One of the most powerful and cost-effective marketing tools at a lawyer’s disposal is one that many firms don’t even consider – email marketing. Email marketing can imply many different things, taking various forms. We’re used to emails that clutter our inboxes and lists from e-commerce websites that we’re a part of that we joined years ago.
Email marketing can get a bad rep, but then again, if we never open emails that we receive from other companies, then why is it still around?
The answer is because it works.
Law firms that take advantage of email marketing find it’s a low-cost investment and has a high return on investment. In this article, we’re going to look at:
- Why you want to use email marketing for your law firm
- Different types of Email marketing and campaigns
- How to Build Email Lists
- How to Start, Run and Automate Email Campaigns
- Ethics Considerations
5 Reasons Why Law Firms Should use Email Marketing
There are five main reasons why law firms should consider using email as one of their primary marketing tools and channels. They are:
- Top of Mind Advertising
- It’s Traffic You Control
- Capture Leads Earlier
Let’s see each in some depth, to understand better why you should consider email marketing one of your firm’s next marketing investments.
1. It’s Cost-Effective
Unlike other forms of attorney marketing such as online and offline marketing where you can expect invoices in the thousands, email marketing is relatively inexpensive to start and operate. Depending on whether you manage it on your own, you can get set up and running for under $100 per month. Hiring professionals to manage your law firm’s email campaigns, you can get started for a few hundred dollars per month.
2. Excellent Top of Mind Advertising
Email marketing is a powerful way for companies, large and small, to keep people thinking about their brand and recalling it. Having emails show up in your audience’s mailbox will keep you top of mind and keep your audience from scratching their heads when remembering your firm. When they require their services, your law firm gets the call. If it comes up in conversation, your brand gets the mention.
3. Drive More Referrals
Probably the most potent effect email marketing can have is driving repeat business and referrals from sources like former clients, fellow lawyers and other referral sources. This can be accomplished through implementing a newsletter, which we’ll look at later on. When executed correctly, this reason alone will more than pay for your firm’s email marketing efforts.
You can also read our article on email newsletter marketing for law firms.
4. Finally, Traffic that You Control
Online marketing and advertising strategies, including SEO or social media, can do wonders for your practice. However, there is a caveat. We put our trust in these channels as they’re well established and will help drum up new business and open more files. However, nothing lasts forever.
A law firm ranking on the first page of Google today could lose its rankings in the future, due to an algorithm change or competing firms out-ranking them. The same is true and has been true of social media networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. In short, they have changed their algorithms for business pages, forcing them into a pay to play model. The point is that ultimately, we trust that we can’t rely fully on these sources for traffic.
With email marketing, your practice owns it’s email list and hence controls the audience to a higher degree. Indeed, we have to mindful of not over-saturating our audiences with emails and be just another cluttered email in their inbox. However, with reasonable use and management, we have better control over an audience that we own than ones that could be gone tomorrow (and eventually will be).
5. Capture Case Leads and Potential Clients Earlier
When leads and prospective clients reach out to your firm, whether via email, live chat, form submission or phone call, it’s due to one reason. They were compelled, warm and ready to contact a lawyer.
Email marketing allows you to capture lead information and contact info from people who are still in the consideration stage of the funnel. In other words, you can get more leads from people who are still thinking about contacting a lawyer, rather than ready to call.
We’ll look at how this is achieved with lead magnets and email marketing later on.
Types of Email Marketing and Campaigns
There are several different ways email marketing can be utilized. Primarily, lawyers and law firms use three different forms of email marketing:
- Drip Email Campaigns
- Offers & Webinars
We’ll discuss each of these briefly, gaining a better understanding of which situations you’re most likely to use them in and what purpose each serves.
Drip Email Campaigns
This type of email marketing is on the end of the spectrum closest to full automation. As the name implies, emails are dripped, one after the other and usually in a timed sequence. The drip email sequence is triggered by an action. This could be signing up for a piece of content (known as a lead magnet) such as an ebook, guide or webinar.
