By: Michael Maggiano
We are “selling” ourselves every moment. The question presented is what and who are we selling. Are we only merchants in a market place? If that is all we are, then we fall far short of our aspirations of professionalism, and, we serve far less of the public than we would and could by traveling a higher road. My father, who was a much loved home town doctor, taught me that a true leader leads by service to the community and his service sets an example that will speak greater than any words.
My dad also told me that we do not have a second chance to make a good first impression. From when we leave home in the morning to when we get home at night, we are communicating who we are every moment. It is just our collective tribal nature. We can not not communicate. The question is, are we really aware of the messages we are sending out and do those messages serve ourselves and the public interest.
One other point Dr. Joe, as he was called, taught me is that everyone matters – from the folks at the coffee shop to the fellow at the local gas station pump right up to our mayor. Every human contact matters. Accept them all on equal footing and your reach will be beyond what you could have ever imagined. Friends told me that my father even held court at the local gym where he would lecture to one and all on clean living and regular exercise. He was always on and the free advice poured like a fountain. This was long before the internet and professional advertising. He was just a natural.
The internet has now provided extensions of our selves through websites and social media. How we present ourselves has now extended out to the entire Universe.
Have you listened to yourself lately? Have you recorded yourself? Have you watched yourself on camera?
It is difficult to do. We must take stock and place ourselves in critical analysis. Are we delivering a message by our manner and method of communication via appearance, body language, conduct, spoken and written words that we are here to serve the public through our profession. By are conduct we must answer the questions every potential client wants to know, “Does he care?” “Can I trust her to answer my questions and solve my problems?” Those are the two essential questions every potential client wants to know – Do you really care and can you get the job done to the max.
What does the public shopping for legal services want to hear and who are they waiting to hear it from?
They want to know, “What’s in it for me?” Highly regarded litigation strategist, Rodney Jew, of Napa, California, taught me that we live in a demand-driven world and that we must tune into the public’s favorite radio station, WIIFM (What’s in it for me.) Right from when a potential client is seated in your office or when they find you on the internet, they will demand to know the answers to these four questions:
- Who the heck are you?
- What the heck should I be listening to?
- What’s in it for me if I listen to you and hire you?
- What’s in it for you if I listen to you and hire you?
Until we answer these four questions, the potential client won’t focus on what we have to offer. The Public is looking to be taken to a place of acceptance and understanding of their burden; to a place allowing a resolution of the pain and conflict they are experiencing. Who will be their guide? Why should it be you?
The purpose of this article is to discuss how the public makes up their minds about us and what we can do to show them that we are the ones who can answer their needs, give them comfort and achieve a result that is meaningful to them.
Develop strategies that will make people find you and listen to you once they have. That means you will have had to earn their trust. There are many preconceived mindsets that form barriers that you must overcome as a “trial lawyer” before the public (your future clients) receives you as a messenger of truth. If you think that public is going to believe something because a lawyer said it, you may consider another profession.
But, if you have earned their trust and thus have become a Truth Speaker and Guide, they will listen. All groups look for a leader to guide them to a right decision, a decision that satisfies not their sense of need but their sense of self-preservation, which forms the basis of what they perceive as justice.
They are suspicious about the ads and the big talk. They are particularly sensitive to attempts to manipulate or woo them. So they look to what makes sense. Who is talking within their “Norm.” Like most of us, people consciously or unconsciously pick based on what is familiar to them and who or what message makes them comfortable. And the public tends to do it early. They will go with who is talking about a story that makes sense to them based on their life experience. What is “right.” What is “normal.”
Before we get to the psychology let’s think about who we look to as a Truth Speaker because before you ever talk they are sizing you up. Can that lawyer be trusted is what is on their mind. Does that lawyer really care? They have a legal problem and need a guide to get them through this mess and protect them and bring resolution as soon as possible in a way that is satisfactory to them.
The Key to becoming their Law Guide is to be seen as a Truth Speaker:
They have heard the stories about lawyers. They read the joke books such as “Skid Marks.” They laughed as the lawyer was eaten alive in Jurassic Park. But now they need a lawyer. They are guarded with a capital G. They will not be deceived or at the least not mislead by a lawyer. So what is your message. Is it all about the ego I or are the communications coming forth, “You” based; i.e “We want to help you”; “Here is how we can help you.”
