Attracting Local Clients Feed

How this Barrie Lawyer Grew His Practice, One Blog Post at a Time

Brian-GalbraithWhen he first started blogging, Brian Galbraith of Galbraith Family Law thought that a blog was pretty much the same as a newsletter. Soon he realized that it was more like a library, a library he continues to build. And while he's creating new content, visitors are still finding and reading his older content, evident in his blog's statistics and reader comments.

Just like a library, Brian's website and blog have become a trusted reference for at least one local service agency, who repeatedly refer clients to his website so they can get helpful information that's easy to understand. The agency appreciates having this valuable local source of free information for their clients who are in vulnerable situations.

Giving away this information promotes goodwill with his readers. Whether or not they're in a position to hire him now, that goodwill helps his law firm stay "top of mind" until they're needed.

Familiarity brings trust

The firm's familiarity in the community has resulted from the cumulative effect of all of Brian's marketing efforts, both offline and online. For example, they've had good results from using Facebook ads and Google ads, and the SEO benefits of blogging have also helped the site show up reliably at the top of search engines pages.

Whether you're driving along Dunlop Street West in Barrie or Googling information about divorce and family law, you will see Galbraith Family Law - again and again. And that kind of repeat exposure helps prospective clients get an impression of safety, familiarity and trust. When they need help, people tend to choose the name they recognize.

Once they pick up the phone or come into the office, Galbraith's excellent customer service practices come into play. From free WiFi and refreshments in the waiting room, to a genuinely warm welcome and a kind, listening ear.

Local connections

Partly in thanks to his affiliation with LexBlog, Brian has readers and guest post submissions from all over the world. Having guest bloggers eases his own writing load (that's Tip #6 in my time-saving blogging tips for busy business owners), but what pleases him the most is featuring other local professionals so they can cross-refer and help build each other's practices.

About eight years ago Brian Galbraith was on his own. Today he has six busy associate lawyers and six support staff, and the firm has been voted "Best of Barrie" by readers of the Barrie Examiner for the past four years in a row.

Brian jokes that spending time on his website and blog are just a way to avoid work, but the truth is that he attributes much of the firm's growth to his consistent efforts to create and share valuable content online. Brian believes the key to his success has been spending time each week working "on" his practice instead of just working "in" it.


Five Ways Blogging Gives You More Confidence as a Business Owner

"Introverts have natural advantages to finding clients and making money online . . ." - Denise Wakeman

The above quote comes from the sign-up page for Denise Wakeman's Visibility for Introverts program. We chatted briefly about the enthusiastic response to her offer, and how it really seems to have struck a nerve with so many business owners.

In my July 2010 blog post, Blogging: Passive marketing, or an introvert's dream come true?, I discuss how even though blogging seems like a passive activity, for an introvert it's actually an ideal way to actively engage with prospective clients and a wider network.

For introverts and other shy networkers, the benefits of blogging don't stop there. The skills and practices you apply to be an effective blogger will help you build confidence in all aspects of your business.

Here's how:

Confidence-meter

  1. You'll feel like an expert - Once you start compiling a collection of relevant and valuable blog posts, you'll be able to see your expertise in black and white.
  2. You'll have (and be) a conversation starter on social media - Best of all, by sharing your blog posts with links and "teasers," you'll be starting or joining the conversations about the exact topics your ideal clients are interested in. 
  3. You'll know that your website is always on call - With blog posts available on your website, prospective clients can always learn more about you - and how you can help them. As long as you keep your blog up to date with relevant information, you can trust that your website is making a good first impression.
  4. You'll clarify your ideas and marketing messages - As Jeff Korhan points out in this blog post about the business of professional speaking, "When you aren't speaking [marketing/networking], you should be writing," because "blogging polishes your ideas." Blogging can give you sound bytes to use for media, networking or talking to prospective clients. This will be a really helpful head start if you're usually shy in these situations. 
  5. You'll have the seedlings of a book - You can put your blog posts together to create a book, special report or other writing project. It's no accident that the word authority begins with author. Having your ideas in print is a great confidence booster and will also bring higher respect and credibility from others.  

So while you're reveling in the new ideal clients you'll attract with your blog content, be sure to also enjoy these confidence-boosting benefits of blogging. 


A Blogging Schedule is Key for this Barrie Real Estate and Estates Lawyer

Cesia-GreenCesia Green is a Barrie real estate and estates lawyer and a partner with Wall-Armstrong & Green. She blogs at wallarmstrong.wordpress.com/. I asked Cesia to tell me more about her experiences with blogging and the results she's seen.

