To create a relevant piece of content for your readers, you only need one thing: a single, solid piece of good advice. In the past, we’ve discussed multiple ways of outlining blog posts, videos, podcasts, and social media posts in this newsletter, but this “one-tip method” is hands-down the most streamlined approach there is.

To come up with your piece of advice (aka your one tip) and turn it into a blog post, you need to follow three simple steps.

1. Ask yourself, “What does my audience want?”

The options here are endless! If you’re a business lawyer, for example, your readers probably want to make more money, keep their partnerships cooperative, and avoid being sued. Pick just one of these things, and move on to step two.

2. Identify one thing your audience should do or should avoid doing in order to achieve their goal.

As a business lawyer, if you chose “avoid being sued” for step one, your “one thing” for this step might be creating air-tight contracts, knowing a particular law, or even hiring a good lawyer. Again, pick just one of these things and move on.

3. Combine steps 1 and 2, and explain your tip!

When you add your answers from step one and step two together, you have a topic. For the business lawyer, that might be “How Airtight Contracts Help You Avoid Lawsuits.” From there, you just have to explain the “how.” Because this is your area of expertise, it should be easy! Don’t overthink it — just start typing, or press the record button. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can type out 400 words or speak for four minutes on such a simple topic.

That’s it! In only three steps, and using just one solid piece of advice, you’ve created content that will educate your audience, position you as the expert in your field, and keep your firm’s name top of mind. This is the trifecta you should always aim for in your marketing.

This article originally appeared in Forbes.com.

Perfectionism can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, perfectionism means that you have high standards and expect the best from those around you. On the other hand, perfectionism can be paralyzing.

In my coaching practice, I have the privilege of advising many high-performing lawyers. They are great lawyers, at least in part, because they are perfectionists. But as I help them see, it can also keep them from making progress if they aren’t careful.

Many people — lawyers, business owners, professionals — have big dreams for their lives. But they struggle to act on those dreams. They keep shoving them back in the desk drawer because their plans aren’t “perfect” yet.

Let me tell you: Perfect doesn’t exist! There is always something that you can improve. If you wait until your big idea is perfect before you take action, you’ll never get started.

I know that you have big dreams. And I want 2021 to be the year that you make big progress chasing those dreams. Here are four tips to help you do it:

1. Don’t let a “fear of failure” control you.

Many of us were raised to fear failure. When we made a mistake in school, we got a big, fat “X” in red ink on our paper. Maybe our peers made fun of us for a wrong answer. At work, our bosses would chew us out if we did something wrong. But you can’t let the fear of somebody else’s judgment hold you back. It’s your life, and you’re the only person who gets to live it. Tell the naysayers to take a hike!

2. Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection.

If you wait for everything to be perfect before you make your next move, you’ll be waiting for your entire life. Nothing is ever perfect, and so instead, focus on making progress toward your goals. It’s much better to take imperfect action than to do nothing.

3. Learn to see failure as an opportunity.

Thomas Edison is one of the greatest inventors the world has ever known. And do you know what he reportedly said about failure?

“I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

That’s the right attitude! A “failure” just means that you need to make a change. That you need a different strategy or a different plan of action. Failure takes you one step closer to your ultimate goal because when you fail, you have the opportunity to learn from your mistake and come back stronger the next time. Don’t fear failure. Embrace it.

4. Connect to your passions and have fun.

I have found that people are most concerned about making a mistake when trying to conform to someone else’s standards, whether that’s their boss, their business partner, their spouse, a colleague, a client, or whoever it may be. On the other hand, when we connect to our own authentic passions and find joy in life, all of a sudden, we’re not so scared to make a mistake. Be yourself! Chase your dreams, not the dreams that the rest of the world tells you to pursue.

This year, I want you to choose progress over perfection. Chase your dreams and take imperfect action to get you closer to achieving your goals. Let’s make it happen!

 

Here at Spotlight Branding, we use the phrase “right person, right seat” when talking about hiring. That means getting the perfect person in the company’s correct role, whether it’s sales, billing, or HR. Whenever we hire, we ask ourselves, “Does this person have the right skill set? Are they a good fit for our company? Do they mesh well with our culture?”

