There are more cool tools on the market than most of us will ever have to investigate.
If we do invest the time in exploring the latest and greatest thing, we usually follow the same pattern: sign up, get busy, and forget to learn how to use the tool to our fullest advantage.
After our experiments, all we have left is a $40/month charge on our Chase Visa card. Sure, we get the Ultimate Rewards points, but we didn’t get any benefit from our investment. Eventually, the annoyance of seeing the charge on our credit card statement sufficiently motivates us to cancel our account.
With tool-signup regret in mind, I’m running through my list of top tools. These are tools my businesses have been using for a long time and still use today. I don’t hesitate to pay their monthly fees because they help my businesses grow.
Some of these tools will give you a discount if you use the links on this page. Some will give me some cold, hard cash as an affiliate commission.
Here’s the good stuff…
These folks send a monthly newsletter about capturing business online. They focus on search engine marketing, but they also give other advice. They are a big part of why our website gets more than 1 million visitors each year. It takes me 20 minutes a month to read their publication. (They even send an audio summary if you prefer.)
You’re probably paying people for search engine optimization services, and you likely don’t have a clue whether they know what they’re doing. Get educated. We’ve subscribed to Search Engine News for more than a decade, and their advice has helped us achieve astonishing website traffic from Google. There is nothing you can buy that will deliver more value. It’s cheap, easy to read, understandable, and actionable.
We once hired a receptionist without doing a criminal background check. It turned out that she had killed a star NFL running back at point-blank range with a shotgun after robbing a bank. Yep.
Now we outsource all of our phone answering to Ruby Receptionist. When you call our firm and press zero on the auto attendant, you’re talking to Ruby. Oddly, we get more compliments about Ruby than we ever did with our in-house team.
Initially, we experimented by using Ruby as a backup service. We went all in when it worked so well. You’ll get $100 off your first invoice if you use my link. Ruby doesn't charge a setup fee, so you’ll be up and running in an instant.
As far as I know, Ruby Receptionist hasn’t killed anyone.
When your assistant stumbles onto the subway tracks and gets run over by the train, it’s curtains for your business if you don’t have your systems documented.
Your systems are your business. Most of us lack an easy, accessible, comprehensive approach to documenting systems. We've tried it all from Google Docs to hosted wikis, but nothing worked. SweetProcess helps us get things done.
We use this tool in our firm to document our systems and procedures. Our entire team has access, so they know how to do whatever needs doing. Turn your 14-day free trial into a 28-day free trial in just two steps:
- Register for the 14-day free trial.
- Then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and mention our special code “White Oak.”
This service hosts our North Carolina Divorce site and Rosen Institute. We've tried a bunch of others, but these folks are the best. They cost more, but not too much more, and they're worth it. Saving $20 a month on web hosting is penny wise and pound foolish. The first time you call customer support, you'll realize that your $5/month host is costing more than you thought.
WP Engine provides powerful, robust servers with excellent stability and customer service. It doesn’t provide all the flexibility of some other providers in an effort to lock things down and prevent issues. We’re making tradeoffs in favor of reliability, and we’re very satisfied customers.
You wouldn't be reading this right now if we didn't have CoSchedule.
This tool drives our site and our law firm forward. It brings our team together and imposes discipline. It keeps us on schedule, and it automates production, scheduling, and social media promotion. It works.
CoSchedule is a calendar on steroids. We use it to schedule content for our law firm site, including articles, videos, FAQs, and more. It’s tightly integrated with WordPress, and it allows for assigning and tracking tasks among multiple team members. It’s the secret sauce that keeps us on schedule and productive, which results in fresh material on our sites. Freshness matters in the eyes of Google, so CoSchedule helps us rank well in the search engine results.
There are law firms still using postage meters—seriously. Do they still use legal pads, file folders, and dictation equipment too?
If that's you, then step into the future. We now have refrigeration, antibiotics, and horseless carriages. It's nice here on earth. Join us.
Stamps.com lets you print postage on your computer. There's no need to go to the post office. This system works much better than your old-fashioned postage meter or rolls of stamps.
You know that camera on your phone? You also have one on your computer. Why aren't you using it to make yourself more money by building strong, visual connections with your clients and referral sources?
We used to use GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar for group calling and videoconferencing. We switched when we realized those products were crappy and that they cost more than Zoom.
