If you’re fresh out of law school, you might consider starting your own law firm. In order to succeed, having the ability to find new clients will become the foundation of your success.
One of the first things you can do to spread the word of your career is by simply talking about it. Whenever you meet new people, let them know you’re a lawyer.
What you shouldn’t be doing is giving away free advice but instead discuss what it is your law firm can do and how they can get in touch with you.
If you want a few more ideas on how an attorney can get clients, here’s a list of ideas to help you grow your firm.
Friends and Family
Your friends and family will be one of the best referrals to help you find new clients as an attorney.
Since they know you best, you’ll become the first person they’ll mention if one of their friends or someone they know needs a lawyer.
If you’re opening a new firm, be sure to send an announcement via letter or e-mail to let everyone know.
Join the Bar Association in Your Community
If you have absolutely no connections, the first thing you should do is join any bar associations of committees in your community. Making connections and building relationships with other attorneys will give others a chance to get to know you and what you do.
Eventually, this can lead to mutual exchanges of clients back and forth. If one of your new connections has a client they can’t help (i.e. your connection is a divorce lawyer looking for legal advice for a car accident) they may refer that client to you.
In exchange, when you get clients at your law firm seeking services you don’t provide, you can refer them to someone in your list of connections.
Develop Your Online Presence
Social media and online browsers are great places to start finding clients as an attorney.
Get started with a website. Having a website allows you to showcase your previous cases, give information about your law firm, and most importantly, let’s visitors know how you can help.
Once thing to consider when setting up a website to find new clients is your domain name. The domain name you choose for your law firm’s online identity should stand out and briefly highlight your area of expertise. Make sure you choose the right domain name for your law firm before going live.
With your newly made law firm website, you can begin to share your knowledge on a blog. Blogging allows you to share content about your law firm in a way that connects with prospective clients dealing with legal problems.
Articles like, “What to do if you want a divorce” or “Steps to take after a car accident” provide information people may be searching. Of course, within articles like those will include “contact a lawyer to start a consultation.” If you’re content marketing is done well, you can use blogs to attract visitors to your website, get them to contact your firm, and potentially increase the number of clients you get.
With a blog for your law firm’s website you can begin sharing content on places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn. Sharing on these platforms allow you to make direct connections with those who may need your legal services.
As your social media channels grow in size, you can occasionally share promotional posts such as “Get a free consultation” or “You pay if we win!”
Posting frequently on social media is how you’ll stand out online. While this may seem like an added amount of work, your posts have the ability to get new clients organically. An alternative to this would be advertising.
Creating a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign with Google will put your law firm’s website at the top of the search engines. Instead of worrying whether your website is ranking high in the search engines organically, you can use a PPC campaign to put you at the top.
Google AdWords uses keywords to match your ads with someone searching for it. For example, if someone was searching for, “attorneys in New York,” having an ad using that phrase will increase the likelihood of it being clicked. However, depending on where you live and what area of practice you are in, Google AdWords can be very expensive.
Facebook Ads is another way for an attorney to get new clients. You can modify your ads to target specific groups of people and create a distinct purpose. Facebook ads can be used to grow your social media page or directed toward a contact page or get in touch with your firm.
You can also create ads for LinkedIn and Instagram depending on your practice and how detailed you know your prospective client types.
When using online advertising to push clients to your website, be sure to send traffic to pages that convert. You could end up paying a lot of money if you’re web pages are not created to turn a curious visitor into your next client.
Attorney Lead Generation Services
If you’re not good with technology, social media, or websites, you can use an attorney lead generation service to find new clients.
Total Attorneys and AttorneyBoost are services which allows you access to a pool of people looking for a lawyer. Total Attorney handles your marketing and sends traffic to your website.
Online attorney solutions vary in quality of clients and conversions on your website. Use these with caution.
As an attorney, getting clients is the key to a successful legal practice. How you find clients will require a combination of the above ideas in addition to the methods you discover and learn.
Getting on the first page of any search engine (like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) provides your law firm with significant benefits. You can reduce the costs of ad spending by creating an SEO focused lawyer website that allows search engines to provide you with organic traffic.
This article reveals some SEO secrets specifically for lawyers.
