Your practice-building prime directive

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We usually do it when we’re speaking to a prospective client or interviewing a new one. We rarely do it at any other time.

But we should. Because it’s the simplest and most effective way to develop new business and build stronger relationships, which are the essence of building a successful law practice.

Which leads to the prime directive:

Find out what people want, so you can help them get it.

I’m not just talking about their legal needs. I’m talking about everything they might want or need in other areas of their life, because there’s a lot you can do to help people beyond performing your services.

The most obvious is to refer them to other attorneys who handle things you don’t. But you can also:

  • Refer clients or customers to them or promote their business, practice, or cause
  • Provide information—legal, business, consumer, and about their niche or local market
  • Introduce them to people who have information or can help them understand something or do something
  • Recommend tools, books, websites, or ideas
  • Encourage them and give them a shoulder to cry on when things go wrong

Be there for them, for whatever they might need.

If you have a client who needs a recommendation for a job or a loan, help them. If you have a client who is interviewing job candidates, tell them about the book you just read that made this easier for you.

But don’t just wait until they ask for your help. Take the lead and find out.

You do that by observing, listening, and asking questions. What are their goals? What (or who) is stopping them? What do they want to get fixed, avoid, or do better?

You may not be able to help them directly, but you might know someone who can, or. . . know someone who knows someone who can.

Be a matchmaker. When you do that, you help 2 people and get credit for making the match.

You won’t always be able to help people, but you will always get points for trying. When folks hear you ask questions about their situation and what they want or need, when they see you pay attention to what they say, ask follow-up questions, and take notes, they’ll know you really want to help them.

Most lawyers don’t do that. You’ll be “the one” when you do.

Yes, you have time to do it. Because this is the stuff of relationship building and the benefits always exceed the cost.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Thinking out of the (gift) box

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You want to show your clients some love. Give them something extra, to reward them for being loyal to your firm and motivate them to stick around. You want them to see that you’re not like other lawyers who quid pro quo everything, you’re generous and looking out for them.

At least you should. Because it’s good for business.

Does that mean sending them gifts? Giving them free services? Discounts?

Not something you want to do?

No problem. You don’t have to give away the store to show clients your amazingness. You can give away someone else’s store.

Crazy? Not crazy.

Talk to a business owner or (non-competitive) professional you know who has products or services your clients might want or need (and that you recommend). Ask said business owner or professional if they will provide a special offer of some kind to your clients.

Could be a discount. A free service. A free consultation. Even information that solves a problem or helps your clients make better decisions.

You tell your clients you negotiated this deal for them.

Your clients get a nice deal.

The business or professional gets their wares in front of your clients, along with your recommendation. They may buy something or refer someone, or sign up for the business owner’s list and buy something down the road.

Your clients love you and think you’re handsome and want to tell everyone about you.

Not too shabby.

Oh, one more thing. The business owner or professional may see the wisdom of this arrangement and ask if you have something they can offer to their clients or customers.

Which means some of their clients or customers get to find out all about your greatness and become one of your happy clients.

Working with other lawyers can be very profitable

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A better way to build your network?

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Networking events often prove to be a waste of time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t network.

Think about it, everyone who is currently in your network was, at one time, a stranger. So, meeting new people can be a very good thing. The question is, who do you want to meet and how can you meet them?

Events can work. But you can also do it without leaving your office and this might work even better.

The first step is to make a list of influential people in your target market. These could be business owners, professionals, or others with influence in that market. It could also include prospective business clients.

Start by identifying “categories”—tax lawyer, real estate broker, business executives at tech companies, for example; once you’ve done that, you can look for “candidates”—actual people or businesses in those categories.

You’re looking for people who can hire you, recommend you, or introduce you to others who can do the same. This might be a lawyer or accountant or other professional who represents your ideal clients, a content creator, consultant, or marketing professional with a following that resembles your ideal clients or the professionals who sell to or advise them.

You’ll have many options to choose from, but you should focus on quality, not quality. 20 or 30 people are a good number. You’re looking for influence (depth) not raw numbers (breadth).

Once you’ve identified some candidates, read their bios, learn what they do, and what they’re good at. Look for clues as to how they might be able to help you and/or your clients and contacts, and how you can help them or their contacts.

As you study them, you may learn you have some mutual contacts, or people who know people who are likely to know them. This could be your path to an introduction.

If not, put together a plan to contact them directly. Decide what you’ll say, what you’ll ask them, or what you might invite them to do.

How you will get their attention? And how will you show them a benefit for speaking with you?

It sounds more difficult than it is. Remember, everyone needs or wants something, even if that something is new professional contacts in their (your) industry or niche.

