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You’ve got some free time this week.
Why? Because you’re not as busy as you’d like.
It’s time to make the phone ring. It’s time to let the credit card machine get busy. It’s time for some marketing activity (or “business development” if you’re with a big firm). Action makes the phone ring.
But what can you do right now that will generate new business? What action can you take?
Sometimes you just need to do something—anything. Doing things is what makes the marketing flywheel move. You’ve got to start the wheel moving before it can spin.
When business slows down, it’s easy to sink into that lethargic, stuck-in-place inertia. There’s a solution, though: you have to make a commitment to yourself to do something. Shaking off the inertia requires action.
You do one thing, even a very small thing, and something good happens. You do one more–just one–and more good stuff happens.
Do one thing, the next thing, and another thing, and you’re off and running. Yes, I know it’s scary. Putting our heads in the sand feels warm, snug, safe, secure, and comfortable. That’s why fear is paralyzing: we avoid action when we feel fear. It’s tempting to go back to bed.
We hesitate to act … it’s scary out there
You’re right, it is scary. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of looking desperate, fear of humiliation, fear of all the horrible things that fill our imagination: fear stops us in our tracks.
How do we get beyond the fear?
We act. We do one–just one is all that’s required–of the things I’ll mention today. We just do it.
Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all.
–Norman Vincent Peale
It’s so tempting not to act; it’s easier to to wait. We talk ourselves into believing we need a strategy, or a consultant, or an outsourced virtual assistant. We need to do things in preparation for doing things and that’s how we end up not doing anything.
Sometimes we just need to take action–even a very small action. When we get going, when we take action, we build momentum.
You feel the victory, no matter how small, and you’re off. The next time you stop to breathe, it’s 30 years later, and you’ve had a successful run.
Now is the time. This is the moment. Overcome the obstacles.
Doing just one thing will get you going. That’s why I’m giving you this list of actions you can take today. Use what you like and cast aside the others. Do something from the list that you can do and still feel comfortable. While you’re at it, do something from the list that makes you feel just a little uncomfortable. Taking action is the solution to the problem.
There’s a big, obvious excuse that you’re already preparing, so I’m going to head you off at the pass.
Some of my suggestions (possibly quite a few depending on where you live) aren’t yet COVID-safe. It’ll be a while before some of us can take someone to lunch in a restaurant. But you might be able to bring sandwiches to a park and sit on a bench two meters apart and wear masks after sealing yourself in plastic, right?
Or you might simply modify my suggestion and do lunch over the phone or in a video conference. COVID-19 has already broken too many things; don’t let it get in the way of growing your law firm.
You’re a problem-solver, not an excuse-maker. You’ll find a way to make my suggestions work, regardless of the circumstances of the moment.
These actions will ring your phone, generate cash, and make you happy
Here are some things you can do right now:
- Make a list. Yes, it’s a classic procrastination tactic, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Make a list of law school classmates you haven’t talked to in too long. Track them down using the law school directory, Facebook, and Google. Use the list to catch up with them, chat on the phone, send an email, or invite them to lunch. Law school classmates are low-hanging fruit. We don’t talk to them often but they welcome a call to catch up. Get going.
- Call somebody else. Call a referral source or a former client or an opposing counsel you like. Pick up that device and dial. What do you say? “I was thinking of you earlier today and wanted to catch up. How are you doing?” Then listen. Most people are happy to tell you how life is going. Let them talk.
- Send a text message or an email or a social media message. If you’re resisting the idea of making a phone call (and you know you are), then send a message. Do the same catch-up thing but do it in writing. The recipient will notice you, and remember. Action is the key here.
- Create a newsletter. Newsletters are an easy, cheap, low-risk way of keeping in touch. Keep it short and sweet, and e-mail it to the list we just created. Think Christmas letter without the Christmas. It’s not a major life commitment. Just do it, and you can decide later whether to do it again.
- Call a friend and ask for help. Call another lawyer or local businessperson and say you’re looking for marketing ideas. Asking for help is always a good thing. Pick that person’s brain and learn what you can. You’ll simultaneously be advancing the relationship.
- Email a blogger. Send me an email and give me (or someone else you read) an idea for a post. Who knows, you might end up being mentioned here, like Steven Leitman, the Jacksonville divorce lawyer I wrote about not too long ago. He emailed me some ideas and I’m grateful. When I need a divorce lawyer in Jacksonville, he’s the first person who comes to mind.
- Start a small group of other lawyers in a similar situation. Meet over breakfast or lunch or online and offer to work together to help each other grow your businesses.
