Category Archives: Marketing

Why You Need An Email List For Your Law Firm & 7 Easy Strategies To Create One

Law firm website? Check!

Social media profiles? Check!

Email list? Huh?

Maybe you’ve heard of email lists but you don’t know where to start. Maybe you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about it, but it sounds like something you should know.

Wherever you are on the spectrum, this post will help. We’ll discuss everything you need to get started on building an email list for your law firm along with why you should build an email list to begin with.

Would you like a five step quick start guide to building your email list? Subscribe to receive this extra guide.

What’s an Email List?

An email list is a collection of people who’ve given you their email addresses so that they can stay in touch with your law firm.

Why Do You Need an Email List?

why-do-you-need-an-email-list

An email list is the most valuable marketing resource you have. Your email list represents people who want to have a relationship with your law firm – subscribers. These subscribers want to know what you have to say about hot topics and enjoy reading your advice.

Let’s take a look at the main benefits of creating an email list:

Top of mind awareness

An email list keeps your law firm at the top of subscribers’ minds. They may not need your legal services now or even six months from now. However, when the need arises, you’ll be the first (or only) law firm your subscriber will think of.

You own the list

You may be thinking, Isn’t my social media platform good enough? I already have a ton of fans and followers on social media.

Although a social media presence is important, it’s inferior to creating an email list. The main reason is that you don’t own that list of fans and followers. If Facebook or Twitter decides to delete your account tomorrow, everyone who follows you will go bye-bye, whether that’s 10 people or 10,000.

When you own an email list, you won’t ever have to worry about losing your subscribers.

Promote your services

Did you know that email is one of the best ways to market your law firm? That’s because your list contains people who actually want to be on it. It’s not just random people who stumbled onto your website via an ad or review site.

The people on your email list are highly interested in the services that you provide. It stands to reason that the people who took their time to sign up for your email newsletters actually want to hear from you.

In your email, discuss what you offer. Highlight key services. Describe these services in plain English.

You may think, why do I need an email list now? My site is brand new and I don’t have a lot of traffic.

Now is the perfect time to set up an email list. You want to have a method in place to catch any and every visitor who arrives on your site and wants to subscribe.

Think about people who visit your site and then leave. They’ll never return– not because they don’t want to, but because they’ve forgotten. They may love your site and want to receive more content from you, but you don’t have a way to ask for their email address.

So, now that you know why you need an email list, let’s talk about how to create a successful one.

Email Newsletter Best Practices

1. Choose your subject line carefully

The success of your email newsletter rests solely on your subject line. Choose a subject line that makes your subscribers want to click on it.

Get them interested

Why should the subscriber open this email? How will it benefit them? Using a subject like “Granger & Associates Newsletter: June 2016” won’t move the needle, I assure you. However, a subject like, “Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About PreNups” is interesting and makes your subscribers think, hmm… what don’t I know about prenups?

It’s all about getting your subscriber to actually open your email.

Keep it short

The ideal length for an email subject line is between 50 to 70 characters. Many email service providers cut off the subject line after 70 characters. This is approximately eight words. Eight words seems short, but there’s a lot you can do in that space when you’re creative.

Avoid certain words

Creativity in word choice is a must, but you’ll want to steer clear of certain overused or spammy words and phrases. These words make your email look like spam to humans, and can also trip an email service’s spam filters. If that happens, your email won’t even make it to the inbox.

avoid-certain-words

Here’s a partial list of words you should avoid in your subject line:

Free

Donate

% Off

$$$

Cheap

W o r d s  w i t h  g a p s

Help

Amanda MacArthur at Mequoda has a list of the most offensive spam trigger words.

2. Choose your sender email address and name carefully, too

Chose a sender name that reminds the subscriber who you are. You may choose to use the name of your law firm (P&R Law), your own name (Debra Smarts, esq.), or a combination of the two (Debra Smarts from P&R Law). I’m partial to the third option because it provides maximum identification.

You should also choose an email address that sounds welcoming. Instead of using a donotreply@your-email.com as your email address, choose something like holly@your-email.com.

3. Don’t get too wordy

dont-get-too-wordy

We’ve already discussed keeping it short on your subject line. You should also adopt this mentality in the body of your email.

Attention spans are short in inboxes. Your subscribers don’t want to spend 30 minutes reading your newsletter, and they won’t.

Instead of creating a lengthy email newsletter, provide short and easy-to-consume content. Direct them out of the inbox and onto your blog or website to get the full scoop. Email is a quick burst of information, but it shouldn’t attempt to tell the whole story.

4. Include a call to action for each email

Piggybacking off of the above practice, use a strong call to action in your emails to bring people back to your website. At the end of each section of your newsletter, include a button or a link that tells your subscriber what to do next, i.e. “Read the rest on my blog…” or “Sign up for my upcoming class here.”

5. Segment

Have you ever heard of segmenting? Segmenting is the process of taking one email list and grouping subscribers based on demographics or other criteria. For example, you can group everyone who signed up from your blog post about adoption law into one segment and everyone who signed up from your blog post about divorce law onto another segment.

What’s the value of segmenting? In the example above, you can see how a family hoping to learn more about adoption won’t necessarily be interested in advice to divorcees.

By segmenting, you can create specific newsletters for each group. Your subscribers win because they’ll get relevant content they can actually use.

6. Come Up with an Interesting Topic

come-up-with-an-interesting-topic

There are so many great ideas that you can use to create content for your email newsletter. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Answer frequently asked questions
  • Highlight success stories (with your client’s permission, of course)
  • Discuss hot topics/current news
  • Tease your most recent blog post
  • Ask for feedback and reviews
  • Share company news
  • Highlight a member of your staff
  • Share the details of upcoming events (webinars, clinics, meet and greets)
  • Write a newsletter about past events you’ve hosted (charity drives, classes, etc)

Set up an editorial calendar on a spreadsheet and list all the ideas you have for your newsletters. Choose a frequency (once a week, bi-weekly, or once a month). Then, come up with an idea for each newsletter. By working in batches, it’s easier to brainstorm ideas.

7. Remember Your Audience

Who are your subscribers? Speak directly to them. Tone down any legalese because they won’t understand all the fancy lawyer-speak (unless they are lawyers also).

Along these same lines, choose subjects that matter to your subscribers. They may not care to know the finer details of the law. They simply want to know how a law will affect them.

Final Thoughts

Remember that an email list is a crucial part of your ongoing marketing efforts. It’s never too soon to start capturing email addresses from your site’s visitors.

Would you like a five step quick start guide to building your email list? Subscribe to receive this extra guide.
Fresh coffee in hand, ready to start marketing your firm.

Real Digital Marketing Tactics For Solo Attorneys

Starting your own firm is hard work. You don’t have the same resources that big firms have to market yourself. But luckily, what you lack in budget you gain in scrappiness. You can move quicker and with less oversight. You can ditch the BigLaw stuffiness and appeal directly to the clients you want to help.

Here’s our promise. We will deliver an actionable plan every week that can be implemented in less than 30 minutes a day, that, applied consistently, will provide you with an audience of prospective clients that lets you focus on the law instead of glad-handing at every networking event that rolls through town.

Remember, consistency is key if you want to build up that consistent stream of clients. Consider us your coach. We’ll give you a plan, every week.

Want to get early access to these tactics? Sign up for the email list and we’ll deliver them right to your inbox, every Monday morning. If not, check back on Fridays for that week’s plan.

Photo Credit: 55Laney69 used under CC

How to Find Qualified Clients

Whether you have a small or medium-size law firm, one need remains the same: clients. But not just any warm body will do. You need to find clients who are qualified and have a need for your services. That’s a tall order, but one that we’ll fill by the end of this post.

Stick around to find out how you can use the magic of the Internet to find qualified clients for your legal practice. Let’s discuss!

Would you like a worksheet for finding the perfect client? Subscribe to receive this extra resource.

Identify Your Ideal Client

The best way to start is by identifying your ideal client. To aid in this, I’ve provided a list of questions to help:

Who are they? Include basic demographics such as age, gender, location, and income.

What do they need from you? How likely are they to reach out to you?

Why do they need your service? If you offer more than one service, consider creating a client persona for each.

Where do they live online? Are they mostly on Facebook, Google (everyone’s on Google), Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, Avvo Law, or Pinterest? If you’d like to know which platform you’d be more likely to find clients, check out this post on Choosing the Best Social Media Platform for your Law Firm.

When do they research lawyers? Does your target client wait until the last minute? When they do reach out, what time do you get the majority of your calls? Is it 10 AM? 3 PM? This can indicate a lot about your average client.

Create a Website

Now that you’ve compiled a client persona, it’s time to create a marketing strategy to welcome those clients in.

When trying to find and nurture clients, always start with a website.

Remember, it’s not the 90s anymore. Folks use the Internet (not the Yellow Pages) to find everything from appliances to Zumba. As an attorney, you’ve got to make sure that your services are represented online, too. The way to do that is with a website.

A website is like an “always on” salesperson. Your website works for you even at midnight and on holidays. If you plan it right, your website can provide just as much information as your front office staff (but don’t tell them I said that).

On your website, be sure to create a blog that people actually want to read. Blogs are a powerful tool that can help you educate your site visitors and establish yourself as the knowledgeable pro that you are.