Contact the people on your list, via a mutual connection or directly, and see who is interested in speaking to you and learning more about how you might help them.

As a lawyer, you clearly have something to offer. If they don’t appreciate that, move on. If they do appreciate that, you might be one or two conversations away from having your next new client.

Here’s everything you need to know (and do)

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Marketing leverage

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When it comes to marketing your practice, if you’re not growing as quickly as you would like to, you might stop and ask yourself if you’re making things harder than they need to be.

You can use your back and legs to lift a boulder, straining and struggling, huffing and puffing, or you can use a lever to make the bolder easier to lift.

You can use a lever in your marketing, too.

Instead of trying to find clients one at a time, doesn’t it make sense to find a few influential people who have the phone numbers of those clients on speed dial? Why not direct (some of) your marketing efforts towards the people who sell to, advise, or otherwise work with the kinds of people and businesses you would like to have as clients?

You already know this works. You know professionals, business executives, consultants, entrepreneurs, and others who are influential in your target market. Some of them have sent you referrals. Some have introduced you to people who have asked you to speak or asked to interview you for their podcast or have asked you to write for their blog.

You want to know more people like this.

Because they can help you achieve your marketing goals in a fraction of the time than you could on your own.

It might take time to develop those relationships, but they can bear fruit for decades to come. They can also expedite your growth as they introduce you to other centers of influence in your target market.

Where do you start?

Step One: Identify them

That’s easy. They look a lot like your existing referral sources and business contacts. Start by identifying categories, by profession or business, industry or niche, and by other factors.

Once you have a list of categories, identify individual candidates. Talk to the people you know and ask them who they know who fit that description. Or hit up your favorite search engine and find their websites.

Step Two: Contact them

Also easy. Ask your existing contacts to introduce you, or pick up the phone and introduce yourself. Most have their phone number on their website.

Step Three: Build a relationship with them

This is where the rubber meets the road. This is what takes time and effort.

But not as much as you might think.

We’re talking about a business relationship, not courtship and marriage.

You talk to them, find out more about what they do, and tell them a bit about yourself. And you explore ways you can help each other (and each other’s clients or customers).

You find out if there is any synergy, and chemistry. And you see where it goes. Which is no doubt what you did when you built relationships with your current business contacts.

The key is to be willing to help others without the expectation of getting something in return.

When you do that, when you approach this with an open mind and heart, you build trust and open doors to new opportunities.

Where will it lead? Maybe nowhere. But if just a few of these new contacts want to work with you, it could be the start of a new and exciting chapter in the story of your career.

How to identify, approach, and build relationships with influential people—step-by-step

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Being proactive about referrals

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Referrals happen, right? You don’t have to say anything or do anything other than provide great service. Happy clients tell others about you, give them your business card or your website, and magic happens.

Your business contacts do the same thing. They might say that you did a good job for some of their clients or customers, or they know you by your stellar reputation, or they know you from church or your kid’s soccer team, and you’re a nice fella or gal.

More magic.

If you get any referrals right now, you know this is true. Referrals happen this way all day, every day.

Without you doing anything extra to make that happen.

But while you don’t have to say anything or do anything, there are things you could say or do that could significantly increase the number of referrals you get.

You might double or triple them. You might increase them tenfold.

How much would it be worth to you over the course of a year to get even one additional referral each month?

Okay, enough with the sexy numbers. You want to know what you could say or do to stimulate more referrals, and you don’t want to work hard to do it.

I’ll give you 3 things you can do, starting today.

First, you can talk about referrals. No, I didn’t say ask for them. Talk about them. In your blog posts and articles, in your presentations, and in your conversations.

When you tell a story about a client with a problem, simply mention that they were referred to you by another client who had a similar problem, or by another lawyer or influential person in your community.

Every time you do that, you tell people that you (routinely) get referrals, suggesting that they might do the same.

Thing is, some people can send you referrals but don’t, primarily (according to surveys) because they “didn’t think of it”. This is a simple way to help them think of it.

The second thing you can do is to equip your clients and contacts to refer you.

Give them something they can hand out besides your business card, so that when they talk to someone who might need your help, they can give them something that tells them what you do and how you can help them.

They don’t have to explain. The handout does that for them and tells the prospective client exactly what you want them to know and what to do next.

One more.

Make a habit of asking people for referrals to other professionals.

Tell them you like to network with other attorneys, real estate or financial professionals (or whoever might make a good referral source for you), and ask if they know anyone. If they do, ask for a name, tell them you’ll call them to introduce yourself, and ask, “is it okay if I mention your name?”