Have you ever been tested for Trustworthiness? Where do you think you come out on the scale? The public has its radar detectors up for who can be trusted or from their view, who will tell the bigger lie. From your website to your office environment, to your hand shake and smile, you must work on bonds of trustworthiness.
By your conduct, your position in the legal community and the community generally they are sizing you up and comparing you to the competition.
What does your website say about you. What does your front office and receptionist say about you?
What is your public history? Today you simply cannot hide from who you are. From Yelp to AVVO to LinkedIn to the more traditional Martindale Hubble, lawyer rating sites are growing each year and for better or worse, we are being rated. There is a public score card on each of us.
What are you doing through your professional and community activities and endeavors to let the world know by your deeds that you are one of the good guys? What is the message from your website? Are you offering important consumer oriented information for the protection of the public or do you just talk of how much money you have brought in for clients.
What is there to learn about you – that you want to and do make a difference? You are not just part of a marketing herd. You are here to offer helpful and necessary information. Are you here to improve lives by improving the practice of the law. Are you a Truth Speaker?
Many trial consultants today say that in this world of ever constant internet web searching we must add the law firm website to the list of what the public looks to in evaluating lawyer trustworthiness. Are we hawking for cases on our websites or is it a source of consumer advice and helpful information regarding your rights and our legal system?
- As a Plaintiff Lawyer are you giving helpful public safety information and a link to many informative sources on consumer and public needs both in access to the law that helps and access to information that will provide safety and protection for the visitor to your site.
- As a transactional lawyer, do you provide helpful tips to business and community.
- As a Family Law practitioner, Estate Attorney or Elder Law Advocate do you provide important current information that answers immediate questions frequently asked by the public.
In a nutshell what is your website offering to help ease the burden of the public who have a legal problem and want to unload it and fix it as soon as possible. They have questions. Does your website have answers? In other words, the public wants to know are you really about what you say or are you just there to grab their case or business and get a fee.
So what does a Trusted Guide look, act and sound like?
So what does a Trusted Guide look, act and sound like? More appropriately in this internet age of communication what does your internet presence say about you? Is the message about “I” and “We” or does the site speak to the visitor in terms of “You” and “your needs?” When that first contact is made with a live voice is it reassuring, helpful or do you go to HOLD and MUZAK. Once in the lawyer’s office how are you greeted, like a welcomed guest or persona non grata looked at with question and circumspect. Does the lawyer disregard the client for a telephone call during the meeting? Is his office and he disheveled, looking like he slept in his suit and office or is she overdressed adorned in flashy clothes and expensive jewelry.
The quintessential Truth Speaker brings forth the wholesome image of Atticus Finch, that solid soul pure and good. Much like the oath of the First Class Scout: I am the First Class. I was a Tenderfoot and laid my course by the stars of truth and knowledge, and girded myself with the righteousness of justice and freedom. I added a smile that I might be a friend to all and bound myself together with the knot of duty to others.
Overly sentimental and syrupy? Ask the Soccer Moms. Everyone talks about wanting a bulldog in the courtroom at the negotiating table and such, but when it comes down to it, who do they trust? Who will they rise for?
“Miss Jean Louise. Miss Jean Louise, stand up, your father’s passin.”
Why did the Gallery all wait and stand as Atticus passed after losing a case to the prejudice of a 1930’s southern white jury trying a black man for rape? It was his subtle bravery guided by his conscience. The way he carried himself, tried a case against all odds, made his choices based on right not might, that is what makes Atticus Finch memorable as a lawyer and all the more real, all the more potent. He was also the model father. Who he was in his home and in his Church was who he was in the Courtroom. His legal prowess was not displayed in great showy acts but in quiet, consistent strength, in supreme self-possession. Atticus understood that a man’s integrity was his most important quality-the foundation upon which his honor and the trust of others was built.
Stripped of integrity, a lawyer becomes weak and impotent, no longer a force for good in his family or community and certainly not the courtroom. To me as I re-read “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” the power of Atticus Finch does not leap off the page; instead, it burrows its way inside of the reader, causing her to say, “Now that is the kind of lawyer we must be.” What is the model you have made of yourself? Is it purely an economic based model or is it one that the Gallery would rise for as you walk out of the courtroom at the conclusion of the trial. Before we think about how we go out and get clients let’s first take stock of ourselves.