How did you get into blogging

"I went to a seminar run by Joanna Hoffman of Oomph Group on different ways of marketing for professionals. One thing that came up was using blogs and other digital methods to share knowledge as a way of making connections and therefore clients. At the end of the seminar, I went to my (now) partner with the idea for a practice-related blog."

What were your initial goals for the blog

"My initial goal was to share knowledge. There is a lot of very technical information out there in my practice areas, as well as a lot of fun stories, and I enjoy sharing them with people who might otherwise never come across them."

Have your goals changed as time went on? 

"They haven’t really; I still enjoy blogging primarily as a knowledge-sharing tool. I am always reading other peoples’ blogs and if I come across something interesting, or read an interesting article in the news, one of my first thoughts is how I can reference it in a blog post to better educate my clients and colleagues, both current and potential."

When we met, Cesia also told me that her firm's newsletters are a breeze to put together now that she's blogging. She simply chooses the best blog posts from the previous quarter.

What kind of feedback and responses have you gotten? 

"I often feel like I’m shouting into the wind, so it’s great when I hit on a topic that gets some comments. I was given the opportunity twice to guest post on the livehigh.com blog, which was great. I have also been interviewed for a couple of articles, and occasionally get calls from other lawyers who have had similar issues to mine to discuss how they were resolved."

How do you keep up with blogging on a regular basis? 

"I schedule absolutely everything in my life, and blogging is no exception. I have task reminders set for my two regular posts each week (estates on Tuesdays, real estate on Fridays) and I make sure that I have them up by then. When I’m really organized, I will do a whole lot of writing all at once and pre-schedule the posts."

What are your future plans for the blog? 

"I intend to keep at it! I have always loved writing, and this is a great way for me to do that without the pressure of trying to write something longer for formal publication."

That's good to hear, Cesia. You're helping people understand two complicated areas of the law, and ones that so many of us will run into over the course of our lives.


Business Blogging Tree Examples from Barrie

Closer-look-young-blogging-treeWe've got a ways to go before we fulfill my vision of an orchard full of blogging trees (business blogs) here in Barrie, but let's take a look at how we're doing so far.

Branding yourself as an expert

For an example of how to use a "how to article" as a branch that stems from the business goal of establishing yourself as an industry expert, check out Carole Schaefer's article, Five Tips for Better Video.

Carole's tips give readers practical solutions for common video mishaps, and demonstrate that as the owner of Sugar Productions, she knows her stuff! Readers will be pleased to improve the quality of their do-it-yourself video attempts, and they'll definitely know who to turn to when they want professional quality videos. Plus, they're only one click away if they want to see samples of Carole's work or find out more about her.

Listening for blog ideas from your audience

For an example of a business owner who is catching ideas as they rain down from her audience, check out this post from PC Service on Site about hacker emails. It shows that co-owner Meredith Skinner (with husband Peter Skinner) is listening to what people are talking about. Then she provides practical solutions for dealing with the problem.

The team approach to blogging

Another way to lighten the load of weekly blogging is to take a team approach like Barriston LLP. These busy legal bloggers also provide examples of how to spread the word about your blog, with individual bloggers like Joanne McPhail setting the wind in motion with tweets to her network about the latest posts.

Giving your own expert slant on relevant content from around the web

Cesia Green from Wall-Armstrong & Green taps into the visual power of infographics by linking to one about the extreme rise of funeral costs. She could have even opted to embed the image right into her post (instructions are at the bottom of the page where the infographic is hosted). Cesia also demonstrates how even when you're linking to connective content that someone else created, you can still highlight your own expertise by including your own personal slant on the topic. She lets the reader know precisely why the material will be relevant, interesting or entertaining for her audience.

Making a personal connection through video blog posts

We'll end this blog post where we began - by talking about video. This time we'll use Kirk Evans and his company Fast Solution as our example. Kirk has begun posting "how to" videos on his site, including one where he speaks directly to the camera - giving prospective clients the chance to get to know him. Even though the videos are not officially part of his blog (Kirk, if you're reading this, please take this as a constructive suggestion), he could easily turn them into individual blog posts with descriptive titles, along with at least a few sentences about which problem is being solved in each video. That way he won't lose the people who prefer to read rather than watch (like me!)

I would love to feature more Barrie business blogs here at Content Mastery Guide. If you'd like to improve your blog and be featured as a case study in your very own post, apply here for my free blog topic offer.


