Here’s a lesson that many attorneys learn the hard way: you will never have that lifestyle law firm you want if you keep taking on the wrong types of clients.
These are the people that fall outside a pre-defined category of what constitutes your ideal client. You need to look at your most profitable clients and create an ideal client profile, then qualify your leads to fit that profile.
These five tried-and-true tips will help you attract your ideal client and keep them coming back to you:
INC Magazine has called Michael Gerber “The World’s #1 Small Business Guru,” and I interviewed him on how attorneys can take their firm to the next level of success.
As the author of a number of books on entrepreneurship, including the best selling Awakening the Entrepreneur Within and The E-Myth Revisited, Michael is arguably the most famous consultant for small companies. He coined the phrase “working on your business versus working in your business,” which has become the mantra for tens of thousands of business owners.
Michael has worked with over 70,000 small business owners over the last 40 years, teaching business owners who possess significant technical skills but few business skills how to transform their companies into world-class organizations.
Getting Google to rank your website high is a much harder task than you might imagine. In fact, there is an entire industry that has been created based upon helping businesses get their websites ranked high on the search engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a multi-billion dollar industry. There are so many tricks of the trade that it is rarely worth the time for any attorney to attempt to become an expert. Instead, hire one.
However, you don’t have to become an SEO expert to control one of the most important things that determines if your website is served up on page one or page 20 of Google search results: quality content.
So just how does Google judge whether or not your content is high quality? Last year, Google published an SEO guide that details how quality content is evaluated. Here are the primary characteristics of a high quality website:
A high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (EAT)
Websites that are considered by Google to be high quality need sufficient expertise on a particular topic to be authoritative and trustworthy. According to Google, the standard for expertise depends on the topic of a particular page. Each page must have a purpose and then that purpose must be fulfilled with expert content — words, videos, etc.
A satisfying amount of high quality main content (MC)
The quality of the main content is one of the most important ranking criteria. For law firm websites, your content must be accurate, factual, clearly written and comprehensive. If the topic of the page is broad, the content is expected to have a lot of information on that topic. If the topic is narrow, the content may not be as lengthy. Both can still rank as high quality content. Navigation also plays a role here in helping users find the information they are searching for quickly and easily.
Satisfying information about who is responsible for the website
In order for users to feel they can trust the site, including information about the site’s owners is important. This means not only having your law firm address, maps, email and phone information displayed on the site, but also attorney bios and testimonials that would predispose a user to trust your site.
Positive website reputation
Reputation is also considered an important part of the EAT equation. Titling pages in a way that entices a user to click on them and then not having content that matches what those users are searching for is considered misleading and would get a poor reputation rating from Google. Other reputation factors are inclusion of an About Us page, ease of contact, positive consumer reviews, and up-to-date content.
Having high quality content on your law firm blog is one of the best ways to improve your Google search ranking and online authority. When people — your prospects — like what you have to say online, you are rewarded by Google as well as by those who are ready to hire an attorney to help them solve their legal problems.
But creating good, consistent content is not easy. Too often, the task of continually pumping out posts falls by the wayside when you get busy doing other things. This is why creating an editorial calendar for your blog is so important. It serves as a guide and a reminder to keep putting that good content out there so you can reap the rewards.
If you think you have exhausted your supply of ideas on what to write about, here are five ways you can gain fresh insights that will generate great content:
Discover what people are asking about online.
Your best content ideas come from questions people are asking about the type of law you practice. There’s a great tool called TextOptimizer that enables you to research these questions in one spot. All you have to do is type in one of your keywords on the Find Content Ideas page; in this example, I typed in “child support” and got these results:
This tool has other features to help you really drill down into content suggestions and helping your find combinations that better match search engine expectations.
Have your intake team record prospect’s questions.
In addition to the standard information your intake team gets from prospects, ask them to start recording questions they are getting from callers. You can use an app like Slack or Google Docs to build a database of all the questions and then you’ll be able to view them easily in one place.
Take note of seasonal trends.