There are three important means of getting clients. To this day the best source is satisfied clients and a community that knows and trust you. Next and not necessarily in this order is internet marketing and good old fashion networking. TV for most is too expensive and yellow pages are history.
If I can give one thought from learning the hard way on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is take great pain to put together a team you can work regularly with as the rules of internet marketing change almost like the weather. Make sure potential customers can find you on the search engines. When intelligently done it adds to your site, typically at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. Without high search engine rankings, we will only get visitors that find our web address through word of mouth, regular advertising, or other limited means.
We can go on and on for a while on SEO but let me strongly urge you to simply go on the internet and bring up THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO SEO at moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo.
To get to understand the basics read this ten-chapter internet tutorial on SEO then the hard part comes. – finding an outfit you are comfortable working with that will pay attention to your website.
Lead Nurturing: Continuously Communicate.
You never know when someone will recognize they need your legal services. Lead nurturing is the process of taking time to identify your prospects’ needs and interests and sending them educational information and useful content so that when they are ready to make a decision they will come to you versus one of your competitors. Marketers tell us that first time visitors to a website are not ready to buy. However up to 70% of those visitors are likely to become clients sometime in the future.
Potential Clients are self – educating online, searching the internet for legal services and consulting with others on social media. This change means that lawyers must pay more attention to nurturing leads than ever before.
Simply putting out to the world how great you are is not it. Putting out what others say about you is of course appropriate and very helpful – Tributes, Awards, ratings etc. But all consumers of legal services have one thought in mind – I have a problem. I need it solved. Where may I find information that will help me solve the problem? Who will help me solve my legal problem?
Effective marketing or lead nurturing requires content on your website that let’s your audience know that you have the knowledge and ability to resolve their problem.
Create information pieces that your target audience needs. Segment the topics in a legal category. For example, if it is the field of Workers Compensation, create a free Workers Compensation E-book such as “The Injured Worker’s Legal Tool Kit: Your Rights and Entitlements.”
Or segmented articles/ e-pamphlets such as, “How to make claim to what you are entitled to.” “Your Legal Rights to Medical Care.” “Your Legal Rights to Temporary Disability Income.” “Your Rights to a Social Security Disability Award and Benefits.” By segmenting the topics and benefits you target your messaging and thus more widely get your message out to injured workers and their family members in need of those benefits and therefore your services.
Credibility is greatly established when the potential client finds you through an online search for legal information on a current problem.
Further I believe that by giving on line information the prospective client needs, the greater the confidence the prospect will have in you when he or she needs such services or if the time is now, the greater the likelihood that the prospect will be more inclined to secure your services over that of others marketing the same legal services because you have demonstrated your expertise by providing helpful information to the public.
Every Consumer of Legal Services tunes into WIIFM radio. Their antennas by definition are directed toward What’s In It For Me radio. Through your E Book describing what is in it for them, you demonstrate that you have the ability to get them what they need and want.
Simply putting out to the world how great we are is not it. Putting out what others say about us is of course appropriate and very helpful – Tributes, Awards, ratings etc.
But all consumers of legal services have one thought in mind – I have a problem. I need it solved. Where may I find information that will help me solve that problem. Their logical or emotional thought is attached to that helpful information that will tell me what I need to know is indeed the person who will help me solve my problem. Who will help me solve my legal problem is whom I need to call.
Effective marketing or lead nurturing requires content on our website that let’s our legal audience know that we have the specialized knowledge, skill and ability to resolve their problem.
By creating information pieces that our target audience needs is the magnet to get them to our site. If it is Workers Comp. Create a free workers comp E-book. If you are in an accident put out a book entitled, “Understanding Your Rights and Benefits Under Your Auto Insurance Policy.”
- How do I get my medical bills paid?
- How do I get income while disabled?
- My rights to car repairs.
- What if the other driver is not insured or has limited coverage.
- What are my rights.
Content Marketing is essential for Prospects to find us during an online search for information and lawyers. Further I believe that by giving online information the prospect needs, the greater the confidence the prospect will have in us when he or she needs such services or if the time is now, the greater the likelihood that the prospect will be more inclined to secure our services over that of others marketing the same legal services but not giving the legal consumer much needed information.
Because we have demonstrated our expertise by providing helpful information to the prospect, the greater the likelihood that he will call us and have the patience to wait to speak to us and not move on to the next possible lawyer that seems to meet legal needs.