That last question is the toughest to answer for most law firms, but it’s arguably the most important. The issue is that many entrepreneurs don’t take the time to define their company culture. Maybe you’re one of them. You have a vague idea of what you want your culture to look like, and you know what’s important to you, but nothing is set in stone or written down. This makes hiring harder because you’re going into the process without a measuring stick. Once you know your culture inside and out, you can check potential hires against it and avoid costly hiring mistakes — which is where core values come in.

As a law firm, if you claim that one of your core values is “Honesty” — well, it had better be!

Core values are phrases that capture what your company is all about and usually describe traits you’d like every employee to have or actions you’d like them to take. Our company philosophy is that core values shouldn’t be obvious. As a law firm, if you claim that one of your core values is “Honesty,” — well, it had better be! You’re not going to impress anyone or weed out any candidates with such a basic claim. Instead, drill deeper to find a phrase that’s more specific and unique to your firm. Ask yourself, “How exactly do we embody honesty well?” With this method, one of our clients turned the word “compassion” into the value “Walk a Day in Their Shoes.”

Most great core values combine a verb and an adjective, describing both a behavior and an attitude. For example, one of our company’s core values is “Win Together,” and another is “Communicate With Intention.” To put your core values to the test, use these two questions.

Q: What do we do? A: [core value verb]

Q: How do we do it? A: [core value adjective]

Then, combine your verb and your adjective to create your core values! Aim for four or five. Wordsmith your phrases, have fun with them, and make them sound powerful. When you’re finished, these phrases will guide you through the hiring process

Anyone that has followed me over the past 15 years knows that I am a firm believer in the power of writing a book for business development purposes. In my view, it is a big audacious business card—period! If written as a business development tool—it lets prospective clients inside your world and how you think. It is a strong credibility builder since “you wrote the book on the subject.” Over the past 15 years, I have written 6 books, which have lead to millions of dollars in revenue. But NOT in book sales. Yes, I have been an Amazon bestseller, and that revenue is incidental compared to the substantive consulting and coaching revenue. It is truly a business development tool.

I would recommend that you start by figuring out what area of your practice you want to promote and/or own in your geographic area.

Here is what this book should not be: a scholarly book on your practice area, a how-to for your competitors, or a vanity project about you and your firm.

Here is a conversation I had with fellow author John Hinson, Marketing Manager at Spotlight Branding, to pull it all together. Between the two of us, we have nearly two dozen books under our belt.

1. As you know, I’m an advocate of using books as a business development strategy; what is your position?

Hinson: Having a book as a business development tool is arguably the biggest credibility piece you can have in your office. There’s something about how we’ve been conditioned over the years to see a book and at least appreciate a lot of perceived hard work that went into writing it, even if we don’t actually pick it up and read it.

A book also demonstrates authority. There’s a reason the cliche “he/she wrote the book on ____” exists. If you’re one of several business attorneys in town with a book on business law, you’re more likely to be seen as the expert on business law, even if you’ve only been practicing for a few years compared to the others.

2. How would you advise a lawyer to pick a topic to write about?

Hinson: This might be the hardest part of the entire process, whether you have 22 different things you want to write about or you can’t think of anything at all. The key, however, is straightforward: Write what you know and are passionate about. For example, if you’re an estate planning attorney and you’re particularly passionate about special needs trusts, your book can center on special needs and how to properly protect those loved ones.

You can also take a shortcut. If you’ve had a solid marketing strategy in place for a couple of years, you can convert your blog articles into an anthology and simply write in a few transitions to make everything flow together.

3. As you and I know, taking the next steps after you have committed to a book as an element of your strategy—the blank page gets pretty intimidating. What would you recommend the first few steps they should take to get started?

Hinson: Between the book I curated for Spotlight Branding and my own personal projects, I have published 16 books in seven years. I don’t say that to brag, but to tell you that it isn’t as difficult as you may think. Here is my method for getting started.