Onsite SEO for Lawyers
If you’re don’t understand computer coding, at the very minimum you should try to grasp the concept of onsite SEO.
In order for search engines to do their job and showcase your website in their search results, you have to give them detailed information on your website.
In your articles and web pages, there are elements known as title tags, headers, meta descriptions, and URLs. Having a solid foundation in onsite SEO will deliver successful results in the other parts of SEO found here.
When it comes to your titles to articles, best practice suggests to keep them up to 70 words in length. Anything longer and they won’t b displayed in the search results.
For the meta description, use between 150 to 160 words.
Another important feature of SEO is including a keyword. This keyword is used as a primary identifier of the page or article. Use this keyword in the title, meta description, and URL.
Your article or page should also include the keyword in a readable and non-intrusive manner. Using a keyword too often, known as keyword stuffing, can actually have a negative effect on your site’s SEO.
For lawyers, keeping your keywords and content relevant to your readers while including the appropriate title tags and meta-descriptions will be of benefit to your search engine rankings.
If you intend to outsource SEO to an expert, something you may want to be aware of is Schema Markup for Attorneys. Although this may not have a significant impact from an SEO standpoint, the added coding involved provides more informative results for people using a search engine.
Schema Markup allows you to add more details to your meta-descriptions which can be displayed in the search engines. From business hours to special events, these details will be coded in a way that engines can recognize and input in the results.
These are just a few suggestions. Backlink building requires strategy and careful planning. If you use tactics such as hacking other’s websites to inject backlinks, hiding text on your page which cannot be read by visitors but found by search engines you may be negatively impacted by search engines.
Search engines use sophisticated ways to scan the internet and gather information about your website. It knows who has links to your website and where your website is linking out.
NoFollow vs. DoFollow Links
One thing you should keep in mind is that there are different kinds of links: follow vs. no follow.
Nofollow links are those that do not give you any boost in the search engines. They simply send traffic from that website to your website. That’s it.
DoFollow links are those that give you a boost in the search engines. These links are telling search engines to rank the site.
This reason this exists is to prevent spamming, however from a lawyer’s SEO point of view, you may want to know what kind of backlink you are building and whether that will provide a benefit to your search engines results.
Being a solo practitioner comes with added obstacles and challenges that established law firms may not experience. From office administration to employee management to client intake, there are many tasks that must be performed in order for a legal service to succeed.
This article will focus on the importance of lawyer websites and why having one would benefit a solo lawyer.
Here’s a quick overview of everything this solo lawyer’s guide will cover:
Getting a website
Finding web design ideas
Starting a blog
Promoting the website
Improving the website’s performance
Reasons Solo Lawyers Need A Website
Solo lawyers have the ability to choose their own hours, select who they work with, and decide which cases they want to work on. While this may sound appealing at first, the additional work required to run a law firm by yourself can take a considerable amount of extra time.
To reduce some of the inevitable work, solo lawyers can use a website to delegate many of their regular office tasks.
Here are a few benefits solo lawyers can get with their website:
Advertise Legal Services.
Find New Clients
Establish a Brand / Reputation.
Share Professional Legal Knowledge
There are some DIY website builders or if you don’t have the time to build a website yourself, you can hire a professional developer.
Website Design for Solo Lawyers
Although a website should provide useful information, the design and functionality can affect whether a visitor will use your legal services or search somewhere else.
Most visitors coming to any website will be searching for the information they need right away. If your solo lawyer website takes too long to load, has an unattractive design, or is confusing to navigate, expect visitors to leave before ever inquiring about your practice.
Designing a website with your prospective clients in mind will have greater benefits in the long term. Here are a few tips to guide you toward a good website for your solo service:
Choose A Good Design. The aesthetics of your solo lawyer website is important. Consider the look and feel of your website. Ask yourself, does it showcase your professionalism? Expertise?
Don’t Confuse Visitors. When visitors come to your website, keep the message clear and make your pages easy to navigate. Nothing is more frustrating to someone online than landing on a website and not knowing what to do or where to go.
Offer Quality Content. While it may be useful to have a website featuring your office hours and contact information, you can improve your website’s performance by adding a blog and providing helpful information.
