How to make the law interesting to lay people

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When you write or speak about the law to a lay audience, you have several objectives:

  • You want them to understand their problem, their risks, and their options
  • You want them to know why they should talk to a lawyer
  • You want them to see why the lawyer they should talk to (and hire) should be you
  • You want to inspire them to take the next step

Before you can do any of that, you have to get them to read or listen. You have to get their attention with your headline or title, and make your article or presentation interesting enough to compel them to take that next step.

Here are some guidelines for creating more interesting articles and presentations:

  • Talk about people more than concepts
  • Talk about cure more than prevention
  • Talk about benefits more than features
  • Talk less about the law and more about “what this means to you”
  • Don’t warm up; get to the point and stay there
  • Assume they don’t know much; don’t assume they know nothing
  • Talk to them, don’t lecture them; ask questions to bring them into the “conversation”
  • More show, less tell; use examples and analogies that are familiar to your audience
  • Get them to feel something; use dramatic stories
  • Minimize and/or explain jargon
  • Don’t write about history or precedent unless necessary
  • Don’t tell them everything; be thorough but not dispositive

How do you know you’ve done it right?

Your audience will ask questions or make an appointment or go to your blog and read more.

Watch your email, your phone, your stats, and your bank account. If your content is interesting, your numbers are growing.

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If Ernest Hemingway wrote your blog

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Hemingway was a master of lean writing. If he was in charge of your newsletter or blog, he would probably tell you that ‘less is more’—that you will often be more effective in your “story telling” and persuasion by writing fewer words.

As long as you choose the right words.

To prove his point, it was rumored that Hemingway wrote the following short story, consisting of only six words:

“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

A powerful and poignant story that captures the readers’ imagination and makes them want to know more.

In just six words.

My posts and articles aren’t that brief, or that good, and I’m not suggesting you should use this as the standard for yours. My point is that your blog posts and articles can convey big ideas in small spaces.

A few hundred words are plenty. A few paragraphs might be all that you need.

Make most of your posts short enough that they can be read in a minute or two. If you use the right words, your readers will gobble them up and hunger for more.

How to write newsletters that bring in repeat business and referrals

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6 things I learned from writing 2,853 blog posts

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I’ve written a lot of blog posts and thought I’d share some things I’ve learned along the way, to encourage you to either start or re-start your blog:

  1. It gets easier. The more you write, the easier it becomes to write—to find ideas, get the words down, edit, and publish. And the more you write, the better you get at writing, which helps with your other writing and speaking.
  2. It gets faster. The more you write, the faster you get at writing. You can write and post something in less than 30 minutes and get on with your day.
  3. Ideas are everywhere. Everything I read, everywhere I go, everyone I talk to provides me with ideas to write about. The idea for this post came from reading a similar post by a guy who started a blog to build his business.
  4. You can write whatever you want and have fun with it. You don’t have to use your formal lawyer voice if you don’t want to, or spend time finding images, formatting, responding to comments, adding citations or links. Your blog, your rules.
  5. Marketing gets easier. People find you—not just clients and customers, but people who want to interview you for their blog or podcast or present other opportunities (to speak, network, etc.).
  6. It works. My blog brings me a steady stream of (free) traffic, subscribers, clients, and customers. Each post gets indexed and brings more of the same.

And, having a blog means you can also have a newsletter—just copy and paste your blog posts and email them to your list.

You can add a blog to your website or on a separate domain. You can start by posting a handful of articles or anything you’ve written in the past, or answer 5 or 10 frequently asked questions you get from prospective clients (or new clients).

The technology is easy. You can set up a blog in a matter of minutes. And your blog can help you Make the Phone Ring

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How to convert more prospects into clients

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Between you and a new client is your website. And your articles and blog posts, sales pages and other content. It’s the same on social media, in your presentations and interviews.

And if you do what many lawyers do, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

What do they do? They publish a lot of long-winded, heavy-handed, technical, and otherwise boring content.

And you can’t bore someone into becoming your client.

The solution is simple. Leave out the boring parts.

Edit, cut, simplify. Make your content and copy interesting and easier to read.

And make sure people want to read it by telegraphing your message.

When someone comes across something you wrote (or recorded), they should immediately know that your article or video is for them. Put benefits in the title or headline. Let them see what they’ll learn or get or be able to do if they invest a few minutes reading.

And I do mean a few minutes.

Long articles and copy have their place. But that place isn’t at the entrance to your website or sales funnel.

Up front, keep it brief. You want them to read or watch, not save it for later.