Include seasonal trends like holidays, back to school, summer vacation travel, Super Bowl, etc., in your content calendar. For example, if you practice family law, you know that divorce and parenting topics are popular around the Christmas holidays. If you practice estate planning, you know that tax topics are popular in the month before April 15. Wave Video has afree social media calendar on their website that lists every day of the year and what is being celebrated — for example, today is National Small Business Day.
Use keyword research tools.
Keyword research tools are not just for SEO; they can also provide you with some real insight into your potential clients’ interests and questions. There are a couple of tools you can use to generate content ideas:
Kparser— type in a main topic idea and this tool will generate a ton of keyword ideas around that main topic. I typed in “divorce” and it gave me a topic that I’ll bet most of you have never written about: divorce in the bible!
Answer the Public — type in a keyword or phrase and get an aggregated view of questions people ask Google and Bing. You can download the results in a spreadsheet or in a graphic format. I typed in “child support” and got this:
Repackage old content
Create new content by taking some of your best old content and repackaging it into an ebook, webinar, newsletter, podcast, video, infographic , or email series. So what is old becomes new again!
Email marketing remains one of the best and least expensive ways for law firms to nurture relationships with clients and prospects on an ongoing basis.
Yet the fact remains that everyone is inundated with too many emails, making a law firm marketer’s job that much harder to cut through the clutter.
Here are 12 email marketing tips that will help law firm marketing messages get opened and read:
Have a targeted list. This is especially important if you have more than one practice area. Your list must be targeted so you can create content that speaks directly to the interests of your audience. You must also be sure your list is clean (using a service like Constant Contact is crucial to help you do this) and that recipients have opted in to receive your emails.
Be real. Not just in your content, but with the email address you use as a “reply to.” Don’t use generics like “email@example.com”. Use a name partner or other prominent attorney in your law firm.
Your subject line needs to kill. Spend time on your subject line to really entice that recipient to open your email.
Set expectations. When someone signs up to receive your e-newsletter or other email, make sure you have an auto-response email programmed that tells them what they can expect and how often you’ll be emailing them.
Grab attention with a good pre-header. We’ve all seen those pre-headers in e-newsletters that instruct us to open the email in a web browser if we can’t see it properly. That is a waste of valuable real estate! Instead, give the reader a compelling reason to open and read your email.
Include CTAs early. Every email communication needs a Call-To-Action that lets the reader know what you want them to do. Place this near the top of your email so they don’t have to scroll to get to it.
Optimize for mobile. More than 60% of emails are now opened on a mobile device, and that number is only going up. Be sure your email is optimized for mobile – again, using an email service like Constant Contact will do that for you.
Make it personal. Use the recipient’s name in the subject line and greeting. Studies show that open rates are 14% higher with personalization.
Cede control. Allow your recipients to opt-out of your emails easily. It’s a waste to be marketing to someone who doesn’t want to do business with you.
Send at the right time. The best times of the day to send email marketing messages for better open and click-through rates is 9-11 a.m. and 3-5 p.m. — and it’s been that way for the past two years.
Analyze, monitor and test. The behavior of your email recipients will give you important insight into when and what content they prefer, so you can replicate your success.
Share. Adding social share buttons to your email marketing communication not only makes it more likely that your messaging will be spread to a greater audience, research shows that emails with social sharing buttons enjoy a 115% higher click-through-rate than those that do not.
Most attorneys I know have a pretty healthy opinion of their ability to close the sale at the initial consultation. Yet they are always looking for ways to improve their conversion rate — which tells me that maybe they’re not as confident as they appear.
If you’ve gone to the trouble and expense to get prospects in your door, you naturally want to close as many as possible at or immediately after the initial consultation. Here are some techniques we have taught our clients:
Step 1: Create the right environment.
