Do you talk too much?

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Many lawyers are verbose. They use 100 words to explain something when five or ten will do. They “bury the lead” under paragraphs or pages of background information. They clear their throat for ten minutes before they get to their first point.

Early in my career, I did this. I’d like to think I’ve nipped that habit in the bud.

Why are lawyers like this?

Could be because we were taught to be thorough, to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to persuade.

I’m sure some lawyers want to impress people with the depth of their knowledge, the breadth of their experience, or the thoroughness of their research.

Some want to display their intelligence. Some want to hide their shortcomings behind a wall of words.

And, in a profession that often equates value in terms of time, more words or pages or minutes can mean more income.

But most people, especially high-achieving, busy people, don’t want or need all the details. They want their lawyer to get to the point.

They want us to be more concise.

How do you do that? How do you write an email, memo, or article, or do a presentation, that clearly and concisely says what you want to say, and no more?

How do you persuade someone to do something or believe something, without taking them to school?

Knowing your audience helps. What do they already know about the subject? What questions are they likely to have? What problems do they want to solve, and what’s in it for them if they follow your advice?

Confine yourself to what you know your reader or listener wants or needs to know and leave the scholarship on the bookshelf.

Providing examples and stories helps. Help the reader understand what you mean, with fewer words, by showing instead of telling.

Re-writing and editing help. Cut out the fluff, use shorter sentences and paragraphs, and make the page scannable with lots of white space, bullet points and numbering.

More than anything, see if you can boil down your message to a single idea.

Ask yourself, “What’s the ONE thing I want my reader (or listener) to take away from this?”

What do you want them to know, believe, or do?

Use that as the lead to your presentation, the subject line in your email, or the conclusion of your article.

And once you’ve delivered that takeaway, stop talking.

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If you want more clients, don’t use your thesaurus

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Yeah, we’re smart folks. We can research the hell out of a subject, wrangle all the facts, present cogent arguments, and persuade other smart people to change their minds.

When you visit many lawyer’s blogs, read their articles, or hear them speak, you have to be impressed by their acumen. And their vocabulary.

The problem is, when a lawyer does this in their marketing, they usually shoot themselves in the foot.

If you want to get more clients and increase your income, keep things simple and short. Focus on the basics, not the minutia.

On the web, people tend to search for general information about their legal situation. If you try to impress them, they often wind up leaving. If you give them what they’re looking for, you get more traffic, more leads, more subscribers, and more clients.

In addition, when you write simply, you don’t have to do much research or spend a lot of time crafting fine prose. You already know this stuff and you can spit it out in a few minutes.

When you stick with the basics, more people will read and understand you. You’re helping them get to know, like, and trust you.

Finally, your goal in marketing is to make people curious, not satisfy their curiosity. So don’t tell them everything. Stick to the basics and if they want more, they have to hire you.

Which is kind of the point.

If you want to make your phone ring, here’s what to put on your website

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If they don’t understand, they won’t click

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William Howard Taft said, “Don’t write so that you can be understood, write so that you can’t be misunderstood.”

Clarity is key to effective writing. That’s true for legal documents, demand letters, presentations, articles, and just about everything else we write.

When you write a blog post, email, or ad, the headline or subject line must instantly communicate what your article or ad is all about. If you want them to open your email or read your blog post, you have to give them a reason why.

How do you know you’ve done it right?

One idea is to use “The Blank Sheet of Paper Test”. Ask yourself, “If you wrote this text on a piece of paper and showed it to a stranger, would they understand the meaning?”

You need a bit of room for creative license, however, or you might turn out clear and accurate but utterly boring prose. So use this idea as a place to start, not the be-all-and-end-all.

Note that the rule applies to strangers–visitors to your blog, readers of your articles, networking emails–where people don’t know you from Adam (or Eve). You don’t need to use it when writing to clients or subscribers to your newsletter. They’ll open and read your message because they recognize your name.

So, have I made myself clear? If not, that’s okay. No doubt you’ll open my next email or read my next post anyway, to see what stuff and nonsense I have for you.

How to write email subject lines that get clicks

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How to write faster blog posts, emails, and articles

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What if writing was as easy (and quick) as opening a template and filling in the blanks?

You’ll still need to edit and polish but you might be able to turn out articles in minutes instead of hours.