Ever see a movie that took waaay too long to get to the action? You got bored, maybe you fell asleep, maybe you didn’t stick around to watch the whole thing.

Cut those scenes out of your movie.

Get their attention. Tell them what’s in it for them. Get them nodding their head and telling themselves they’ve found someone they need to talk to.

Okay, you get it. Cut out the boring parts and lead with benefits. What else?

There isn’t anything else. Because if people don’t read or listen, they’re not going to hire you.

Assume your readers are impatient, distracted, distressed, and have many other options.

Because all of that is true.

Don’t bury the lead. And don’t expect them to watch your movie if they can’t stay awake

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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A little pain goes a long way

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People buy legal services to solve a problem. The bigger the problem (or potential problem they’re trying to prevent), the more motivated they are to do something about it.

They’re in pain and want relief. It’s your job to remind them about that.

In your presentations, articles, posts, videos, reports, and other marketing documents, the best thing you can do for your reader and prospective client is to remind them that they are in pain, or will be if they don’t take action, and tell them why their pain is unlikely to go away by itself.

Tell them what their problem is costing them—or will cost if they do nothing.

Tell them about ancillary problems this might cause and what those might cost.

Tell them about how bad things can get if they ignore the problem or wait too long to do anything about it.

And then present the solution you offer and tell them how to get it.

But don’t just “mention” their pain, dramatize it. Make sure they feel it in their gut. Get them to imagine the worst-case scenario and feel the urgency of their situation.

But (and this is important) don’t overdo it.

You don’t want to come off as an alarmist or make them think you’re trying too hard to get their business.

Easy on the drama queenery.

The other reason for not overdoing it is that you don’t want to scare them off.

If you frighten them too much, pile on the urgent talk, rail at them to do something immediately, they might put their head under the covers and do nothing.

Or run into the welcoming arms of another lawyer who sounds more sympathetic and hopeful.

State the problem. Agitate the problem and the pain it is causing or could cause. Present the solution. And close by talking about the benefits of that solution.

Always offer hope.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to do all of the above is to tell them about one or more of your other clients who were in the same situation before they came to you—and how they’re doing now.

A little pain goes a long way, but only if you also offer hope.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Who is Elvis Presley?

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I did a double take when I came across a video with a woman looking at a picture of The King as she queries, “Who are you?” Turns out she knew who he was but hadn’t heard him sing a particular gospel song and was stunned at what he did with it.

But there are people, of all ages, who don’t know Elvis or Frank or Bing or other greats from the past.

Why do I mention this? To remind you that when you’re speaking or writing to a general audience, not everyone will know what you mean when you make a cultural or historical reference. And if that reference is important, it’s probably a good idea to add some context, to help them appreciate the reference and better remember your point.

If you “explain” too much, however, you risk a good portion of your audience rolling their eyes and thinking less of you for talking down to them.

“Of course Peggy Lee sang, ‘Is that all there is?‘ Who doesn’t know that?“

So, as a practical matter, you shouldn’t assume your audience knows nothing, any more than you should assume they know everything.

How do you find the right balance? You have to know your audience. And appeal to your ideal client rather than everyone who might visit your digital door.

If you’re writing about estate planning, for example, and your ideal client is in an older age group, don’t even think of explaining you mean Presley, not Costello.

Nor should you spend a lot of time explaining the need for estate planning. You can safely assume your readers know they need estate planning; that’s why they’re reading your blog.

Know your audience. Be aware of the need to explain certain things, but not others. Err on the side of explaining too much rather than explaining nothing.

And be cautious about using the phrase, “as you know”.

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You will be judged

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Prospective clients (and referral sources) who encounter you for the first time usually don’t know a lot about you. They don’t know if you are competent, honest, fair, or someone they’d like to work with or represent their friend or client.

And they only have a few ways to find out.

They can read your bio. They can look at your online reviews or see what others say about you on social media. They can talk to the person who refers them to you. Or they can take you up on your offer for a free consultation, ask questions, and see for themselves.

But there’s one more thing they can and will do to “check you out” and it can be the deciding factor. Especially when your background appears so similar to that of many other attorneys.

What is this difference maker?

Your content.

Your blog posts and articles, audios and videos, books and reports and presentations.

They read or listen and see what you say and how you say it.

And judge you by it.

If they think you know what you’re doing and are confident, thoughtful, and want to help people, that’s good. If they can’t deduce these things because you provide little information, don’t show them (with examples and stories) how you’ve helped others, or they think you’re arrogant because of the way you talk about yourself, that’s not so good.