You get to talk to potential referral sources who will know that you represent one of their clients or business contacts. You still have work to do, but your mutual client or contact gives you a huge head start.

And yes, it is as simple as that.

Learn more about what to do with this (for clients) and this (for professional contacts).

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Your best source of referrals?

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Many people say clients are your best source of referrals. They know, like, and trust you and can share their experiences with your firm with their friends and business contacts.

True, but they might not know that their friend or contact has a problem or needs to talk to an attorney. They might not know about all the services you offer or how to recognize when someone needs your help. They might not think of you when someone they know has a problem, or know what to do to refer them.

Which is why you need to educate your clients, equip them to make referrals, and stay in touch with them.

Some say other attorneys are your best source of referrals because they know when their client or contact needs the help you provide and can influence them to talk to you.

That’s true, too, but those attorneys might have other attorneys they work with and refer to, or they might not know you well enough to trust you to properly handle their client’s matter.

Which is why you need to build relationships with other attorneys, make them aware of what you have done for your clients, and stay in touch with them, before you can expect them to send you referrals.

Some say your best source of referrals are people who have previously referred clients to you. That’s also true, but only if those previous referrals were happy with you.

Which is why you have to provide your clients with great results and great service, properly thank the referral-giver, stay in touch with them, and continue to build your relationship with them.

Your best source of referrals? I don’t know who might be yours, but I can tell you one thing. It will be people with whom you have a good relationship.

Which is why you need to stay in touch with people, instead of assuming they know who you are and will contact you if they need you.

I’ve never found an easier way to do that than an email newsletter.

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Two birds. One stone.

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You: “I want to help my best clients and referral sources but I’m not always able to provide referrals.”

Also you: “I need more ideas for content for my blog and newsletter and social media.”

Me: Pay attention to what your best clients and referral sources are doing and talk about that in your blog, newsletter, and on social.

When they have news or post new content, when they announce an upcoming event or get an award, when they run a promotion or launch a new product or service, share it.

Re-post their news release or article. Share their links. Ask them questions and quote them.

They get free publicity, traffic, leads, and new business.

You get free content for your blog, newsletter, and social media.

Also you: your best clients and referral sources see you promoting them and helping them and most of them will want to do the same for you.

Actually, that’s three birds with one stone. But who’s counting?

How to take a quantum leap in your practice

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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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Learn, do, teach

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You learn about marketing. You do it and get good at it.

Life is good.

Life gets even better, however, if you take what you’ve learned and teach it to your professional contacts.

Teach them some things you’ve learned about marketing professional services, from me and others.

Teach them how to identify their target market and ideal client, and why it’s important to focus.

Teach them how to get more referrals from their clients and their professional contacts.

Teach them about using content to attract more prospects and show them what they can do to help them.

Teach them about the power of staying in touch with clients and prospects and the best ways to do that.

Teach them by sharing information and by the power of your example. Tell them what you’ve done to bring in new business, repeat business, bigger cases and better clients.

Share your process, your forms and checklists. Show them how you market your practice without spending a lot of time or breaking the bank, and how they can do the same.

As you do this, they will also learn more about you—your target market and ideal client. They’ll learn how to recognize them and the best way to refer them.

As you do this, you will train a small army of new referral sources for your practice.

They’ll appreciate you. They’ll want to help you. And they’ll have more clients or customers coming in that they can refer to you.

And they will, since no other lawyer is helping them this way.

This will help you identify and approach prospective referral sources

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How to get more referrals without asking for referrals

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Three things I know about you:

  1. You understand that your clients and contacts could send you more referrals than they now send you;
  2. You know that asking for referrals is an effective way to get more of them, and
  3. You don’t want to ask.

What if you could get more referrals without asking or saying anything?

You can. I promise.

All you need to do is give your clients and contacts information—a report, a letter, a brochure—that explains:

  1. The services you offer, problems you solve, and benefits you help people achieve. Provide examples for each problem and/or service.
  2. The types of clients and cases that are a good match for you, and how to recognize them.
  3. What to do when they recognize someone who might need your help, now or in the future. Tell them what to say, what to tell them about you, and the best way to refer them.

In other words, write something that tells your clients and contacts what you want them to know and do, and makes it easier for them to do it.

When you do that, you will get more referrals.

If they have sent you referrals before, they will send you more.

If they’ve never sent you referrals, they will be more likely to start.

Your report or letter tells them everything they need to know and tells them that referrals are a normal part of your practice and a simple way to help the people they know get the help they need.

Bottom line: more referrals, without saying or asking for anything.

You can learn what to put in your report or referral letter, how to distribute it, and other strategies for getting more referrals, here:

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