Use Paid Advertising

We’ve discussed how to use paid advertising before, so I won’t rehash it here. Check out how to use paid advertising to dominate the local search listings. Be sure to click on that link because there we discuss what SEO and search advertising really means for your law firm. I also give you the exact formula for how to get on a first-page listing on Google’s search results.

Create a Call-Only Ad Campaign

Have you ever searched on the Internet with your smartphone? Chances are, you’ve seen a little call button to the right side of the top few listings. That’s little button is going to transform your online marketing campaign, and here’s how:

People who search for lawyers with their smartphones are motivated to go beyond “research mode” and into results mode. They want to speak to a live person. Instead of directing them to a webpage, you should offer a call button for quick access.

This is known as a call-only ad campaign.

It costs the same as a regular headline click, but you’ll have a much more engaged prospective client who wants to act now.

In the order of things:

website < phone call < consultation < representation

add-phone-number

Here’s how to create a call-only ad campaign with Google.

By the way, don’t forget about Bing. While Google is the undisputed giant in Internet search, Bing does have 20% of the market share. You can follow these same steps on Bing to find qualified clients there, too. And it may even be cheaper.

Provide Enhanced User Experience

Did you know that a bad first impression of your website can lower your chances of getting clients? It’s true that you can lose site visitors just by a slow website– and by slow, I mean a site that takes three seconds or longer to load.

Three seconds.

No one wants to wait for answers. You’ve got to make sure that your website is fast load and provides all of the answers your prospective clients need immediately.

Even worse than a slow-loading website is one that’s completely disorganized and hard to navigate. If your site visitors have to click a lot of links trying to find the answers they’re looking for, they’re going to give up and hit the back button.

Here’s how to prevent a disorganized website:

Get clear about what information you’d like to share on your website. Here’s a good idea of where to start:

On your Homepage: Discuss what services you offer and who would benefit most from them. Keep it short, simple, and clean.

On your About page: Discuss who you are but keep it client-focused. Craft your About page to help the prospect understand why they should choose you. It’s good to underscore the kind of cases and clients you often work with in this page.

On your Services page: Be very clear about what services you offer and then break it down even further. Remember, your prospective client probably doesn’t know much about law, they just know that they need a lawyer. Use language they would understand. Oftentimes, a layman doesn’t know exactly what something’s called. Here’s your chance to educate and empower them to figure out what service they need from you.

You may also find it helpful to create a separate page for each service that you offer.

Prepare a Thorough FAQ Page: A lot of folks head straight for the frequently asked questions page, if you have one, to decide whether they need your services. This is yet another golden opportunity to answer common questions that you’d normally discuss over the phone. It’ll free up your phone lines for more specific questions, and provide a valuable resource to online prospective customers who are searching for answers.

faq

Image Courtesy of Thurman Law

Follow Up Immediately on the Phone

There are times when you’re just not available. For example, maybe the caller left a message after hours. Perhaps you’re on another line. Whatever the case, don’t let that prospect fade– be sure to follow up immediately whenever possible.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind: a prospective client who doesn’t reach you will oftentimes go to the next attorney on the list. Boo. But, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re out. By calling that person back in a reasonable timeframe (by the end of the business day), you may be able to persuade them to choose you – especially if you’re presenting yourself as friendly and helpful.

Unlike emails and voicemails, phone calls are great for gauging interest.

Push the In-Office Consultation

Of course, you don’t want to give away everything in a phone call. It’s so crucial to get the caller into an in-office consultation. This is where you’ll be able to separate those who just want free legal advice from actual paying clients.

Should you offer free or paid consultations?

There’s compelling opinions on both sides. The benefit of offering:

A free consultation – You’ll definitely set more appointments because everyone loves “free”. You’ll also separate yourself from your competitors because they’re more likely to charge for consultations.

A paid consultation – You’ll get more motivated prospects. People who are willing to pay an initial consultation fee are more likely to sign a representation agreement.

A happy medium? Consider charging a consultation fee but then crediting it back to their account if they choose to retain your services.

You can also explain your process over the phone and on your website to help drive the in-office consultation.

Polish Your Profiles

By now, you know how important it is to have a website, but that’s not the only way to represent your law firm online. You also need to expand to social media networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter

We’ve actually covered this in-depth here: Choosing the Best Social Media Platform for Your Brand. If you need help figuring out which platform to use, be sure to check out that post.

Being on a social platforms helps you extend the reach of your online marketing. You can start amassing followers and then updating them through your social platforms. While they may not always come to your website, they can always be connected to you through your social media updates.

Also make sure you’re fully utilizing online review sites such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Avvo. We’ve also gone in depth on those topics here: Pick Me! Your Beginner’s Guide on How to Attract Local Clients Via the Internet.

Prospective clients may head to these review sites first before even starting a Google search. What will they find once they get there?

Negative reviews are one thing; negative reviews without a follow up from you are a death sentence. Don’t make that mistake. Follow up on all reviews, trying to resolve those that you can, but acknowledging everyone else with a heartfelt thanks for their feedback. No sarcasm, please. Remember– you’ve got an audience.

Final Thoughts

Remember how we discussed that a website is fundamental to finding qualified clients? We can help with that. Let’s talk about building you a site that you can be proud of.

Would you like a worksheet for finding the perfect client? Subscribe to receive this extra resource.
crumpled up law blog

Solo Lawyers Can’t Afford To Be Law Bloggers

You are not a law blogger. Go ahead, say it out loud if you’re not at a coffee shop where people would look at you weird. It’s that important.

So much of the advice bandied about on the internet regarding how attorneys should blog, is for lack of a more-perfect term, crap. It simply doesn’t apply to you as a solo or small-firm attorney. Here’s why.

Law Bloggers use their blog to increase their status and credibility among other lawyers.

When you’re just starting out, this seems like the easy, logical place to start.

After all, you know the law, you can provide deep commentary on the law that other lawyers would appreciate, and that Small Firm Inferiority Complex is a powerful beast that is always thinking of ways to justify to your big-firm brethren that just because you’re small, it doesn’t mean you’re not an expert.

Here’s the thing though. Your clients don’t care. If they were interested in learning the nuances of law, and could understand that deep analysis, they wouldn’t need your help.

They want to know how the nuances of law affect their daily life. How do they solve that one nagging problem that they’ve ended up at your site trying to solve? And can you explain that problem, that pain, to them better than they could explain that pain to themselves. That’s how you win a client’s trust. Not, by being the most vocal fish in a small pond of blogging lawyers, but by doing the legwork to convey true understanding of your clients’ day-to-day problems.

Now, I won’t deny that there’s certainly value in convincing other lawyers that you’re worth a referral, and sometimes it’s valuable to provide a unique insight and circulate it among your peers. But make no mistake about it, writing for lawyers should be considered a rare guilty pleasure, not the focus of your firm’s marketing plan.

Law Bloggers consider their blog to be a separate entity from their firm.

Law bloggers often see their blog as an extension of their personal brand; a sort of hedge against becoming too synonymous with their parent firm lest they decide one day that they want to move on. That’s a great strategy, and I’d recommend that strategy to any associate (or partner) at a big firm.

But you’ve already taken that leap. There’s nothing left to hedge against. Your blog is the marketing arm of your firm, and they should be so intertwined as to be indistinguishable to any potential clients (and Google). Worrying about driving visitors from your blog to your firm website is a fool’s errand. Your blog is your firm website.

What’s more, if you were to separate your firm website from your blog, you’re effectively making sure that none of the SEO value generated by all of that effort is transferred to your firm. Having them both under the same domain is critical to ensuring that your firm and its blog rank well in Google.

Blog posts don’t pay the bills, clients do.

Your blog isn’t about you. It’s about your clients. Everything you do needs to be geared toward their needs, their desires, their pains. Every marketing activity you spend time on need to be focused on one of two things. One, getting more prospective clients to your site. And two, convincing them that you’re so deeply in tune with their problems that they absolutely can’t afford to not contact you for your expertise.

In short, you need to focus on blogging to get business, not being in the business of blogging.

To that end I would strongly recommend looking outside the law industry and into small business marketing for your marketing advice, as your small-firm’s marketing is much more closely related to that of a pool salesman* than a law blogger.

* Marcus comes off a little “marketing-guru” at the beginning, but trust me, you’ll love him by the end. One of the more genuine applications of business blogging I’ve ever seen and a simple framework you can always fall back on when you’re searching for what to write about, or even why you’re bothering at all.

 

Photo Credit: HPUPhotogStudent used under CC

Email Marketing For Attorneys

I am not a lawyer. There. I said it. But I am married to a wonderful employment attorney who’s just recently hung her shingle. Like most solo attorneys out there, she’s found that building a client base is a constant exercise in hard work, ingenuity, consistency, and persistence.

I happen to be a really nerdy guy that has a background in building digital marketing platforms, so we sat down one night to figure out what ONE THING we could focus on that could get her the most bang for her buck in terms of getting in front of her ideal clients right now, and staying top of mind for when they actually had a need for her help.

We tossed SEO, as you’re not going to get to the first page in Google for anything but your name in the first few months of starting a firm. Anyone that tells you otherwise is peddling snake-oil. So what’s one to do when faced with the long-game that is internet marketing? Well, you have to get a little scrappy, and go places that most of your competitors won’t.