An Orchard of Blogging Trees for Barrie and Beyond

Blogging-orchardLast week I had the chance to speak to Signature System Coach Kathy Mallary, and she asked me a very poignant question:

"If you could wave a magic wand and transform every business owner in Barrie into an effective business blogger, what would that do for your community?" 

My blogging vision for Barrie's business community

If every business owner in Barrie was blogging effectively, we would see huge benefits - both as businesses and as consumers and clients of those businesses.

As business owners, we would have meaningful, relevant content to draw on as we participate in social media, networking events and in structured meetings with prospective clients. We would have a central message from which to build all of our marketing communications. This would harness our efforts, save time and stress, and give us more confidence about answering questions and following up. 

Because we were being specific and authentic in our writing, each of our unique personalities - values, quirks, interests, hobbies, background and all - would shine through and our ideal clients would see that we're a good fit to meet their needs. We would spend less time negotiating with the wrong clients and more time working with the right clients.

Our "competitors" would become our colleagues who we mention, link to and share openly with. We would trust that their ideal clients are not the same as ours. We would have an open, collaborative and generous relationship with other businesses.

As consumers and clients, we would be able to seek out and find information that helps us make choices in our lives and our businesses. We could trust the people we choose to do business with because we would already feel like we know them.

When visiting a business's website, we would find regular updates that give us a glance behind the scenes, and reveal more about the people involved in the business; the culture of the company. We would know almost instantly if this is someone we want to take the next step with, keep following or steer away from. This would save us both time and stress.

A community of thriving businesses and confident consumers who are happy to spend their money locally - that is my dream for Barrie!

How to plant a blogging tree that will grow your business

If you're a business owner who wants to live out my vision and join the orchard of blogging trees in Barrie, here are links to six blog posts that will take you through the process of planning and planting your blogging tree:

  1. A Strong Blogging Tree Starts at the Roots
  2. A Blogging Plan You Can Wrap Your Arms Around
  3. Branching Out on Your Blogging Tree with Blog Categories and Feature Articles
  4. How to Decorate Your Blogging Tree to Attract Your Ideal Clients
  5. Spreading the Seeds of Your Blogging Tree
  6. How to Keep Blogging, Whatever the Weather

How would your local or online business community benefit from planting and growing an orchard of blogging trees? 

Linda Dessau, CPCC, is the author of Write Your Way to More Clients Online and the founder of ContentMasteryGuide.com. She offers ghostwriting, editing, training and consulting.


Spreading the Seeds of Your Blogging Tree

Girl-blowing-dandelion-seedsOne of the most common questions I'm asked about blogging is, "Once I've published something new to my blog, how do people know it's there?"

There are three ways to spread the seeds of your blogging tree so that you can grow your audience and your business. 

1) Wind

You can set the wind in motion by spreading the news that you have valuable information to share.

One of the simplest ways to do this is through social media. Social media - isn't that just for keeping in touch with your friends? Yes, that's one purpose, but social media is also a powerful tool for growing your business.

In an earlier blog post that provides ten reasons (and ways) to share your blog posts on social media, I discussed how blogging can turn social networking into business networking. Plus you can automate or outsource part of this process so it doesn't take over your day.

You can also share links to a specific blog post whenever a conversation leads you there. Let's say you meet someone at a Chamber of Commerce event. When he finds out what you do, he says, "That's funny that I should meet you today. I just had a situation come up where . . ." Since the purpose of networking events is make connections, not necessarily have in-depth conversations, let him know that you wrote a blog post on that topic and that you'll email a link to him later.

Following up after networking events can be challenging, which is why some people don't do it. These same people tend to comment that networking doesn't work for them. In the example above, following up was a lot easier. There was no selling, no "cold call" and nothing to be uncomfortable or nervous about.

You can email blog post links to other people as well. You can add a personal message and send it to individuals who might have a special interest in the topic, and/or you can email it to a group of people who have agreed to receive regular updates from you (and only people who have agreed). (Click these links for more details about email service providers and automating your blog post emails.)

You have plenty of other opportunities to invite and remind people to visit your blog. One is to mention it in your introduction or bio every time you do public speaking. Another is to add a blog link to your email signature, business card or QR code.

2) Bees

When you share your new blog posts with people in your network, in turn they can share them with their own contacts. Some call this "going viral" - when a piece of content gets quickly passed around the web. On your blogging tree, your contacts are the bees that buzz around from tree to tree, sharing the latest and greatest news. (That's why it's so important to be consistently publishing high-quality content!)  