- Do a charity walk or run and approach everyone you know about donating. Also hit a few people you don’t know yet.
- Join your homeowners’ association. Run for the board. You’ll get to know everyone in the neighborhood.
- Start a campaign for a new park in your community. Everyone likes parks. You’ll be the winner, even if you can’t make the park happen.
- Introduce yourself to your office space neighbors. I spent 28 years in the same office building and I didn’t meet all the other tenants. What’s wrong with me? I’m lazy and antisocial. But hey, you’re not! Stand up, walk out the door, and pop in on another office. Introduce yourself. Bring doughnuts. Everyone likes someone with doughnuts. Be sure you get to know everyone in the building, from the janitor to the financial planner to the CEO. Hit them all and see where it goes.
- Meet the other neighbors in your neighborhood too. Don’t just park in the garage and never go outside. Get to know the people nearby, whether you live in a suburb or a big city apartment building.
- Volunteer for a relevant cause. Pick something related to your work (like domestic violence, for those of you who practice family law). Find something that links to your practice area. Get involved.
- Join a civic group. Whether it’s Rotary, Civitan, or Jaycees, you’ll meet lots of new people. Get involved, and you’ll build relationships. It’s easy, it’s fun, and you’ll be doing a little bit of good in the world. Try it for a year and see what happens.
- Join a committee at the bar association or chamber of commerce. Sure, you’re a member, but are you using your membership to get to know people? Just do it.
- Run naked through the courthouse parking lot. Kidding. Just wanted to make sure you’re still reading. Keep your clothes on. Or at least your mask.
- Volunteer in a political campaign. You’ll meet great folks when you volunteer. Every campaign needs help, and you have some free time (of course you do–that’s why you’re reading this list). Jump in.
- Join a softball or kickball team. You’ll meet your teammates as well as the opposing teams, and get some exercise. What are you waiting for?
- Take doughnuts to some firefighters. Firefighters don’t get nearly enough respect, and they usually know lots of people. Start dropping by with Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kremes. What’s the worst that can happen?
- Have a dinner party. Invite some people you know as well as some you don’t know. Mix it up.
- Write an article. Submit it to the local business journal, newspaper, or other publication. Most bar association magazines are desperate for material. Write something. I’m on word 1,478 of this article and I’ve invested about 30 minutes so far. I could just stop now and it would be long enough (but the headline says 76 and I’m only on 21, so I’ll plod on—maybe I should just change the headline).
- Join one of those ritzy private clubs like the city club, country club, or some other frou-frou club, and show up and meet all the other elites like yourself.
- Meet with your bar association executive director and talk about getting more involved.
- Hang out at the courthouse and talk to other lawyers. Don’t rush in and rush out; just wander around and say hello. You’ll see people you haven’t seen in months or years, but you’ll also meet some new folks. Make sure everyone knows who you are, what you do, and that you’re open to taking new clients right now. Talk to the clerks, the judges, and the other lawyers, and be sure to ask about what they’re doing, as well. You just never know what you’ll learn.
- Have a birthday party to benefit a charity. Use your birthday to help others.
- Go to city council meetings, committee meetings, and other government meetings. Talk to the people who show up. You’ll meet lawyers, businesspeople, and politicians. Be an engaged citizen.
- Have lunch alone in the restaurant near the courthouse. Keep your head up and say hello to the other lawyers. You’ll renew connections and make some new friends.
- Go live on Facebook or Instagram or YouTube or LinkedIn. Come prepared with some questions to answer and take questions from whoever shows up.
- Go to lunch alone somewhere other than near the courthouse. Sit at the bar, put your phone away, and talk to the person sitting next to you. Action begets action.
- Take a judge to lunch. Be bold. Ask a judge you don’t know to join you for a meal.
- Ask a lawyer to be your mentor. Even if she turns you down, you’ll have made a new connection, which is the beginning of a relationship.
- Judge a moot court competition for high school. You’ll meet the kids, the parents, the teachers, and the other lawyers. You’ll have a good time, too.
- Take doughnuts to other lawyers. Leave the doughnuts and a note about growing your practice. It’s a small investment with a big payoff. Follow up by inviting the lawyers to lunch. Yes, I know I’ve already brought up doughnuts twice. They’re on my mind. I saw some drool-worthy doughnuts earlier today.
- Sue city hall. Look for a popular cause and get involved. Use your law degree to take on the government. The publicity will benefit you, and you’ll build relationships along the way.
- Sponsor litter cleanup on the highway, a local race, or a school. Everyone likes a sponsor. Look for opportunities with high visibility at minimal cost.