I’ll share what we came up with, and walk you through every step of putting this in place for you. And as long as you’re not an employment attorney in Southern NH, I’ve been given the green-light from the Mrs to let you in on the goods.

The Case For A Weekly Newsletter Over Say, Twitter or Facebook

The one constant over the last 20 years of the internet (besides cat photos of course) is email. Everyone has an email address. Everyone checks their email multiple times a day.  Everyone gets a nice little dopamine kick every time an email comes in and their phone beeps or vibrates in their pocket. In short, it’s the most ubiquitous way to insert yourself into a person’s weekly routine.

But you know all that. The real beauty of an email newsletter is twofold.

One, email is easily shareable. We’re used to forwarding an email, and we don’t have to leave our browsers to do it. No fancy “Share This” buttons, no URL shorteners, just a simple forward to a friend is all it needs to spread, and spreading is what you really want right now.

Two, email generates a feeling of reciprocity. Our species has a hyper-developed urge to return favors given to us. If you’re able to provide enough value to your readers on a regular basis in the form of insights, aggregated interests, etc, when it comes time to seek legal advice in your area of expertise, you’re the one they’ll have that urge to go back to.

I promised two, but I’ll give you a bonus reason. Email is not controlled by another company’s desire for you to pay them money in order to reach your audience. It’s been shown that Facebook posts are seen by less than 6% of a brand’s followers, and internally, Facebook wants to see that number drop to 1%-2%. Why you ask? Because they need money in order to satisfy their share-holders, and the only way to do that is to be the gate-keeper (read: toll-keeper) between you and the audience you’ve painstakingly built on their platform.

So if you want to actually build that audience, you’re now going to have to use their Facebook ads platform to do so.

Own your audience! An engaged newsletter subscriber is orders of magnitude more valuable than a Twitter follower or Facebook fan.

Now that begs the question, who should your audience be?

Choosing an audience

Deciding who your newsletter is for is largely dependent on how you define your ideal client. In the example of my wife’s employment law firm, her ideal clients are small business owners and HR managers in larger companies. For her, it makes sense to market directly to those folks with updates about the changing HR landscape.

But, when coming up with your newsletter audience archetype, clients aren’t the only option. In fact, in many cases, you may want to skip writing for clients at all, and instead focus on the natural referral providers that make sense for your practice area. For example, if you focus on trusts and estates, you might consider writing a weekly update for financial advisors in your state, that would keep them in the know, and ready to hand out your business card if their clients have more complicated estate matters that the financial planner can’t handle on their own.

Choosing your content

Now that you have your audience decided, it’s time to figure out what content we can provide on a regular basis that will ensure that your email is always valuable to that audience.

It’s tough starting from a blank canvas, so I’ll outline a few items that should work for most audiences. But don’t be afraid to get creative and get inside the mind of your ideal client. Remember, this is about them, not you. If you have other ideas, please share in the comments!

An Editorial Forward

I wouldn’t spend more than one paragraph on this. Give the readers an overview of what they’ll find in the update, and perhaps a light call to action. Suck them in.

Interesting Reads

You no doubt spend a lot of time reading the latest news related to your practice area. When you come across an article that you want to share on twitter, place it in your email template as well. Be sure to add a one or two sentence takeaway from each that informs your reader why it matters to them.

If you want to link to one of your own blog posts, that’s fine, but limit it to one per newsletter. You don’t want to come across as spammy. This newsletter isn’t meant to drive traffic to your blog, it’s about keeping your readers informed.

Events

Curate a list of networking events in your geographic area. Make sure to ask readers to let you know about any events they’re sponsoring or attending as well. Highlight the events going on that week, and then list out a calendar of events spanning the next month.

Reader Questions

Solicit questions from your readers. If they have a particular problem that others in the group might be interested in, ask if you can publish your response to the group. Obviously, you should be careful to disclaim that the email doesn’t constitute legal advice.

Blog Posts

If you do want to have a place for all of your posts from the week, place them in their own section, and toward the end. Follow a similar format to the “Interesting Reads” section above.

Footer

This is essentially your business card. Make sure your readers have a way to contact you, and how to find you on your various social media accounts. Also, this is a good spot for a disclaimer if you have anything in the newsletter that might be construed as legal advice. Also, a good place to let folks know that replying to you doesn’t constitute an attorney-client relationship.

Constructing your list

Normally, in the world of email marketing, there’s a hard and fast law that you never email someone that hasn’t specifically opted in to receive your newsletter.

For this one time, and this time only, I’m going to advise ignoring that rule, mostly because we’re going to be following the intent of law, if not the letter.

We are going to be creating a weekly newsletter that your readers will WANT to look through every week. If we don’t reach that level of awesomeness, then this whole endeavor won’t be worth it anyways.

So, for your initial list, we’re going to build a list of people you know in person that would genuinely be interested in your content. This is not a “dump my address book” into a list type of exercise. This is a painstaking process of going through your address book, your Linkedin contacts, your Facebook friends, etc and asking the following questions:

  1. Does this person know who I am personally?
  2. Does this person fit my audience archetype?
  3. Would this person likely look forward to this email every week? (Be brutally honest)

If the answer is “yes” to all three (and a real “yes” not “maybe” or “possibly”, a hard and fast “yes”), then you want to add them to your list in the following way:

  1. Create a spreadsheet in google docs. You can do this in excel as well, but we’re going to do this using Google Docs because everyone has access to that tool, and particularly for marketing activities like this, Google Docs can be a lifesaver.
  2. In Column A, put the email address. In Column B, put the person’s first name.
  3. Rinse and repeat step 2 for every person that fits.

When you’re done, we need to download your list so we can import it into your email provider of choice. To download the file in the correct format in Google Docs, click File> Download as…> Comma-separated values (.csv, current-sheet). Remember where you place that file, we’ll need it later.

Now that we have a list, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Tools

There are a TON of email providers out there. There’s MailChimp, Constant Contact, Emma, Campaign Monitor, and I could go on and on and on. They’ll all work and if you have one of them in place already, stick with it. Better to work with the one you know. If not though, I always recommend MailChimp for two reasons. One, it’s free for up to 2000 subscribers, which is more than enough for every firm I’ve ever worked with. Two, it has all of the features you’ll need, is easy to use, and it works on every device so if you have a few minutes of downtime, you can work on your next week’s digest without having to bust out a laptop.

We’ll be walking through how to implement this using Mailchimp.

Setup

Head on over to mailchimp.com and sign up for their free plan.

Once you create the account, you’ll receive a confirmation email. Just follow the link in that email to continue with the setup. Fill out the form related to your business size and whether you have a list (feel free to select “No” for now, we’ll build one later) and hit submit. You should now be staring at your Mailchimp dashboard.

We’ll start by creating an empty list. Click on the “Create List” button on the dashboard to get started.

MailChimp - Creating Your List

Creating Your First Email List with MailChimp

Just click “Save” and congratulations, you now have your first email list.

Importing Your List

Now that we have a list, we want to make sure all of our readers receive it. We need to import them from the list we created before. So go ahead and click on the import subscribers link, and then select “Import From a CSV or TXT File.”

MailChimp Importing Subscribers Step 1

How to import subscribers from a CSV file in MailChimp.

Now, find the file that you downloaded in the “Constructing your list” section above. Once you import that file, you should see a screen where Mailchimp is going to match up the columns in your list with the custom fields that Mailchimp uses to customize your emails to each reader.

MailChimp Importing Subscribers Step 2

Selecting which file to import your subscribers from.

If it works, it should look like this:

MailChimp Importing Subscribers Step 3

Making sure your data lines up with MailChimp’s dynamic fields.

Once you click then ‘Next’ button, you should see a confirmation screen. The defaults are fine, just click ‘Next’ to complete the import.

MailChimp Importing Subscribers Step 4

Finalize your import.

Congratulations! You now have an email list. Let me be the first to say that this immediately puts you in the top 5% of solo attorneys in terms of internet marketing expertise.

So pat yourself on the back, and now let’s talk about how we actually send to the list, and come up with a plan to make it a regular part of our marketing strategy.

Building your first campaign

Alright, now that you have a list, we need to build a campaign. Campaign is just another word for sending out an email to your list. To start the process, click on “Campaigns” in the sidebar then in the dropdown on the next page, click “Regular campaign”.

MailChimp Creating a Campaign

Starting your first campaign with MailChimp.

When you do that you’ll be placed into MailChimp’s campaign creation workflow. In the first step, just select “Send to entire list” and click “Next.” The next step is where you start to define what this particular campaign (or mailing) is.

You’ll need to create a name for the campaign. I would chose something that can be easily modified in future campaigns since this is going to be a regular thing. In this example, I chose to name it after the newsletter, and then give it an issue number. That way, in the next campaign, all I have to do is change the issue number and they’ll be easily identifiable. You could use the date you plan to send it instead of an issue number too. I’ve seen that work nicely as well.

Once you have the name, it’s time for the subject line. Now I’ve always found the subject line to be a little hard to write before you’ve written anything about the content. So for right now, put in something generic about your newsletter and move on. We can change the headline later (before we send) to make it more specific to the actual content you put in the newsletter.

And the final change I’d suggest is putting *|FNAME|* *|LNAME|* as your “To:” field. Whenever you see *|SOME_CODE|* it means Mailchimp will replace that SOME_CODE with the data in your list that matches “SOME_CODE”. In the case of FNAME and LNAME, that’s the first name and last name of each recipient that was matched up when you imported your list.

