No list? No clients for you!

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Most of us marketing folks go on and on about the need for a list, especially an opt-in email list. If you don’t have a list, you’re probably sick of hearing about it. If you do have a list, you know we’re right.

With a list, you are one click away from new business. Send an email, clients call. Without a list, what do you do? Please don’t say, “call prospects and ask if they’re ready for an appointment”.

With a list, you can remind people who you are and what you do. You can introduce a new service. You can ask for (and get) subscribers to promote your webinar or local event, Like your page, or forward a link to your new blog post. You can get former clients to hire you again. You can get referrals. Lots and lots of referrals.

Without a list. . . you do a lot of waiting.

You’ll hear some “experts” say that email is dead or dying. They are wrong. Email is as strong as ever.

There’s nothing wrong with social media. It just doesn’t pull in clients like an email list. Not even close.

Advertising is fine and dandy. But instead of “call or don’t call” give them the option of getting more information by signing up for your list. You’ll be able to get your name and message in front of them again next week, next month, and next year.

Networking is awesome. So is public speaking, blogging, and writing articles. But if you don’t build a list, you’re only getting a small percentage of the results you could get from those activities.

If you want to know how to start a list (or grow one), you can learn what to do in “Make the Phone Ring”. It’s not hard to get started and make the phone ring. What’s hard is waiting for the phone to ring.

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Bullet Journal: A paper based system for recording and managing tasks

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I was browsing the “What’s Popular” category on Youtube and saw a video about Bullet Journal, an analog journaling and note taking system. Basically, it’s a way to use pen and paper (or a Moleskine notebook) to record and manage your tasks, notes, and events.

What I like:

  • Pen and paper and Moleskine notebooks
  • The idea of having everything with me in one book
  • Writing on paper makes you think about what you’re writing
  • Low cost, always on, no batteries needed
  • The website. Great way to show you what it is and how it works
  • The title: Bullet Journal

What I don’t like:

  • Too much writing
  • Too much re-writing
  • Not good for projects (without a lot of re-writing)
  • Not good for recurring tasks (without a lot of re-writing)
  • You can’t move anything (without re-writing)
  • Writing on paper makes you think about what you’re writing (and maybe I just want to get it out of my head and not think about it)
  • I’ve already got a calendar

You probably know that I use Evernote to record my notes, tasks and projects. One place for everything and everything with me everywhere. If I wanted to go analog, however, the concepts behind Bullet Journal are appealing. But watching the video of what it takes to write and re-write tasks makes me glad I don’t use a paper-based system.

How about you? Do you use a paper based system? What do you think of Bullet Journal?

If you use Evernote, get my Evernote for Lawyers ebook.

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Internet marketing for attorneys and handymen

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My wife and I hired a handyman yesterday. She found Dan on a review site for trades people. He had nearly 100 positive reviews, more than any other on the site.

Dan doesn’t have his own website. He probably thinks he doesn’t need one. He’s got all that business coming in from the review site and I’m sure he also gets lots of referrals.

But what if that review site shuts down? Yes it does happen. Sites that aren’t making money, sites that are mismanaged, sites that get sold to someone who has different ideas.

Just like that, Dan’s online presence would be gone. All the business from that site, gone.

Then what?

Okay, he would still get referrals. But when the people getting referred go online to “check him out” and find nothing, what do you think they will do? They’ll go find someone else, that’s what they’ll do.

Now then, how about you? What kind of online presence do you have? Do you have a website? If you don’t and someone goes online to “check you out,” what will they find? Bad stuff? No stuff? Don’t you want them to see some good stuff?

If you do have a website but it is hosted on a site that you don’t own, what will you do if that site goes away?

It won’t happen? That’s what everyone who had their sites at Posterous.com said, just before they shut down.

You need your own site. Hosted on your own account. www.yourname.com.

Directory listings and reviews on other sites are fine. Having a page on your firm’s site is fine. You still need your own site.

I get a lot of emails from attorneys who use the email account at their current employer’s law firm. joelaw@myemployerfirmname.com But what happens when they leave that firm? They lose that email address.

A year from now, if someone has a referral and wants to email them, they can’t. They don’t work here anymore. Do they track him down? Who knows.

So, if you’re not ready to create your own website, at least get you own domain name and your own email address that will never change. you@yourname.com

Here are some of the resources I use and recommend for domains and hosting.

And here is my course on Internet marketing for attorneys.

And, if you need a good handyman. . .

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Audit your website

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When was the last time you audited your website?

Okay, you need to do that. You need to go through the pages of your site and make sure that all of the requisite elements are present.