The impression you want to give is one of professionalism, courtesy and comfort. Your front office and the conference space where you meet prospects will form their first impressions of you and your competency. If you have a conference room, then it should be staged for consultations. Create the environment that best reflects how you want prospects to feel about you. Put a sign on the door welcoming them, using their name or their company name if your firm focuses on business law. Keep it meticulously clean – no clutter! Set up a Keurig machine with a wide variety of choices for them to choose from and a mini-fridge with soft drinks and water.
Step 2: Make the right greeting.
Make sure prospects are greeted immediately by name. Establish a five-minute wait rule for all attorneys and paralegals – no prospect or client waits more than five minutes for an appointment (unless they show up really early). Greet them with a warm hello and a handshake and eye contact. Make them feel that you are truly glad to see them.
Step 3: Never have them fill out forms.
No one enjoys filling out forms. We’ve all been to the doctors and been given a wad of papers to fill out before the doctor will see us. It’s very off-putting. Never have prospects fill out forms at your office (unless it’s only one or two pages long) and never send them a detailed questionnaire ahead of time. Instead, have them meet with an intake specialist who is trained to establish rapport, ask qualifying questions, position the attorney or the firm as the best place to get their problem solved, share a few success stories or testimonials with the prospect, and set up the attorney for a quick win. The intake specialist can also fill out the necessary information to give to the attorney when they meet with them. While this technique may not work for a few practice areas (intellectual property and commercial litigation), the vast majority of consumer law firms could easily benefit from this kind of set-up.
Step 4: Provide a road map.
After you’re seated and they have been given a refreshment, briefly explain to them how the consultation works: “Let’s talk first about what brought you here today and then we can discuss how we’ll be able to help you solve your problem. I’m here to answer your questions, so please don’t hesitate to ask and be sure to let me know if you need clarification on any issues.” Remember, even though you do this every day, for most people this is the first attorney they’ve ever hired. Make it easy on them by providing some structure.
Step 5: Ask clarifying questions to control the conversation.
Be sure you listen more than you talk during the initial consult. Far too many attorneys try to talk their way into a new client. That’s a rookie mistake. You “listen your way” into a new client. They are coming to you with a serious problem that is rocking their world and they want a sympathetic ear more than anything else. Don’t jump in too early with your advice or thoughts – let them talk everything out first. If possible, don’t give any legal advice during the consult. Why? Because you don’t know the whole story. Clients never tell you the whole story until sometime down the road. Don’t be too quick to jump on a solution.
Some clients talk too much. Use clarifying questions to control the conversation (“So what you’re saying is … ” “Let me make sure I understand, you said … did I get that right?”). Don’t focus too much on taking notes. If they hire you, they’ll be happy to repeat anything you need to know. Give them lots of eye contact and make the appropriate comments that demonstrate empathy along the way. It may seem contrived at first, but trust me, it is important to the client that you can empathize with them. Remember, most buying decisions are made emotionally, then justified rationally. Not the other way around. Connect emotionally with prospects and more of them will hire you.
Step 6: Tell them only what they need to know.
One of the biggest reasons attorneys don’t convert more prospects into paying clients is because they over-educate them. Do not be overly concerned about educating prospects all at once about the process used to solve their specific problem. Just tell them the basics of what they need to know right now. Instead, focus on building a relationship with them and asking the questions you need to qualify them as a good client.
Step 7: Ask for the business.
Once you have identified a good case, never let them walk out the door without directly asking them to sign up at least twice – on the spot! Ask them closing questions like, do you have any other questions I haven’t answered today that would keep you from signing up? If they say yes, answer the question and then ask them if there’s anything else. Always bring in a retainer agreement ready to go. Make the sign-up process easy. “So all I need to move forward is for you to sign these three forms and then we can get started right away.” Assume they want to sign up. Never tell them to go home and think about it! If they agree to hire you on the spot, then stay with them through your client intake process. Don’t just leave them in the room – or worse, put them back in the lobby – with a bunch of paperwork where they can get distracted. If they say they have to think about it, then be sure to set a firm day and time for a follow-up call or visit when they will decide. Be sure to walk them out, shake their hand, and let them know you would be honored to represent them and your team is ready to get started as soon as possible.