Zoom is not crappy. It's slick, smooth and easy. We use it for business meetings and for dirty talk with our side action. (Just kidding—I wanted to see whether anyone was still reading.) It's a great audio- and videoconferencing product that delivers high-quality voice and pictures.
We use Salesforce as our practice-management system. It runs our business. We couldn't live without it. We’ve customized it extensively to meet our needs.
Salesforce is incredibly powerful. We use it instead of products like Clio, MyCase, or RocketMatter. But it's expensive—very expensive—especially once you factor in the cost of development and add-on products.
Should you use Salesforce instead of a simpler, less expensive practice-management system? Probably not. Sure, you'll make compromises when you go with a less complicated, less expensive product, but life is filled with compromise, and a good enough product is probably good enough.
Salesforce is probably our most important tool, so I couldn't leave it off the list. But going all in on practice management isn't for everyone, and that's especially true if you're small.
“AWESOME#1” is probably not the best password to use on every site you access. In fact, you should be using passwords with about 15 characters, in random order, mixing upper- and lowercase characters, plus numbers and special characters. And you should use a unique password each time. You already knew that, right? I think someone mentioned the password thing back in 1995.
But you're ignoring that advice, so just for fun, I'm going to pay some Russian dude $17 to hack your device, grab those photos (along with your client's secret asset info), and post that picture of your great big… boat… on 4chan. Okay?
With LastPass, you can easily set unique passwords, have them auto fill on your laptop and phone, and share them with your team without revealing the password itself. It's ugly, a little clunky, and less convenient than using your middle name for everything. But it gets the job done and prevents embarrassment and bankruptcy when you mistakenly lose control of your client data because you failed to follow basic security best practices.
While I love writing for you, I'd rather browse Facebook and the New York Times. That's why I use Freedom to disable Facebook, Instagram, the New York Times, and other time-wasting sites so I can get work done.
I use this product to lock down my web browser and phone to force myself to focus. It's ridiculous that I need this product, but it works like a charm.
Get 20% off of any plan if you use the code FREEDOM20OFF.
I switch VPNs as often as I change socks (pretty freaking often). That's because switching VPNs is cheap and easy, and it seems necessary when older products slow down or fail to keep up with the latest software developments.
Working from coffee shops, courthouses, and other remote locations creates a security risk when you’re transmitting data over public Wi-Fi. A virtual private network (VPN) helps keep your private information private. This is the service I chose because it’s inexpensive and simple to use.
Lately, I’ve been playing with a packet sniffer and watching traffic in the coffee shops where I work. It's incredible what I can see on the public Wi-Fi. I'm learning things about nearby people that make me hesitate to sit on these shared cushions again.
Ready to turn email into money? We do it, and it's our most powerful marketing tool. You can try Infusionsoft or HubSpot, but most lawyers end up spending lots of money on the product plus a consultant, then end up with something unfinished after working on it for a year.
ConvertKit is up and running nearly instantly. We use it along with AWeber and GMass (a very cool product tightly integrated into Gmail). It's the easiest product we use, and it's more powerful than either of the other legacy products we employ.
Basically, you can send prewritten emails to prospective clients (or others) over time. It's fully automated, and it’s easy to customize your emails based on user behavior.
Users who visit certain pages on your site can get specific emails. Clients can get emails that are different from other groups' messages. People who open emails frequently can get more emails than others, etc. You can better understand the behavior and interests of your prospects based on link clicks and purchases and then cater campaigns specifically to them.
This is Google’s free website tracking and analytical tool. It’s a must-have for anyone with a website.
When you couple Google Analytics with the free Google Tag Manager, you have a powerful combination, allowing you to carefully measure your marketing with detailed specificity. It's valuable to know what's working and what's not working so you can spend your marketing budget wisely. Thankfully, you won't spend any of it on these free Google services. They are the best marketing deal around.
It's Time to Move Forward
That's my list for now. We use these tools every single day. Each of them adds to our bottom line. I'd have a tough time living without any of them. They are our favorites because they work.
If you sign up for any of these services, do yourself a favor and do the following four things:
- Take note of the date you signed up.
- Pick a date 90 days from your sign-up date.
- Make a note on your calendar to cancel the service on that date.
- When that date arrives, cancel if you're not actively using the product.
There are so many amazing products and services with the potential to help you grow your practice. It's awesome, but it's also overwhelming. Move deliberately with a plan in mind. Tackle one thing at a time.
Winning is about moving forward a little each day. Sign up, experiment, implement, and keep executing. And if you fail, cancel and move on without regret.