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Where will you be in six months?

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It’s six months from today and things are little slow. (Or, things are fine and you want to take your practice to the next level.)

Either way, you want more business.

No problem. You have a list of lawyers and other professionals who have clients that are a good match for you. They can send you referrals.

Most of these professionals have colleagues who are similarly situated. They can introduce you to them.

Most of these professionals know your name and what you do. They know you’re good at your job.

Some of them have met you, either in person or online. Some could be considered friends.

So, you make some calls.

You re-introduce yourself or tell them you’re checking in to see how they’re doing. You ask what they need or want and how you can help.

Do they need clients or customers? Introductions, recommendations or advice?

You do what you can to help them.

They ask how you’re doing. They ask what they can do to help you.

They send you referrals. They introduce you to their colleagues. They give you advice and recommendations. Your practice grows.

You want that list, don’t you? It sounds like just what you need.

There’s just one thing. That list isn’t going to make itself. You need to do that.

Better get started. It will be six months from now before you know it.

Step-by-step instructions on how to do this: click here

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Helping the competition?

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In Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals, I show you how to find and befriend lawyers who work in complementary practice areas and can send you referrals. One way to get on their radar, and in their good graces, is to help them do a better job for their clients.

Educate them about your area of expertise, even if that means they help those clients instead of referring them to you.

Karma, and all that.

It’s similar to what I said yesterday about encouraging clients and prospects to call you for “micro-advice,” without the meter running.

My friend Steve Emmert, a very successful appellate lawyer, emailed and said, “I always give free micro-advice to my customers (trial lawyers). It quite often comes back to me in future business, when they need an appellate lawyer and remember who looked out for them all these years.”

Indeed.

He continued, “. . .I also give free micro-advice to my competitors. It’s the neighborly thing to do, it promotes collegiality within the appellate “guild,” and refusing to do so would be giving in to a scarcity mentality. There’s plenty of work to go around.”

He gave a couple of recent examples–showing a new-ish appellate lawyer how to set up a section of a document, going to lunch with other lawyers who want to start an appellate practice and telling them what to do. “Why should I make them learn the hard way all the lessons I’ve learned in almost 15 years?”

He continued: “Most lawyers wouldn’t think of doing this because they have a scarcity mentality: ‘I have to take this client because I might never get another. I have to guard all my secrets so no one can compete with me.’ Jeez Louise!”

Aint that the truth.

It seems counterintuitive to share your time and expertise with lawyers who do what you do, or want to. But not only does it feel good to help others, it can pay dividends.

“One fringe benefit: My competitors get the message that I’m confident in my market position, and that means they’re very unlikely ever to really challenge that position.”

I’ll tell you what else it does. It gets other lawyers sending you referrals when they have a conflict or a case they otherwise can’t handle. They know you’re the BMOC (that’s “Big Man on Campus” for you Millenials and other whippersnappers.)

“I got some great advice long ago: “Identify a niche market and seek to dominate it,” Steve said. “This is one way I do that: I let my competitors know that I don’t regard them as competition, but as my friends. All the while, they’re realizing that I’m very good at this. See how that works? As long as no one gets the idea of hiring a hit man to take me out and make room at the top …”

Ah, there’s the catch. You actually have to be good. (Or make them think you are.)

Anyway, great advice from a very smart guy. If you want more of his advice for building a successful practice, read my interview with him in my Kindle book. 

Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals

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Do you charge for “micro advice”?

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Many business attorneys won’t talk to a client without the meter running. So many clients don’t call their attorney before they make important decisions, often to their detriment.

The client then has to pay the attorney to fix their mess, often a lot more than they would have paid had they gotten advice in advance.

In the short term, the attorney makes out. In the long run, maybe there’s a better way for both client and attorney.

What if attorneys let their clients know they won’t charge them for “micro advice”? A quick call to find out if they’re going in the right direction, a question or two to see if they do (or don’t) need something else?