Like your contact form. Have you made it easy for website visitors to contact you by phone and email (at least)? Is there a link to this on every page?

Or your newsletter sign up form. You want visitors to join your list so you can stay in touch with them until they are ready to hire you or refer someone. That should also be on every page.

How about a page that lists all of your services, with links to sub-pages providing details about each of those services?

But here’s the thing. Your website may have these and other essential elements and you may think you’ve got things covered. But having them isn’t enough. They need to be easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to use. It’s hard to be objective about things like this.

So, after you audit your website, I suggest you find someone who has never seen your website and ask them to do the same.

Ask them to go through your site, page by page, and tell you what they see and what they think. You might do this with another lawyer, i.e., they go through your site and you go through theirs.

Give some instructions, i.e., “find the services I provide,” “sign up for my newsletter,” or “email me and tell me you want an appointment.”

Have them report if they hit any snags along the way. Was everything easy to find? Was it easy to understand? Did anything slow you down? Did you have any questions that weren’t answered?

Have them start on your home page, and then start again on one of your blog post or article pages, i.e., “landing pages” where they might enter your site if they find it via search.

After they read the home page, ask them to tell you what page they went to next. How long did they stay there? How many pages did they click through to get to something they wanted to see?

The best way to do this is to sit them down in front of a computer and watch them. As they go through your pages, have them narrate their journey–what they see and what they think.

See if they can quickly navigate through your site and find everything you have asked them to find and anything else they are attracted to. This is very valuable information.

You’ll learn what your website visitors encounter when they arrive at your site. You’ll see what you need to add, improve, move, or replace. You’ll know what questions visitors ask themselves as they arrive at and click through your site. And you’ll see how long it takes them to find the key elements that make your site work.

In Make the Phone Ring, I identify nine essential website elements for attracting (prospective) clients and getting them to hire you or take the next step. Whether you create your own websites or hire someone, if you want to get more clients online, you need to know what these elements are and how to implement them. Check it out on this page.

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Yahoo buys Tumblr, promises “not to screw it up”

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So Yahoo buys Tumblr, the micro blogging platform for 1.1 billion and then announce that they “promise not to screw it up“.

That’s inspiring, isn’t it?

It says, “yeah, we know we’ve messed up before, but we’re going to try real hard not to do that again.”

I know, they want to assuage the fears of some 100 million customers they seem to know won’t be happy about the acquisition. But from a marketing standpoint, “we won’t screw it up” is not a good message.

Why call attention to your past screw ups? Why tell the world what you won’t do?

Can you imagine an attorney getting a big case and issuing a press release that says, “I won’t lose this one”.

Tell the world what you will do, not what you won’t. Tell the world where you are going, so they can see why they should follow.

Apparently, more than a few Tumblr customers don’t believe the promise and have migrated their blogs from Tumblr to WordPress.com. But while WordPress.com might have a track record of “not screwing up,” customers who depend on their blogs for business purposes should avoid the hosted WordPress.com and opt for WordPress.org, the self-hosted, open-source version that I and millions of other websites use.

With the recent demise of Posterous, millions of people found out the hard way what happens when your hosted website shuts down.

But shutting down the service that hosts your business website is only one of the ways a host can “screw up”. If Yahoo/Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, or any of the other hosted platforms change something, customers have to live with those changes, even if they don’t like them. If they want to do something that isn’t allowed, they’re also out of luck.

I use WordPress.org because it is the best software for the job. I host it myself because I want complete control over what I can and can’t do.

And I promised myself I won’t screw it up.

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What’s wrong with this attorney’s newspaper ad?

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An attorney’s newspaper ad just appeared in our local paper. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Here’s the ad:

Law Offices of
ATTORNEY’S NAME

7 lines of information about the attorney’s (30 years) civil and criminal trial experience and his recent move to our area.

“For more information regarding the law in your specific case, please contact my office for a free consultation by phone or at my office.”

Law Offices of
ATTORNEY’S NAME
ADDRESS
ADDRESS
TELEPHONE and FACSIMILE
E-Mail

The ad includes the attorney’s head shot.

So, what do you think? What’s good? What’s bad? What’s missing?

Let’s start with the good.

He does present an OFFER (Free Consultation) and a CALL TO ACTION (“Call my office”).

That’s good.

He could improve his offer by telling the reader the benefits of the consultation (i.e., “Find out your rights and options, so you know what to do. . . get all your questions answered,” and so on). He should also let them know that there is no cost (yes, even though it is a “Free Consultation,” tell them again) and no obligation.

He could improve the call to action by writing his phone number BIG AND BOLD in the same sentence. “Call my office at [phone]. . .”. Even though it is spelled out below in his contact information. Don’t make people look for it.