Have A CTA. You need a Call To Action on your website. This could be an onscreen pop-up requesting an email or your contact number in large font that offers the visitor a free consultation if the contact you today.
When you discuss your website with a web designer, remember to focus on the website’s function while paying attention to the overall aesthetic and design. To get more ideas for you website design, check out 2017’s best lawyer websites or 2018’s best law firm websites.
Blogging About Law
Solo lawyers with a blog on their website can improve their reach for prospective clients. Blogs are a great way to share informal information, showcase your expertise in your area of law, and build an online reputation.
Blogs allow solo lawyers with competitive strategy for marketing their legal services. For example, the information and expertise about the law may be unique to you. Sharing some tips, such as what to do after getting in a car accident, can help you stand out against other law firms in your area.
To create a successful lawyer blog, you’ll want to consider the keywords people are using in search engines. For example, if you’re a solo lawyer practicing divorce law in California, you’ll want to write an article with similar words inside. Keep reading to learn how keywords in your website can improve its performance.
Promoting Your Legal Services
In order for a solo lawyer website to serve its purpose, finding new clients, it is going to need visitors. Paid promotions can be an effective method toward promoting your legal services and finding your next client.
Google uses competitive keywords to provide ads on the first page of their results to people making searches related your selected words. Facebook offers this same feature, however, it has an even more powerful tool for targeting the perfect audience.
Depending on your budget and goals, Google PPC and Facebook Ads can have different results. For more information about which one you should use to promote your website, go to Google PPC for Lawyers or Facebook Ads for Lawyers.
Improving Your Website’s Performance
For alternatives to paid promotions, you can make a few modifications to your website to improve the performance. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a method of making your website better recognized by search engines which presents your website to more people.
As mentioned before, having a blog is one way to improve your SEO. Blogs allow you to add various keyword rich pages to your website which can improve the likelihood of your website being discovered.
Other methods of improving your solo lawyer website’s SEO includes:
You might think the purpose of your lawyer website is to provide information about your law firm’s legal services or a place where people can request a consultation. While these may be the primary objectives, there are a few things you must do before the phones start ringing.
From a digital marketing point of view, lead generation is a popular term you should understand. When you’re looking for potential clients for your firm, driving the right traffic to your website is the first step then turning those visitors into clients is the next.
If you’ve been wondering how to get more leads at your law firm, perhaps this will help you out.
Traffic refers to the number of visitors to your website which can either be real people or bots. You can see this if your website connected to a tool like Google Analytics. Once installed, you’ll be able to track both web visitors and the number of page visits.
Lead Generation is the process of curating or collecting prospective client’s contact information and taking them as clients.
Landing/Squeeze Page can be used to send web traffic to a specific web page to offer valuable content in exchange for their contact information. Alternatively, you can offer a special promotion (i.e. free consultation) which can only be found on this page.
Sales Funnel is a series of steps that takes leads through the process of becoming a new client at your firm. From a lawyer’s perspective, you use various strategies to market and bring in new clients (i.e. drip marketing).
Conversion Optimization is a process of increasing the percentage of visitors to your website and converting them into a new client.
Perhaps you can start to see that there are various angles you can take when it comes to marketing your law firm’s website. The essentials include web traffic to generate leads and a landing page to collect them. As well, you’ll have to perform ongoing site analysis to find new ways to turn more visitors into clients at your firm (maybe changing some of the colors on your website will work).
This will likely be an ongoing process for your online marketing strategy. In the meantime, let’s explore how you can improve you lead generation at your law firm.
More Leads. More Clients.
When you’re considering a lead generation strategy for your law firm, you want to ask yourself these kinds of questions:
By addressing these questions, you can start to develop your own methods to finding clients that you prefer to work with. Remember, this is your business which means you ultimately decide which types of clients you choose to work with or not.
What Kind of Clients Do You Want?
Let’s start here. Do you even know what kind of clients you prefer working with?
You probably don’t enjoy taking on clients that add more stress and more work than is needed. Perhaps if you’re in a desperate situation, you may accept these clients because you need the cash. But, you know if you continue doing so, you’re going to burn out.