Make your content easy to share by posting permanent links via social media, and by including sharing buttons right on your blog

You'll have the strongest relationships with people you have a genuine connection with, starting with those you already know. You also want to expand your network, and specifically seek out industry leaders who could potentially introduce you to many prospective new clients. Show your respect and admiration for them by sharing and commenting on their content, and then build on that starting point to make contact.

3) Fruit

When your readers indulge in the delicious fruit you have produced, you're planting seeds not only for them to become prospective clients, but for them to become prospective referral sources. They'll likely start by sharing your content via social media, and then eventually, someone will ask, "Do you know anyone who . . ." and they just might think of you!

Another way that your readers help you spread the seeds of your blogging tree is by sharing their own thoughts and comments. Depending on your audience, they may do this on the blog or by email, or they may just wait until the next time they speak to you by phone or in person.

Regardless of how you hear from them, listen carefully to your readers' comments. These ideas can be the seeds of your next blog post, whether you answer frequently asked questions or just focus on topics your audience cares most about.

If you work consistently to spread the seeds of your blogging tree, over time you will grow your relationships, your ideas and your business.

Linda Dessau, CPCC, is the author of Write Your Way to More Clients Online and the founder of ContentMasteryGuide.com. She offers ghostwriting, editing, training and consulting. 


A Strong Blogging Tree Starts at the Roots

Blogging-tree-business-goals-rootsIf you're just starting out both in business and in blogging, then your blog might be an excellent place to start finding your audience, get feedback about your business ideas so you can hone your service offerings, and plan events that meet the needs of your audience.

If, on the other hand, you already have a solid foundation and clear goals for your business, then all that's left is to determine how blogging can help you accomplish those goals.

Here is a list of the five most common benefits of blogging. Do any of these match your goals for your business? 

  1. Demonstrate your expertise in a specific industry or specialty – By writing blog posts that answer your clients' most common questions, you show that you're a knowledgeable and trusted authority in that particular area. If this is your top goal, focus on writing "how to" articles. [Update June 8, 2012 - Thought pieces also position you as a leader and authority in your area.]
  2. Educate your clients about what you do and why they need you – A blog allows people to research you and your business before taking the next step to contact or hire you. By writing authentically about the topics that matter most to you and your clients, you give them a clearer picture of who you are and what they can expect from you and your services. If this is your main goal, provide a combination of client stories and personal posts, with the occasional theory or manifesto added in for good measure.
  3. Add value to what you already offer your clients and broader network – Your generosity and goodwill speak volumes about who you are as a person, while the quality of your information continues to solidify your credibility. Through your blog you can reach and help more people. If this is your main goal, combine "how to" articles with connective content that adds interest and variety to your blog. There are even ways that blogging can help you give back to your community.
  4. Gain wider exposure for your business – When the people in your network like and pass along your blog posts via email and social media, they simultaneously provide an endorsement and introduction to other people who are interested in your specialty area. If this is your primary business goal, be sure to blend all types of content so that you reach people with different interests and learning styles.
  5. Keep your website fresh – Your network will keep returning to see what's new, and Google and other search engines will reward you with higher ranking. This continues to reinforce the perception that you're an expert who is up to date, and your blog is the destination for trustworthy and helpful information. Use my weekly blogging method to stay consistent and get into the blogging habit.

Before you get too far along (though you can stop and do this any time), fortify the roots of your blogging tree by clarifying the goals of your blog. The good news is that you don't have to look any further than the goals for your business!

Continue reading the next post in the Blogging Tree series -->

Linda Dessau, CPCC, is the author of Write Your Way to More Clients Online and the founder of ContentMasteryGuide.com. She offers ghostwriting, editing, training and consulting. If you want better results from your online writing, contact her today to learn how she can help.


Getting to Know Your Clients - Just One of the Benefits of Blogging [Infographic]

The anatomy of content marketing - the heart of online success

In their comprehensive and well-researched infographic (shared with permission), UK-based company Content+ share that 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. 

It makes sense when you consider the alternative, as I shared in a previous post about why to write an article, not an ad. Ads can feel intrusive and come at us on their timeline, not ours. Information, on the other hand, is something we actively seek out. 

Making it easier to get to know your prospective clients is just one of the many benefits of blogging. I've been tweeting about some of the others lately:

Benefits-of-blogging
Which one of these benefits makes the most sense to you? If you're already blogging, which benefit do you see happening in your own business? If you're not blogging yet, which benefit is most appealing? Add your comments below or tweet your answer.