He mentions his experience and that’s good. Including his photo is also good for this type of ad.

Now, what about the bad.

There are two things missing from this ad and they are big. Really big.

First, the headline. Or rather, the lack thereof.

You can’t use your name for a headline. Well, you can, but it’s a mistake. Why? Because unless you are famous and your name is something that people will recognize and be drawn to, your ad isn’t going to catch anyone’s attention.

Nobody cares about you. They’re busy and have their own problems and lives to lead. They’re not going to notice your ad.

Okay, some people will notice it. The ones who read the paper cover to cover every week will probably glimpse at the ad because it’s new. But most people won’t. More importantly, most of the people who need a lawyer won’t. And if they don’t notice the ad, they won’t read it and if they don’t read it, they’re not going to call.

What should be in the headline? Well, the attorney does civil and criminal litigation, so how about something that speaks to people who have been sued or arrested and don’t know what to do.

Like this:

Sued? Arrested? Find out your legal rights and options–FREE!

Okay, not brilliant, but can you see how this identifies the people this attorney is targeting? And promises a benefit?

If you’ve been sued or arrested and you’re turning pages in this newspaper, a headline like this is going to flag you down. It says, “Hey, you there with the big hairy legal problem, here’s something good for you.”

Because your lawsuit or arrest is very much on your mind right now, you stop turning pages and look at the ad.

The headline did it’s job. It got your attention and promised a benefit. So now you read the first line of the body copy. If that grabs you and promises a benefit, you keep reading. Then you see the offer for a free consultation and you might call.

Without a headline, it doesn’t matter how compelling the body copy or how great the offer because nobody will see them because they never stopped to read the ad.

Your ad is only as good as your headline.

Okay, what else is missing? Take another look and see if you can spot it.

Of course. No website.

Not having a website is unacceptable today. Guaranteed disqualification in the eyes of many prospective clients. Why? Because all they have to go on is a few self-serving words in an ad. No proof. No details. No reason to trust.

There’s no helpful information that might begin to answer their questions. The only way to get more information is to call.

If you are the only attorney in town, they would have no choice. But you’re not. A quick visit to Uncle Google or Auntie Bing reveals that there are hundreds of attorneys who do what you do, right here in my area code. And they have websites. I can go read all about my problem and their solutions, and find out things I want to know before I call.

So, prospects see your ad without a website and either (a) cross you off the list because you are a dinosaur, or (b) go online to search your name and, finding nothing, cross you off the list.

In other words, the only ones who might call are fellow dinosaurs, a species that is quickly dying out.

Actually, there are two additional clues in the ad that this attorney is living in a different century. They are both in his contact info.

The first is the word “Facsimile”. Go ask your 25 year old neighbor if he even knows what that word means.

The second is the attorney’s email address, which I didn’t include. It’s hisnamelaw@netscape.net. Yes, Netscape. Didn’t they help Al Gore start the Internet?

Obviously, the attorney doesn’t realize how antiquated this makes him look. Somebody should send him a telegram and let him know.

Marketing for 21st century attorneys. Click here to upgrade.

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Gmail users now have another way to achieve inbox zero

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In my Evernote For Lawyers ebook, I described how I (finally) achieved “inbox zero”. In case you don’t know, that means my email inbox is empty. The short version of how I did it: I identified the important emails that needed a reply or further action or that I needed to save and then archived everything else.

If you’ve never experienced an inbox zero, you should try it. Looking at an empty inbox and knowing that you have everything under control is a great feeling.

Now, what about the important emails? No surprises. I forward them to Evernote where I tag them for further action or assign them to a project. This allows me to keep my email inbox empty.

But there is a niggling issue. To reply to the original email I have saved to Evernote, rather than starting a new email, I have to find the original email in my Gmail archive. Not terribly difficult, but I just leaned something that makes it so much easier.

It turns out that Gmail allows you to bookmark your emails. Every email has a unique URL that you can access from your browser address bar. By copying and pasting that URL into an Evernote note or other note taking app, you can retrieve that email by clicking on the url. If you are logged into your Gmail account, the bookmarked email will open, ready for your reply.

Gmail gives you other options for curating and retrieving emails. Labels, filters, and stars are all helpful. But there’s nothing faster or more accurate than clicking on a URL to find a specific email.

You can also use this function to bookmark emails you need for an upcoming meeting or event. Paste the URL into your todo app or calendar and everything you need is just one click away.

Do you bookmark your email URLs? How has this helped you become more productive?

