And the award goes to. . .

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I won! I am the best blogger in the legal marketing arena. A NYC law firm just said so. They posted it on their blog, wrote about it in their newsletter, and sent out a press release telling the legal media why they think my blog is la creme de la creme.

Woo hoo! What an honor! I’m going to tell everyone I know!

Okay that didn’t happen. But if it did, I would certainly tell everyone I knew about it and give them a link to the firm’s website where they announced that I had won.

Wouldn’t you?

So, how could you use this idea for marketing purposes? Hmmm, let’s see. . .

What if once a month you announced your “client of the month” and featured one of your business clients on your blog or in your newsletter?

What if you announced an award to a local business or professional practice that isn’t a client but gave you or someone you know great service?

What if you let your clients or subscribers nominate local businesses and then vote on the winner?

Find people or businesses (or charities, community groups, etc.) who are doing something right and honor them with an award. Give them a certificate or a plaque, feature them on social media, interview the owner, and send out a press release.

You’ll get someone who is grateful for the attention and will probably send their customers, clients, or friends to your website to see what you said about them. You’ll get some new subscribers and followers, links to your website, and maybe some new clients.

And you’ll feel good knowing you called attention to someone who deserves it.

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This is not your father’s law practice

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Every few weeks, a real estate agent in my area sends me oversized postcards describing her listings. The other day, she mailed me a calendar for the fridge. I’d had enough. I wrote to her and told her, “Take me off your list! UNSUBSCRIBE!”

The nerve of some people.

Okay, that never happened. I told my wife I was going to do it, thinking I would at least get a charity laugh, but she’s endured my warped sense of humor for 34 years and this was probably too much to ask.

But it did make me think about how the world has changed since I first opened my law practice, or my father did before me.

Before email, if you wanted to communicate with prospective clients (real estate or law), you could put something in the mail. It worked before and it still works today. In fact, it works better today because so few do it anymore (and because nobody accuses you of spam when you do.)

You may have never done any direct mail, but if you want to bring in new business, this is a viable choice for many attorneys.

Advertising works.

If you don’t want to do direct mail, there are alternatives. Display ads, ezine ads, pay-per-click ads, classified ads, and more, can drive traffic to your website and clients to your office.

If you don’t want to advertise your services, you could advertise a book or report or audio. You could advertise a charity or cause you believe in and include your firm’s name (and web link) as sponsor.

Writing articles, blogging, social media, speaking, networking–they’re all forms of advertising. You may not write a check when you do them, but you’re doing something to get your name in front of people who can hire you or refer others. When you write to former clients, you’re reminding them that you’re still available to help them and the people they know. Yep, advertising.

A PI attorney in Georgia, Jamie Casino, ran a local two-minute TV spot during the Super Bowl. Perhaps you saw it. It’s received over five million views on Youtube. We can debate whether the ad is ethical or in bad taste, or whether he did it as a stunt or truly believes in his message, but one thing is certain: the ad and the buzz it has created will put more than a few shekels in Mr. Casino’s pockets.

I’m not saying that if you advertise, you should look to this as a model. I’m saying, it’s a tough market for attorneys today and if you’ve never thought about advertising before, perhaps you should. Even if all you do is mail out some calendars.

Don’t want to do paid advertising? Here are the best alternatives.

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Ron Burgundy promoting your law practice?

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Advertising works. Even silly campaigns like the one Dodge is running featuring fictional newscaster Ron Burgundy, played by actor Will Farrell, as spokesman. Sales of the Dodge Durango were up 36% in November versus last year, thanks to these ads and the tie-in with the upcoming sequel to the 2004 hit movie, Anchorman.

Why do these ads work? There’s nothing new being said about the Durango. And the Ron Burgundy character isn’t a car expert, fictional or otherwise. It works because people recognize the character, talk about the ads, and think about the Durango when they are in the market for a new vehicle.

Most lawyers don’t use celebrity endorsements in their advertising, but they could. It’s not as expensive as you might think to hire a former sports figure or B-list actor. In fact, there are agents who specialize in booking their clients for just this purpose. I recall seeing former Los Angeles Dodger’s stars Steve Garvey and Ron Cey doing local TV ads long after they were retired from playing.

Also, you don’t need someone whom “everyone” would recognize. You can hire someone who is well known in your niche market. The former head of a trade association, for example.

But let’s say you don’t want to hire anyone. Hell, let’s say you don’t want to do any paid advertising, (or aren’t allowed to). What then? You can still leverage the celebrity of famous people.