- Tutor a kid in reading. How can you go wrong with helping a kid learn to read? Will it pay off? It will for the kid. Plus, you’ll meet other tutors. Who knows–maybe you’ll win a volunteer-of-the-year award.
- Take a side on any issue and argue your position in a Twitter thread. Make your position clear and then debate all comers. Remember: you’re looking to start conversations, not win the argument. Be open to learning from others, and let your horizons be expanded as you listen to feedback.
- Go to the gym and exercise. Pick a gym with lots of active members and take out your earbuds. Talk to people while you sweat.
- Offer your conference room to other professionals. Let others know they can use your conference room when it’s free. It costs you nothing, and you’ll build connections.
- Offer a workshop for your local co-working space or entrepreneur center. Use their space to meet their members. A quick 30-minute program is all it takes to start a relationship. That all starts with a five-minute call to the group to get the ball rolling.
- Send a holiday card. It’s almost December. Send some cards with personal notes.
- Take your accountant to lunch. It’s not like anyone else wants to have lunch with an accountant. He or she is available. Call, and you’ll be on your way in 20 minutes.
- Tweet an @message. Say something to someone you already know via Twitter. Remind someone that you’re alive. You are, right?
- Update your status on Facebook and Instagram. Sure, you haven’t updated since February 2013. So what? Now is the time. Just post a picture of your feet and remind your friends that you’re still alive and kicking.
- Stick your business card on the bulletin board. I can’t imagine this works, but I’ve watched people do it for as long as I’ve been practicing law. It can’t hurt, and maybe you’ll strike up a conversation with someone when you ask for a thumbtack.
- Get a new picture taken. I just got a new picture for my website. I love it. Getting a professional picture taken makes you feel like a rock star, plus a good picture is worth 1,000 words (or something like that). Remember, it’s about action.
- Talk to the person next to you. I’m writing this in a coffee shop. There’s a reasonable chance you’re reading it in one, or will be able to in the near future. Introduce yourself to the person next to you. Blame it on me. See where it leads.
- Tell the barista what you do for a living. You’re supporting the coffee shop. Are they supporting you? What happens when that 19 year-old-kid who skateboards to work tells his dad about you? Maybe dad, who happens to be CEO of an insurance company, says hello next time you’re both in the shop.
- Volunteer. Sign up to help at the local puppy rescue place or a homeless shelter or whatever. Get involved in something–anything. Just do it.
- Call the radio station. Find the local talk show and volunteer as a guest for the call-in show. Let them know you’re an expert and you’re happy to help.
- Call the newspaper. Do the same thing with the local newspaper. Drop by and meet people. Let them know that you’re happy to help and that you want to get your name out as you build your practice. Same deal with the local TV stations. They need experts, too.
- Write a letter to the editor. Try to tie it to your practice in some way. While you’re at the paper (see above), ask about how to submit a letter. Then write something about anything. Speak out on a community issue. Try not to pick the most divisive issue in the community. Maybe you can say something nice about the school board? My then 20-year-old son wrote a letter to his local paper and got about 30 responses agreeing and disagreeing with his position. Suddenly, people knew who he was. Take a stand.
- Update your Google MyBusiness listing. Google likes fresh content. Give them what they want.
- Run for office. There’s always an election happening. Sign up and run. Don’t worry about winning (that might be the worst thing that could happen). Just use your candidacy as a means of meeting people. We deserve more choices, and you should be on the ballot. You’ll meet a ton of people. Be dignified in your campaign, and you’ll come out ahead, regardless of whether you win or lose. In today’s world, a non-partisan office might be your best option.
- Call in to a talk radio show and give your opinion. Explain what you do. You’d be surprised at the calls you’ll get back at the office. Of course, some of them will be kooks, but aren’t there always kooks?
- Volunteer at a local law-related agency. Find a domestic violence group, a public legal clinic, or a legal services group and offer your time. You might be able to give legal advice, or you might wind up painting a room. Either way, you’re going to make connections and generate business.
- Get a haircut and make sure every stylist in the place knows your name and practice area. Leave some cards behind. Ask for help. Leave a good tip. People tell their hairstylists their problems. You’ll be shocked at the referrals you’ll get from hairstylists.
- Go to your kid’s game (baseball, softball, swim meet, whatever) and tell others what you do. You can talk to a dozen people at one of these events, and you’ll generate referrals. Bring cards.
- Take a class. You’ll meet people. Pick something that could be useful in your practice. I took a bunch of storytelling classes and met incredibly interesting people.
- Comment on a blog. Make sure you put your contact info in your signature line. You could even comment on this blog. Say something smart.