Step 8: Follow up.
If they do not sign up at the consultation, send them an immediate email and have a staff member call them the next day to see if they have any questions you didn’t have a chance to answer during the consult. Keep following up with a series of emails and phone calls that gently remind them you care and that you are ready to move forward with solving their problem.
If you take these specific steps to properly structure your initial consultation, you will find yourself with a lot more new clients than you ever expected.
Those of us in the Gen X or Baby Boomer demographic sometimes enjoy poking fun at Millennials as entitled little snowflakes who grew up receiving participation trophies, have no idea how people got coffee before Starbucks, and popularized the man-bun.
But while we were all laughing, they were growing to become the largest demographic, overtaking the Baby Boomers in 2016. Millennials — those aged 19-39 — number more than 83 million today and represent 35% of this country’s workforce.
According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are:
More attached to networks of friends and colleagues through social media rather than through traditional religious or political institutions.
More burdened by financial hardship than previous generations, but still optimistic about the future.
Staying single much longer — only 26% are married.
Are the most racially diverse generation in history.
Are less trusting of others than older Americans.
If this demographic includes your target market, here are some tips for reaching this diverse demographic:
Up your social media game. Millennials do not respond to traditional modes of marketing. They like to have a conversation. They do not like to be “sold.” This generation lives on social media — they literally invented it — and it’s what they know and trust. They are much more likely to use the Internet to find an attorney — 63% do so vs. 33% of all consumers. But they don’t really trust your website as a good source to make a decision; rather, they look for you on social media and read legal blogs. In fact, 43% of millennials say blogs are an important source of essential information when choosing an attorney vs. just 19% of all legal consumers.
Have online reviews. According to FindLaw, millennials look for online reviews of attorneys twice as much as legal consumers in general (23% vs. 12%). They consider online reviews to be independent of marketers’ influences and trust a stranger’s experience of your law firm rather than trying it out for themselves before making a decision.
Embrace DIY. This may sound like heresy to many attorneys, but millennials are big DIYers and often wait until they have exhausted their DIY options before turning to an attorney. Offering legal services with a flat fee, enabling them to do some of the initial groundwork, and providing lower cost service options will make your firm appealing to millennials. It is interesting to note that while millennials like to do as much as possible for themselves, they are also risk-adverse. Educating them on what could go wrong if they attempt to “be their own lawyer” will be beneficial in getting them to engage you, even if it is only for a review of what they’ve already done online.
Make the world a better place. Millennials are not only more willing to patronize companies dedicated to social and environmental change, they will pay more to do so. Embrace a cause and make it visible on your website, social media, and blog.
When I started out in law firm marketing some 20 years ago, it was a lonely profession. Today, the law firm marketing landscape is covered with so-called “experts” in SEO, social media, digital marketing, you name it. Some are good at what they do, but most have no business calling themselves an expert at anything but obfuscation.
Today, very few of the top producing law firms rely on just “word-of-mouth marketing” or random referrals. They actively promote their legal solutions to a specific target market using a number of best practices. They have either made the commitment to assemble an in-house team, or they work with an established legal marketing firm to implement their law firm marketing.
Here are 7 questions attorneys should use to vet any individual or company they are thinking of entrusting with their law firm marketing:
Do they specialize in working with attorneys? Attorneys have legal and ethical rules they must follow. If you hire someone who doesn’t know those rules and ethical boundaries, it can get you into big trouble!
How many attorneys have they worked with? Over the past two decades, we have worked with more than 18,000 attorneys. That is a quantifiable number and one you should solicit from any person or company that you are considering to help market your firm.
How big is their digital footprint? We have been active on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter since their inception and have been blogging about law firm marketing since 2007. On behalf of our clients, we have managed more than 5,200 social media profiles and authored over 150,000 blog posts in just about every conceivable practice area.
Do they have a successful track record? We have helped over 18,000 attorneys learn how to double their revenues and increase their referrals. We have probably helped more attorneys break the 7-figure barrier than anyone else in the nation. Ask your candidates to show you specifically what they have done for other law firms and ask to speak to a few attorneys they have represented so you can get a true picture of their capabilities and ability to deliver.