Templates make a first draft easier because you know “what goes where”. You’ll know, for example, that after two paragraphs that introduce the subject, you need 3 points or examples, but not 5. You’ll know how many bullet points to include and where to put them. And you can insert a pre-written call to action to close.

Using templates to map out the bones of your writing will allow you to write faster and better because they let you focus on the message, not the structure.

Where do you get these templates? By reverse-engineering existing articles and posts.

When you read an article you like, save it, study it, and figure out why it works. Make notes of the elements:

  • How many words?
  • How many paragraphs?
  • How many headings and sub-heads?
  • How many bullet points?
  • What’s the lead or hook?
  • Why should the reader care (benefits)?
  • What proof is offered?
  • What examples or stories?
  • What’s the call to action?

Create a simple template that incorporates these elements. You can use it for first drafts or to improve a sloppy first draft.

You should also do this with your own writing. Add additional notes to explain why you said what you said, other options you considered, and feedback you got from your readers.

Start with one template. Use it, refine it, and use it again. You may find that one template is all you need to write most of your posts but you can always add more.

The Easy Way to Write a Book

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How to use clickbait to instantly get dozens of new clients

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If you’re reading this, my evil plan is working. I wrote something that made you curious and you wanted to know more.

Despite the obvious clickbait-y headline.

But my point isn’t to use trickery to fool people into reading your message. It is to illustrate the power of curiosity for getting attention.

When it comes to marketing, copywriting legend Gary Halbert said curiosity is even more powerful than self-interest.

Done right, your reader or audience “has to” know more.

How do you arouse curiosity? How do you compel the reader to open your email, play your video, or read your article?

You do it, ironically, by hinting at something that plays to their self-interest.

Mention something they care about, need or want. Give them a taste of something that will help them avoid pain or achieve gain. Add a touch of specificity that let’s them know “this is for them”.

For extra oomph, hint at something that sounds impossible or too good to be true. Make the reader “torture” themselves trying to figure out how this is done.

Example? Sure. Let’s say you’re a personal injury attorney writing a post or ad that offers a free report about increasing the settlement value of a case. You could make prospective clients curious with a headline like this:

“Injured? Free report reveals 5 easy ways to increase the value of your case (and ONE common mistake that can destroy it)”

What are those 5 easy ways? What is the one common mistake? Yep, they have to read the report to find out.

Of course, when they read the report, you make them curious to know if they have a good case (and how much it’s worth).

Yep, they have to hire you to find out.

Want to get more referrals without asking for referrals? Here’s how

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The TRUTH about practicing law

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One of the simplest ways to get more people reading and sharing your posts, especially on social, is to make them controversial.

Challenge them, shock them, anger them–because everyone loves a good fight.

They most popular TV shows and online videos feature emotional content: anger and outrage, sex and love, pleasant surprises and massive disappointments.

People love conflict. And the algorithms promote posts and videos that feature it.

Platforms like Twitter have their entire business model built around people being angry at something. Or someone.

If you want to get more eyeballs and engagement and shares, write posts that “expose” the truth about something, including your practice area (especially your practice area).

Write about issues you know people disagree with, and tell them why YOU disagree with what other lawyers say or do: “Why I don’t agree with. . .” or “Why I don’t like/use/do. . .”

“Force” prospective clients who are searching for a lawyer to read your post with a title like, “Is [legal service] worth it?” or “What most [practice area] lawyers get wrong.”

Cruise through social media and record the titles of videos and posts that are being promoted or shared or that catch your eye, and adapt those titles and themes to your posts.

Throw some raw meat to the lions and watch them stick around for more.

There are more ways to attract and engage clients and prospects. In Email Marketing for Attorneys, I break these down and show you what to do.

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Writing is easier and more effective if you do this

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Everyone says we should write to and for our reader. We should have in mind an avatar of what they’re like and what they want and address ourselves to that person.

To be more relatable, we should use examples and references that conform to their life experience and world view. To get a higher response to our ideas and offers, we should talk about the benefits we know they need and want.

Yes, everyone says we should do this in our blog posts, articles, newsletter, and social media posts.

Including me.

But while this is generally good advice, it makes writing more difficult and less effective because when we appeal to one person or one ideal reader, we tend to exclude everyone else.

Sounds like a conundrum.

But there’s a solution.

Instead of writing for your ideal reader, write for yourself.

In your first draft, write what you want to write and say it the way you want to say it. Because if what you write resonates with you, it will resonate with others.