I heard that’s what many smart business attorneys do.

I concur.

You want your clients to call you often and they’re more likely to do that if they know they won’t be charged by the nanosecond. Maybe they have something that needs your help, maybe they don’t, but it’s better for both of you to find out.

How is this better for you? For one thing, it builds trust. The client sees that you’re looking out for them, not just sucking them dry.

It can also lead to more work for you. In the short term, if they need your help, you’ll be able to show them why. In the long run, by looking out for your clients, you help their business grow and you can grow with them.

Yes, some clients will (try to) take advantage of you. You will have some line drawing to do. But most clients will appreciate you for “not being like all those other attorneys”. You’ll earn their loyalty and their referrals.

This isn’t just for business attorneys. It’s a good policy for all clients. Even one-off clients can send referrals.

Referrals are good for your fiscal health

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Stirring the marketing pot

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I assume you have a list of professionals you know and respect and who know and respect you. People who could send you referrals but haven’t. Or haven’t done so in a long time.

Don’t wait for them to send you referrals on their own. Stir the pot. Make something happen.

Call through your list. One a day, five a day, whatever you can handle.

Say something like, “I want to start working with you (again). Can you send me some information I could share with my clients? Not a brochure or sales piece, a report, an article, an ebook, or something else you wrote that you send to prospective clients?”

When they tell you they do, tell them great, send it over. (If they don’t have anything, ask if they could put something together.)

Before you hang up, say, “If any of my clients want to talk to you, ask some questions or get some additional information about what you do, can I tell them to call you? Is email better?”

Make sure they are open to being contacted and you know their preferred method. Plant the seed that this might happen.

Finally, say, “I’ll make sure they mention my name so you know where they came from.”

What’s next?

Send the information to your clients and prospects, along with a note about your friend. Say something nice about them. Tell how you met, share a story. Encourage your clients to call them if they have any questions or want more information about what they do, and to mention your name.

And, that’s it.

What will happen? You think I have a crystal ball? Something will happen. I don’t know what, or when.

Okay, some of your contacts will ask you to send them something they can send to their clients. Some will ask this before you finish that first conversation. Others will do that down the line.

Either way, go ahead and send their information to your list.

And then, wait.

Something will happen. The professional will contact you and tell you they signed up one of your clients. Or your client will contact you and tell you they had a nice conversation with that professional and thank you for putting them in touch.

Eventually, more will happen. Clients will sign up, money will change hands, and out of nothing, you will have created something. Which is better than waiting and doing nothing.

How to get referrals from other professionals: here

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Are you focusing on referrals?

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What you focus on, grows. If you want more referrals, you should focus on referrals.

Most lawyers don’t. Do you?

It’s not difficult. Dedicate a few minutes each week specifically for referral development.

Here’s how that might go:

The first week of the month could be dedicated to communicating with your referral network. Send an email and update them about what’s new in your practice–new content on your website, guest posts you have written, where you will be speaking, success stories, changes in the law that might necessitate a consultation, interesting cases or clients you have acquired–and offer ideas they can use to spread the word.

You could have two email lists: one for clients and former clients, another for professional contacts. Or just one list for everyone who has provided referrals or indicated a willingness to do so.

The second week of each month might be dedicated to brainstorming and executing ideas for improving client relations. What can you do to help your clients have a better experience with your firm?

The third week could be used for reaching out to prospective referral sources. Introduce yourself, find out about what they do and how you can help them, and tell them how you can help their clients or customers.

The fourth week might be used for improving systems and marketing collateral. Update your website, edit your social media profiles, develop new handouts and other marketing documents, and so on.

Focus on referrals thirty minutes a week, every week. Over time, you should see a dramatic increase in referrals and client retention.

Make sense? Good. Now go make some dollars.

A system for getting more referrals from your clients 

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Marketing is simple

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Yesterday, I told you about the dentist who sent a gift card to old patients (i.e., me) and how you could do something similar to activate old clients and/or get some referrals.