As for the tracking section, you can leave that at the default values. If you use Google Analytics, you can go ahead and check the box there so that the campaign name will appear in your Google Analytics account as well.

Here’s what your screen should look like:

MailChimp Campaign Settings

How to choose your campaign options.

Choosing a Template

Once you’ve set up your campaign, it’s time to decide how it will look. MailChimp provides a number of Basic Templates which allow you to build out your email, and they also provide pre-designed themes that have a bit of design to them.

I would stick to single column layouts to minimize complexity, but find one that works for you. It’s hard to go wrong here, so have fun! If you’re concerned about which one to pick, click “Themes” and search for “Minimal”. It’s organized into nice sections that you can customize to match the content you decided to include earlier.

While a template is one of the fun parts of setting up your marketing campaigns, be careful not to fall into analysis paralysis. There are a number to choose from, and you can always change it later. But for now, just pick one that’s simple and clear. After all, you want your readers to focus on what you’re writing, not the template that wraps it.

Writing your first email

And here we are, staring at a blank canvas. Intimidating right? I felt the same way. It gets easier, particularly once you find a format that really starts to resonate with your list, but for now, we wrote up an epic newsletter template that you can use to get yourself going on the right track.

Don’t get stuck on what to write.

We took care of the ideas for you, so you can focus on getting started. Click that green button there and you’ll have that template to use for whenever you’re ready to write your first newsletter.

Scheduling your first campaign

You’ve now created your first email and you’re ready to hit send. That’s awesome! Now, when it comes to sending email marketing campaigns, you don’t want to just hit send when you’re done with it. You’re going to want to schedule the campaign to optimize for actually getting read.

Let’s face it, while our goal is to create an email marketing newsletter that readers actually look forward to, folks are busy. Think about the day-to-day business of your clients and try to schedule the campaign to go out when your readers will be able to sit down and read it.

For example, if your clients are HR managers, mid-afternoon on a Friday might be great, as they might be killing a bit of time waiting to punch the clock for the weekend. Every list is different, so feel free to experiment.

Sending your first campaign is only the first step…

Sending your first campaign is a really really big deal. You should be proud. You put yourself out there, and that’s the first step to allowing you and your firm to be found online.

Now, let’s take advantage of that momentum and talk about how to grow your list and how to keep pumping out great content.

Getting new subscribers

That first group of readers is going to be the easiest. You already know them. Getting folks you don’t know to sign up will be a lot harder. But alas, we’ll talk about a few ways to get started. The first two require little to no technical ability. You can start doing it today and to be quite honest, you’ll likely have your best results there.

Ditch the business cards, sign them up for your list in person.

We all know the value of meeting industry folks face to face. Attorneys are some of the best networkers I’ve ever met.

All of those events, the hours of chit-chat, the passing of business cards, all with the hope that one day someone will remember your firm when they have the need.

What if they didn’t have to think back to that charity dinner 18 months ago, and instead only had to remember the person that emailed them two weeks ago?

That’s the real power of email marketing. So now that you have a newsletter, you can use it to stay in front of all of those people you’re investing time to meet with.

So rather than saying “Here’s my business card, call me if you ever need help.” you can say, “I have a newsletter that goes out every other week or so that will help you with <problem they might have>. Would you like to sign up? It’ll only take a few seconds.” And then whip out your phone, go to Lists, choose your main email list, and then in the upper-right corner click on the button to add a subscriber and just enter their name and email address. You could even hand them the phone to have them enter it themselves. Done!

Or, if you don’t want to have to pull out your phone, just keep a pen handy. When you ask about the list, if they say yes, make a quick note on their business card, then manually invite them to the list later that evening when you get home.

And don’t forget to email them personally to say thank you for signing up.

Ask for forwards…

Your loyal readers are also a great source of new subscribers. After all, they’ve already gotten to know you and the value you’re providing them. And, like most networked professionals, they probably know others just like them that might also benefit from your newsletter.

So, once a month, or once every other month, depending on how often you email your list, let everyone know that you’re on the lookout for new subscribers. Let them know the effort that you put into the list. Maybe even pull on their heart-strings a little bit by reminding your readers of all of the value they’re getting FOR FREE. And then ask if they’d take 30 seconds and consider forwarding your email to friends or colleagues that might also benefit from the information you send out.

MailChimp has a handy little merge tag for a forwarding link that will allow your readers to forward your email and have the recipients be prompted to sign up for your list as well. Just highlight your call to action (the sentence that’s asking folks to sign up) and click the link button. Select “Web Address” and set it to *|FORWARD|*.

MailChimp forward link

Creating a link that will help your readers forward your campaign to a colleague.

Mini Contests

Another way to entice folks to forward your email is to run a little contest. For example, you could raffle off say, three $20 amazon gift cards, or maybe a copy of a book that’s pertinent to your audience. Then ask them to email you with the names of folks they forwarded your email to. For each one that signs up, enter them in a chance to win.

Worst case, you have 3 folks sign up and you spent $60. Might seem expensive, but the beautiful thing about email marketing is that you have time to make that money back. If even one of those clients calls you for a 30 minute consult in the next 18 months, you’ve likely made your money back.

Get your website to drive new subscribers…

It’s fairly easy to get a signup form onto your website. If you use WordPress, just add the Mailchimp plugin. Follow the instructions to add the form as a widget in WordPress.

If you use AmazeLaw, just go to Email Marketing, and click “Connect Mailchimp” button and you’re done.

But, like sending out that first campaign, adding a form to your site is not enough. You also need to actively promote your list in order to entice new signups.

Obviously, “promote your email list” is the type of pithy advice run away from here at AmazeLaw, so here are some easy, concrete ways to promote your new list on your own website.

Landing Page

A landing page is just a dedicated page whose sole purpose is to get a visitor to perform an action. In this case, the action is to get someone to sign up for your email list.

Create a page in WordPress or AmazeLaw, and give it the same name as your list. The content is pretty simple, you don’t even need a picture:

[Headline: Big benefit they’ll see from signing up]

This is a paragraph about what your life will be like after you’ve signed up and are reaping said benefit. Imagine how easy life will be. No more worrying about missing the latest news and getting caught unaware.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Easy to digest updates about [your practice area]. No legalese! We promise!
  • Curated industry news so you don’t miss the best content out there.
  • No spam. Ever.
[Signup Form]

Pretty easy, huh?

Protip: Add a link to your landing page in your email signature with a simple call to action. Something like “Sign up for our free bi-weekly employment law update.” or “Free estate planning tips in your Inbox every week.”

Post/Page Footers

Having a signup form on your contact page, or home page is a great first step, but often times, visitors to your site won’t be coming through the front door. A good percentage of your traffic, particularly search traffic, will likely go directly to your blog posts where visitors are looking for a very specific answer to the problem they’re searching for.

They’ll likely never see your homepage, and unless you do a bunch of cross-linking (linking to other posts or pages on your site), they may not see another page before they move on with their day, armed with the answer to their query.

But what a perfect time to start a relationship. By answering their question you’ve provided value and built trust. It’s the perfect time to remind them that, hey, if you want more quality advice or analysis just like this, sign up for my newsletter!

So, long story short, at the bottom of every blog post, add a simple paragraph that explains that if they found the post useful, that they can sign up for your newsletter and add a link to your landing page where they can sign up.

Keeping it going…

Alright, time to recap. We’ve gone from nothing to:

  • Signed up for a free MailChimp account.
  • Created our first email list
  • Built and sent our first email campaign
  • Set up our website to attract new subscribers by using landing pages and blog post footers
  • Learned to leverage our existing contacts for new referrals

Staying consistent

Now that you’ve setup your email marketing essentials, we need to create a system for consistently delivering little knowledge bombs to your subscribers.

And consistency isn’t just how often you email your subscribers, but your ability to consistently deliver something that your readers value.

Steve Martin quipped in his autobiography that it wasn’t the ability to kill it on a given night that set the great comics apart. After all, most comics could kill it every once in a while with the right audience. It was the comics that could produce a great show night in and night out that were truly successful.

And just like Steve Martin, you need a system to deliver consistent value.

How do we do that?

Creating a schedule you can stick to…

We talked a bit about scheduling your campaigns so your customers are most likely to read your posts. Now let’s talk about how to schedule your campaigns so that they fit within the constraints of a busy attorney’s calendar.

You know it, I know it, so let’s not pretend that your email list is going to top your list of priorities for the week. So let’s just acknowledge it up front and figure out how to move forward anyways.

If you’re like me, you might tend to overestimate what you can accomplish, and that’s doubly true for todo items that aren’t sitting atop your priority list. So, if at this very moment, in your excitement over setting up email marketing for your firm (you’re totally psyched right? Right?!) you think that you could handle a weekly email campaign, let’s adjust that right now. Take your totally logical and reasonable estimate and cut it in half. Make it every two weeks, or make it monthly if your estimate was bi-weekly.

This will help you avoid the trap of committing to an unrealistic goal, missing it, and then bagging on the whole thing when a month has gone by and you missed your deadline.

And now that you’ve given yourself that break. Commit to it. You have no more excuses.

Set a recurring calendar reminder for 5 days prior to your campaign. Spend 30 minutes compiling your content. Don’t worry about being perfect. Just get a bunch of content in there.