Do they have a blueprint plan or is it just hit or miss? We have the Rainmaker Social Media blueprint that helps guide our clients to success. It is in writing and taught every month at our Rainmaker Retreats, where attendees also use the Rainmaker MAP (Marketing Action Plan) to create their own marketing plans. Ask your candidates to show you their plan and some real-world results that have come from attorneys who implemented it.
How big is their team? Is it just them? What happens if they go on vacation or get hit by a bus? At The Rainmaker Institute, we have a team of 60 law firm marketing specialists who are true experts in the industry.
How do they measure results? How will you know if they are successful? How long will it take before you start to see results? We provide our clients with monthly statistical reports so they know exactly what kind of results their marketing plan is delivering.
They say you get what you pay for, but we all know that is not always true, especially when it comes to marketing. Be sure you know exactly what you will be getting before you hire your next “expert.”
Fear of the unknown is a basic human instinct, and we see it every day when it comes to attorneys and social media. But with 77% of Americans using social media, it’s time to face your fears!
One way to face your fear is to learn all about proven social media marketing strategies attorneys have used to build their practices at a Rainmaker Retreat, our two-day law firm marketing program.
Here are four of the most common fears I hear from attorneys at our Rainmaker Retreats:
“I don’t have enough time.”
You don’t have to spend a lot of time on social media for it to benefit your firm. Choose the one social media network where your target market is most likely to be found — for B2C attorneys, the #1 network is Facebook; for B2B attorneys, it’s LinkedIn. Then spend about 30 minutes a day — first thing is best — on creating a post about something of interest to your target market. If that still doesn’t work for you, you can engage a law firm marketing company like ours to help you.
“I don’t know what my ‘voice’ should be.”
The voice in your posts should be yours. It should sound human, not corporate. Have your personality and opinions reflect your firm’s marketing strategy and values.
“I don’t know what to post.”
Think about the top 10 problems clients have that you solve, and create posts with solutions to those problems. You can then turn those posts into a free report. How-to articles and FAQs are great ways to showcase your expertise as well — FAQs are especially useful for SEO and voice search. Share interesting and informative articles you’ve found that your audience can relate to, and ask questions to start conversations.
“I’m worried about negative comments.”
The question is not IF you will get a negative review, but WHEN. And the best way to successfully offset a negative review is to have as many positive reviews as possible. Think about it: the last time you went to order something on Amazon, did the product have both positive and negative reviews? Of course! But you still purchased it, right? Why? Because innately we all know that no matter what the product or service, there will always be someone who is unhappy. As long as we see more positive than negative reviews, chances are we still invest in that product or service.
There’s also a positive side to a negative review: if it has merit, then you’ve just learned something about how you can improve your service. If it doesn’t have merit, don’t worry — it’s still an opportunity to respond professionally to show you care enough to engage. And if it’s just off the wall, no one will pay attention to it.
At every Rainmaker Retreat, we focus on providing advanced hands-on training for lead generation, lead conversion, legal marketing automation, and Internet and social media marketing strategies specifically designed to help attorneys generate more and better referrals for their law firm, and convert more prospects into paying clients.
Upcoming Rainmaker Retreat dates include:
April 27-28, 2019 — Dallas, TX/The Highland Dallas
May 31-June 1, 2019 — San Francisco, CA/Hilton Garden Inn San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge
June 21-22, 2019 — Boston, MA/Hyatt Regency Boston
August 16-17, 2019 — Las Vegas, NV/Aria Resort & Casino
November 8-9, 2019 — New Orleans, LA/International House Hotel
December 6-7, 2019 — Los Angeles, CA/The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey
Plan ahead and take advantage of the Early Bird pricing, where you can save 30% off the regular price.
You can register online for a Rainmaker Retreat or call 888-588-5891 for more information.