Evernote for Lawyers shows you how to get organized and increase your productivity

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Attorneys want to know: How often should I email my list?

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After yesterday’s post about email, I heard from a lawyer who wanted my take on his email signature. Ah, but it wasn’t a signature, it was an attachment (pdf). I pointed out that

  • Some email servers treat emails with attachments as spam so his emails might not get through,
  • Some people refuse to open attachments because they’re afraid it might contain a virus, and
  • Many people simply won’t take the time to open an attachment.

So, while his attachment has some good information in it, a lot of people will never see it. I recommended a simple text or rich text signature, so people can see some basic info, and a link to a web page for those who want more.

Now, pdf’s are one thing. When I get an email with an MS Office document attached that I am charged with reviewing, unless there is a reason I need to see the original formatting, I often reply and ask the sender to cut and paste the text into the body of the email. It’s not so much fear of a virus as convenience. It’s easier for me to respond to a text email with my responses or corrections, especially if where there will be a series of back and forth corrections.

Okay, maybe that’s just me. But just in case it’s not just me, my advice is to not send attachments unless you have no other choice.

Onward.

How often should should you email your list?

Often.

If you’re providing valuable information (newsletter, blog posts, resources), information people want and have signed up for, don’t hold back. Write as often as you can.

I email every day, five days a week. I hope you find value in what I write. If you don’t, or you don’t have time to read every email, you can save my emails for later, delete them, or un-subscribe.

There, I said it.

Hey, it’s not a bad word. I get a lot of people un-subscribing from my list. And that’s good.

How can that be good? Well, if they don’t value what I’m sending them for free, they’re not going to hire me or buy something from me, so why clutter up my list or their email inbox?

That’s reality. Some love ya, some don’t. Some listen to your advice, some don’t. Some only want free stuff and will never buy anything, some will.

The same goes for your list. Think about it: Would you rather have a list of 10,000 people who don’t read your emails and won’t hire you or a list of 400 people who read every email, share your content, promote your web site, hire you, and send referrals?

Exactly.

And guess what? The more often you mail, the more of your services you’ll sell. That’s a fact, Jack.

So don’t worry when someone un-subscribes from you list. It’s a good thing. And don’t worry about writing too often. As long as you are sending valuable information that (the right) people want to consume, you almost can’t mail too often.

I’m on several email lists that don’t send valuable information. Every email is either an ad or an invitation to a webinar where products will be pitched. No tips, resources, or advice. And many of these email me daily. Sometimes twice a day. Why on earth do I stay on these lists? The value to me is that it lets me see what other marketers are doing. I skim and delete. But I stay subscribed.

Value is in the eye of the beholder.

Now I don’t recommend emailing nothing but ads for your legal services. It’s true, these marketers wouldn’t continue sending nothing but ads and webinar invites if it wasn’t working for them, but they’re not selling legal services. Make your email (and website content) 90-95% valuable content, only 5-10% promotion.

And every practice is different. I doubt many people want to get daily emails from their criminal defense attorney no matter how good the information is. But every client is also a consumer so if you are sending consumer tips and advice, daily might be just fine.

There is a risk in not emailing often enough. If you email quarterly, for example, you risk people forgetting who you are and sending your email to spam. Not only do they ignore your message, you get penalized.

You need to write often enough to keep your name in front of your list. Once a month is probably the minimum, and that’s cutting it close. Once a week is much better. If you don’t think you have enough for a weekly email, write shorter emails. One or two tips is all you need.

Stay in touch with your list. You can build a very large law practice with email.

Create value. Build a list. Mail often.

Marketing made simple: The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Clients don’t hire anonymous lawyers

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I get a fair amount of email from lawyers. At least I think they are lawyers. Unfortunately, many of them don’t tell me who they are or what they do for a living. All I know about them is their email address.

No name. No phone number. No web site.

They would never send a letter via regular mail that was devoid of contact information. Why do they do that in an email?

If they are using the same email account to communicate with clients and prospects and professional contacts, they’re not helping themselves. Nobody wants to hire, refer to, or network with an anonymous lawyer.

Even if the recipient knows who you are, emails like this tell them that (a) you are clueless about the simplest of technology, suggesting that you might be lacking in other areas of your knowledge or abilities, or (b) you don’t care.

Either way, you’re not communicating the right message.

The solution is simple. Put your full name in the “From” section of your email. Every time you send an email, the recipient will see your name, making it more likely that they will open and read your message and remember who you are.

Put an email signature at the bottom of your emails. At a minimum, it should have your full name and a link to your web site. If you want, you can also add additional contact information, your practice areas and links to social media accounts.

You can do both of the above on any web based email or email client software.