If you are generous with the information you provide, if you teach them something or help them do something better or faster, help them make better decisions, or inspire them to take action, they appreciate that and are more likely to take the next step.

If your content lacks substance, if it makes you sound boring, close-minded, or hard to work with, people may (and often do) move on.

Your content doesn’t need to be great. But it needs to be good. Because what you say and how you say it helps people decide how they feel about you.

And how they feel is much more important than what they think.

Recently, I found a guy online who creates content (and sells his products and services) on a subject that interests me. I signed up for his newsletter and downloaded his free report.

And I was very disappointed.

It looked like he spent ten minutes throwing it together.

He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know. He didn’t show me how to do anything better or faster. He didn’t inspire me or show me something that made me think, “I want to hear more from this guy”.

That first impression told me everything I needed to know. And I moved on.

Our content speaks to prospective clients for us. It either convinces them to take the next step or convinces them not to.

Our content doesn’t have to be great. But it has to be good.

How to create good content for your blog or newsletter

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5 tips for writing quicker blog posts and newsletters

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Notice the word “tips” in the title of this post? I recently said I rarely use that word to describe things I write because it suggests something common and of lesser value. I’m using it here to illustrate that there are exceptions.

It’s okay to use the word when you’re sharing quick ideas, short bits of information, a list of resources or recommendations.

It’s also okay to use the word because you want to.

But always consider when you might use a more powerful alternative.

Today, I’m using the word because it fits this article—simple practices that allow you to write brief articles in less time.

As you know, I write an article every weekday. Here’s how I do it:

  1. No research. Write from your knowledge and experience, from something in your notes or files, something you read, watched, observed, or thought.
  2. Collect ideas. Set up a file and save articles, notes, observations, quotes, and fleeting ideas you find or think of throughout your day. When you have hundreds of ideas at your fingertips, you never want for something to write about.
  3. Choose your topic the night before. Your subconscious mind will “work” on the idea overnight and the next day, you won’t have to decide what to write. You can sit down and write it.
  4. Short and simple. A few paragraphs are fine. A few hundred words are plenty. Don’t obsess over images, SEO, link building, or formatting.
  5. Watch the time. Give yourself 20 or 30 minutes to finish (at least the first draft). Train yourself to write, publish, and get on with your day. Adopt the motto: “Done is better than perfect.”

    Bonus tip: write often. The more you write, the quicker you get.

    For more ways to write quicker (and better), get this
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One word you usually won’t hear me say

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I write about marketing and productivity. What to do, how to do it, how to do it better, at lower cost, in less time, and with better results.

You usually hear me describe these ideas as strategies, techniques, methods, advice, best practices, and the like, but I don’t call them “tips”.

To my ear, “tips” are like candy—tasty but lacking nutritional value. The word implies the information is commonplace, light-weight, and for a general audience. I associate “tips” with the content of articles in pop culture magazines and consumer-oriented blogs and channels.

Not the kind of information I want to convey to you or, I would think, you want to deliver to your readers.

Yes, it’s just a word, but it lacks gravitas. It’s not the type of word we expect to hear in content created by experts, professionals, and other serious-minded people.

At times, you may think me a wild and crazy guy, but I hope you never think of my ideas that way.

We all read articles that contain tips because we think we can quickly skim the article and find one or two interesting facts or nuggets we can use. That’s not a bad thing.

What’s bad is when we avoid reading the article entirely because we’re busy, we think we know most of the tips already, and we prefer to invest our precious time consuming content we think will be more valuable.

Speaking of tips, may I offer you one? Yeah, so can everyone else.

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So what?

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How much do your readers, followers, or audience already know about the law and other things you write or speak about?

That’s not the right question.

The question isn’t, do they know? It’s, “are they doing anything with that information?”

Information abounds. Your audience can find it in a book or video or on hundreds of websites. Countless other lawyers, writers, and other experts provide that information. You’ve probably provided that same information to them many times before.

So what? You’re not in the information delivery business. You’re in the “solving problems” and “delivering solutions” business. It’s up to you to show people the significance of the information and persuade them and guide them to do something with it.

Help them understand what the information means in their world. Tell them what could happen next, tell them the options they have available, and convince them to take action.

Use the information to scare them or inspire them and get them to make the right decision.

You’re an advocate, so advocate. Use the information as your evidence, your witnesses, and your arguments. Present the evidence, tell them what to do, and why.

Because if they do nothing with the information, and they need to, you’re not going to get the verdict you seek.

If you’re ready to take your practice to the next level, this is what you need

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