Instead, take a moment to determine who you enjoy working with and what specific cases you handle best.
If you’re depending on the internet to find almost all of your clients, you have to be prepared that people are going to be “shopping around” for the lowest rates. Nonetheless, that’s not to say you can’t find quality clients online, it’ll just take a bit of effort and testing to find.
Now, before you keep reading, ask yourself this: was there ever a client you would rather not work with?
Where Will You Find Your Clients?
Your prospective clients are likely a few clicks away from stepping into your office to get their legal struggles solved.
You should be aware that search engines receive a lot of queries from people looking for solutions to their legal problems. Some common search entries may be:
[Lawyer Type] + [Location]
[Lawyer Type] + Fees
Cheap/Affordable Lawyers + [Location]
Often, you can design your website in a way to attract these searcher to your website. This is the process of SEO and you can find more information about that kind of strategy for your law firm here.
Knowing where your clients are spending much of their time online can be difficult if you’re not familiar with the web. However, social media (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn), are great places to start targeting specific groups of people who may be in need of your legal expertise.
For the solo lawyer doing all the marketing yourself, you may want to consider these marketing ideas coming next (these ideas also apply to lawyers and law firms of any size).
How Will You Attract Those Clients?
Are you familiar with the term bounce rate? It wasn’t defined above however it refers to the amount of people who visit your website then leave right away.
This happens because the content or information on your website and landing pages aren’t fulfilling the need that people were looking for.
In order to attract more clients to your firm, you’ll have to test a few different strategies to see what works and discard what doesn’t work from your marketing methods. Here’s a few strategies you can consider to start generating more leads:
Strategy #1: Compelling Landing Pages
If you’re running a PPC campaign, you’ll want to make sure your marketing dollars are getting you the biggest return possible.
The best way to ensure you don’t waste all your money is making sure the keywords you use in your ads is congruent with the message on your landing page.
If you think of your website in terms of a sales funnel, consider offering a free consultation. As you run your ads, target the immediate needs of people thinking about divorce, those recently in a car accident, or a new business in need of copyright protection.
You should understand the fundamentals of keyword research to know which words people are using to serve better ads. As well, you should create ads that not only look good but remain consistent to the overall message.
Then, when people start are arriving to your landing page, use a strong and compelling message that gets them to sign up to an email list, send a message to your firm, or to call you right away.
Strategy #2: Helpful Videos
Are you Camera Shy? Hopefully, not.
Offering a helpful video, especially with your expertise in your area of practice, can allow you to make stronger connections and build better trust online.
Let’s face it, a few words on a screen may not be the icing on the cake when it comes to choosing a person who’s going to help a dire situation or prevent someone from going to jail.
Instead, videos allow you to reveal your personality and send a direct message to those considering a lawyer in their community. Take a look at this lawyer who takes a camera to his office and capturing his entire day:
Strategy #3: Offer Free Information
You’ll see this strategy used a lot of online services. They create a free piece of valuable content, host it on their website, then give it away for free in exchange for someone’s contact information. As a lawyer, you know there’s all kind of questions people have about their legal situations. For example:
Those going through divorce want to know what rights they have, the risks involved, and the possible outcomes to their situation if they and their spouse can’t come to an agreement.
In the business world, copyright infringement can ruin a business. People want to know how they can protect their creative intelligence and what kind of legal action they can take if their ideas are stolen.
Some people experiencing a traumatic event may not know what actions to take in their situation.
You can then follow the same idea from above where you use the emails collected to send more content, offers, and information about your legal services.
Quick Warning About Lead Generation
If you ever consider hiring someone to help with your lead generation, there are a few things you should consider before you do. These services may offer pay-per-lead or pay-per-click vendors. However, you have to watch out because you can get a lot of leads (i.e. emails, phone numbers, etc.) but they may not be interested in your business.
In case you want to go ahead and use these services, consider these lawyer specific pay-per-lead services:
Please do your own due diligence before using any of these services. We do not endorse nor receive payment from these services. These are just a few of the available PPC and PPL services you can use for your firm. Results will very and should always be measured for cost effectiveness.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Chris Small of The Art of Lawyering Podcast about legal websites, and thought I’d share a few points from the podcast. If you’d like to check out the podcast (and the deal we’re offering its listeners), you can find it at theartoflawyering.com/021.
