What if I’m right?

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I get it. The two reasons you don’t have an email newsletter or blog or, if you do, you don’t write or post very often:

You don’t have enough to write about, and/or, you don’t have the time to do it.

I say you do. I say you have plenty to write about, way more than you realize, and you have more than enough time to do it.

Give me a chance to prove it.

Set up a new notebook or file for this email/blog project, open a page and label it “ideas”. If you have any that come to mind, write them down. If you have other files with blog post or content ideas you’ve collected, add them to your new file.

Go through your hard drive, reading list, saved article files, and do the same.

Next, write down the questions prospective clients and new clients typically ask you–about the law, procedure or process, about their legal rights and options, about what you can do to help them.

You should be able to quickly write down ten or twenty questions.

If you find yourself running short, visit some online forums where people post questions for attorneys to answer, and see what’s being asked.

You can also visit article directories, other attorney’s blogs, and websites that feature legal content and see what visitors are asking in the comments. You can search your keywords on social media and see what people are talking about.

Okay, that’s enough for now. More than enough, actually. You should now have enough ideas to keep you busy for the next several years.

Will you have the time to use those ideas? Let’s find out.

Go through your idea list and pick one. It doesn’t matter what it is, just pick something you have an opinion on or experience with, or something that interests you that you think might interest others.

Now, write down three words or phrases related to that idea.

If you’re a personal injury attorney and you’ve chosen to write a response to the question, “How much is my case worth?” your three words might be, “damages, liability, and insurance,” for example.

Next, take your idea and your key words, set a timer for five minutes and start writing. You can type or use a pen or dictate but don’t stop writing (or talking) until the five minutes is up.

Don’t edit, don’t worry about grammar or punctuation, don’t slow down or stop. Just keep pushing your pen or pounding the keys.

For. Five. Whole. Minutes.

I don’t care how busy you are, you can write for five minutes.

When you’re done, you probably learned that

  • You have a lot to say about certain subjects
  • You can get a lot of words on a page in five minutes
  • You wind up with a mess but it’s not as bad as you thought

At least that’s what I found out the first time I did this exercise.

You now have the first draft of an email or blog post or article. Put it aside and re-write or edit it later. When you’re done, you should have a few hundred words, enough for a blog post or email.

Then, tomorrow, or next week at this time, do it again. Pick another idea, write down three words, write for five minutes, edit later.

Continue doing this until you have at least ten posts or emails.

Now it’s time to decide what to do with them.

You could start a blog. You’ll have ten weeks (or days) worth of material to post.

You could start a newsletter. You’ll have ten emails to load into your autoresponder.

Or you can gather up what you’ve written and turn them into an ebook or report.

The point is, you now know you can do this. You can write something in 30 minutes or less, including editing. (Okay, it might take longer at first but you’ll get faster.)

The only remaining question is, “Should you?” Will it be worth it for you to write something once or twice a week and post or email it? Will it bring in business?

There’s only one way to find out.

For more ideas, and more ways to get ideas, get this

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The simplest way to persuade people

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Yesterday, I said that the goal of your professional writing is to persuade people to do something and that you should decide what that is before you write. Knowing what you want them to do allows you to tailor your writing to your call to action.

If you want readers to download your free report, for example, you might use some of the content of that report in your post, leaving the reader hungry to hear more.

One of the simplest ways to persuade people is through repetition. Tell them what to do in the body of the text and again at the end. The more often they hear what to do, the more likely they are to do it.

You can also use repetition by writing more frequently. Instead of long emails once a month, for example, write short emails once a week.Each message is another opportunity to tell them what to do.

You’ll notice that my emails are relatively short. That’s intentional. I want you to read my email as soon as you get it. I know that if you save it for later, you might never get around to it, and that doesn’t help either one of us.

Shorter pieces are also easier and quicker to write. Instead of spending three hours crafting a comprehensive article, you can take 15 minutes to write a few paragraphs and get it out the door.

Longer pieces certainly have their place. The sales letter for my first referral course was 32 pages. But I wouldn’t expect you to read that much every day.