Three days prior to the campaign spend another 30 minutes refining that campaign to make sure that the content is actually worth interrupting your audience for.

Forget for a moment that you’re an attorney and that you’re actually interested in the law. Forget that you want more clients. Forget every inclination you have to talk about yourself.

Just imagine your ideal client reading your email and constantly asking the question “What’s in it for me?” and “Why do I care?” If a sentence or bullet point isn’t written to answer those two questions, cut the sentence or rewrite it so that it is.

And finally, one day before your campaign is to go out, spend 30 minutes and perform the following exercise:

Read the following articles that summarize some simple techniques for coming up with headlines that inspire action

10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work
41 Classic Copywriting Headline Templates

Now, set a timer on your phone for ten minutes. Turn off your wifi, and just start listing out subject lines for your campaign. Don’t worry about how good it is, just get it out and move on to the next one. The goal here is quantity.

When the timer goes off, look over your list. From the perspective of your ideal client, which one do you think would inspire them to skip the ‘delete’ button and actually read that email?

There’s your subject line.

For example, here are 10 subject lines I came up to use in an email that would describe this exercise using those formulas. Which one resonates with you?

5 subject line secrets that will get your email read…
7-Minute brainstorms that WILL get you new clients…
Write subject lines like Don Draper, even if you’ve never written a word of copy…
Send emails that get read 50% more than ‘real marketers’ with 10 minutes of work
Write emails your clients WANT to read…
Don Draper couldn’t beat your copy if you follow this one simple exercise…
5 minutes could mean the difference between being spammy and being awesome
How to avoid writing subject lines that make your email invisible…
Are your subject lines wasting the effort you put into your newsletters?
What professional copywriters do when they can’t think of headlines

That was 10 minutes of work. Some of those headlines are clearly better than others. Some are repetitive, and that’s ok. But you’ll notice, the odds that the first subject line (the one you would’ve used had you not done the exercise) is the best one is slim.

This simple exercise will routinely get you two or three times as many opens on your campaign.

And that means two or three times as many opportunities to get in front of your clients, which means two to three times the ROI for all of this effort you’re putting in.

How to come up with (great) content

It can be hard to come up with something to say week in and week out. And it’s even harder when you only have 30 minutes between client meetings to do it.

So rather than setting yourself up for 30 minutes of staring at a blank page, let’s create a simple system for building up that hopper of great content throughout the week, so when it comes time to write, you just need to pull items off your stack.

First, we’ll need a central place to accumulate all of these notes.

Everyone’s style is different, so I’m sure you can come up with a tool that works best for you. But the whichever method you choose, the key is to optimize for being able to take a note as quickly as possible whenever the thought strikes.

I prefer to use Evernote. I just keep one note and add newsletter ideas to the top of it as I come across them. My wife uses Trello, creating a new card for every idea. I’ve seen folks use Google docs. I’ve also tried using a Word document or even writing in a notebook, but those two options make it hard to access from my phone on the go, or lack the ability to quickly copy and paste a URL for a link I want to remember to share.

So, over the course of the day, any time I think of something that might be worth sharing with the email list, I write it quickly at the top of the note. And at the end of the week, I have all sorts of items I can pull from to write the actual campaign.

What sort of things should you be on the lookout for? Here are just a few:

  • Common questions from clients that you could answer in a paragraph or two
  • Events that your clients might find valuable (even if they’re not valuable to you)
    • If you happen to be attending them, mention that and invite readers to come say hello.
  • Legislative changes (but only those that, upon learning about would cause your ideal client to say “Oh man, I’m really glad I know that, I’m going to change X…”)
  • Articles that your potential clients would want to read
  • Anecdotes that can bring a little levity to the newsletter
  • Interactions with readers that could benefit others
  • Positive news about those in your readership. Did someone just win an award? Did they get some positive press?
    • Take note and share it. And then invite others to share their good news when hey have any.

If you get into the habit of taking note of these tidbits, you should find that when you sit down to write your newsletter, you’ll spend more time figuring out what should be left out, than figuring out what to add.

That’s it!

This isn’t rocket-surgery. It just takes patience and practice. If you have any questions, please let me know. And if you take this advice and create your own newsletter, be sure to add bryan@amazelaw.com to your subscriber list. See! You already have an audience!

Now quick, go write your first campaign. I’ll be here, looking forward to reading it.

Psst! Don’t forget to grab the starter template to get your email marketing started without a hitch!

Further Reading:

The “From” Name: Perhaps Your Most Important Email Marketing Decision
The background on why you want your from name to be your law firm and not your name.

10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work

41 Classic Copywriting Headline Templates
When you’re stuck and need to come up with headlines or subject lines in your emails, these articles will get you unstuck right quick. It’s like mad-libs, except instead of laughs, you get tons of clicks 🙂

Google Setup Guide

The Ultimate Small Firm Google Setup Guide

Everyone knows Google is the ruler of the roost when it comes to search. In this guide, we’ll take you through the steps to make sure your firm’s Google setup is a firm foundation for the rest of your marketing efforts.

What a lot of small law firms miss out on is the fact that Google provides a number of free tools to help site owners (that’s you) adhere to best practices that can help Google better understand what your content is about. And when you make Google’s job easier, it can only help your prospects of ranking for important search keywords.

We’re going to walk through the setup of each of these tools to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the free stuff.

Your Google Account

First thing’s first. You need to have a Google account. If you use gmail, you’re probably familiar with all of this, but I would highly recommend setting up a separate Google account specifically for your firm. It’ll make things much easier down the road.

If you use Google Apps for your firm’s email, awesome, you already have a Google account, and you can use that email and password to sign in.

If you don’t use Google Apps, you can still create a Google account using your business email address, just use this form.

Google Analytics

Google analytics is a tool that keeps track of who’s visiting your site and when. It’s a very powerful tool that we’ll get into in more detail at a later time, but for now, let’s just get your site set up and verified.

First, log into google analytics by going to http://www.google.com/analytics. Once there, you’re going to create an account by clicking on the “create an account” link in the top right corner.

Google analytics is structured by accounts and then by property. Accounts act as a grouping of websites (properties). For most firms, you’ll only have one property, but if you have a law blog on a separate domain, like blog.myfirm.com, or myfirmblog.blogger.com, you may want to manage multiple sites.

Let’s start by following Google’s instructions for setting up your firm’s account.

Click on the ‘Admin’ link at the top of the page. From here you should be able to create a new account. Fill it out as follows (let’s assume your firm is called AmazeLaw Firm and your website is amazelawfirm.com):

Account Name: AmazeLaw Firm
Website Name: Main Website
Website URL: http://amazelawfirm.com
Industry Category: “Law and Government”
Reporting Timezone: Select your timezone
Data Sharing Settings: It’s ok to leave the defaults here, but for the paranoid, you can uncheck “Anonymously with Google and others” and “Account specialists”.

When you’re ready, click ‘Get Tracking ID’ and accept Google’s Terms & Conditions.

Congratulations, you’re now staring at a rather techy looking page that contains the code you need to add to your website in order to get tracking up and running.

If you use a content management system like WordPress, Drupal, or AmazeLaw, all you need to do is authenticate with Google Analytics and it will suck the code in for you. For example, on WordPress, if you go to Plugins > Add New and search for “Yoast Google Analytics” you can install a plugin that will allow you do suck in your code. There’s even a nifty video over here that will show you exactly how to set it up.

If you use AmazeLaw, just log in and go to your dashboard, there should be a giant button asking you to authenticate. Clicking that will automatically suck in your tracking code.

Now if you don’t use WordPress or AmazeLaw or if you need a developer to add the code for you, here’s a sample email you can send your developer that will instruct them on how to add it to your site. By the way, this should be an amazingly simple task for any competent developer so don’t let them charge you for more than an hour’s time to do it (it’ll likely take less than 10 minutes depending on how they’ve set up your site.)

Hi <Developer’s Name>,
I would like to add google analytics to my site. The following code needs to be added to the <head> tag on every page on my site.
<Copy and Paste the tracking code here>
Thanks!
<Your Name>

That’s it! You can verify whether the tracking is installed by going to Admin > Choosing your account and property, and then .js Tracking Info > Tracking Code. Next to your Tracking ID, you should see “Waiting for Data” or “Tracking Installed”.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google doesn’t provide much direct control when it comes to how your site appears in search, but what little control it does give you is controlled from webmaster tools.

In order to log in to Webmaster Tools, just visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home. From there, you’ll be able to add your site and verify ownership.

When you log in, if you don’t have any sites set up, you’ll see a welcome video and a simple text field where you can put your domain to add your site. Simply enter your domain, and click ‘Add Site’.

If you followed the steps in the Google Analytics section above your site should already be verified. If not, follow one of the procedures Google outlines in order to verify your ownership of the site. Unfortunately, it may require help from your developer.

Google+ Authorship

Google+ may not be poised to take over Facebook any time soon, but it’s generally accepted that having a Google+ profile set up (if not actively updated) is a best practice for SEO. Google has indicated that going through the process of verifying the authors of content on your site will act as a quality signal in search algorithms. In other words, set up a Google+ account for yourself, and link it to your website.

If your email uses the same domain as your website (it does right!?) then the process is simple. Just log into Google+ using your firm email address and then go to this link and submit your website.