So I set out to build AmazeLaw to offer a do-it-yourself marketing solution for attorneys that focused on simple, sustainable marketing tactics that busy solos can manage themselves.
While doing research for the business and in helping our clients build or re-build their sites, I’ve come across a lot of common errors that solos make in their digital marketing, so I thought it would be fun to share some of those mistakes and how to fix them. So I present…
The 5 Most Common Attorney Website Mistakes…and How to Fix Them
Not updating frequently enough.
If you haven’t made added/updated content on your site in the last month at an absolute minimum, your site will get stale. Your audience will not understand how busy you are. They will think you don’t care. So how do you keep a blog updated? First, your blog should be on your website. Don’t buy into the malarkey that it should be separate. Second, here are few easy ways to come up with content for your blog. Write down the ten questions you get most often. Write down 10 common assumptions your clients have that are wrong. Now, write one or two posts per week explaining those in their language.
Writing for attorneys, not people.
I think I can say this, because my wife has admitted it to me. Solos often have this insecurity about competing with the big guys, a subconscious need to show the big law attorneys that they’re serious attorneys. Resist that urge. You’re not writing for lawyers, you’re writing for clients.
Repeat after me. Clients don’t care about case law. Clients don’t care about case law. Clients don’t care about case law. Don’t write about case law.
Sure it’s the stuff you can geek out on, but clients care about a solution to their problem. They don’t care about the particulars. They pay you to know the case law and to recommend a solution in the context of their business or their situation, not in the context of a courtroom argument.
One key exception: a new case or new legislation somehow changes or contradicts a common assumption your clients have that impacts their day-to-day decisions. You can mention it, but when editing, err on the side of “they don’t care, just tell me what I need to do differently with this new information.”
Not having a clear “next-step.”
Once you’ve explained something in their language, how do you get them to take action? Each piece of content should end with a call to action. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a simple request written in italics at the end of your post is just fine. As long as it’s clear what the next step is.
After all, they’re interested enough to read your entire post. They’re feel ingratiated because you gave away your expertise. Capitalize on that using reciprocity as a motivation to (1) ask for a consult request; (2) ask them to join an email list; or (3) ask them to comment.
Finally, your homepage needs an email address and a phone number. Place it in the footer for sure, but consider placing it in prominent places in your copy. Finally, make sure to hyperlink your phone number for mobile devices and never embed your contact information in an image (because Google will never find it).
Speaking of mobile…
Not having a responsive website, or not having a mobile site configured properly.
This is 2015, you need to have a website that not only “works” on a mobile device, but is optimized for it. Why? Anywhere from 40%-55% of search traffic is on a mobile device. Google started cracking down on April 21st, meaning that if your site isn’t mobile optimized, it will be virtually impossible to find it from a mobile device. If you want to see if your site is mobile-friendly, you can check out at https://amazelaw.wpengine.com/googletest. If you find out that your website isn’t mobile friendly, it’s time to upgrade to a mobile responsive site. For more information about Google’s changes, why they’re happening and what you can do, check out our Mobilegeddon overview for attorneys.
Not having up-to-date and consistent local search listings.
Your #2 priority is making sure you have a consistent web listing (with no duplicates) for your firm across the various local search aggregators. Rather than managing this yourself each time something changes in your business, use Moz Local. You enter your information once and they publish it and sync it across all of the major local search aggregators. A steal at $84/yr.
Are you making any of these mistakes?
You’re not alone. These are super common and we can help you avoid each and every one. Want to see how we can take your website from blah to blazing?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Does this person know who I am personally?
Does this person fit my audience archetype?
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:
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.
In Column A, put the email address. In Column B, put the person’s first name.
Rinse and repeat step 2 for every person that fits.
Now that we have a list, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Selecting which file to import your subscribers from.
If it works, it should look like this:
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.
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”.
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:
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.
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.
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|*.
Creating a link that will help your readers forward your campaign to a colleague.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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
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
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.
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 email@example.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.
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 🙂
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!”
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.
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 this: Except 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 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.
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.
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!