If you want to persuade more people, write shorter emails and send them more often. You’ll have that many more opportunities to tell people to do what to do.

Get more referrals with less effort. Here’s how

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When you’re done reading this, there’s something I want you to do

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The next time you sit down to write something, before you begin, ask yourself, “What do I want them to do?”

Figure out what you want your reader or listener, judge or jury, prospect or client, to do when they are done hearing your words.

Yes, begin with the end in mind.

Why? Because unless you’re writing to entertain, you want the reader to do something. That’s the only way they will get a result. And you want them to get a result because that’s good for them and good for you.

When someone reads your article, for example, and that article persuades them to do something, e.g., read another article, sign up for your newsletter, contact you to ask questions, or contact you to make an appointment, they benefit and so do you. They get information or help and you get a new client or someone who is moving in that direction.

Don’t write merely to inform. Write to persuade. And don’t assume they know what to do next, tell them.

You’re almost done reading this. When you’re done, I want you to write the sentence, “What do I want them to do?” on a sticky note and post it somewhere on your desk or your computer where you’ll be able to see it when you are writing.

If you do, you’ll be more likely to ask yourself that question when you’re writing and if you do that, I know you’ll get better results.

Better results is good for you, obviously, and also good for me. As you get better results from my advice, you’ll be more likely to come back for more advice, more likely to buy my products and services, and more likely to tell others about me.

Decide what you want your reader to do and persuade them to do it. I’ll have some thoughts on how to do that in a future post, so stay tuned.

(See what I did there?)

Know other lawyers? Here’s how to get them to send you more referrals

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Darth Vader would have made a terrible lawyer

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You have a marketing voice and it can make or break you.

Your marketing voice is the personality you present in your writing, in your presentations, and in conversations. It paints a picture of who you are and what it would be like to work with you. Your voice either attracts people to you or pushes them away.

If you sound arrogant, overly aggressive, or overly formal, you push people away. If you sound weak or overly casual, you do the same.

People expect a lawyer to sound like a professional. Not too hot or too cold. They want you to be strong and confident but even-tempered. Friendly and approachable but not a pushover. They want you to speak to them, not down to them. They want you to be conversational, not academic.

A little toughness. A little charm.

Your marketing voice–on your website, in your newsletter, in your presentations–should resonate with your target market. It should attract them and inspire them to connect with you. It should make them trust you and choose you to represent them.

If your marketing voice is working for you, great. If not, get some help. Get a marketing pro or a writer to look at your writing and presentations and give you some advice. Or hire them and have them do a makeover.

How to write a report that attracts new clients

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Pushing politically correct envelopes for fun and profit

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Yesterday, I used a phrase that some might say is politically incorrect. I said, “They may love you like a brother.”

Did you notice? Did you wonder why I didn’t add “or sister”? Did you wonder why I didn’t include the 71 gender identification options available on Facebook?

Am I sexist or just sloppy? Was it a slip or did I do it on purpose, poking a finger in the collective eye of the social justice warriors who have kidnapped our language and are holding it for ransom?

I wasn’t making a political statement. I did it because “Love you like a brother” is a term of art and makes the writing better.

But I admit that in today’s hyper-sensitive social climate it also makes the writing edgier.

And that’s a good thing.

Edgier writing is better writing. It makes people slow down and think about what they just read. A thinking reader is a reader who is likely to keep reading and come back for more.

You should go for the same thing in your writing.

I’m not advocating anything radical. You don’t need to immolate yourself in public. Just take a stroll off the well-worn path in the middle of the road and wave a little flag. Get people to notice that you said something unexpected and maybe a bit controversial, instead of the same bland and boring things everyone else says.

Yes, that means you have to take some chances. Go out on some limbs. And yes, that means you might get labeled by people who don’t “get” you or that have no sense of humor. You might lose some followers. Even a client or two. But the people who stick with you will bring others who also like the cut of your jib.

Some might even love you like a brother.

Go write something that will bring in some new clients

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When is good enough good enough?

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When is the document you drafted good enough to file? When is the letter you wrote good enough to mail? When is your case prepared enough to take to trial?

