s dad who is a professional magician, but you did it.

You explained what you did, who you helped, and why it is important. You helped some future lawyers see that being a lawyer is cool.

If you had to do it again (or for the first time), what would you say?

Think it through and write it down, or record it. This is a valuable exercise, even if you don’t have any kids.

It can help you explain what you do to prospective clients and referral sources. It can also help you create content for your website, articles, and presentations.

You don’t necessarily have to write at a fourth grade level, but keep it simple enough that your ideal clients can follow.

Here are some ideas to prime your mental pump:

  • What kinds of clients do you represent? What kinds of problems do you handle? Give some examples of real clients you have helped.
  • What’s the first thing you do when a new client comes to you? What do you do after that?
  • Do you charge by the hour? Flat fees? Why? How is this better for your clients?
  • Why did you become a lawyer? What do you want to accomplish in your career? Do you have any role models?
  • What’s the best way to find a good lawyer in your field? What questions should someone ask?
  • What’s the hardest part of your job? What’s the worst case or client you have had?
  • What are you most proud of about your work? What do you like best about what you do?
  • How is your practice different from others in your field? What do you do that other lawyers don’t do, or what do you do better?
  • Who would make a good referral for you? If someone knows someone like that, what should they do to refer them?
  • What questions do prospective clients and new clients typically ask you? How do you answer them?

Take one of these and write a few paragraphs. It won’t take you more than a few minutes and you can start using it immediately. And, if you run into a fourth grade class and are asked to speak, you’ll be ready.

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The best way to close a presentation

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Yesterday I talked about the best ways to open a presentation. Today, I want to talk about the best way to close a presentation.

Many presentations close with a summary of the key points made during the talk. You tell the audience what you want them to remember, perhaps numbering them in some fashion, and that’s fine.

Another way to close is to tell another story that illustrates those key points.

Stories can dramatize your message and create an emotional response in the listener. People tend to remember the stories you tell long after they have forgotten the facts.

You might combine these two techniques–summarize a few key points, then tell a story that reinforces them.

Another good way to close is to say something that echoes something you said at the beginning. Finish the story you began early on, or provide another startling statistic.

One of the best ways to end a presentation, and something I do in almost every presentation I give, is to tell the audience what to do.

Tell them to fill out the paperwork. Tell them to visit a web page. Tell them to like your page. Tell them to buy.

What do you want them to do after they leave the presentation? What do you want them to do while they’re still in the room?

They’re listening to you because they want to learn something. What do you want them to do with that information?

You’re delivering this talk to gain a new client, subscriber, supporter, or follower. What should they do to take the next step?

The same idea applies to written pieces, mostly. Close with a call to action. Tell them what to do. Tell them why.

When you tell people what to do, more people will do it.

Like this:

If you’re reading this in an email, please forward it to three attorneys you know. If you’re reading this on the blog, please like, tweet, or share.

And this:

Your friends will thank you for thinking of them and how they might benefit from this information. I will appreciate you, too.

So thanks for sharing. You’re a good egg. And thanks for listening. You’ve been a great audience.

 

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3 sure-fire ways to start a presentation

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In any presentation or piece of writing, the first words spoken or written need to get your audience’s attention. Those first words are your headline. They tell people, “look at this–this is important”.

If your audience knows you and trusts you to deliver something they will value, you can jump right in and say what you want to say. That’s what I did at the start of this post.

But in other situations, you need to do more.

You can’t go wrong by promising a benefit in your headline. Tell people what they will learn or gain by reading or listening. The title of this post does that by promising to show you 3 sure-fire ways to start a presentation.

But there are other ways to get attention. Here are 3 of the best:

(1) Tell a story

Start your talk or article with a story. People like stories because they are about people and things that happen to them. They keep reading or listening to find out, “what happened next”.

Start with a story about a former client, for example. What happened to him? What did you do to help him? How did it all turn out?

(2) Make a provacative statement

Say something unusual or shocking, something people don’t know or don’t expect you to say. You might share a surprising fact, for example, or a statistic related to the subject of your talk.

If I was speaking about identify theft, for example, I might say, “Most people think identity theft means that someone has stolen your financial information. The truth is, there are five different types of identity theft”.

This gets the audience thinking about what these are, and whether they might be a victim of one of them.