If you don’t have an email address for your domain, something like myfirm@gmail.com or awesomelegalsolutions@hotmail.com, then it requires a bit of effort to get authorship set up, and honestly, your time would be better spent signing up for Google Apps for business and moving your email over there. After all, bill@awesomelegalsolutions.com is a lot more professional than awesomelegalsolutions@hotmail.com.

Google Places

And finally, it’s time to get you on the map. This is absolutely key to making sure your firm is available for Google to list at the top of localized searches. You know, the ones that show a map and a list of 5-10 businesses.

Signing up for Google Places is quick and easy as well. Go to the Google Places signup page and click “Get on Google”.

In the map that appears, search for your business, either using the name or your office address if you have one. If it appears in the search box, click on the business to claim it. If not, just select the “None of these match. Add your business” link at the bottom of the search results to create yours in the system. Now, if you don’t have a Google+ page for your firm, this will go ahead and create the page for you as well.

There are a few fields worth noting when you get to the point that you need to enter your address information. The first is, well, the actual address. Many solo’s don’t actually have a physical office, and even if you do, it’s likely that you want to serve an area larger than the city in which you live. If you don’t have an actual office, enter your home address (you’ll be able to hide the address later). But whether you have an office or not, make sure you check the box that says “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location.”

And finally for the “Category” field, you could put the general “Legal Services” or if you have a specialty try that. Search along the lines of “Family Law Attorney” or “Employment Attorney” to select your specialty.

Once you have filled out that information, it’s time to let Google know where you operate. If you checked the box above, you’ll be given the option to list out cities, or choose a radius around your office. I would suggest a radius, but that’s entirely up to you. If you want your office to also appear on the map, just check the box “I also serve customers at my business address”.

When that’s done, you’ll be prompted to create a Google+ page for the business and sign Google Terms of Service.

You’ll be asked to verify your business by mail, and you can then go ahead and edit your Google+ business page.

Whew!

That’s it! Take a break. Now you can edit your site knowing that you’re all set with Google.

Was that too much? Want help?

This stuff can get super hard to keep track of. That’s one thing we pride ourselves on here, is our ability to stay on top of best practices on the web, and then building it into our system so that you don’t have to worry about it.

If you want to spend more time being a lawyer, and less time tinkering in HTML…

Sign up for a free trial at amazelaw.wpengine.com

 

Photo Credit: Carlos Luna used under CC

8 Shady Tactics Vendors Use To Trap Small Firms (and How To Fight Back!)

When Katie (my wife) started her law firm a few years ago, we were excited. It was going to be an adventure! As she walked out of her big firm job that last day, it seemed like the possibilities were endless.

And then the calls started. And the emails. And the tricks. It was like someone had put an ad on Craigslist saying “Easy mark! Hock your wares with abandon!”

With each step she took to start her firm, filing corporate docs, purchasing a domain name, signing up for phone service, setting up IOLTA accounts, it got worse.

I’m sure you’ve experienced the routine (and if you’re thinking about starting your firm, just wait.)

Phone calls at all hours. Because hey, we wouldn’t want to cold call a potential prospect during their working hours like everyone else, we need to stand out! 7am it is! Putting your kids to bed? Nuh-uh, it’s time to talk document management!

A constant barrage of cold emails with generic pie in the sky offers about this and that. None of any substance, just begging you to get on a phone call so they can see how much budget they can extract from an unsuspecting new business owner.

And the junk mail! Oh the junk mail! Not just “hey you should know about this service” junkmail, but downright fraudulent junkmail. Junkmail saying you’re in violation of some law if you don’t talk to them, or that someone’s going to steal your domain name or your trademark in China. Each looking more official than the last.

It’s exhausting. And we’d had enough. There HAD to be some good actors around. But the more I searched, the more shadiness I came across.

I’d had enough. And it was time to do something about it. So when I started AmazeLaw, I vowed to be honest with my clients, to treat them fairly, to empathize with the fact that they’re not an entity to extract money from, they’re small business owners, just like me, struggling and working their tails off for a better life.

I’ll leave it to my customers and to you to determine if I’ve succeeded, but in an effort to combat the shadiness, here are * tactics vendors are using right now to try and screw over small firms under the guise of being helpful.

Red flags in abusive vendor relationships

These are the tactics that should immediately set off red flags. Now not all vendors who use these tactics are bad by default, but they should act as leading indicators for abusive relationships so proceed with caution.

Being secretive about pricing

What they’re thinking: Their goal with this tactic is to get you to call to figure out whether it’s even in your budget. They don’t trust that you’ll be able to see the value of the product on their own, so they want you to contact a script-reading junior sales rep to convince you that it’s worth shelling out your precious cash, and then pass you off to a closer (account executive.)

Also, it means they don’t have any pricing structure to adhere to. They’re free to tell you any price (often after learning how large your budget is.) So they’ll start high, and work down so you feel like you’re getting a deal, often with steep discounts that magically appear when you tell them you’re all set.

How you can take advantage: This is the first step in some aggressive sales BS. But, if you really think the product works well (maybe you’ve had a colleague recommend it), you have a bit of an advantage if you’re willing to play hardball.

Make frequent price objections, threaten to walk away. Then actually walk away. Hang up the phone and tell them you’re just not sure about the price. I promise you they’ll call back. And there’ll probably be a discount in it for you.

Requiring annual or multi-year contracts

What they’re thinking: We don’t trust that you’ll stick around long-term, so rather than giving you 12 chances per year to consider whether that line in your bank account is worth it, they’ll only give you one option, and they’ll put a customer retention specialist in touch with you to promise big things for the next year.

And of course they’ll probably have a notice clause in the contract requiring more than 30 or 60 days notice of cancellation before it automatically rolls over. So when you contact them to cancel a few weeks before it rolls over, you’re told you’re already locked up for another year and if you want to cancel, you’ll have to pay an exorbitant cancellation fee (if they even let you).

There also appears to be a trend in the marketing services space (SEO, PPC Ads, Content Generation, Lead Generators, Directories) to require a 3 or 6 month commitment (often at $1k+/mo.)

While not as costly as annual contracts, they’re inherently higher risk. As an excuse, the sales rep will tell you that it takes time to see results from a new marketing channel. And that’s true, to a point.

But any person worth working with, any person you trust, will be able to give you an honest assessment along the way and let you know whether it makes sense to keep moving forward. They’re just trying to force the decision rather than letting their service speak for itself.

If they don’t trust that you won’t leave after a month or two, it says something (everything?) about how much they trust their product.

Note – These scenarios are different from annual prepay/billing. Annual prepay (often with a discount) can make a lot of sense for you and for the vendor. It helps them with cashflow and it provides you with a) a discount and b) the ability to play with your tax burden a little bit. If you have a strong year and you’re not sure the next year will be so fruitful, paying for the next-year’s services in December will reduce your tax burden this year (assuming you’re using cash accounting.)

Obviously, I’m not an accountant, so that’s not financial advice. But I would advise setting up a standing meeting with your accountant every fall to go over your accounting and help make decisions like this while you still have time before the end of the year.

Now before you sign up for annual prepay, you should ensure that you’re not locked in. For example, we offer 2 months free for our clients that sign up for annual billing, but if they get six months in, we’ll send them a pro-rated refund.  They’re not locked in.

So be sure to ask what happens if you cancel half-way through your annual contract so you can correctly weigh your options.

How you should handle thisExcept in circumstances where the value is clear and you’ll clearly need it long term, I would run, not walk, away from these terms. Cash is king for a small business so don’t lock yourself up unless you’re absolutely sure it’s worth it. And make sure you ask if they have…

Early cancellation fees

What they’re thinking: This is usually paired with those big annual contracts. It’s nothing more than a way to make you question your decision to cancel and extract a little more cash on your way out the door. It’s extortion, pure and simple.

AmazeLaw is actually a rare business where a customer leaving actually costs us time and money. It takes a lot of time and effort to move a website. And even we don’t have cancellation fees. We’ll lose money. That’s our punishment for not meeting our clients’ needs, and our incentive to do better. Thankfully it doesn’t happen very often.

What you can do: Honestly, not much. You can try to negotiate your contract at the beginning, but that’s about all you can ask for. But before you do that, you should probably question why they need that clause in the first place and if that’s someone you want to work with or trust a part of your business to.

Owning your domain

This is specific to website providers but it’s egregious enough that I need to call it out. Some providers insist that they control the domain name for your website. Claiming that it’s easier if they register it. That they’ll make sure it’s always renewed.

What they’re thinking: If they own your domain name, you can’t go anywhere. In order to move your website, you’ll need a new domain name and you’ll give up all of the SEO you’ve built up. What’s more, you’ll need to update all of your business cards, potentially your email address, etc. It’s just another form of extortion to keep you from canceling.

What you should do: DO NOT DO IT. Register your domain under an account you (and only you) control. Make sure you sign up for auto-renewal. I usually recommend Namecheap or Dynadot (GoDaddy is ok too because they’re ubiquitous, but they have some questionable tactics of their own I recommend my clients avoid.) If they insist, run away.

Controlling your phone number

This is just like controlling your domain name. And with the rise in importance of local search and its reliance on consistent Name-Address-Phone Number (NAP) for rankings, it’s gotten even worse. Having a different phone number on your website than the one you have on your business cards, or in the phone book is a big no no.