No doubt you loved the idea. You want old clients to hire you again. You want more referrals. You want to get this done.

But. . .

What if your old clients are unable to hire you again, at least right now?

Or, what if you really love this idea and want to scale it up big time.

No problem.

All you need to do is contact other professionals or business owners and ask them if they would like some business. When they say, “Yes I would, kind sir/madam,” you say, “I’m going to send a letter (email) to my clients and former clients, tell them about you, and offer them a $100 [$500, or whatever] discount card [coupon, voucher, etc.] for your services [products]. Would that be okay?”

If it’s not okay, go find someone else who wants a bunch of new clients or customers.

If they say, “I love it, what do you need from me?” work out the details and send your clients an early Christmas gift, courtesy of your new friend.

Your clients will love you for helping them find a professional/business who does good work and for saving them some cash.

Your new friend will love you for helping them bring in new business.

And you’ll love you because your new friend will be obliged to send your offer to their clients or customers.

Hello? McFly? That means you’ll have a bunch of new clients. Quickly. Which means you’ll love me for telling you about this.

And then? And then, go find another professional and make them the same offer.

Note, your offer (or your friend’s offer) doesn’t have to be a discount. It could be a free consultation, an ebook or report, a checklist of important items to keep track of or do (eg., information to collect when they are in an auto collision, an estate planning guide), or anything else folks like your clients would find valuable.

Whatever it is, you can set this up quickly and start pulling in business long before Rudolph’s nose starts blinking.

Find someone with a list of customers, clients, prospects, or other contacts who might be a good fit for your services. Show them your discount card (or whatever). Tell them the results you got sending it to your older clients (if you did that), and off you go.

Marketing is simple. Try it, you’ll like it.

Getting more referrals from other professionals made simple

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How many people work for you?

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How many people work for you? I don’t just mean employees. Or freelancers. Or outside companies you hire from time to time. I mean everyone who helps you in some way and gets paid to do so.

One? Ten? Twenty? Fifty?

Not even close.

The answer is probably in the hundreds. Maybe a lot more.

Impossible? Not really. Not if you re-think the meaning of “work” and “paid”. See, you’re forgetting about all of your clients and former clients. They work for you, too, even if they don’t show up at your office every morning.

How’s that?

They work for you by keeping their eyes and ears open for people who need your services. They work for you by sharing the content on your blog or newsletter or your posts on social media. They work for you by inviting people to your events.

True, they may not be very good at their job. But that’s just as much your fault as their’s.

If you don’t talk to your clients about referrals and other ways they can help you, most won’t know what to do. Or if they do but they haven’t heard from you in months or years, they forget to do it.

It’s up to you to educate them so they can do their job.

You can do that by posting a “How you can help us” page on your website and putting a copy in your “New Client Welcome Kit.” You can do that by staying in touch with them so they see your name and think about you and what you do.

It’s also up to you to praise them when they do a good job and, if possible, to recognize them for their good work in front of others.

You do that with real employees, don’t you? Praise and recognition? (If you don’t, you might want to put that on your list).

Okay, you get it. You see how all of your clients and former clients and everyone else on your list of contacts can help your practice grow. You also know that with a little help from you, they will be more likely to do it.

So we’re good, right? You know what you need to do?

Hold on. I said they get paid and you want to call me out on that. You can’t pay clients for referrals, nor would you want to.

Ah, but there are other ways to get paid in this world besides cold cash.

Why do you suppose anyone ever gives you a referral? Or forwards your email or report to someone they know?

Because they know someone who needs your help and they want to help them. They feel good doing that, helping a friend or client avoid pain, achieve a goal, or solve a problem. They feel good when their friend thanks them for introducing them to you, sparing them the risk and time of trying to find someone on their own.

Your clients also enjoy helping you. Yes they do.