This is an example of what a lead magnet page looks like. It merely outlines the offer or the “magnet,” what the person will get in exchange for their name and email address. Afterward, they’ll receive a copy of the book about winning disability benefits. It’s a reasonably straightforward exchange.
In many cases, the drip campaign is a follow-up to the original piece of content with emails on the subject or related to the content’s topic. For instance, suppose someone got into your drip campaign after downloading an ebook titled “Maximizing your Insurance Claim.” The follow-up drip emails may be related to insurance claim information. A drip email campaign for an injury and insurance law firm that offers that lead magnet may have a drip campaign that looks like this:
- Day 1: “Determining if you have a claim”
- Day 3: “What the Insurance Company doesn’t want you to know…”
- Day 5: “Should you settle or go to court?”
- Day 7: “Why your lawyer should speak to the insurance adjuster”
- Day 10: “Are you ready to get started?”
This example shows the sequence of days after the initial trigger action and ebook (or another form of lead magnet) was requested. Next, to the dates are subject lines about the email’s contents and how they’re enticing for the recipient to open.
Ultimately, the purpose as we mentioned in Reason #5 for using email marketing, is capturing leads before they’re ready to contact a lawyer. Therefore, the lead magnet attracts them into exchanging their email and contact info for a free webinar, PDF or ebook in this case. After they’ve downloaded it, a drip email campaign is triggered for the recipient specifically. Throughout the drip email campaign, the ultimate objectives are to continue informing them about their potential case and to warm them up as prospects into calling or contacting your firm.
In other cases, the drip campaign may be the lead magnet itself. Perhaps the prospects see that you’re offering a free course about the legal aspects of starting a business. The prospects enter their email and can expect to receive the email course dripped to them over some predetermined period, such as:
- Day 1: Lesson 1
- Day 3: Lesson 2
- Day 5: Lesson 3
- Day 6: Lesson 4
- Day 9: Lesson 5
- Day 10: Lesson 6
- Day 12: Lesson 7
- Day 14: Lesson 8
The campaign could be longer or shorter, but this illustrates the gist of it.
Email newsletters are by far the most traditional and popular form of email marketing that attorneys and firms are willing to use. Compared to drip campaigns, it’s far less gimmicky for several reasons. The first is that email newsletters have very different audiences. These are mainly made up of contacts the firm already has such as clients, other lawyers and business partners, rather than potential clients and prospects. Secondly, newsletters are sent out regularly (monthly, twice per month, etc.) rather than dripped out automatically. Third and lastly, email newsletters have different objectives and therefore, are composed accordingly.
A law firm’s newsletter (email or physical) usually has a couple of objectives:
- Staying in touch/top of mind with your audience
- Let them know what you’re up to
- Sharing news or helpful content with them
The difference between a newsletter that gets read and ones that don’t is by answering a simple question: does it add value or enrich the recipient’s life?
Check out our article here if you’re interested in learning more, including what your e-newsletter should contain, we encourage you to read our article specifically about email newsletter for law firms.
Events, Offers & Webinars
Other times, law firms can use email as a way of reaching their contacts and prospect lists simply as a means of promotion. Some law firms, depending on the area of practice and marketing models, use webinars. This could work fairly well for particular areas of practice including segments of business and corporate law, intellectual property and real estate. Instead of a webinar, you may be hosting a live event, possibly at a hotel conference room or otherwise. Email can be a great way to build your registration list ahead of time and promote events like this.
Depending on the area of law and the marketing strategy of the law firm, your audience will be different too. Perhaps a law firm dealing with real estate law and property transactions decides to put on a free webinar for training realtors in their area. They don’t work for realtors, but a firm may see a lot of referral business from their local realtors and hence want to offer them some free training or education.
Promoting webinars via email is as cost-effective and efficient as marketing channels come. A sequence of emails leading up to a webinar may look like this:
- 30 Days Before: “Webinar: Legal Best Practices for you and your Realty Clients”
- 14 Days Before: “Register for our Free Webinar for Change to the Law for Realtors”
- 7 Days Before: “Hey Jane, will you be joining the webinar?”