- Go to a local political party meeting. Many cities have a plethora of Democratic and Republican men’s and women’s clubs. These people love to get to know other people, and they already know everyone. Referrals will flow. Make sure you explain what you do when asked.
- Bring lunch to the courthouse. Go to Subway (or somewhere that actually has good food) and buy 10 sandwiches and bottles of water. Head to the courthouse and take control of a conference room. Run around and invite nine lawyers to join you for lunch. Tell them you did it just to get to know more lawyers. Don’t worry, they won’t be able to stop talking.
- Go to the town council meeting. Put on a suit and head over to city hall. Sit in the middle near other people, and watch. Make an effort to strike up a conversation with someone near you. Just do it and see what happens. At the very least, you’ll learn something about your city.
- Pay for coffee. Get in line at a busy coffee shop with other people wearing suits. Talk to the person in front of you and behind you. Pay for their coffee. See where it goes. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
- Meet your officials. Go visit your legislator, member of Congress, mayor, etc. Just drop by and ask for an introduction. You’ll get blown off by some, and you’ll find yourself stuck in an hour-long conversation with others. Try it. Worst case, they put you on a list of crazy people and have an agent keep an eye on you when they visit your town.
- Do the pop-in. Haven’t seen that person in months? Just show up. Drop by and say hi. Chat for a while and enjoy the conversation. Keep it short, and keep offering to let the person get back to work. He or she will decide how long to keep you around.
- Observe the bar association board meeting. Just go. They’re usually open to the public. Watch the meeting. I’ll be surprised if someone doesn’t take note of your presence and interest and come talk to you. Boom— score! Now you’re talking to someone. That’s the objective of all these activities.
- Join a MeetUp. Go to MeetUp.com and check it out. It’s a site that features upcoming group meetings for thousands of different interests. Do a geographic search and you’ll likely find (in most places) a bunch of meetups happening over the course of the next few days. Go to something you’re interested in, regardless of whether it’s directly relevant. The idea is to get engaged, and that’s what meetups are about. There are thousands of meetups happening this week. There must be one that’s right for you.
- Have lunch at the bar. Don’t sit alone at a table. Get a seat at the bar and talk to those around you. Ask, “What’s good here?” and see where it goes. Once the conversation gets going, introduce yourself. Offer your name. Ask what they do. Explain what you do. The next thing you know, you’re talking to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. How do I know? Because it has happened to me. CEOs eat too, you know?
- Be generous. Stop by some of the charities near your office. Visit Google Maps and type in “charities” and you’ll find some. Drop off a $10 donation and check things out. Will it lead to something more? Who knows, but no one will kick you out when you drop by with a small contribution. One day, hopefully, you’ll be able to donate more. Maybe they’ll pull at your heartstrings and get you involved. Maybe one day you’ll be president of the board. Maybe one day you’ll lead the local United Way effort. Who knows where your generosity and your $10 will take you.
- Take someone from the courthouse to lunch. Be there around lunchtime and find someone who looks hungry. Another lawyer would be ideal.
- Call the real estate agent who sold you your house. Take her for coffee. Ask her how you can work together to generate business for one another.
- Write an article for your website educating readers about your practice area. Pass along a few lessons you’ve learned from watching your clients go through the process. Go light on the lesson and heavy on telling the story. (Don’t you wish I were telling you a story today?) Then email a link to the article to all of your former clients and those who recently came in for a consultation.
- Go to a Toastmasters meeting. You’ll meet 15 new people and, if you join, you’ll improve your speaking skills. I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t stand to improve their speaking ability. Have you?
- Mention to your dentist that you’re growing your practice when she takes her hands out your mouth. She knows people and they trust her. Having her on your team of referral sources is a smart move, and the only reason she hasn’t helped you so far is that she didn’t know you were interested in getting some help. Do the same for your dermatologist, podiatrist, and all the other professionals who keep you up and running.
- Take your car to the car wash. You’re driving people to lunch: clean the car and make a good impression. Go to the kind of car wash where you have to wait inside while it runs through the machine. Go when it’s crowded and talk to people in the waiting area. Make sure you tell them what you do. Be prepared with a few good stories about adultery (everyone loves to hear about adultery). Car wash customers always know someone you can help (after all, they have cars, and they can afford to pay someone to wash them).
There must be something you’re willing to do
There you go. You don’t have to do them all. Just do a few and get yourself going. There’s no time like the present to build your practice. Do something today.
Will these actions ignite your practice? Will they generate business right now?
Yep. They will. I’m not kidding.