My friend, attorney Mitch Jackson, regularly interviews famous people for his video podcast. These videos bring traffic to his website and bolster his reputation as someone who is successful enough to have famous people willing to “take his call”. In essence, their appearance on his “show” provides an implied endorsement for his practice.

How did he get some of these folks to agree to an interview? I’m sure he’ll tell you he just asked them. Celebrities, speakers, authors, professionals, and entrepreneurs need exposure. I love being interviewed. It free advertising, easy to do, and lots of fun.

If you don’t have a podcast, video or otherwise, you could interview well known people for your blog or newsletter. Who do you know who is famous, if not to the world, within your target market? Do you have a famous client or friend? If not, do you know someone who does?

If nobody comes to mind, ask yourself, “Who would I like to know? Who might my market like to hear me interview? What semi-famous person has a list of followers or fans who would be good candidates for my services?’

Another thing you can do is piggyback on a charitable cause. Invite celebrities to come to an event you are involved with, lend their name to it, or promote it to their social media channels. Celebrities love to be seen associated with causes they believe in.

You don’t need a direct endorsement for your services to benefit from a celebrity’s name recognition. Even mentioning that you met a well known person at an event you attended has value. Hey, you don’t even need to talk to them. Just take selfies with famous people and post them online.

Do you have a marketing plan for next year? Start with this.

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Illegal aliens can now practice law in California

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California Governor Jerry Brown just signed a bill allowing illegal aliens to become attorneys.

Yep.

Officers of the court no longer have to abide by the law. That oath thingy? Upholding the Constitution? Nobody really takes that seriously, do they?

Grow up, people. Laws are silly.

I am curious, though. When an illegal alien attorney reports his or her income, whose social security number are they using? Who cares, as long as it’s not mine.

Anyway, just when you thought there were already too many attorneys competing for clients, now this. What to do. . .

Take sides. Make some noise for or against this, on your blog and in the media. Tell the world what you think. Why it’s wrong (or right), what it means, what’s next. Issue a press release. Write a paper. Give interviews. You can do this even if you’re not in California.

Whatever you do, do it loudly. You’ll get support from people who think you’re saying something that needs to be said. And you’ll get attention from people who think you’re evil and should be burned at the stake.

Either way, you’ll get traffic to your website and new clients. Just like I’m sure this post will do for me.

Need ideas for blog posts? Other ways to get traffic? Make the Phone Ring has what you need. Go here.

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How to grow your law practice by laughing at stupid people

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NYC Mayor Bloomberg has done it. He convinced the board of health to pass a ban on sodas and other sugary drinks being sold in public venues in cups bigger than 16 ounces. The vote was 8-0, with one abstention, the latter a doctor who said the ban doesn’t go far enough.

Can you believe the arrogance of these people? “We don’t care what people want, we know better. It’s for their own good.”

Can you believe the stupidity of these people? Like nobody is going to figure out that they can order two 16 ounce Cokes and call it a day.

As a lawyer, you can write about how this won’t pass constitutional muster, you can file lawsuits, or you can get angry and join protests, and many lawyers will.

Me? I’d have some fun with it.

Yes, it makes me angry to watch the erosion of freedom and common sense in our country. But I’d rather laugh than cry.

So, if I practiced in NYC, I might hand out 17 ounce cups with my firm’s name and phone number on it, and offer free re-fills at my office. I might sponsor a soft-drink drinking contest, like Nathan’s does with hot dogs. I might make a Youtube video where I offer to sue the city on your behalf if you get injured on your way for yet another refill.

Have some fun and get some clients. And thank Mayor Bloomberg for making NYC a healthier place to live and work. After all, laughter is good for your health.

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Protests, calls for discipline as lawyer exploits 911 in marketing ploy

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Today is a day when Americans pause to remember the terrorist attacks that took more than 3,000 lives on September 11, 2001. My wife and I took a moment to remember where we were when we first heard the news and saw those terrible images.

I’ve received emails and Facebook posts with photos and sentiments marking the occasion. Everyone has been respectful. No one has said anything inappropriate or controversial.

Nobody wants to be accused of being unpatriotic or unsympathetic to the families of the fallen. Nobody wants to be seen as exploiting a tragedy for commercial gain. If a lawyer were to have a headline written about him like the one atop this post it would destroy his career.

Or would it?