If you free your writing this way, you’ll attract your target audience organically. And it will be an audience that relates to you and likes you and tends to trust you.

Because you’re like them.

Then, write your second draft for your readers.

Tailor your message and offers to them. Add relevant examples and stories and use terminology they will recognize and understand.

The first draft is for you. The second draft is for your reader.

In case you’re wondering, the third draft is for your editor. Or someone else who’s got your back.

How to write a newsletter that brings in more business

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What are your prospective clients thinking?

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Prospective clients see your ad or your website, read your article, or hear you speak.

What do you suppose is going through their minds?

No, they’re not thinking about how knowledgeable or experienced you are. They’re thinking about themselves and their problems.

They don’t care about you. They don’t care about what you want them to see or know or do.

They only care about themselves.

When you’re trying to sell them your services, opt in to your list, follow your posts, share your content, or do anything else, their default response is “no”.

Because, why?

You have to show them why, and that starts by getting their attention.

Common ways to do that are to ask a question, make a bold statement or prediction, share an interesting fact or statistic, or tell a story.

In other words, use a headline or subject line that makes them curious or offers a benefit that relates to their situation.

Then, once they’re reading your article or email, watching your video, or listening to your voice, get them interested in what you’re selling. You do that by telling them how you can help them, solve their problems, or help them get something they want.

Next, tell them more. More about the relief they will experience when they hire you, how they will be better off, and how easy it is to get started. Give them reasons to trust you; tell about other clients like them you have helped.

You do this to help them transition from merely listening to your message to desiring your help.

But you’re not done.

The final step is to get them to take action. To make the call, fill out the form, sign up for your webinar, or otherwise do something that eventually leads to their becoming a client.

Four steps. Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Otherwise known in marketing circles as AIDA.

All four steps are necessary to take the prospective client from “I don’t care about you” to where you want them to go, and where they need to go to get what they want or need.

The next time you create an email, blog post, article, or anything else that’s designed to attract prospects and convert them to clients, go through this checklist and make sure you have all four elements.

If you need help with that, let me know.

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Pretend I’m 12

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I watched some videos on a powerful piece of software that interested me. The problem was, the guy doing the videos is the guy who developed the software and he flies through his demos, assuming we’re able to follow.

But I couldn’t follow.

I was impressed with what I thought his software could do but decided it wasn’t for me.

Because it looked too complicated to learn and use.

It might be worth learning, it’s true, but I shouldn’t have to invest a lot of time to find that out.

It’s the developer’s job to show me.

He should have slowed down. Assumed I needed everything explained. And showed me all the whats, whys, and hows.

When you’re trying to get someone to buy your product, your services, or your ideas, you need to meet them where they are, take them by the hand, and walk them over to where you want them to go.

If they like where you’ve taken them, you’ve got a chance at a sale.

This is not always easy to do. You have some serious balancing to do.

You don’t want things to fly over the heads of the people you’re trying to persuade but you don’t want to dumb things down so much that they are bored or feel like you’re talking down to them.

You also shouldn’t “tell” so much as “show”. Yes, even with abstract ideas, selling your services, or persuading a trier of fact to your client’s cause.

It can be done and it’s your job to do it.

Just because you’re good at the legal work (or writing software) doesn’t mean anybody will buy it. It’s your job (or your copywriter’s) to convince them.

Slow your pace. Explain everything. And make sure they understand what you’ve just told them before you move on to the next subject.

If you want to persuade me, pretend I’m 12.

The marketing course for attorneys who want to get big, fast

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Don’t “fact” people to death

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Lawyers are fact merchants. We dwell in the land of research and evidence. But while a thorough recitation of the law and the facts may be necessary in the courtroom, in marketing it’s the kiss of death.

And I do mean death.

When you give readers and listeners, prospects and clients, nothing but the facts, you murder them. They’ll ready for a dirt nap before they finish the third paragraph.

Your prospects don’t want to know everything you know. They want to know that YOU know the facts and the law, and that you know how to use them to help them get what they want.

Think about novels or screenplays. They need just enough narrative to set the stage but it’s the story that people pay to see.

Facts tell but stories sell.

There are exceptions. But they are rare.

So, give folks a smattering of the facts and intersperse them with your opinions and advice, quotes from others, and most of all, stories.

Tell your readers or audience what happened to your client or your friend or to you, and what might happen to them if they don’t do what you recommend.

Need more referrals? Start here

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