Photos and Video:
On social media images rule so use video and dynamic photos whenever possible to push your point across. For example on your thirty-second video invite them to download your free e book or to join your monthly newsletter. This is excellent reinforcement and enhances nurturing a future lead – namely the prospect/legal consumer having you directly in mind when the need/problem arises.
Once a prospect has provided you with a way to reach out to them you can continue to build credibility and trust through delivery of continued relevant content through blog, e – newsletter, and social media.
Next you must be able to measure your marketing programs success through software that tracks where all your leads are coming from and ensures every lead is followed up with automatically and consistently until the consumer needs you.
It is content that will establish repeat visitors to your site, not flashiness. If your site offers content that they find valuable, this helps establish you as an expert in your field while building a level of trust with your visitors. Routinely sending out informational content that your newsletter subscribers find valuable is another excellent way to build a level of trust with them while continually establishing yourself as an expert in your field.
Make sure your print advertising, business cards letter head, office brochures display your web address, mention your web address on your phone message, in signature of emails of everyone in your firm and in any radio or television advertising.
Networking is an inexpensive and highly effective way to market. You never know if the next person you meet will change your life.
Do what you do best. Become as good as good gets and then share it with the world. Be generous about sharing tips with others. Pause and reflect on your work, what you write, publish and lecture. What does the public want to know, need to know.
Volunteer. Participate. Let them know your hat is in the ring. Get to events early and plan to stay late. When you give a talk just don’t hang out with the other lecturers.
Work the room. Shake every hand and thank all for coming and express your hope that they find the program worth their while.
BRING BUSINESS CARDS.
Have your website on the card. Carry at least twenty cards at all times and make sure by the end of the day you have handed them all out.
Exchange business cards and send out “Enjoyed meeting you” notes. Always thank the person for a complement or advice or information shared. Enclose a relevant article that you wrote that may be of some help to the person or to associates in their office.
Always return a phone call. Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
Ask yourself what are your goals in participating in a Networking Group or meeting.
Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible. Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa
Network Approachability: Approachability means to come nearer to. Approachability is a two way street. It is you stepping onto someone else’s front porch and you inviting someone to step onto your front porch.
Arrive early and be ready to engage. Research the group and the speakers. Call in advance. Networking takes work. You must know the Common Point of Interest as soon as possible. Ask people about What’s your favorite…. . Tell me the best….. When was the last time…….
Don’t go to a net working event and just head to the food, bar and, never ever cross your arms. You are there to engage – people, not food, drink or hide behind a poll. Body language speaks louder than words.
Don’t assume everyone or anyone will remember you that you remember. It is OK. Hi I’m Mike we met last month at ——- You are from —- am I right?
No Fear. They won’t say hello back to me you worry? They won’t be interested in me your inner self says? I will make a fool of myself?
These are the number one reasons people do not start conversations. But guess what? That other person is thinking the same thing.
SO ENGAGE. Practice will make fear fade away. Be the first to introduce yourself or say hello. Start the conversation with what will engage, start with a complement and get the other person talking about himself or herself. This is not being shallow it is about being real. You are there to learn about as many people as possible and be liked. Once they like you they will listen. When you take an active instead of a passive role, your skills will develop and there will be less of a chance for rejection. Also understand the gains vs. losses. For example, what’s so bad about a rejection from someone you don’t even know?
Wear your Nametag. (Common Misconception)s: “Name tags look silly“— yes they do. But every one is wearing them so its acceptable. “Name-tags ruin my clothes” – not if you wear them on the edge of your lapel or a lanyard etc. “But everyone already knows me” – no they don’t. There is always someone new to meet.
Your name tag is your friend. People are less likely to approach you if they don’t know or forgot your name. Secondly it’s free advertising.
THE PITCH: Familiarize yourself with the speakers and attendees. Get some of the names or the whole list and Google the speakers and attendees, look on LinkedIn research their website get familiar with who will be in attendance.
You have thirty seconds to deliver your message (pitch) when you meet someone. Here is a simple formula. State the problem you are solving +Your Solution + some staggering or intriguing fact about the topic or your experiences or something amazing you have accomplished. Practice doing that in fifteen seconds so giving it in thirty seconds will be a breeze. Now give your pitch to early and you are blowing your horn. Giving it at that right time, then you are offering help.
