Email Marketing for Law Firms
By Erik Mazzone
Almost any service-oriented business can benefit from using email marketing: physicians use it, financial advisers use it, and successful law firms use it to help build value in the services they provide. Email marketing’s practicality and cost-effectivenesscan build your brand, enhance your firm’s reputation and bring you new referrals, yet it is one of the most underutilized tools available to Internet-savvy professionals.
Unfortunately, email marketing has a stigma attached to it that makes many legal professionals cringe.
The Difference between Email Marketing and Spam
Most of us have a “junk” email address that we use occasionally. We don’t use our real email addresses because we’re afraid our inboxes will be inundated with spam – the emails that are trying to sell us things we don’t want or need, those that contain viruses or those that try to lure us into helping a poor widow get her inheritance from the National Bank of Uganda.
True email marketing, however, does not do any of those things. Email marketing is not spam; it is a method of establishing expertise in our fields, generating referrals and adding value to the services we provide. People who choose to place their names on your email list actually want to tap into your body of knowledge – you are not sending them unsolicited sales emails with questionable motives.
What is Email Marketing, and How Will it Help Your Firm?
There are two kinds of marketing: direct and indirect. Email marketing is direct – it reaches your target audience because they chose to receive it. It comes directly from you, not an outside party, and they can choose to stop receiving it if they do not find it valuable. Unlike indirect marketing (blog posts, television commercials and billboards), email marketing allows you to reach an extremely targeted audience whose members are highly likely to retain your services based upon the value you provide.
When used correctly, email marketing can do things for your firm that blogging, television commercials and billboards cannot – it can reach your target audience and get high response rates. According to Exact Target, an interactive marketing firm, 93 percent of American consumers receive at least one subscription email every day; consumers who subscribe to email lists actually want the information that only you can provide.
Email marketing allows you to build relationships with potential clients who are not yet ready to work with you, who are “window-shopping” for the best lawyer, or who are acquainted with one of your subscribers.
Leveraging the Power of Email Marketing
In order to leverage email marketing’s effectiveness, you must:
- Select a provider or software
- Determine what your subscribers will find valuable
- Create incentives that encourage subscriptions
- Set an email marketing schedule and editorial calendar
- Communicate effectively
- Deliver measured amounts of valuable information
- Build a loyal readership
- Provide ways for your subscribers to share your knowledge
Selecting a Provider
Email marketing providers generally offer a variety of templates, allow you to store your subscriber lists and automatically send your emails according to the schedule you set. Some email marketing software has the capability to determine whether most email hosts, like Yahoo!, Gmail and MSN will consider your email spam. In most cases, you are responsible for creating the textual content of your emails and your provider handles the rest.
There are two types of email marketing software: hosted and self-hosted. Hosted email marketing software allows you to access your account from anywhere with an Internet connection, and you do not have to install any programs on your computer. Self-hosted software requires installation or download, and it can only be used from the computer or network on which it is installed.
Cost and ROI
Email marketing services cost between $7.50 per month to upwards of $300 per month. Prices are generally based upon the number of subscribers you have and how much data storage you use. Image hosting and reporting may also impact your costs.
Direct mail marketing (postcards, flyers and brochures) is expected to generate a little over $15 for every $1 spent in 2012, according to the Direct Marketing Association, while email marketing is projected to generate $39.40 for every $1 spent this year. Additionally, email marketing nearly doubles the ROI for paid Internet searches.
Email Marketing Providers
Dozens of companies provide comprehensive email marketing programs, and mostare flexible enough to allow you to make monthly commitments. Notable email marketing providers include:
- AWeber (AWeber.com)
- InfusionSoft (InfusionSoft.com)
- Vertical Response (VerticalResponse.com)
- Constant Contact (ConstantContact.com)
- Campaigner (Campaigner.com)
- Benchmark (BenchmarkEmail.com)
- iContact (iContact.com)
- Pinpointe (Pinpointe.com)
- Get Response (GetResponse.com)
- Mailigen (Mailigen.com)
- Graphic Mail (GraphicMail.com)
Determining What Your Subscribers Value
The type of law you practice will help determine what your subscribers will find valuable. Reflect on the questions your potential clients ask most frequently, and then think about the questions they don’t ask. Issues that prevent a potential client from contacting you directly, like financial problems, uncertainty about whether they need your services or other obstacles are actually opportunities for you to provide value where no one else is providing it.
When you provide potential clients with valuable information, they are far more likely to work with you than anyone else. You establish yourself as the subject matter expert, and if you convey your message using the right tone and language, your potential clients view you as a trusted adviser who is talkingtothem, notatthem.
Your ability to solve a potential client’s problem is far more valuable to him than a flashy advertisement that doesn’t give him any answers. If you know where to draw the line by providing just enough information, you can quickly turn a subscriber into a client.