Sure, they paid you and they got what they paid for (or more). But they like you and want to see you succeed. It makes them feel good to know that they were a part of that success, especially when you express to them your appreciation.

You do that, right? Say thank you to your clients when they do something nice for you? You should. It’s part of their “compensation” and if you don’t pay them, if you take them for granted, they might not want to work for you anymore.

Yes, there’s a big workforce available to you. Help them do a good job for you and they’ll make you glad you did.

Here’s how your clients can help you

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Getting clients when you’re a new attorney

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I got an email from a young lawyer who just completed law school, asking for advice:

“I got a job as a legal marketer for a sole practitioner who has been in business for over 20years.

I am expected to find new clients, set up websites and yet I have not been given the appropriate tools to market this practice and attract clients. Worst part is I don’t earn a salary, only 10% commission for every client I sign. It’s been two months and I haven’t brought anything.

So how do I make this work and attract new clients with no referrals, no tools, no contacts in the legal field?

Please help.

JB

I’ve got news for you JB, you don’t have a job. You have a very bad deal.

Okay, you get an office and someone to answer your phone, I presume. That’s good. That has value. But it’s not worth giving up 90% of the fees on clients you bring in.

Time to re-negotiate.

I would offer to “pay” for the office space by doing work for your landlord, on his existing files. Research, draft documents, meet with clients, do court appearances, that sort of thing. Two hours a day, perhaps, in return for an office or even a desk and access to the conference room is a good deal for both of you.

If he wants your help in marketing HIS practice, he needs to pay you. A salary and/or a reasonable percentage of the fees. Start with 50-50.

Otherwise, if you bring in clients, they’re yours. You get 100% of the fees, unless you choose to associate with your landlord because he has experience and resources you don’t yet have.

If he won’t agree to this, there are other attorneys who will. They have empty space, they need an attorney in the office to do some of their work but don’t want to hire someone. “Time for space” is a good deal for them, and for you.

Okay, what about marketing?

First, consider that your current landlord (or another lawyer or firm with whom you choose to associate) has something valuable you don’t have. They have a reputation. You can use that to get better results in your marketing.

For you, starting out, it might be easier to market this other attorney or firm than to market yourself. Make sure prospective clients and referral sources see you are associated with an experienced firm.

Now, how do you bring in clients?

First, set up a simple website. You need to have something to point to when someone asks what you do and how you can help them or their referrals.

Next, contact (by phone) every attorney you can find and tell them you are available for appearances (for pay) and for overflow. You’ll take cases that are too small for them, for example, or outside their practice area. Ask them to recommend other attorneys who might need your help.

Then, write a “referral letter” that describes what you do (or what the attorney or firm you are marketing does). Explain what you can do for an attorney’s clients when they refer them to you, and why they should. Send this to attorneys you know, and to attorneys you don’t know, and follow up.

Next, write a report that prospective clients would want to read. Things they need to know about their legal problem and the available solutions. Explain why they should contact you to take the next step. Put a form on your website so prospective clients can sign up to get your report. Keep in touch with them via email.

This only scratches the surface but it’s a good place to start. And it will bring in clients.

How to write a referral letter to send to lawyers and other professionals

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Who are you and why are you calling me?

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I received an email from an attorney who asks two questions:

“I’m a sole practitioner, I wanted to enquire on how do I go about getting new clients if I don’t have any referrals?

What’s your take on cold calling as a marketing strategy?”

I’ll address the second question first.

Is cold calling a viable marketing strategy? Is it something I recommend? The short answer is “yes”. Absolutely. It always has been a viable marketing strategy and always will be.

The short answer is “yes”. Absolutely. It always has been a viable marketing strategy and always will be. In fact, cold calling should be a mainstay of every lawyer’s marketing.

But there are caveats.

If you’re calling lawyers, other professionals, business owners or other centers of influence in your local market or your niche market, hunky dory. One professional calling another, to introduce him or herself, to inquire about what the other person does and how the two of you might work together for your mutual benefit–that’s simply networking done over the phone.