1) Pick the topic as we discussed. 2) Build your outline: craft the rough outline of your book so that you have something to guide your thoughts as you write. 3) Flesh out the outline: Once you have your framework, start filling the space in between. You can do this in multiple steps, too. Either write it all out at once or get your main points/thoughts out and then go back and fill in any gaps.

4. How do you approach proofing and editing?

Hinson: Once I have my rough draft, I usually go through a three-step editing/proofing process.

1) I read through my document once to make sure everything flows together like I want. 2) I read through it again as I go back through and format the book to adhere to the publisher’s standards. 3) I read it aloud once I get the proof copy from the publisher to make sure everything looks and sounds like I want it to.

5. What do you think the biggest obstacle is to writing a business development book?

Hinson: Outside of picking a title, your ability to say you have a finished product is the hardest part. Most lawyers are perfectionists, and after reading over your book multiple times, you may be tempted to do wholesale rewrites or scrap the project entirely. DON’T! People – even your attorney peers – aren’t going to judge your work as harshly as you do.

Trust in your own intellect and ability, get it “good enough,” and move on to publishing.

That is so true, John! You hit at the heart of the inability to use this productive method of business development. I would point out that print on demand makes it so easy to update a book and makes your recommendation so doable… get it GOOD ENOUGH. And remember who you are speaking to, your potential clients. Write it in the language they understand. It’s not for Law Review.

6. In the early days of my book strategy, I paid to print thousands of copies, stored them in my office, and shipped them when we received orders. I would NEVER recommend anyone use that method today! On-demand printing makes it so easy to self publish. What has your experience been navigating the process of self-publishing?

Hinson: I personally use Lulu for publishing my books. Paula, I know you and several others have had great success using Amazon’s on-demand self-publishing platform.  With both these services, you can simply list your book for sale online, print as many copies for yourself as you’d like, and that’s it!

If you’re not technologically savvy, the actual publishing process might be a little difficult, but just take your time, do a little Googling for any steps you don’t understand, and you should be fine.

7. I agree with you, John; it is simple. But to be honest, I have a graphic designer that does the layout and uploads the book on Amazon. It’s a reasonable expense to incur that allows me time to create a book’s marketing strategy.  Speaking of marketing—How do you recommend using the book to develop business—marketing?

Hinson: Once you have your finished book, it should become a big lead magnet on your website. Have your webmaster put the book cover on your home page and build a form where people can request a copy. You can choose to give it away for free (physical or digital copies) or make it available for purchase – but whatever you do, make sure it’s prominently displayed on your website and in your office.

I agree with you, John, and I would add that you give them to your clients and referral sources. Use them to get speaking gigs and give them away at your events. I would remind you that the cost associated with the book should be put into your marketing budget. Contrary to common thinking, a book like this is not passive income—it is a BIG AUDACIOUS business card! 

If you would like help to strategize or produce your business development book shoot me an email, paula@paulablack.com

 

 

From the Archives

Ran across The BTI Consulting Group’s concept of “Targeting Clients with a Market of One Approach.” Their “market-of-one” approach does not mean you only market to one client.  Obviously, starvation would quickly follow.

This is also commonly referred to as client-centric marketing and business development.

They mean that instead of focusing your marketing on your firm/practice area or concentrating on a geographical area, you should approach business development and marketing from the client’s side. You should direct your efforts, especially toward key clients, as if each were your only client. More specifically (extracting from the brief BTI video snippet), you need to be:

  • seeking client feedback, and yes, act on what you hear;
  • making sure that the responsible attorneys’ objectives are in line with the clients, i.e., the client’s objectives and strategic plans are the partners’ key concern and focus;
  • increasing value, for instance, by providing specific client-focused CLE;
  • and treating each client so they perceive themselves as your most important client.

This is also commonly referred to as client-centric marketing and business development. BTI’s terminology is just another way of stating that if you put the client at the center of the universe, rather than yourself or the firm, your marketing efforts will pay much greater dividends. Not only in improving your bottom line but making more sense than a shotgun or scattered (brain) approach to marketing.