While some people will subscribe to your email marketing list simply because of the valuable information they know you’ll provide, others may need encouragement. Incentives give potential clients another reason to add their names to your mailing list, and they help vet your subscribers so your efforts are reaching the right audience.
Why Incentives Work
Providing an incentive changes the subscriber’s mindset. Rather than you shoving information at him, he’s asking you for something (the incentive) and you’re providing it. After you provide the incentive, your subscriber expects follow-up – and if he found your incentive valuable, you have set the stage for a successful relationship.
Types of Incentives
Your knowledge is valuable. The average citizen does not know the intricacies of his legal rights, the ins and outs of courtroom procedures or even how legal processes work. Your specialty is largely a mystery to the average citizen – but he wants answers.
There are several types of incentives that help you weed through potential clients to make sure you reach your ideal audience:
- free eBooks
- white papers
- access to a free video series
- downloadable kits
Writing a short, focused eBook that provides direction leads to subscribers who already need what you have to offer. A 15-page eBook with statistics, a few case studies and a run-down onhow divorce affects kids will attract people who are interested in getting a divorce. Since downloading the eBook requires registration, your email marketing list will grow to include people who will eventually need your services.
White papers offer information in easily readable formats. Similar to eBooks, but much shorter, white papers give readers the ability to view statistics at a glance, discover small gems of information through focused bullets and learn the basics of a topic without investing a lot of time. The majority of people who will register to download your white paper are people who are already looking for legal representation.
Free Video Series
Videos give you a chance show that you are more than just a block of text. By offering your subscribers access to a series of short videos that provide answers to their most pressing questions, you can earn their loyalty with your personality.
People love takeaways, and a downloadable kit gives them something tangible to work with. Your kit can include things like checklists, a pamphlet on the legal ramifications of certain actions and a calendar with your name and firm’s logo embedded in the top. When your subscribers feel like you have already provided them with something valuable, they are far more likely to work with you in the future than anyone else.
You can hold contests, give webinars or simply offer a free consultation. The point is giving your potential client something of value that they can associate with you so you can earn their trust, loyalty and business.
Email Marketing Schedules and Editorial Calendars
Once you have chosen a provider and determined how to grow your mailing list, set a schedule. Setting a schedule is a balancing act: if you send too many emails, no matter how valuable they are, your subscribers will get tired of you and opt out. If you send too few, they might not keep you in mind when they need you.
One email per week is fairly standard, as long as you provide valuable information in each email rather than self-promotional advertisements. Self-promotional advertisements are fine when they are used sparingly, or in conjunction with informative content.
You may choose to send a “Welcome” email to new subscribers, independent of your ordinary newsletters. For example, when someone subscribes to your email marketing campaign, a short note thanking them for subscribing with links to your firm’s blog, website and contact information is customary.
Your Editorial Calendar
Prepare your editorial calendar several months ahead of time. It is far easier to fill a marketing email when you are not racking your brain for subject matter, and you can ensure your newsletters are timely; you can cover tax-related issues during late winter and early spring, custodial rights during the holidays and address other concerns your potential clients may have based on seasons and seasonal trends.
According to a 2009 survey conducted by Merkle Interactive Services, 75% of unsubscribers cite lack of relevance as their reason. Plan your editorial calendar around your subscribers’ needs, not around what you want to say, to help prevent the loss of potential clients.
If your readers cannot understand what you are trying to say, they will unsubscribe. They will also unsubscribe if they feel you are “talking down” to them or simplifying things too much. When you strike a balance with the amount of information you provide, your tone and the methods you provide for your subscribers to contact you, you can easily transition subscribers into clients who trust you and your abilities.
Engaging Subject Lines
Most email hosts allow a maximum of 38 to 47 characters to show up in an email subject line. That means you havejust about this much space to capture a reader’s attention. Half the battle is getting your subscriber to open the email, so consider using a headline-type statement to pique interest. Things like “Holiday Visitation Problems” and “IRS Harassing the Elderly” will encourage your subscribers to open the email and find out how it applies to them.
Using the News to Break the Ice
You can address current news stories in your email marketing campaign if they are relevant to your subscribers; consider news headlines an excellent icebreaker. When you tie a news story into a solution that only you can provide, you create instant value in your services.
If you handle Social Security cases, for example, and someone makes the news for fraud relating to Social Security, you can use your marketing email to provide expert analysis of the system and how the whole issue could have been prevented.
Keep Them Coming Back
Most of your subscribers will have a basic grasp on their situations and need you to hone in on the finer points. As you compose your marketing emails, do not provide all the answers at once. Keep your marketing emails short and concise (generally between 350 and 500 words), and stick to answering one question at a time.