(3) Ask an probing question

Questions work because they bring the reader or listener into the conversation. If you start your talk by asking, “When was the last time you updated your Will?” your audience starts thinking about the answer to that question.

Questions asked at the beginning of a presentation also make the audience continue to listen or read, to find out the answers.

With that in mind, would you like to know the best way to end a presentation? I’ll tell you tomorrow.

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It’s official: I’m running for President (but don’t vote for me)

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No matter what you think about politics, there’s no question that it can be a great way to advance your professional career. You get to meet a lot of influential people. You get your name and face in front of potential supporters and future clients. You get to sharpen your speaking and networking skills. And for the rest of your life, your bio will note that you are a former candidate for office, meaning you aren’t the average schmo.

So consider running for office. Just make sure you don’t win.

If you win, and you’re honest, you’ll have to take a big pay cut. If you want to continue to win, you may have to sell your soul.

Okay, it might be alright to win an unimportant local office, but only if you can serve part time. Just don’t get carried away and think about running for higher office, unless of course you are already wealthy and/or idealistic to the extreme.

Another way you can ride this pony is to work behind the scenes to support a candidate. Your name may not become well known to the public, but you get to go to rubber chicken dinners with people who can send you business, teach you about marketing and building your brand, and introduce you to other influential people.

So yes, I’m running for President; if you want to work for my campaign, let me know. I can’t pay you anything, and remember, we’re not going to win this, so if you’re really talented or hard working, please don’t apply for the job.

That’s all for now. I’ve got to finish working on my concession speech.

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Marvel’s new superhero is an attorney

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Breaking news: Marvel’s new superhero is an attorney.

Well, it should be. After all, attorneys do for their clients the same things Thor does for Asgardians, and we only think we’re gods.

Clients want their attorneys to keep them safe, vanquish the bad guys, and give them peace of mind. They want their attorneys to have amazing strength and skills and always know what to do. And that is the image we must continually portray.

But clients also want to connect with their attorneys on a human level. They want to know that we can relate to their problems and understand how they feel. They want to know that we are invulnerable on the outside, but on the inside, in many ways we’re just like them.

Show your clients that you are vulnerable on the inside and you will endear them to you. Share some of your failures and shortcomings and how you overcame them. Let them know about some of your faults and fears.

In speaking with clients, in your writing and public speaking, in interviews, let people see that there is a real person inside the superhero costume. Give them a glimpse of your personal life. Tell them what you do on weekends, talk about your kids, your vacations, and your outside interests.

Let them know that while you slay dragons during the day, at night you’re a mom or dad, a husband or wife, and a member of your community. Just like them.

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It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it

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When I was in high school, lifting weights in the gym, I remember a song that played over and over on the radio. You might remember, “I never promised you a rose garden” by country singer Lynn Anderson.

If not, you can watch Ms. Anderson (and her big hair) on this video.

The song begins, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. . .” and that lyric is repeated throughout.

I heard that song so many times that eventually, I started playing around with the lyrics in my head. I changed the whole meaning of the title and primary lyric by emphasizing different words.

“I [emphasized] never promised you a rose garden.” Maybe it was someone else.

“I NEVER promised you a rose garden”. Nope, not once.

“I never PROMISED you a rose garden”. I might have mentioned it, but I never promised it.

“I never promised you a ROSE garden.” A garden, maybe, but not roses.

“I never promised you a rose GARDEN”. I said I’d plant a few roses, not a whole garden.

Crazy, but fun, especially for a word lover, and it passed the time while I was doing bench presses and squats.

Now, I’m not saying I think you don’t know the proper word to emphasize when you are speaking. I would NEVER think that. Okay, I might THINK that, but I would never say it.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the point is that while we probably don’t change the meaning of what we intend in such an obvious manner, we often do it in other, more subtle ways.

Suppose you’ve got a prospective client in your office and it’s time to talk about fees. You’re telling them the dollar amount they will have to pay. If you speed up your words even a little, or lower the volume of your voice, you might communicate that you are a little embarrassed about how much you charge, or afraid that they might say no. The same is true if you break eye contact.

Our body language and tonality often say things our words do not.

Our choice of words also matter. Telling the client that you hope to win isn’t the same as saying you expect to win. Saying you’ll do your best isn’t as good as saying you’ll do whatever it takes.

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

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