2020 taught us much about resilience, strength, and adaptability. The obstacles that each of us faced throw us off our game, and sometimes the stress was unbearable. But—we adapted, and some of you actually flourished in many ways.

I had clients that…

  • Grew their revenue by 40%
  • Hired a team of contract lawyers, paralegals, or assistants
  • Spent good quality time with their family like never before
  • Wrote the book they had intended to write for years
  • Became skilled on zoom to give speeches, conduct depositions, and appear in court
  • Received honors and awards
  • Picked up the guitar again and finally took lessons

And they had lots of moments that touched their heart…

  • When he took the vow… “to have and to hold—till death do us part.”
  • She heard her son giggle with delight to have mommy read a story in the middle of the day.
  • A couple stopped in the middle of the day to dance salsa before going back to their desks to work.

Every one of my clients found a silver lining in the darkness, as I’m sure you have too. View the video filled with inspiration and actionable steps to help you build upon everything you learned and the challenges you overcame to help you thrive in 2021.

 

It’s January, baby! We can finally wave the disaster of 2020 goodbye and start fresh. For us, that means making some business-focused New Year’s resolutions to put our company on track for greater success. If you’re chomping at the bit to get started in 2021, we’d suggest doing the same for your firm. These would be our top four resolutions for you based on our experience.

If you do all four of these things, 2021 will not only kick last year’s butt, but it just might be your business’s best year ever.

1. DECREASE YOUR WORKLOAD

As Spotlight Branding has gotten busier and busier, I, as the founder, have found myself with less and less to do. And we think that’s how it should be! No one becomes an entrepreneur because they want to work themselves to death and have a terrible work-life balance. To lighten his load, along the way, I am constantly looking for opportunities to delegate and build trust in others. This year, we have a challenge for you: Grow your firm in a way that makes your personal workload go down.

There are a few ways to do this. First, you can look around at your team and see who might be able to take on your least favorite tasks. Then, if there aren’t any good candidates, either create a new system or process to make the task easy enough to pass off or hire someone who would be able to take it on.

2. LOSE THE (DEAD) WEIGHT

Almost everyone resolves to lose a few pounds on January 1st, but while we’re focused on our waistlines, we often forget to lean out our businesses. Think about the people in your office. Is there anyone on staff who wasn’t a team player last year? Have you found yourself making excuses in your head for why you shouldn’t fire Person A or Person B?

Let’s get real. Very few business owners get an adrenaline rush out of firing someone. It’s almost always an awful experience. But as much as we hate to admit it, sometimes an employee becomes “dead weight” and needs to be let go for the good of the company. This year, resolve to lose that weight before it drags your business down.

3. MAKE MORE (AND FASTER!) DECISIONS

One of the biggest lessons we learned in 2020 was that while being diligent and thoughtful has its place, more often than not, the thing holding you back from progress is the speed at which you make decisions. The longer you take to consider a course of action, the longer it takes to actually accomplish something. Think about Thomas Edison. It famously took him more than 1,000 tries to make a working light bulb, but he did it!

To succeed, you need to be willing to take leaps and make mistakes. Start thinking of your decisions in terms of quantity rather than quality. If you try two solutions in a week and fail both times, but your third attempt in week two succeeds, you’ll still reach your goal faster than someone who thought for three weeks before choosing the successful path. Ultimately, when you stop talking about things and just try them, the results are net positive.

4. INCREASE YOUR MARKETING CONTENT

Three things trended up last year: Zoom stock, mask sales, and the demand for content. Content continues to be king, and social media platforms are growing around the world. Last year, people trapped at home because of the pandemic consumed ads, blogs, videos, podcasts, and social media posts at a record pace. TikTok burst onto the scene, and thousands of large businesses added content and editorial teams to their marketing divisions. Content is still trending upward, and it’s not too late to get on the bandwagon! This year, resolve to crank up your content creation (with our help or on your own) to reach more people and generate more leads, referrals, and revenue.

If you do all four of these things, 2021 will not only kick last year’s butt, but it just might be your business’s best year ever.