Also, don’t use your personal email address for business. You wouldn’t invite clients to meet you at your kitchen table, would you? You wouldn’t send them a business letter on your Doctor Who stationery, would you? (Okay, that would be cool.)

Word to the wise: don’t send business emails from flopsie12@aol.com or headbanger42@hotmail.com. Cough up $10 and get your own domain name so you can send a business email from you@yourname.com.

One more thing: Go easy on the disclaimers and CYA language. All that boilerplate lawyer language may protect you (may), but it does nothing to reach out to your reader and connect with him. It does just the opposite.

It says, “I don’t trust you and you shouldn’t trust me. I’m just like all the other lawyers out there, hiding behind this wall of fine print.”

Do what you have to do, but no more than you have to do.

Do you want to earn more and work less? Get The Formula and find out how.

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Google Adwords for attorneys? Read this first.

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An attorney who reads this blog asked me what I thought about attorneys using Google Adwords to get clients for a law practice.

I’ve done a lot of advertising over the years, including Adwords, both as an attorney and in my attorney marketing business, and overall, I’ve had positive results. But I don’t recommend Google Adwords for most lawyers, at least not until they have many other ducks in a row.

Here’s what I mean.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, advertising of any kind can be a huge financial sinkhole. There are lots of things you have to get right and if you don’t, you’ll get poor results or spend way too much money for the results you do get. True, with Adwords you can get started with a small investment (e.g., $50 or $100) and you aren’t locked into a long term contract. But it’s far too easy to get caught up in the game of trying to make make your ads work, and that can be a very expensive game to play, especially for attorneys who might pay up to $50 per click.

If you don’t have the budget and the stomach to play that game, you should probably stay on the sidelines, at least for now.

In other words, don’t start with Adwords (or any advertising), to get traffic to your law firm’s web site. Start by building organic traffic by posting high quality content. Use referral marketing, social media, speaking, writing, networking, and other means to build your practice, before you even think about advertising. Once you have a sold base of clients and lots of disposable income to invest in further expansion, then you can consider advertising to provide an incremental increase in that income.

You might use Adwords short term, to test headlines and offers, however. Invest a couple hundred dollars to test several different report titles, for example, and see which one gets the highest response. When you know which one pulled best, you’ll know which one to use for your report.

Advertising is only part of the challenge. You may have great ads that pull lots of traffic, but is it targeted traffic, appropriate for your practice? Are they looking for a lawyer or just free information? At $50 a click, you need to make sure.

In addition, you must have effective landing pages. You may be getting lots of the right traffic but if they don’t opt-in or call you when they get to your site, it is all for naught.

You also need to be able to handle those leads and convert them into appointments. Someone needs to be available when they call and that could be long after business hours. And whoever takes the calls must be good at closing the appointment. The goal isn’t traffic and clicks, it’s appointments and clients.

If you do want to try Google Adwords (or Facebook ads or any other kind of Pay-Per-Click or Pay-Per-Action advertising), here’s what I recommend:

  • Make sure Adwords is right for a practice like yours. Do your ideal clients use search engines to find lawyers? Do they click on paid ads? Do you have high enough margins to justify the per client acquisition cost of advertising and associated overhead?
  • Learn all you can about Adwords. Start with the Google Adwords help center. Read books and blogs and take courses.
  • Start small. Open an account with no more a few hundred dollars and be prepared to lose it all. Take a break and evaluate your results.
  • Start with bids on low volume key words: “brain trauma law south bay” should cost a fraction of what you’ll pay for “Los Angeles personal injury attorney”.
  • Be prepared to roll out your winners and pull the plug on your losers. You must spend enough on your ads, however, to get enough clicks so you can quantify the difference.
  • Be prepared for constant monitoring, testing, and tweaking. You will need to know which headline, displayed in response to which key words, and sent to which landing page, is producing traffic that opts-in or calls. Then, you have to compare those results to other combinations, so you can maximize results and minimize costs.
  • Don’t expect that what works today will work tomorrow. Or vice versa. Advertising is never “set it and forget it”. You can never stop testing and making changes.
  • Get help. Hire consultants to design and track your campaign, and write your ads and landing pages. Let them do what they do best so you can do what you do best.

I’ve spent millions of dollars in advertising over the years and I love what it can do. If you get the pieces right, there is no faster way to bring traffic to a web site (aside from having something go viral, and that’s something you can’t control.) And yet. . . I’m not doing any advertising right now. I don’t want to work that hard.

What are your experiences with Google Adwords? Please share in the comments.

If you want to get more clients without advertising, you need The Attorney Marketing Formula.

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