What you should do: There should only be one phone number for your business, and it should reside with your telephone service provider.

Acting as the middleman between you and your clients

That phone number control is often used as part of a feature called call-tracking, an attempt to funnel all website leads through a proprietary system. Of course that assumes that your leads want to call you. Some vendors even go so far as to not put an email address on your website, forcing the visitor to either pick up the phone or fill out a generic form that connects to their system and their system only.

In addition to being yet another lock-in tactic so that you don’t lose your contacts, it kills conversions and virtually guarantees that your prospect moves on to the attorney that allows contact via whatever means the prospect is most comfortable with.

What you should demand: You need to own your communication with your clients. Any barrier that’s put between you and your clients is not worth whatever low-volume metrics you might be able to pull out of your marketing vendor.

Promising the moon

This is pretty straightforward. An over-eager salesperson making empty promises to hit their monthly quota. Sometimes it’s subtle, but when you start to think maybe they’re being a little too generous with their predictions here’s a tip…

How can you use this? If you’re wondering if they’re pulling the wool over your eyes, then a surefire way to tell is by using a trap question.

Take the vendor’s pitch to the extreme, ask them if that’s a typical result. For example, for a company building a website or an SEO firm, ask them if this product will get you on the first page of Google. For a lead gen product, ask if you’ll get at least 5 qualified, high-quality leads every month.

Of course, if they say yes, ask for the names of two or three clients that have had those outcomes so that you can speak to them about their experience. And then watch the excuses fly. They’ll say that they don’t disclose client information.

You can even ask for a guarantee. That you can request a refund if those results aren’t met. That’s almost always a no-go on their part, but at this point the deal’s probably over so have some fun and watch them try to justify why they can’t 🙂

If they say no, that those results might be possible but that they aren’t typical, that’s actually a positive sign. Ask them under what circumstances you could expect to see those results. Ask them what the typical results actually are. If they’re honest about the conditions where the solution works and where it doesn’t, they believe in what they’re selling and it might be worth trying as well.

But again, ask for two or three references that would be willing to back that experience up.

Not being willing to provide references

Here’s what they’re thinking: A lot of the legal marketing vendors out there are entirely based on pump’n’dump schemes, where they sell all of the attorneys in a given area on a product, then move on, like locusts. They know after their initial contract term, 90% of the clients that remember to check their billing statements will cancel, but they don’t care. Their job is to get folks signed up as quickly as possible, on the longest terms possible.

In those scenarios, it’s really hard to find a long-term customer that’s willing to speak with prospects. And if there’s only a handful of them and they’re selling at scale, they just can’t afford to send hundreds of reference requests to each attorney that offers.

Here’s the cold hard truth. If a vendor doesn’t have at least a few attorneys literally raving about their experience, then it’s probably a no-go. After all, by the law of large numbers alone, there should be outliers that are having success. Even if they can’t give you a phone number, they should be able to send you case studies of successful clients. And often from there, you can do some basic Googling to find  the subject’s contact information if you need to verify their story.

What about you?

Have you seen these tricks in the wild? How have you dealt with them? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!

Tired of being played?

If you need help with your marketing, but were really hoping to avoid all of those tactics, let’s chat and we’ll help you get off to a great start!

Schedule a Demo Today

Cheap web design on the side of the road is NOT the way to go.

How Much Should A Law Firm Website Cost?

It can be pretty daunting trying to figure out how much to spend on a law firm website these days.  There are companies charging tens of thousands of dollars and promising the moon, and there’s always your cousin’s friend from college who would do it for a case of beer and a bucket of chicken.

Sometimes it helps to just set some expectations.  Your mileage may vary according to your goals, your geographic region etc, but here are some ballpark figures that will give you a good sense for what you should get for your dollar, and help you figure out just how much you can afford to spend.

So let’s kick this off at the bottom.

Less than $500

The old adage goes, you get what you pay for.  This bucket usually contains either family friend discounts, students doing the work, or your run of the mill website builder like GoDaddy or Wix.

If your goal is just to have a site that you can point people to, and don’t intend to do online marketing, blogging, lead collection etc, this might be the way to go.  Be careful here though.  A lot of times the website builders are loss-leaders for the business.  For example, GoDaddy makes the website builder cheap to get you to do your web, email and domain hosting with them, which often ends up being a more expensive and lower quality offering than going out and getting decent options separately.

For example, I use DNSimple for domain and DNS hosting. I can’t recommend them enough. And for email hosting, $50/year for Google Apps is an absolute steal.

$500 – $1500

This is a tough range.  It’s tough because it’s likely that you could find someone to do the work for the price, but it’s going to be very difficult to judge the quality beforehand.  A developer that’s worth their salt will be able to charge A LOT more than this, so here, you’re typically dealing with local developers that might not be around very long. You want someone that will be around 2 or 3 years from now and who can answer an email at the drop of a hat if there’s a problem.  Now, if you’re willing to take a bit of the management tasks on, you could probably find a very talented international developer on oDesk that could do a great job for this price.

$1500 – $5000

This is what I would consider the sweet spot for most solos.  In this range you can get a good developer to do a basic site that’ll cover the bases for most of you.

When I say “cover the bases” I mean:

  • Uses a nice responsive theme (looks great on mobile devices)
  • Uses a Content Management System like WordPress or Drupal. Avoid hard-coded sites as you’ll need to contact your developer any time you need a change.
  • Has a BUILT-IN blog (I saw a recent post that suggested attorneys should have a separately branded blog. That is such terrible advice that I would consider it dangerous.)
  • Uses best-practices like semantic markup to make your site more easily parseable by search engines.
  • Basic setup with Google (Google Analytics, Google Authorship)
  • Can offer limited tech support for the foreseeable future.
  • A classic looking, basic typographic logo if you don’t have one yet.
  • Redirects from your existing site if you have one. Basically, make sure that anyone linking to your existing site ends up on a relevant page on your new site.  Without this, any SEO clout you’ve built up will disappear.
  • And the ability to walk you through how to do basic edits (like writing blog posts) yourself.

What you likely won’t get at this price point:

  • Custom photography
  • Custom graphic design (the theme you use will be the “web designer”)
  • Custom copy
  • Comprehensive branding

$5000+

Once you go over $5k, the sky really is the limit.  You could get a custom graphic designer to do a completely custom design just for you.  You could get a marketing consultant to do your bidding.  Really, at this price range, it’ll be really confusing because it’ll likely be a much larger to-do.  There might be an law firm SEO consultant or an AdWords consultant.  All of these things can be positives, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed and there’s a lot of sharks at that price point that’ll promise you the world and never deliver.  If you’re spending that kind of money, make sure you get references and demand quantifiable proof that the investment was worth it.  If they’re good, it’ll be more than evident.

Whatever you decide make sure the following:

Make sure that your domain name is registered under an account you can access yourself and that it’s registered TO YOU.  As I mentioned, I really like DNSimple for this.  They’re great people and they make managing domains really simple without some of the spammier upsell practices of companies like GoDaddy.  Also, don’t let your developer own this account.  If he’s out of business in 2 years, you’ll have a really hard time getting control of your domain (if you can at all).

Be wary of SEO sharks that mention link-building or keyword density when pitching SEO services.  SEO is almost entirely based on writing good content that answers questions that people want answered.  There is very little left that can “game” the system.  Anyone that tells you they can get to the first page of Google for something like “DUI attorney Nashville, TN” and doesn’t immediately follow it up with a year-long content strategy is selling you a bag of goods.

Make sure you understand the ins and outs of your Content Management System before you sign off on the project.  If you’re not completely comfortable with the process of updating your practice area pages or writing a blog post, you never will, and that’s the quickest way to make your investment depreciate like an abandoned house.

When in doubt, feel free to ask for help. I see all of the shady stuff targeting my wife’s practice and I want to scream, so I’m happy to share unbiased advice.

I hope that clears up some of the confusion in the space.  If you have any questions, feel free to let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them…

 

Photo Credit: Mario Carvajal used under CC

Your Guide to Finding the Best Topics For Your Law Firm Blog

One of the hardest things about law blogging is consistently coming up with topics that resonate with your audience.

Are you struggling to find decent topics for your blog?

Does it feel a bit like reading the tea leaves?

It doesn’t have to. In fact, today I’m going to share with you several ways to find the best topics for your blog, no divination necessary.

Would you like a list of potential topics for your legal blog? Check this out!

Know Your Clients

Understanding who your clients are and what they want most is the first step to finding relevant topics for your law blog. Your blog should serve as a resource of information for your target client. So, the first question to answer is:

Who is your target client?

You may specialize in real estate law, and more specifically landlord tenant law. If you do, come up with housing law topics that these types of clients would be most interested in. These topics may include posts on landlord rights, tenant rights, how to terminate a lease in your state, the eviction process, and/or privacy laws.

It’s tempting to make general and superficial posts that only parrot state law and not much else. However, I recommend that you challenge yourself to give a thorough treatment of each topic that you tackle in your blog. The reason is that your blog will serve as a marketer for your services. If a prospective client comes to your blog via a Google search and finds it useful and authoritative, he or she will view you as someone who:

  • Knows the law
  • Knows the problem the client is facing
  • Knows the solution

You need all of these three components to build trust with your prospective clients. By creating in depth blog posts that appeal to what your specific clients need at the moment, you’re showing them that you know who they are and what they’re going through. That’s the beauty of a blog post done right.