Recently I was featured on Spotlight Branding’s newest venture—the podcast CENTER STAGE.

John Hinson and I had a great conversation about the importance of social media for lawyers and finding a way to embrace it. I have to admit that I certainly was not an early adaptor. Find out how I eventually found the value of social media and even have fun doing it.

I am honored to announce that I am the winner of the Daily Business Review—Best of Awards for Legal Business Development Coach. I’m thrilled! Why this year? Let’s take a closer look.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the impact of our business development initiatives. It took some refocusing and connecting the dots.

For the past 4 years, I have received recognition from the voters in the Daily Business Review—Best of Awards for Legal Business Development Coach. (I never did any campaigning as some do.) For 3 years, I received #3, #2, #3. And because I received recognized as one of the top 3, three years in a row, they have a Hall of Fame designation. So, my big question is—Why did I win this year? What was the difference?

  1. My client base has been growing, but not at some enormous rate that could have made the difference.
  2. I made 12 speeches or podcasts to groups of lawyers at Bar Associations— in past years: 9-10. Undoubtedly not significant enough to make the difference.
  3. I wrote 15 articles— in past years: 8-10. Surely not significant enough to make the difference.
  4. I have posted 3060 social media posts— in past years; I averaged 360. Now THAT is significant!

Once I recognized that social media could be the difference, I also looked closely at the speeches I made. They were no longer in person. They were online. One of the lectures I gave was to the Florida Bar Senior Section, which had 1001 registrants! Wow! I have never had that many registrants for my live speeches.

So, back to my original questions. Why did I win this year? What was the difference? Answer: My online presence!

What will this mean to my practice in 2021? Daily Business Review—Best of Award of Legal Business Development Coach, reinforces credibility with potential clients, like awards such as Super Lawyer. And it keeps our names “top-of-mind,” which is essential when potential clients are searching for people to do what we do.

In conclusion, the ROI on your business development initiatives may not be so easy to recognize. You will need to ask the questions and be open-minded to see the possible answers. I have clients who found me via my online presence in the past. With all the things I’m doing online and the recognition that the award adds, hopefully, 2021 will be the best year ever!

I wouldn’t be a good business development coach if I didn’t make the “ASK.” Here it goes—If you or anyone you know would like to build a successful practice without sacrificing everything else in your life, shoot me an email at paula@paulablack.com.

Here’s to a fabulous 2021!

If looking at your email inbox makes you feel overwhelmed and anxious, then you’re in the same boat as most of the lawyers we work with. Good email management is an underrated skill, but it can free your mind up for more important pursuits. However, if you’ve never tried to come up with a system of organization for your inbox, it’s difficult to know where to start. This post can help!

Our team gets a boatload of emails. As a digital marketing company, the majority of our communications come over the web. So, in order to manage that digital flow over the years, we have come up with two simple strategies that make the process of managing emails simple.

Email is a system that delivers other people’s priorities to your attention. It’s up to you to decide when that priority should be managed into your world. It’s not the other way around.” —Chris Brogan

STRATEGY NO. 1: Set a designated time to check your email. 

When your email inbox is open all day long, it becomes a distraction. So instead of letting it monopolize your time with constant notifications, close the window while you’re working on your to-do list. Then, set designated times throughout the day to open your inbox and deal with all of the messages at once. After all, no one who emails you is expecting you to get back to them within an hour. If something is truly urgent, they’ll call. Try out this strategy and watch your productivity soar.

STRATEGY NO. 2: Separate your inbox from your to-do list.

When you open new emails with requests for assistance inside and then let them sit in your inbox until you complete those requests, you’re turning your inbox into a to-do list — which is not what it’s designed to be. See, email platforms aren’t task managers. They don’t allow you to set due dates or effectively prioritize things. So, instead of using your inbox as a to-do list, invest in some task management software (if you don’t have it already).

Once you do that, if you get an email about a task that will take more than five minutes, you can transfer that task into your task management system. This will help you keep your priorities straight, and make you feel less scattered.m