It’s all about you

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Your services aren’t unique.

You may put your own spin on them, offer lower fees or other benefits, package and present them differently, but in truth. . . .

You and your competition offer essentially the same services.

And clients are just a five-minute search away from choosing another lawyer.

Yes, the quality and scope of your marketing plays a role. But in the realm of professional services, that can only do so much for you because a professional services practice is built on relationships.

So how do you get clients to choose you instead of the guy next door? That’s simple.

Put more of YOU into every aspect of your practice.

Because YOU are original.

And because clients buy you before they buy your services. They choose you and stay with you because of you.

Simple as that.

How do you put more of yourself into your practice?

  • Show people how you think by writing and speaking more openly, and more often
  • Champion the causes that are important to your target market; let them see that you care about the things they care about
  • Share some details about your personal life—what you do outside of work, your family, what you do for fun. Let people get to know the “real” you, not just the “lawyer” you
  • Judiciously share some of your flaws and blemishes. Let people know you’re human (just like them)
  • Own up to errors and mistakes; give clients the benefit of the doubt on billing issues.
  • Build relationships with clients and prospects and the professionals in your network. Stay in touch, mostly via email, so they can learn more about who you are, what you do, and how you work with your clients.

New services? New solutions? Original ideas? They’re great, if you’ve got them. But you don’t need them.

Because there’s no one else like you and clients buy you before they buy your services.

Why email is still the best (and easiest) way to build your practice

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How to say no without coming off as a jerk

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Your inboxes and ears are filled with requests from clients, friends, family, co-workers, subscribers, people in your social network, and others who want something from you but can’t or won’t hire you.

How do you say no without feeling guilty or appearing to be a jerk?

First, make sure you’re clear about your areas of responsibility, so you can focus on what and who are important. If building stronger relationships with your clients is important to you, giving a client 30 or 60 minutes of your time without charge might be a very good use of your time.

Second, do what you can to manage the expectations of the people in your life. Your new client kit or welcome letter should spell out things like how you bill, when you will respond to calls or emails, and what to do in case of emergency (and what constitutes one).

Make sure your website has answers to FAQs and tell visitors you can’t respond to every comment or request.

If you have partners or work on projects with other people, clarify who handles what, deadlines, and other agreed standards.

Third, understand that you don’t have to respond to every request. You can (and should) ignore spam, and just because someone asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

If you feel the need to respond, do it in a way that validates the other person but makes it clear that you can’t drop everything to give them what they want. Respond with one or two sentences, to let them know you’re not ignoring them, but don’t lead them to believe there’s more to come.

Fourth, tell them “not now” instead of no. Tell them you need more information or time to think about what they’re asking, or you’re not sure when you’ll be able to do it because of your other commitments. They may find other ways to get what they need, or realize they no longer need it.

Finally, when you turn someone down, do what you can to direct them to another person or resource that might help. Refer them to another lawyer, give them a website or two, or a book you recommend.

The key is to make people feel that while you can’t help them, you heard them and support them and invite them to contact you again.

How to get your website to bring in more business

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How to write an effective follow-up email

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“Follow-up to our call,” is not the most effective subject line in a follow-up email to someone you just met or spoke to. You want them to open the email immediately, if not sooner as my grandfather used to say.

The subject line should make them curious and/or promise a benefit, or otherwise get their attention.

Depending on the circumstances, you might use something akin to one of these:

  • “You asked for a copy of my xyz report–here it is”
  • “This [form, app, site, idea, etc.] has saved my bacon more times than I can count”
  • “I won’t be able to sleep tonight unless you do this”
  • “I was surprised when you told me this. . .”

Use humor if appropriate. And funny. (If you’re not sure, talk to my wife.)

For the body of the email, reference your conversation, thank them, and be yourself. Not your lawyer self if you can help it, your real person self.

More.

  • Keep it simple–one thought or question.
  • Keep it brief. The longer the email, the less likely they’ll be to read it.
  • Lots of white space. Short paragraphs and sentences, bullet points, and a smattering of bold and ALL CAPS, so they can skim or read it quickly.
  • Informal. You know them, now, so write like a friend or colleague.
  • Tell them what you want them to do. Ask for the sale, invite them to take the next step. Or tell them what you’re going to do next.
  • Consider using a P.S., to remind them what to do or to add something personal, eg., “Say hello to Jack from me,” or to say thank you (again).

Save your best messages as templates. Make sure to change the name of the recipient before you hit send, however. [Smiley-face goes here.]

How to market your practice with email

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This marketing strategy may be the only one you ever need

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If you like referrals, if you like working smarter not harder, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time or money on marketing, if you want to build your practice organically and know you will never run out of clients. . .

I have some advice for you.

You can start doing this immediately. You can take tiny steps or go whole hog. You can do it in addition to everything else you do to bring in clients, or you can replace everything else with this one, simple strategy.