- 1 Day Before: “Tomorrow: Can’t-Miss Real Estate Laws in Nebraska Webinar”
- Day of: “Last Change: Today’s Free Webinar on Real Estate and the Law in Nebraska”
This too is a drip email campaign. The difference being, instead of an automatic trigger, such as filling out a form, it’s time-sensitive. This means that all recipients will receive all emails on the same dates leading up to the webinar or other offers.
How to Build and Categorize your Practice’s Email Lists
Now that you have an idea of what type of campaigns and email marketing your firm will implement, you need to determine who your firm will send emails to.
Your email lists will vary depending on what types of email marketing campaigns you decide to run (drip, newsletters or webinars, etc.). The email marketing strategy or strategies you opt for will inform what types of lists you build. We’ll look at different options, which campaigns their most suited for and how to go about building them (if at all).
Current and Past Clients
The first list of emails and contacts you’ll want to consider collecting are from your current and past clients. This pool is valuable for many reasons. First, these are people who have already worked with you and therefore are most likely to trust and refer other business to your firm. Second, you already have the contact information. You can go into your Outlook or email address book and pull these contacts from it into a list. You will want to dump this data into a spreadsheet, where you can keep a record of their names and email addresses.
Note: This list can also prove useful if you’re seeking to garner online reviews on your profiles listed on Google, Facebook, Avvo and other popular online and attorney review websites.
Your client roster will be a list you’re most likely to use if you’re going to start an e-newsletter. Depending on the nature of your practice (i.e. full-service vs a single or several areas of law), you may want to segment your client contact list into several lists based on areas of practice. This can help when creating tailored newsletters or dynamic content to be injected into a newsletter, to provide them with more helpful information and content related to the legal matters you assisted them with. If that’s the case, then you’ll also want to keep a checkmark or label column in your spreadsheet with the area(s) of law of each client’s legal matter. If you use a robust, modern LPM suite, then this could help you with exporting more detailed data of this nature.
In other situations where you have the objective of increasing revenues for a particular area of practice, it might be wise to keep them on the same list and educate them on the area of law you seek to promote. Ultimately, your client list is best used for an email newsletter, keeping them in the loop about your practice and top of mind.
Leads and Prospective Clients
Leads and prospective clients are ideal for utilization in an email drip campaign. These contacts are most likely to reach out to you and voluntarily give you their email in one of several fashions.
First, is through them desiring to acquire or download a lead magnet – which we saw earlier. Using an email marketing automation software tool such as MailChimp or Infusionsoft, you’ll be able to automatically collect and start running a drip campaign to them. These email marketing tools are relatively inexpensive to start with, some offering free options.
If you use a website CMS (content management system) like WordPress, then most of this can be streamlined and integrated quite easily. Most of these email marketing platforms offer integration plugins that you can install into your WordPress website. This will allow you to build an email capture form or integrate into an existing one, that pipes the email and contact details directly into your MailChimp or other email marketing tool to begin the drip campaign sequence.
The second way in which you’re most likely to collect prospects’ email addresses is through a contact form on your website. You can simply add a checkbox at the end of the form designed to opt them into a particular drip campaign or even your firm’s newsletter. Depending on which (or both), this can help save your staff time in the future from requesting client permission and adding them at a later date.
Lawyers: Your Peers and Referral Sources
Next, you have lawyers that practice in your market or nearby markets that focus on different areas of law. In some cases, they may practice in the same area of law, but don’t handle the same specific or niche-type of cases that you’re able to work on. As a result, these practitioners don’t see you as competitors. It’s highly likely that you and them have received a phone call for a potential client that was better suited for the other lawyer. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get their ‘junk’ leads that are your ‘gold’ and vice versa?
Staying top of mind with other attorneys in your market is critical for generating these referral sources. Adding them to your existing newsletter or creating a separate newsletter, specifically for attorneys could be a great way to boost your referral numbers. You may think that you need not send emails or e-newsletters to them to stay top of mind. They’ll remember you.