Frankly, if you’re not doing this, you’re missing out on one of the simplest and most effective marketing strategies on God’s Green Earth.

If you want to know more about what to say and how to follow up after your first conversation, get my Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals course. You’ll know exactly what to say and what to do.

Now, if you’re thinking about cold calling prospective clients, that’s different.

If they are a prospective “consumer” client and they don’t know you, don’t call. Even if a mutual friend asked you to. Even if you’re not calling about a specific legal matter but are calling to invite them to your upcoming seminar.

Don’t do it.

Sidebar: if you’re calling as a member of the community, to invite your neighbors to a local picnic or charity golf tournament or something else that has nothing to do with you or your practice, that’s different. And worth consideration. But that’s a subject for another day.

That leaves cold calling prospective business clients.

If we assume that there are no ethical issues with doing that (make sure you check), why not? It’s like walking up to a business owner or executive you don’t know at a networking event, introducing yourself and asking to talk to them. You then tell them what you do and how you can help their company. Or offer to send them some information about legal issues in their industry.

It’s done all the time and it works.

But it works better when you have someone else introduce you.

Find someone who has a connection with the powers that be at the company and ask them to introduce you. Or, get their permission to use their name when you call.

Then, it’s not a cold call. It’s not cold because you have a mutual friend or business contact. Much better posture. Much better likelihood of success.

Now, as to the first question, getting clients when you don’t have referrals to offer prospective referral sources.

Surprise. This is also covered in Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals.

Are you still reading? Go get some referrals: Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals 

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Satisfied clients are a dime a dozen

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Do you have satisfied clients? That’s a shame. You could do so much better.

You don’t want clients to be merely satisfied. You want them to have a big smile on their face and be excited (or relieved) they found you. You want them enthusiastically singing your praises to anyone who will listen.

You don’t want satisfied clients. You want fans.

A satisfied client will recommend you to friends and neighbors if they are asked for a recommendation. A fan will go out of their way to talk you up and pass out your cards.

In building your practice, one of your primary objectives should be to make your clients fall in love with you and your firm. One way to do this is to surprise and delight them by giving them more value and service than they expect.

Clients expect competent work, good customer service, and reasonable fees. If this is what you deliver, you’re probably not getting as many referrals as you could.

We just had some minor repairs done on the exterior of our house. Cracks patched, trim painted, a new side door, and so on. Although I know we got a good deal on the work, I couldn’t believe how much we had to spend for “minor” repairs.

When the job was done, the workers showed us some “extras” they had done at no additional charge, things we had originally passed on because they weren’t absolutely necessary and because we were already spending more than we had intended.

The dollar value of these extras couldn’t have been more than a few hundred dollars, but the gesture made a huge impression on us.

We got more than we expected. We felt better about how much we had spent and we were eager to tell others about the company.

Sure enough, as we were taking another look at the work, our neighbor from across the street came over. He said he needed to get his house painted and wanted to know if we were happy with this company’s work.

What do you think we said?

We said they did a GREAT job and we would DEFINITELY recommend them.

He asked for the contractor’s card.

We would no doubt have recommended them without the extra “surprises” they provided. But we went a step further and “sold” our neighbor on “our guy”.

If anyone else asks us for a recommendation, we’ll recommend them. But we’ll do more than that. When we hear that someone needs work on their house, we won’t wait for them to ask if we know anyone, we’ll make sure to tell them about our guy.

That’s the difference between a satisfied client and a fan.

Now, here’s what I want to know. I want to know if the contractor instructs his employees to “find” extras that need doing and do them, gratis. Is this his standard policy, because he knows the value of giving clients more than they expect?

If it is, that might explain why our guy has hundreds of five-star reviews and his competitors have so few.

Here’s how attorneys can get more five-star reviews and more referrals

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