The #1 complaint clients make to bar associations is about their attorney’s failure to communicate. Communication is fundamental to building a strong, lasting relationship with clients. You must stay on top of your email and phone messages.
If you spend a lot of time in court, then you need to (1) better set and manage client expectations as to when they can expect a response to their email or phone call, or (2) assign someone on your staff who is trustworthy and reliable to return those calls for you and set up an appointment to speak with you when you are available. Be sure you have a staffer scouring your email for client requests that can be handled without your intervention, like inquiring about when their court date is or how to dress for an upcoming appearance or to remind them of the address for their deposition.
Beyond the everyday communication, there are three other areas most lawyers can work on to improve their client communication:
Keep clients informed about the progress of their cases.
I strongly recommend you have someone (not an attorney) call and email every single client to update them on their case every month – even if there is no update, We are still waiting to hear back from the insurance company. We are still waiting on the judge to issue a ruling on our motion. We haven’t heard back yet from opposing counsel and we are emailing them every week asking for a response. In most cases, there can be weeks or even months that go by with no movement. During this time, clients can think you have forgotten about them.
To retain client loyalty and satisfaction, you need to gently remind them that you are still “on the case” and haven’t forgotten about them. This person can be your legal assistant or even a paralegal, but we don’t recommend it be you or an associate unless absolutely necessary.
Proactively educate clients on events or changes in the law that could affect them.
Sending out regular client communiqués or newsletters is a very cost-effective way to educate former clients and referral partners of changes in the law that could affect them or simply remind them of their legal rights and responsibilities.
Inform them of other ways you can help them and other areas of practice in your law firm. It’s your responsibility to educate and inform clients of other ways you can add value. If there are other services you provide that they could benefit from but are not currently using, let them know what benefits they could get from using those other services. In addition to telling them over lunch and sending out monthly newsletters, you can also hold seminars or webinars on relevant topics of interest. Find every opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and your usefulness.
Remind your clients regularly of the results they are getting from working with you.
Clients are likely as busy as you are and your great work is not always on their radar. Law can be a thankless profession. Far too often clients expect you to move heaven and earth and never even offer a simple thank you in return. If you’re getting good results for your clients, remind them on a regular basis. Don’t wait until the end of the case and the final bill. Casually mention it along the way. As Muhammad Ali said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”
There are lots of legal blogs out there. Many of them may be by your competitors. So how do you ensure that your law firm blog will find a good following when there are so many choices? Here are 7 ways to gain readers for your law firm blog:
Take a stand. It’s human nature to follow the leader, and a leader always has a strong opinion on the things that matter. Don’t be afraid to let your readers know what you stand for — it will give your law firm blog a refreshing voice and will attract the people you want to do business with in the first place.
Add value. It’s always tempting to do a “me too” post, especially when you’re in a time crunch. However, if you’re not adding something of value to someone’s knowledge base with every post, you are wasting your time and theirs.
Give it away. Many attorneys are concerned about revealing too much about their area of practice, thinking that if they “give it away” they won’t be hired. But you don’t want any do-it-yourselfers anyway — they make horrible clients. And most people will be pulled in and impressed by the depth of your knowledge. Plus, giving a free report in exchange for an email address is a superb way to get leads.
Leverage experts you know. Including quotes and even allowing expert guest bloggers to add to your content will transfer their expertise to you in the minds of your readers.
Keep it simple. Unless you’re writing specifically for other lawyers, legal jargon is a big turnoff for most readers. You want to make your reader feel comfortable with you, not like you are always talking over their heads. Remember, your prospects are coming to you for insights on problems they have that they don’t really understand — make it clear that you do understand their pain.
Use stories. Everyone likes to read a story with a hero, a villain and a good ending. Use stories (with the real names omitted) to illustrate your points and demonstrate that you have an in-depth knowledge of and experience with your topic.
Keep posting. The most-followed blogs are those that post regularly. You should be adding new content to your blog several times a week to satisfy your readers as well as Google, since search engines rely on fresh content to rank the relevance of websites.