This:

Get to know everyone your clients and contacts know.

If you handle consumer matters, get to know your clients’ friends and neighbors and the owners and employees of the businesses they patronize.

If you have business clients (even if you don’t practice business law), get to know their customers or clients, vendors or suppliers, colleagues and competitors.

Instead of building your practice linearly, one new client or new contact at a time, build it geometrically–10, 50, 100 at at time.

Because each new client or contact is the gateway to hundreds more.

Because everyone knows other people who might need your services at some point, or know someone they can refer.

The average person knows 250 people. If you have 250 people on your current list of clients and contacts, your list can potentially reach 62,500 people.

Think about the leverage this gives you. People who know, like and trust you recommending you to people in their warm market.

When you meet someone new, don’t just look at them, look “through” them, at the people they know, because there are a lot of them.

How do you implement this? There are many things you can do.

Here’s a great place to start.

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How to build your referral network

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Your referral network is more than just people who are willing to send you clients. It includes people who are can introduce you to people they know who are influential in your target market.

This includes other professionals, business owners, consultants, sales people, and others who sell to or advise people in your niche. It also includes bloggers, authors, editors, meeting planners, podcasters, and others who have a list or a following.

It also includes people who can send traffic to your website, promote your events and offers, and provide you with testimonials and reviews.

Because a referral is more than just, “I have a new client for you”.

When you think of referrals this way, you realize that there are a lot of people you’d like to have in your network.

How do you find them?

The simplest way is to leverage your existing contacts. Your current and former clients, professional contacts, and other people who know, like and trust you, can lead you to people they know that you’d like to have in your network.

Prospective clients can also send you referrals and/or introduce you to others.

Okay, so what do you do?

Well, how aggressive are you willing to be?

If the answer is, “not very,” then simply stay in touch with everyone in your existing network.

Send them something useful–information, a checklist or form, your newsletter–and ask them to share it with people they know who might like to get a copy.

For better results, suggest who that might be–their colleagues, their clients, or their friends and family, for example.

You could also invite them to an event you’re conducting, and ask them to tell people about it.

Make sure you have a way to capture the email addresses of the people they tell about you. Build your list and you will build your referral network.

Now, if you’re willing to step things up a bit, pick up the phone or email a specific person you know. Tell them you’re building your network and could use their help. Ask them to introduce you to someone they know.

Ask a former client to contact their accountant or broker or former business partner, for example, and suggest that the two of you get together or speak on the phone.

Why should their contact speak to you? Because the two of you “might have some mutual business interests” or simply because the client thinks the two of you “should know each other”.

It doesn’t have to be brilliant. Just as you want to build your network, these other folks want to build theirs. With a mutual friend or client introducing you, everyone wins.

Here’s how to build your practice with email

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5 ways to build trust

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Marketing isn’t just telling people what you do and how you can help them. Marketing requires targeting the right people with the right problems and providing them with the right message and offer.

One of the biggest hurdles is building trust.

People are scared about their legal situation and skeptical about your ability to help them. They don’t know if you’re competent, honest, or charge reasonable fees.

They may like what you say but if they don’t trust you, they often keep looking.

It usually takes time to build trust, but here are 5 ways to speed up the process:

  1. Referrals. Prospective clients “borrow” trust from the people who refer them, thus making them more likely to hire you. Referral marketing shortens the sales process, saves time and money, and usually brings in better clients.
  2. Content marketing. Blog posts, articles, presentations, etc., allow you to show people what you know, what you do, and how you work with your clients. This works even better when you are published by or interviewed on authority sites or podcasts or speak at industry events.
  3. Social proof. Ask people to share your content with their friends and neighbors, colleagues, clients and customers. Get testimonials and reviews from clients and endorsements from influential people.
  4. Free consultations. Let people sample your advice and demeanor, hear more about what you can do to help them, and get their questions answered straight from the horse’s mouth.
  5. Build a list and stay in touch. A simple email newsletter allows you to build trust over time. It helps you get more clients, more referrals, more people sharing your content, book more free consultations, and get more testimonials and reviews.

If you want to see how to use a newsletter to build your practice, go here

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How to get your SECOND client

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Let’s say you just got your first client.

Congratulations. What’s next?

Where will you get your second client? Or, if you have 100 clients, where will you get your next 100?

Many lawyers go back to doing whatever it is they did to get their first client (or their first 100). Networking, advertising, blogging, speaking, and so on, and that’s fine.

But there’s another way:

Leverage your relationships with your existing and former clients to get more.

Yes, I’m talking about referrals. But not just referrals in the way we usually think of them. And expanded view of the concept of referrals.

You know that some of your clients are willing to send you referrals but don’t have anyone to send you right now.

What else could they do?

They could refer you to (introduce you to) other professionals they know, some of whom might have clients they can refer.