Don’t they say all publicity is good, “as long as they spell your name right”?

Look, just because 911 is a solemn occasion doesn’t mean it is off limits for marketing purposes. There are many things you could do to leverage the memory of that day that are respectful and appropriate. For example, you could:

  • Sponsor a golf tournament, 10K run, or bake sale, with all proceeds going to one of the many 911 memorial foundations
  • Offer free disaster preparedness supplies or information to anyone who comes by your office
  • Use your newsletter or blog to promote a blood drive or CPR training

These are tame and unlikely to get any complaints or disagreements, unlike the following:

  • Write, lobby, in support of closing our borders
  • Campaign for candidates with a Second Amendment agenda
  • Write an editorial for your local paper denouncing the ongoing practice of allowing foreign nationals to enroll in flight school without verifying their immigration status

Most people who hear about your efforts will applaud them. You may get some positive press. Your clients and professional contacts will help you spread the word and more people will learn your name and what you do.

There may be cynics and malcontents who accuse you of exploitation or political incorrectness. Don’t listen to them. Do what you believe is right and say what you believe needs to be said. You may prosper as a result of your efforts, but you are also making the world a better (and safer) place.

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Free PR for attorneys and their clients

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Tim Ferriss has a great guest post by PR expert Ryan Holiday, author of the new book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.

At first glance, you may wonder if Holiday has anything to say that applies to attorneys. The slightly outrageous photos from his clothing company campaigns had me wondering the same thing, even though one of the stories features a (fully clothed) attorney.

The process of getting PR is the same in any field, however, and Holiday’s tips are solid.

First, he recommends starting small by becoming a resource for reporters who are researching stories. Help them do their job and get your foot in the door. (Great resource: HelpAReporter.com — a service that matches reporters researching stories with sources).

Next, Holiday says to “always appeal to self-interest”. Give the writer what they want (an exclusive on a good story) rather than what you want (exposure for your firm). Make their job easy by providing the background evidence to support the story.

The final tip is to “feed the monster,” meaning give the media what it wants. It wants what readers want: controversial, sexy, topical. These are what people want to read, and what they will share.

I’ll add my tip: the story you pitch doesn’t have to be about you. Use your clients, their businesses, or their causes. Surely there will be a legal angle and your client’s lawyer will need to be quoted. Just make sure you have something to say that people want to hear.

Holiday knows what makes a story go viral and he knows how to get the attention of reporters and bloggers. He got Tim Ferriss’ attention, and he got mine.

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New law practice: How do I get the word out?

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I got an email last week: “Do you have suggestions for getting the word out on new (solo) law firms”

Q: Press releases to big city newspapers?

Unless your announcement qualifies as news, these are unlikely to get printed. If you are semi-famous or you’re planning to do something very unusual in your law practice, a press release might get picked up. Otherwise, probably not.

If you want to go this route, your best bet is to send them to niche publications: small town newspapers (where you grew up or your dad was well known), blogs or magazines in a market where you have a connection, that sort of thing.

Q: Mailing announcements to the Bar list (of business attorneys) and/or business owners?

Announcements mailed to other lawyers or business owners are a waste of time. They don’t know you and they don’t care that you’re opening your own office.

You could mail something they would care about: a free report that helps them protect themselves or their clients or earn more in their business or practice. A postcard that offers a report like that, and sends them to your web site to get it, would cost a lot less than actually mailing the report. It could bring lots of traffic, opt-ins, and eventually, some business. However, even post cards are expensive and you need to know what you’re doing.

This can be a viable way get clients, but for a new practice with limited funds, it’s not the best place to start.

Q: Hiring a service to send email announcements to the Bar list and to our own contact list?

Emailing to people you don’t know (i.e., Bar list) could get you into trouble for spamming. There are legitimate “opt in” lists available where people have given permission to receive email, and there are services that will provide these lists and do the emailing for you, but you would be wasting your time and your money.

Again, they don’t know you and they don’t care about your announcement.

However, emailing or sending announcements via regular mail to your own contact list is a great idea.

You should definitely send an announcement to the people you know. Friends, family, people you know from college and law school, and former employers. If you have a connection of any kind, put them on your list.

They do care about you and what you are doing. They will read your announcement. They may respond and wish you the best of luck. At some point, they may also send some business.