I don’t know but you do.

Maybe not consciously, more like a feeling in your gut. You know something isn’t perfect but you know, somehow, that it’s good enough.

One thing’s for sure, when you have a deadline, the notion of what’s good enough gets hazier. You’ve got to get it done or there will be consequences so you get it done. It is deemed good enough because it has to be.

In a pleasant bit of irony, the pressure of a deadline doesn’t necessarily cause more errors. Instead, it often allows you to cut through the fog and quickly find the right path. When you don’t have time for minutia, it’s easier to zero in on what’s important.

So good enough is a relative term. It means different things under different circumstances. How do you get comfortable with this murkiness? I think it comes down to understanding a few things:

  • Good enough really is good enough. You will get most things right most of the time. Most of what you fear will never happen.
  • While many errors are embarrassing, most aren’t fatal. If you can’t fix something, you’ve got insurance to protect you from the worst case scenario.
  • You can minimize problems with checklists, forms, templates, and boilerplate language, and by having another set of eyes edit or at least look at your work product.
  • You’ll get better over time. Experience will help you minimize errors and improve your ability to make decisions. You’ll also get things done faster because you’ve done the same thing so often.

Ultimately, the best way to find out if something is good enough is to release it into the world. The world (your clients, your opposition, your target market) will tell you if something is good enough. Most of the time, the answer will be in the affirmative.

Are you getting paid for all of your work? This can help

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Fake news, fake reviews–does anyone really care?

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I know you’re honest and only speak (and publish) the truth. You don’t fudge numbers, embellish facts, or exaggerate results.

At least not intentionally.

But guess what? All of your efforts to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth may be for naught if the truth you tell doesn’t appear to be true.

There’s even a word for it: verisimilitude, meaning “the appearance of truth”. When it comes to marketing, appearance is everything.

I’ve seen a lot of new books lately, by unknown authors, that have 40 four- or five-star reviews within a few days of publication. It doesn’t take a genius to see that these reviews are predominately fake, written by paid reviewers who haven’t read the book.

But even if every one of these reviews were real and honestly earned, many would doubt their veracity because there are too many, too fast and because they seem too good to be true.

Lesson: don’t fear negative reviews. If you’re getting mostly positive reviews for your practice (or books), the occasional less-than-positive review actually helps you because it makes the sum of your reviews more believable.

Lesson: look at your presentations and written materials with the eye of a prospective client. If something looks too good to be true, you need to do something about it. If you’re reporting great results in a case, for example, explain why and how you got those results (and that they aren’t typical).

In the short term, fake reviews can work. Just like fake news, they’ll fool enough people to get some short term results. In the long run, however, the truth–or the lack of verisimilitude–catches up with them.

How to write content that brings in more clients

 

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Attorneys should be paid by the word

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Many attorneys tell me they don’t write a newsletter or a blog because they don’t have anything to say.

I cry foul.

Have you ever spoken to an attorney?

Give them a minute and they’ll talk non-stop about their latest case, complain endlessly about a client who drives them crazy, or tell you all about a jerk attorney who makes their life miserable.

They’ll brag about a big case they just settled or a prestigious client they just signed up. They’ll opine about the law in their field or about an appellate case that is about to be heard.

If they’ve been ill or injured, they’ll share all the gory details. If they bought a new snowmobile or boat, they’ll go on and on about their new toy. If they just came back from Italy, they’ll tell you why you need to go.

Blah blah blah–it’s almost like they’re getting paid by the word.

No, attorneys have lots to say, about a lot of subjects. Fortunately, we can use our verbal alacrity to write a newsletter.

The trick is to have something to say that your clients and prospects want to hear.

Here are some ways to find out what that is:

  • Go through your email inbox and see what they’re asking you
  • Send them an email and ask them to submit questions; invite them to do the same thing on social media
  • Visit sites like Quora where people ask questions and lawyers answer them
  • Visit other lawyers’ blogs and see what they write about
  • Visit other lawyers’ blogs and social media profiles and look at comments and questions posted by readers and followers

You can supplement this by writing about things like what you like about being a lawyer, and what gives you pause. You can educate your readers about the law and procedure in your practice areas. You can share news about their industry or local market.

