The Ultimate Marketing Tool: Great Customer Service

The more I think about marketing legal or financial services, the more I become convinced that the ultimate marketing tool is great client service. And by that, I do not mean great legal work, or great financial plans or products.

The fact is, even if you are very, very good at what you do, that circumstance will not set you apart from, or above, your competitors. Most of them are pretty good, too. And moreover, your clients are not really capable of distinguishing between an A-plus or a C-plus attorney or financial advisor. They aren’t qualified.

But every one of your clients considers him- or herself to be an expert on customer service. They know when they are being ignored, or treated rudely. They know when someone doesn’t return a phone call, or keeps them waiting 20 minutes past the appointed time.  They understand when your office looks like a pigsty and your staff is condescending and your phone answering system is a nightmare.

Estate planning attorneys, want to see your future competition? Here it is.Images

It’s a comprehensive onscreen legal manual with expert tech support available. It allows you to choose from 40,000 legal documents to protect your family and assets.
It allows you to create a legal will, living trust, financial power of attorney, health care directive, and more. For each document,
WillMaker Plus takes you through a step-by-step interview, and your
documents will automatically reflect the laws of your state.

Can it be long before there is a virtual lawyer in every mall and grocery store? Don’t think so? Ask the pharmacists.

But here’s the good news. Those same customer service experts, your clients and potential clients, know when they are being treated well. They know that a box of software will not serve them coffee, or send them a birthday card, or inquire about their grandchildren, or hold their hands when they cry.

If your company is a client service firm, the work product of which happens to be legal documents or financial plans, you have an excellent chance of being an indispensable part of your clients’ lives.

But if your office is a document-creation system, well…your competition comes in a box. And the box costs  $34.99.

Indy and home again

Mark_rogerI spent Wednesday and Thursday in Indianapolis at the semi-annual Collegium of the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys. I’m not sure what to make of  the organization right now. Attendance was small — around 75 — but I believe that the fall Collegium is their "big" event and this was sort of a "mini" Collegium. Of course, their membership numbers have declined in the past 18 months as they suffered the fallout of the internicine warfare and lawsuits at the top, as well as the problems in their document creation system. For the time being, at least, they seem to be focusing on attracting new attorneys who want to enter the estate planning field and established attorneys who want to  Angie_mark_jilltransition into it. We were able to say hello to old friends like Dennis Shelley, Bill Blew, and Roger McClure, but it was hard not to notice all the people who were not there, who would have been in years past.

That’s me with Roger McClure of Alexandria, Virginia at top, and under that, with Angela Crossin (left) and Jill Story of Indiana.

Back home on Friday, the Smart Marketing offices were visited by Michael Thomas (right), of Flint, Sarah_owen_michael_1Michigan, who has been a Smart Marketing client continuously since 2002. That means he knew Smart Marketing Events Manager Sarah Marshall (left) before she became mom to Owen, and Mike’s visit was an opportunity to meet the first "Smart Marketing" baby. (Not the last, however! Graphic designer Diane Scire is expecting this summer!)

The Little (Young) Lady From Pasadena

Copley_father_practicSmart Marketing received a visit from estate planning attorney (and Smart Marketing client) Jan Copley of Pasadena, California. Jan spent a day bonding with the Smart Staff, working on her website, corporate identity package, and her great neDscn0253w pamphlet entitled Closing My Father’s Medical Practice: Lessons Learned (click on the graphic to see a larger version). The article on which the pamphlet is based will appear in the May or June issue of Southern California Physician magazine. Congratulations, Jan! That’s Jan, on the left, working with Smart Marketing’s Marcia Albert.

Author = Authority

A book is a wonderful marketing tool. When we want to indicate that someone knows virtually everything about a subject we say, "He (or she) wrote the book!" A book is great in your office lobby, great as a giveaway at seminars, great in securing PR and speaking engagements, great in the offices of your referral sources — in short, it’s just great.

But, of course, writing a book from scratch is hard work. My friends at ElderLawAnswers have a solution. Their book, Looking Ahead: Estate and Long-Term Care Planning for You and Your Family is available as a marketing tool for you. If you are a member of Elder Law Answers (and you should be, if you practice in this field), you get the books cheaper, but you can get them whether or not you are a member. The cover can be customized with information about you and your firm. The volume is a quality paperback containing 76 pages.Kleecover_1

The book may not be "by" you, but it is "from" you and I assure you almost no one will make that distinction. The photo that accompanies this post is the book cover of Smart Marketing client Kimberly Lee of Indian Wells, California. The cover was custom designed by Smart Marketing (Elder Law Answers has a generic cover if you are not a Smart Marketing client), and Kimberly, who is an Elder Law Answers member, paid about $3.75 per book on an order of 1,000. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

If you think you might like to participate, contact Mark Miller of Elder Law Answers at 866-267-0947 or by email: [email protected]

Should You Consider A Blog?

I have now been blogging for about eight months. I think it has proven an effective tool for communicating with my existing clients (thank you all) and in sharpening the focus of what I have to say about marketing. There is nothing like sitting down at the keyboard for making you think a subject through. I have found it to be an effective substitute for a company newsletter.

As a marketing tool, it has shown some success and more potential. A good example of how marketing works is a recent experience. Step one: Larry Bodine of LawMarketing.com saw my blog, went to the Smart Marketing website, and happened to read my article on "Top Ten Reasons Attorneys Don’t Do Marketing" originally published in Marketing the Law Firm. He asked for (and received) my permission to post it on his site. An atttorney who visited Larry’s site read the article and called me. Yesterday, that attorney signed on as a Smart Marketing client. (Welcome Daren and Todd Stabinski!)

You see how all of my marketing efforts worked together: the blog, the website, the published article.

Should you do it? Yes, if you are willing to work at it a bit. The key to successful blogging is to actually have something to say, and to post it every few days — once a week, at least. You have to give people a reason to keep coming back.

For me, the blog is easier than publishing a newsletter. I’m a somewhat impulsive writer, and I like to sit down and write when the thoughts are fresh in my mind, as I am doing at this moment. A recent article in the Economist suggests that blogging will replace pulbic relations as we know it.

The authority on blogging for attorneys is Kevin O’Keefe of Lexblog.com. Check it out, if blogging interests you. Also, there is an article on business blogging in today’s Wall Street Journal. Click below to continue reading the WSJ article.

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