At the conclusion of each marketing email, let your readers know what they can look forward to in the next installment. You can use a simple statement like, “Next week, I’ll cover the basics of how copyright infringement can hurtyourbusiness.”
What Web Readers Like
Web readers like their content broken up into small, easy-to-read paragraphs. Offset large blocks of text with bullet points, links and clickable graphics. Links should lead to specific blog posts you have made, pages on your website that will help the reader and pages on third-party websites that readers can use as resources.
Remember that your email is not competing with other law firms, but with other emails in an already-stuffed inbox. It is your job to create the most engaging, informative content possible. Consider adding things that entertain your readers, like weekly “fun facts,” quotes or tips from a legal professional’s point of view. Surveys and printable checklists provide a means for your subscribers to interact through your email, as well.
Graphically pleasing layouts encourage readers to stay on the page and read your content. Since many people have the images in their email accounts disabled by default, it is usually a good idea to offer a plain text or online version of each marketing email you send out as well.
Providing Information vs. Selling
Generally, your readers will be more likely to work with you after you have provided the valuable information they were looking for – and they will appreciate information far more than they will appreciate blatant advertising. However, advertising does have its place and occasionally, you can send a marketing email that is dedicated solely to advertising your firm.
Successful email marketing campaigns combine links to existing blog posts and web pages with fresh information that is not already available online.
Calls to Action
Just like television commercials, your marketing emails should close with a call to action that motivates readers to contact you. It can be a simple statement like, “If you or someone you know has suffered an injury because of another person’s negligence, call (555)555-1212. I can help you get the compensation you deserve.”Using empathetic statements helps your readers feel more comfortable with you.In many cases, an empathetic call to action will be just the little nudge your readers need.
Providing Readers with Access to Your Network
Your signature block should contain your name, firm name, email address, telephone number and physical address. Your readers need to know where to contact you when they need you.
Use the same footer at the conclusion of each marketing email you send. A brief biography on you or your firm, a photo and links to your blog and website should be at the bottom of every email, below your signature block.
Avoid the “Hard Sell”
Since you cannot gauge your readers’ responses when you send out a marketing email, avoid hard selling techniques. Your readers only need to click one button to banish your marketing email forever – and if they feel like you are pushing your services on them without having built a trusting relationship, they’ll terminate their subscriptions without thinking twice.
Losing Subscribers: The Statistics
According to Exact Target, the main reason people unsubscribe from email lists is that emails come in too frequently. As many as 54 percent of consumers opt out when businesses flood their inboxes with mail, relevant to their needs or not. Additionally:
- Up to 49 percent of subscribers unsubscribe because they think the content is boring, repetitive or outdated.
- 47 percent of subscribers opt out because they receive too much email overall – not because of the content or lack of value in your emails.
- 25 percent of subscribers remove themselves from mailing lists because they never found the content relevant to their own situations.
- 22 percent of subscribers only submit their email addresses for a one-time promotion, download or eBook and never intend to continue receiving marketing emails from that provider.
- As many as 8 percent of subscribers dump subscriptions when they find a similar service that offers better information.
It is not always your fault when you lose subscribers. However, with relevant and informative content, you will be able to hold as many as possible and build a loyal readership that includes potential clients.
Your Overall Email Marketing Plan
Email marketing requires a small time commitment if you plan to compose the emails yourself. If possible, write them in advance so that you are always prepared. Set your schedule and stick to it as closely as possible, and evaluate your marketing campaign’s effectiveness periodically. Some services allow you to track precisely how many of your emails your subscribers open, how many links they click and which emails (or series of emails) has been most popular among your readers.
If you see that something is not working in your email marketing campaign, change it. You may be sending emails at the wrong intervals, covering too much territory (or not enough) or attracting subscribers who do not actually need your services. Since email marketing is so cost-effective, it does not require a huge investment to figure out what works for you and your firm.
Once you are ready to move forward with an email marketing strategy, ask yourself these questions:
Do I know what my potential clients will find valuable?
Do I know how to write or provide valuable content?
How will I attract new subscribers?
How much money am I willing to spend on an email marketing campaign?
As you compose your marketing emails, use this checklist to ensure you are not missing any important details:
Use your expertise to convey your message. Make sure your readers can tell that you are a subject matter expert on the issue.
Use common language, and if you must use complex legal terms, explain them simply and concisely.
Write with the goal of getting readers to ask questions. When readers need to ask questions, they will come to you.
Create a subject line that makes subscribers wonder what the email can teach them.
Include your contact information in every email.
Place an empathetic call to action in the body of your email.
Offer a plain-text alternative to emails loaded with graphics.
Email marketing doesn’t have to be a complicated, time-consuming effort. With the right tools and motivation, your firm can enjoy a significant increase in trusting client/attorney relationships.