How to Write a Wellness Blog That People Want to Read

Looking-for-helpLet's examine five things that people are looking for when they search online for health and wellness topics, and how your blog can address those needs and attract these prospective clients to your services.

  1. Am I all alone? People want to know they're not the only ones who've experienced whatever problem they're having. Blogging tips: Write about the most common complaints and issues your clients have when they hire you. Describe exactly what they may be going through. Use the same words your prospective clients would use in a conversation with a friend.
  2. Is this ever going to get better? People want to hear that you've known and helped others like them, maybe even that you were once like them and you found a way out (if you happen to be a member of your own target market). They want their lives to improve, they want to get better, they want reassurance and hope that things won't always be this way. Blogging tips: Use examples, client stories and your own life stories. Balance your expertise with real-life experience. Paint a vibrant picture of how wonderful life could be once they've found the right solution for them.
  3. Will I be able to cope with this and do what it takes to help myself? People are looking for immediate relief, along with long-term change. They also want to know that your suggestions will be different from others they've tried and abandoned. Blogging tips: Give your readers plenty of straightforward, practical steps they can begin immediately to improve their situation. Remember that your readers will be at various stages of readiness for making changes in their lives, so don't suggest too much, too soon.
  4. Is this serious? As I mentioned above, sometimes when people are researching, they're not ready to take action yet. In terms of the transtheoretical model of change developed by addiction researchers Prochaska and DiClemente in 1983, they're still in the contemplation or preparation stage. That's why some of your blog posts should aim to motivate someone to address their problem. Blogging tips: Just as you painted a picture in tip #2, now you want to paint an equally vivid picture of how life might look if they never overcome this problem. What will be the impact on their physical, emotional and mental well-being? For an example, see this article about metabolic syndrome and hypertension on the Wellness Blogs site.
  5. Who can I trust to help me with this situation, and what can I expect from that process? People need to know, like and trust you before they even consider hiring you for such an intimate service as a wellness treatment. They want you to be a knowledgeable expert who is still approachable. Blogging tips: Explain how your treatment modality works. For example, there are excellent introductions to reflexology and craniosacral therapy on the Wellness Blogs site. Tell more case stories about the people you've helped and how you helped them. Weave in details about your approach to client care. Help people feel what it will be like to be under your care. Write to each individual reader as if he or she is already one of your precious clients.

By addressing these needs of your blog readers, you'll be establishing a trusting relationship as an expert they can rely on. When they're ready to take the next step and get help for their situation, you'll be first on their minds.

Do you need help writing your wellness blog? Contact us today to learn how we can help!


How Do I Keep People Coming Back to My Blog?

InvitingThis question came up from two different audiences recently. First while I was speaking to a class of business students at Georgian College about entrepreneurship and blogging, and next it was among the questions that attendees submitted when they registered for the Wellness Blogging Seminar.

Blogging has many benefits, but one of its challenges is that it requires your audience to come to you. However groundbreaking, creative, helpful, consistent or timely your blog posts are, readers have to bring themselves to your blog in order to read them.

So how do you keep people coming back to your blog? You need to keep inviting them! That was one of the housekeeping tips for living online that I shared on the Blogging Mindset webinar last week.

Here are five ways to invite people back to your blog:

  1. Announce and promote your blog posts via social media - Not just once, but several times - your friends, fans and followers check in at various times in the day and week. Write a compelling "teaser" such as a question or headline that entices people to read more. There are many tools that allow you to update your social media accounts automatically when you publish a new post. You can also preschedule several messages at once to batch your tasks (just be sure you don't automate your entire social media presence!). 
  2. Display your latest blog posts in your email signature - You can do this manually by updating your signature each time you publish a new blog post (be sure to use the permalink) or use WiseStamp to do it automatically.
  3. Send regular email broadcasts with links to your latest informative articles - If your focus is on sending valuable, helpful content, these emails will always be a gift, not an intrusion. 
  4. Send blog post links as responses to questions - One of the benefits of building a mountain of content is that when people ask common questions about your area of specialty, you'll likely have one or several blog posts that answer the question. Whether you're replying to an email or popping into social media or an online forum, a well-placed article link can boost your credibility and build new relationships.
  5. Provide an RSS subscription - RSS (really simple syndication) is a way to automatically send your latest blog posts to people who've specifically requested to see them. If someone has an RSS reader, they can either search for your blog and add it to their account, or when they're visiting your site they can look for this icon:

Rss

You don't need to jump through SEO hoops to get people back to your blog, but you do need to make an effort to keep inviting them. That's just good housekeeping.