Hold on. Those professionals might not have clients they can refer right now, or be willing to refer them.

What else could they do?

They could introduce you to other professionals they know who might have clients who need your help.

Hold on. What if they don’t know other professionals in your target market or they’re not willing to introduce them to you?

What else could they do?

They could introduce you to bloggers and podcasters and meeting planners and other people who write for, sell to, or advise your target market.

They could share your content or promote your event to their clients and contacts, subscribers, social media connections, and others they know.

Some of those people may need your services. Or know someone who does. Or know someone who knows someone who does.

Building a referral-based practice isn’t just about who you know. It’s also about who they know.

Everyone you know knows hundreds of people you don’t know.

And those people know hundreds of people.

Each person knows an average of 250 people, we are told. If each of those people knows 250 people, that’s 62, 500 people in your extended network.

You can build your practice by tapping into that network.

Where do you begin?

Start with my (currently free) introductory referral marketing course.

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Will you do me a favor?

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If you’re like most people, when you heard me ask for a favor you probably thought, “It depends on what it is”.

If I ask you to do something that’s

  • easy to do
  • doesn’t require a lot of time or money
  • doesn’t take you outside your comfort zone/embarrass you

. . .you would at least consider it, wouldn’t you?

If I ask you to take a survey and tell me which book title you prefer, for example, and all you have to do is click button A or button B, you’ll probably do it.

Because you like being asked for your opinion and because you want to help me. So. . . why not?

Well, your clients are no different and if you ask them for an easy favor like that, many of them will come through.

Ask them to Like your video or blog post and most will give you a thumbs up.

Ask them to forward your video or blog post to a friend, however, and you won’t get as many to do that but you’ll get some.

And “some” is good. Some are better than none.

Now, if you ask for a testimonial or a referral, you may get only a few to do it, but you would be happy with “a few” wouldn’t you?

So, take my challenge: ask your clients for a favor.

Start with something simple. Easy for you to ask, easy for them to do.

Later, as you build your “asking” muscle, you can ask for something better.

Start by asking the next client you speak with, either in person or on the phone, to do something for you.

Want a suggestion? Okay, how about asking them for the name of a real estate or insurance broker they know?

Easy to ask, easy for them to reply.

Later, once you’re comfortable asking for a name, you can start asking for an introduction.

Now, will you do me a favor? Will you forward this email to an attorney who might like to read this?

You don’t have to introduce us, just forward the email. I appreciate it and they will, too.

Easy for me to ask, easy for you to do.

Marketing is easier with email

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A checkup from the neck up

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Successful estate planning attorneys regularly contact their clients to inquire about life changes that might necessitate an update to their plan.

No matter what area you practice in, you should do something similar.

Once a year (at least), send your clients information about changes in the law and a questionnaire. Invite them to talk to you.

Do this even if your handle litigation or bankruptcy or another area where your clients are unlikely to need you again.

Why?

So you can find out about other issues or changes in their life or business that necessitate a referral to another attorney or to another professional.

Create your questionnaire or “legal checkup” checklist by asking other professionals to provide information. Ask an insurance broker, for example, for a list of questions your clients should ask themselves about their current risk-levels and coverage. Ask a CPA for questions related to taxes, a financial planner about investments or retirement, and other attorneys about their practice areas.

In addition to asking your “referral partners” to help you prepare your legal checkup, ask them to provide a special offer for your clients, if appropriate. A free consultation or document review, for example.

Once you’ve got your legal checkup up and running, help your referral partners do the same thing for their clients.

An annual legal checkup will allow you to better protect and advise your clients and stimulate referrals to you and your referral sources.

It’s a beautiful thing.

How to get referrals from other attorneys

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Have I got a deal for you!

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It’s Memorial Day weekend and everybody and his brother is having a sale. Everyone except lawyers. But that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on all the fun.

Do you have any clients or business contacts who are having a sale? Why not email your other clients and contacts and tell them about it.

Wait. Maybe your business clients are willing to offer a little extra to people who mention your name.

How ’bout them apples.

Your clients will appreciate you for tipping them off (and arranging the extra discount). Your business clients will appreciate you for sending business their way.

Could it get any easier?

What’s that? You don’t have any (or many) business clients or contacts who are having a sale?

No problem. Go knock on some doors.

Talk to some local business owners and ask them if they’re planning to (or willing to) put anything on sale. Tell them you’re sending an email to all your clients and you’d be happy to mention them.

Hold on. You’re not done. Ask if they know other merchants (businesses, professionals, etc.) you might talk to. Betcha they do.

This is a simple way to meet and introduce yourself to business owners, get on their radar and in their good graces.

Who knows, they might mention you in their newsletter. Or let you put some brochures on their counter or in their waiting room. Or send you some referrals. Because no other lawyers in town are promoting their business.

Leverage is a wonderful thing

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