Not sure what type of content your target clients want to know about? Here are a few questions to help you figure it out:

  • What is the most important concern for your clients?
  • What law-related questions do they search on the Internet?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What are the most common questions you get from your clients asked over and over again?

Make a list of the answers to these questions, and you’ll start to see a list of potential blog topics develop. Then, start generating blog post idea around each topic. It may help you to break each blog topic down into a series of questions. Keeping with the landlord tenant example earlier, here’s what the process may look like:

Topic:
Security Deposit

Potential Blog Posts:
Is a security deposit the same as last month’s rent?
How much can a landlord deduct from my security deposit for cleaning?
How can I dispute a security deposit deduction?
When should I expect my security deposit?

Ask Your Clients

If you already have an established audience, don’t miss the opportunity to ask them what type of content they’re most interested in. Periodically poll them to research future blog topics from the exact audience you’re hoping to reach. Use all the channels available to you to discover the learn about the topics your audience wants to learn about.

Let’s discuss where you can survey your clients, and how.

Survey Your Site Visitors

Did you know that you can ask for blog post feedback right on your site? My favorite way to do this is with a tool called SurveyMonkey, although there are plenty of other great options available. I like SurveyMonkey because the first 10 questions and 100 responses are free, and if you need more, they have an affordable monthly pricing plan, too.

With SurveyMonkey, you have the option to embed the survey on your blog, show a quick popup survey, or invite readers to participate in a longer survey.

For the purposes of idea generation, I’d recommend keeping it short. Go with the embed survey or quick popup survey.

Survey Your Email Subscribers

If you have an email list, let’s put them to work. You can send surveys along with your newsletter. Directions vary depending on your email newsletter service provider. However, if you use MailChimp, SurveyMonkey integrates perfectly.

Follow the instructions here to create and send your email subscribers a link to your survey.

Ask Your Followers on Social Media

SurveyMonkey to the rescue again!

In your survey creation dashboard, select the “Collect Responses” tab to determine how you’ll gather answers to your survey. In this case, select “Post on Social Media”. This option will give you a short link that you can post across all of your social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter.

surveymonkey collect responsesImage Courtesy of SurveyMonkey

What Should You Ask?

The next step is deciding what to ask. I suggest you go with a multiple choice. Ask something like, “What type of blog posts would you like to read from us in the future? We’d love to hear your thoughts!” Then, give them a choice list of between three to five blog post topics.

Analyze Which Blog Posts Do Best

Another way you can find out which blog posts resonate best with your audience is to look at the data. There are two ways to do this:

If you already have content on your blog, take a look at your blog’s analytics. Which posts are the most popular?

The second option is to discover which blog posts do well for your competitors. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to find out which posts are the most shared. Search for a keyword phrase related to the topics you feel most qualified to write about. In this example, I’ll use the phrase “landlord tenant law”.

buzzsumo landlord tenantImage Courtesy of BuzzSumo

With BuzzSumo, you can narrow the search field by date, such as past year, week, or within the last 24 hours. You can also find out the latest news surrounding a topic (more on this below).

Other Ways to Source Blog Topics

Let’s discuss other ways to generate topics for your blog.

Let the News Guide You

Is there some interesting case that’s popular in the news right now? Analyze a hot topic case for your blog. You can highlight it as a cautionary tale, add your expert opinion on the facts of the case, or attach a do and don’t guide to help readers who may be in a similar circumstance.

Another idea is to discuss new laws or trends that affect your clients that they may not be aware of. Consider yourself a teacher who simplifies the often complex issues in the law by using stories to illustrate your point.

Create a Regular Series

You can create a regular post series on your blog such as “Ask a Lawyer” or “Your Legal Questions Answered.” Once a month, answer a commonly asked question. Hey, when you think about it– it’s only 12 questions a year, but you can cover a lot of ground.

Another benefit to creating a series around commonly asked questions is now you’ll have a place to direct those questions when they come through your email and social media. You can even link to them on forums, too.

Visit Legal Forums

Another great way to find topics for your blog is to scour legal forums. Look for popular questions that are asked (even if they’ve already been answered). To determine the popularity of a particular question, look at the amount of views it has received. This indicates that a lot of people have a vested interest in the same topic.

expertlaw viewsImage Courtesy of ExpertLaw

You probably know quite a few legal forums already, but these are among the most active:

If you’d like more information on creating an engaging blog, check out this post here: 8 Steps to Creating a Law Firm Blog that People Want to Read.

Remember to download our list of potential topics for your legal blog!

Social Media Sites

Social media has become integral for brands to connect with their customers. It fosters a wider reach than content, email, and traditional advertising given that there are 2.95 billion social media users in the world as of 2019, with North America and East Asia having the highest numbers of users.

What makes social media so unique is that much of it is extremely ephemeral, yet a consistent social media presence will outlast any ad campaign, no matter how successful. If you’ve been thinking about boosting your brand’s online presence by increasing your social media activity, here’s what you need to consider.

Social media has both paid and earned media elements, and buying traffic differs from buying followers.

Social ad spend is currently around $102.2B and on a 7% upward trajectory. After all, with such an enormous reach, spending directly on social media platforms can seem like a more effective use of your marketing budget than traditional advertising or content that is only seen on your own channels. However, social media has both earned and paid media elements to it.

Earned media happens much faster when your company is talked about in a newspaper or magazine. With social media, it can take time to build up a following organically and get the desired traction and results from your social posts. Every brand will face different challenges and advantages when it comes to getting into the groove for regular posts and user engagement, but a universal truth is that you simply cannot buy followers. There are several scammers that promise to increase your follower count, but it’s artificial because they’re all bots with a few “real” accounts thrown in that don’t actually engage with your posts.

However, you can buy traffic which can help boost your following organically. That is essentially what you accomplish by buying ads on any social platform: your ad sets should be tailored to the intended audience most likely to be found on the platform, their interests, and the nature of the platform. It entails a different strategy than engaging with followers you gained organically.

Social media isn’t just Twitter and Facebook.

While Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram are the biggest social media platforms out there and considered the most valuable platforms in which to cultivate a following, they’re also not the only ones. There’s hundreds of social media platforms out there, and some of them just aren’t as ubiquitous as Twitter and Facebook. Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube are the places to be if video content is your strength, Instagram and Pinterest for image-heavy content, while Twitter and Facebook are ideal for informative and entertaining social content that’s primarily text.

The platforms themselves are also not monolithic. It can be in characteristics: what Facebook has in the number of users, Twitter has in engagement. The vein of content that succeeds on Instagram might not always translate to Twitter and vice versa. While some platforms are also well-suited to brands like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, other platforms won’t always adapt well to brand content, such as Tumblr.

Think about which social media sites you should prioritize, and why.

While Instagram may put imagery first and Facebook and Twitter have more emphasis on written content, some social platforms are structured for specific interests or purposes. For instance, NextDoor is geographically based on neighborhoods and developments, which is important for businesses that depend on local foot traffic. LinkedIn is designed for businesses and freelancers to find clients, and job-seekers to further their careers, so it’s important to include it in your social strategy if one of your goals is to improve your reputation as an employer. Discord has numerous applications but is best known for their applications in the video gaming spheres and political activism.

Before deciding on which platforms you should focus on, you should think about both the user base you have and the one that you want. Where would they be most likely to go? Why? What kind of engagement are they seeking, and what type of functionality would they looking for in particular? Twitter and Instagram tend to be very up-to-the-minute while Pinterest and YouTube provide tools for users to save content they plan to reference again later through boards and playlists. Discord servers provide chat functions while Facebook has public and private groups that are separate from feeds.

It can be hard to determine the “sweet spot” for how many platforms you should focus on, because every brand’s needs are different. You don’t want to spread too thin but also don’t want to focus all of your social capital in one place.

Real-time engagement is crucial for success with social media.

There are many services, such as Buffer and Hootsuite, that enable you to “set it and forget it” by scheduling posts in advance. While this is helpful for marketing campaigns and maintaining a steady online presence, it ultimately doesn’t cultivate a stable following.

Time and resources need to be put into growing and maintaining followings across social media platforms. The word “social” is in the phrase, right? Talk to people! Have your social media manager engage with people who reply to posts and make comments or ask questions, or do the same with accounts that the brand follows. That real-time engagement is what separates social media from other types of online marketing and contact: when it comes to interactions with your different channels, customers and prospects are more apt to have a specific purpose like troubleshooting a product. Social media is a way to shape your brand voice while responding to users, and provide different ways for them to interact.

For better or worse, social media is a public forum.

Social media has been a great equalizer in ways that traditional media has not: marginalized people can form huge audiences, and brands can utilize social engagement no matter the size of their ad budget. But it’s also a public platform. Some users will use it like a customer service channel while others will just like and repost your content. How your team responds to an angry customer on social media can serve as an exemplar of how you solve problems, or make the problem worse, now that it’s public. Social media is a reflection of your brand, and this goes for both the content that is posted and shared as well as how you engage with people.

Brands also need to exercise caution when jumping on memes, trends, and hashtags, because this can have disastrous outcomes.

Social media can be fun and lucrative, but brands still must account for the various nuances of social media engagement when forming and and executing a social media marketing strategy.