You can write profiles of your business clients. You can interview other professionals who work in your niche market. You can comment on articles and posts written by others who write about topics similar to your own, agreeing or disagreeing with them, and sharing your experience with the same subject.

You can also share a smattering of personal information about yourself, your hobbies and outside interests, movies you like, restaurants and books and software you recommend. Your readers want to know about you, the person, not just you, the lawyer.

There is no shortage of subjects you can write about that your clients and prospects would like to know.

If you ever feel that you’ve run out of things to say, you can repost what you’ve written before. You can do that because you will always have new people joining your list who haven’t read anything you wrote in the past. And because the people who have read your previous posts won’t remember most of the details. And because your prior opinions, experiences, and observations may have changed.

I don’t buy the “nothing to say” argument and you shouldn’t, either. Pretend you are getting paid by the word and I’ll bet you never run out of things to say.

How to build your practice with a blog and/or newsletter

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Decide what you want before writing the first word

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You’re preparing a presentation. An email. A blog post, article, or report. Whatever it is, the best place to start is at the end.

Before you write the first word, think about what you want your reader to do.

When they are done reading your email or watching your video, what do you want them to do next?

Examples:

  • Call to schedule an appointment
  • Call or email with questions
  • Visit a web page for more information
  • Sign up for your email newsletter or download your report
  • Fill out a form and turn it in at the end of the seminar
  • Tell your friends about this offer, article, or link
  • Register for the upcoming webinar
  • Pass out the enclosed referral cards
  • Watch a video
  • Comment, Like, and share
  • Tell your friends to call, subscribe, or download
  • Write a review on xyz

And so on.

All designed to get your reader or viewer to do something that helps you to get more clients, subscribers, traffic, referrals, or other benefits.

They get benefits, too. They learn something, get legal help, save money, or protect their family or business. Or they get the satisfaction of helping their friends or helping you.

Both of you get something.

The call to action at the end of your message is the most important part of that message. Think about what you want them to do before you start writing.

When you get to the end, tell them what to do. Don’t make them figure out what to do next. Tell them: Click here, call this number, go to this web page.

And tell them why. Don’t assume they know. Don’t be vague. Spell out exactly what they get or how they benefit.

Like this: “To learn how to easily get more referrals from your clients, get this

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Thinking like a lawyer? Fine. Just don’t write like one

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Stop. Really, just stop. Stop writing like a lawyer when you communicate with your clients and prospects. You cannot bore anyone into hiring you or sending you referrals.

And let’s face it, most legal writing is boring, even to other lawyers.

Write the way you must in your briefs, motions, and memoranda. Shovel in the prophylactic latinate phrases and legal terms of art in your contracts, leases, and trusts. Write the way lawyers write when you’re being a lawyer.

Just don’t do it in your emails or newsletter.

I know it can be difficult to switch roles. But if you want to attract business, you have to know when to put the law dictionary back on the shelf.

It takes practice. It takes a fair amount of re-writing. Having someone edit your early drafts is a good idea.

But you can do it.

Actually, it’s easier than you think.

You already know what to do. “Write like you talk” and “Imagine you’re speaking to a client sitting in the office” will get you most of the way there.

The hard part? Letting go. Unclenching your sphincter muscles because your brain is telling you that writing naturally and informally isn’t professional.

The solution? A stiff drink.

Hemmingway said, “Write drunk, edit sober”. You probably shouldn’t follow that advice literally, but you can do the next best thing by giving yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.

Write quickly. Pour it out. Let your fingers fly. Get it down on paper any way it wants to come out and don’t give it another thought because nobody is going to see your first draft.

The first draft is just for you.

Write every day. You will get better, and quicker. Eventually, you’ll be able to flip a mental switch and instantly turn off the legal draftsman and turn on the communicator.

You need both, of course. You need the lawyer to do the work, of course. But you need the communicator to bring in the work.

How to use your communication skills to get more referrals

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