However before you make your pitch and give your card you must find interest in the other person first and listen to their pitch to better understand who they are and if you can benefit each other in some way. This will allow you to adjust your pitch accordingly. Start with the easy 5 W’s: Who, What, where, when and why. People find it easy to talk about themselves when asked those simple questions, it puts the focus back on them and gives you a really easy starting point for creating conversation.
If you are in a relaxed party type networking event consider having fun with your pitch and use your imagination to craft a creative description of your work. For example you might say as a lawyer, I like to think of my self as an influencer who helps people get what they need. I do not know that I would put that on a billboard but at the right party it shows you have some creativity and an upbeat sense especially when every fourth professional at the gathering does what you do. But in response to the question what do you like about what you do, I always tell the truth – I have the privilege to speak up for those who are not able to speak up for themselves.
Focus on what you can do for others: One of the most powerful and genuine ways that you can network is by being a connector, focus on how you can add value to others. Facilitating connections for others without benefitting yourself gives you great business karma and those that you helped will likely return the favor.
Key habits Great Sellers exercise everyday.
- They’re not afraid to commit: Great lawyers who believe in what they have to offer do not accept failure as an option. They set a goal, and they stick with it. They do not have fall back plans. Instead they commit to succeeding at whatever they set their mind to. Do you have a single-minded pursuit of success? Or are you too susceptible to setting up fallback plans in case something doesn’t work out? Sometimes the best way to succeed is to forego all other possibilities.
- They put in the time: Great lawyers who are great business people aren’t afraid to work longer hours than the competition or burn the midnight oil in pursuit of business development. There is a lot to the formula of client development but one thing that is in your control is hard work at developing a model for success. If you are willing to put in the time and effort to make the connections happen you are going to be rewarded.
- DREAM: If you can dream it, you can see it, you can make it happen. You will become what you think about most. The best lawyers and business men are big dreamers and big doers. They would rather risk falling short of an audacious goal than settle for too little. The best way to get more than you expected is to push yourself farther than you had imagined was possible. Every morning take your plan out. Read it. Think what need I do today to make this happen. Who do I need with me and how do they best fit.
- PLAN: Write your goals down. Set up a plan to accomplish those goals. Chose the method and the people with whom to accomplish. Become the Leader of the Team and lead by living and breathing the plan and all that the plan calls for. Never be satisfied with short term success. Greatness is never complacent. Every success lays the foundation for the next success. Great lawyers have a certain restlessness about them that drives them forward and keeps them learning and growing.
The best are never bored because they are constantly seeking out new achievements and new possibilities. By all means, celebrate your successes and take time to rest and renew your energy. But if you really want to reach those grand goals, cultivate a spirit of purposeful, positive dissatisfaction. Always keep looking for the next goal that you want to achieve.
- They build long term relationships. The best are never focused simply on transactions; they are focused on relationships. Good sales people and good lawyers know about the lifetime value of relationships. And they know that it makes good business sense to keep clients happy and coming back for repeat work time after time.
- Aspire to inspire. To aspire is to rise up to a great plan, an abundant hope of fulfilling a worthwhile mission. To inspire is to convey a feeling of joining a higher cause, influencing soulful action. Simply defined, aspire is an individual effort while inspire brings others into the mix.
Business development requires personal development. Becoming a better business developer is a constant process of self-improvement, measuring results and adjusting your approach to building relationships with clients and colleagues.
It all starts with you. Be the best that you can be. Indeed be the best version of yourself.
As professionals if we could buy all the marketing in the world but if were just another empty suit hawking – the world will quickly know. To truly build a law firm brand, it must become an authority in the chosen field. Then let it be known that your firm offers that knowledge and skill to the public and the bar through an informative stream of consumer and public safety oriented information, answers to frequently asked questions and authoritative articles by you.
E books, blogging and e-newsletters as well as important links will assist the public, potential clients and other lawyers seeking to refer a matter in learning what you have to offer. It will place the banners of authority, reliability and trustworthiness upon your site and therefore on your firm.
Business relationships are about creating relationships. The best way to do that is to let other lawyers and the public at large know that you are there to help and can ease their burden through responsible legal serves.
If you stay the course and make these habits of highly effective business developers and lawyers part of your everyday life, you will be well on your way to getting the law practice and results in your practice you have dreamed of.
Certified Civil Trial Attorney
Supreme Court of New Jersey
National Board of Trial Advocacy
Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers
Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi. P.C. Trial Attorneys
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