Here are my three “rules” for announcing a new law practice:

  1. Send your announcement to everyone you know; don’t bother with strangers, unless you have a very good reason to do so and the budget to pay for it.
  2. An announcement is okay; a letter is much better. Write a semi-personal letter that gives the who, what, where, when, and why of your announcement. Why are opening your own office? What do you want to accomplish? Who are you looking to help? What will you do for them? People will look at an engraved announcement for three seconds and then throw it out. Those same people will take their time reading a heart-felt letter on plain paper or in an email. They will remember your story and may even share it with others.
  3. Don’t rely on a one-time mailing. Follow up your announcement with additional communication–a newsletter, calls, invitations to your grand opening, personal visits. Stay in touch with them, remind them again and again about what you do and for whom you do it, and ask for their help.

Even if there are only 100 people on your initial list, these are the people to whom you should announce your new practice. They do know you and they are willing to help.

They may not be able to send you any business (right now), but they can help promote your web site, like your page, or distribute your new report. They can help you get the word out.

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The Attorney Marketing Center: Official Blog of Successful Attorneys Everywhere

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My wife saw a coupon this morning for a dry cleaner (seems to be a theme with me lately) that had just changed its name from “Luck Cleaners” to “Joy Cleaners”. Or something something like that.

What caught my attention was the statement, “Official Cleaner of [a well known clothing company]”.

I wondered how they had achieved that. “How does one become the official anything for a well known company?”

Were they doing the cleaning for the company and simply asked if they could advertise that they were the official cleaner? Or did they approach the company and offer to do their cleaning for free or at a big discount, in return for being able to say they were the official cleaner?

It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that a law firm could do the same thing.

If you have a business client who is well known in your niche market, ask them if you could mention the fact that yours is the official law firm for their company. Then, mention your official-ness everywhere. You will be providing social proof of the worthiness of your firm.

You could approach any well known company and offer them free legal services in return for an official designation. But what do you do if the better known companies already have lawyers they are happy with and they aren’t willing to switch, even to get free services from you?

Find a charity and see if they would like some free legal services.

It doesn’t matter how well known the charity’s name is. When your marketing messages say that your firm is the official law firm for the “Save the Platypus Foundation,” or whatever, people will notice. Your name will be associated with doing good work for a good cause.

The press will notice, because you will send out a media release and announce it.

Similar charities will notice because, well, they are similar.

And every company your charity does business with will notice, especially if your offer requires the charity to mention your firm in all of their mailings and advertising collateral.

You should also be able to get yourself invited to the charity’s dinners and fund raisers, hang a banner at the charity’s booth at their industry’s conventions, and network with their board of directors, major donors and supporters.

And because you are the “official law firm. . .,” you’ll be able to reach out to other professionals, business owners, politicians, and other influentials, to invite them as your guest to one of the charity’s events.

I don’t know how this will all play out for you, but I can tell you that this could bring you a lot of business. Even if you never mention that you are the “official law firm,” the contacts you will make and the paying clients that result, will more than pay for the services you donate.

Choose a charity you believe in, of course, something you would support regardless of personal gain. Get excited about their cause. And tell everyone to join you in supporting them.

You will have great Joy and great Luck. I’m not sure if your clothes will be any cleaner, however.

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The economy sucks. What are you doing about it?

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Okay, I’m not going to go all save-the-world on you but yes, if you can do something to make things better, you should. Get involved in local politics, volunteer at a charity, help someone in need.

The best thing you can do is to grow your practice. A bigger income would mean you could do more to help others. And you know what they say about the best way to help the poor: don’t become one of them.

I saw this photo on Facebook yesterday and it touched me. In case you can’t see it, it’s the window of a dry cleaner’s with a sign that says, “If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for an interview, we will clean it for FREE”.

Nice.

Do you think the owner will get some business from this, beyond what he does for free? Publicity? Positive word of mouth? Do you think anyone who takes him up on his offer will continue to patronize his store in the future? Do you think he will tell everyone he knows about the business owner who helped him when he really needed a break?

No question about it. Doing good is good for business.

Could you do something similar for your clients and prospects? For your community?

A discount, a free service, even some non-legal advice. Offer a free financial literacy seminar to help people get a handle on their debts. Get someone a job interview at one of your client’s companies. Offer struggling entrepreneurs two hours of free advice.

Lots of people need help right now. Unemployed, struggling military families, people losing their homes.

What can you do?

Don’t do it solely because it might bring you some business. Do it because it makes you feel good to help a fellow human being.

If we all do that, even a little, everyone will be better off. Including us.

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