However, could you name all the firms in your area serving or focusing on your primary areas of practice?
Each and every one of them?
If not, and we asked the same question to each of them, you wouldn’t want to be on the forgotten list. By simply receiving an email from you once per month could suffice for staying on the top of their lists and in their good praises.
The other consideration, depending on the areas of law you focus on, is that lawyers hire lawyers all the time. Usually it’s not a good idea for them to represent themselves. In these cases, staying top of mind is a great way to put your practice on their shortlist of attorneys to hire for a tax matter, divorce, etc. Usually lawyers will know who in the market does the best job in handling specific types of cases. With that said, staying top of mind can be effective for just making sure you make the list of top lawyers they remember.
Your Network and Business Development Groups
Your networking groups and people you meet at conferences are a fantastic way to spread your reach among professional in and outside of your industry – as well as in and outside your geographic market!
Occasions where you’re at a networking meeting and the topic comes up, tell them to subscribe to your e-newsletter. It’s a great way for them to get more, free information regarding legal matters, topics and issues they’re interested in.
Perhaps you’re presenting at a conference or CLE seminar. In these circumstances, you could collect contact info by handing out a sign-up sheet to collect name, firm and email address.
Sweeten the Deal for these Audiences
Better yet, use these situations as opportunities to sign people up based on lead magnets. Perhaps your presentation contains highly valuable information to your audience and they’d like to take a look at it again at the office or home. Use that as the magnet to draw them into entering their email and signing up for your newsletter. They’ll receive a copy of the presentation and possibly some other valuable documents or notes.
Your ‘Connected’ Referral Sources
Lawyers that attract a lot of their business through referrals can testify to how powerful this source of clients and cases can be. Above we’ve discussed some forms of referrals and the most common types of referrals come from past clients and other attorneys. However, there is another source and based on your firm’s business model, could be one of your biggest contributors to opening new files.
These are what we describe as ‘connected’ referral sources. Essentially, this describes the connections and behaviors of other professionals and service providers that serve individuals and businesses likely to work with your firm. These clients may work with these ‘connections’ before or after transacting with your firm.
We briefly touched on some referral sources. For instance,
- Realtors represent a connection with property and real estate lawyers
- Financial planners work with people planning their investments and retirement goals. They often refer people to lawyers that work handle wills, estates and trusts.
- Accountants can refer clients to business and tax lawyers.
- Physicians & Physical therapists can be great sources of leads and clients for personal injury and insurance claim lawyers.
Ultimately, it will depend on your practice’s focus areas. However, the types of cases your specialize in or handle are likely to have connections to other industries that you can leverage in the way of referral relationships.
The keys to leveraging these relationships through email marketing are:
- Again, staying top of mind
- Adding value
All three forms of email marketing can find their way into this segment of your email lists. Drip email and webinar campaigns can help add value to their own businesses, once you understand how you may be able to go about helping them. Newsletters can be good to stay top of mind and since you’re connected to their industries through your areas of practice, they’re likely to gain some value from reading your emails.
Formatting your Emails
There are two main ways you can format your email campaigns, either as plain-text emails or HTML5 designed, stylish emails. The latter is most suitable when your emails contain images or other media that require stricter considerations to style and dimensional constraints.
Plain-text emails look and read similar to those that we regularly send and receive. These are, without a doubt, ideal for drip email marketing. However, there’s nothing wrong with using text-based emails as your format for all email marketing your firm does. It comes off as less professional and more personal.
Styled and Image-Rich Emails
As a rule of thumb, design-heavy email templates are entirely optional. They can be a nice way to draw your subscribers’ attention to certain content call-outs. However, they come off much more promotional. These shouldn’t be used for drip campaigns (although if you know a firm that uses these in a drip campaign, we’d love to see it in practice). Image and aesthetically-rich emails are most suitable for newsletters and promoting events such as webinars.
Aiming for the Inbox: Avoid Ending Up in Spam & Clutter Mailboxes
One of the most important aspects that will make or break an email marketing campaign is your spam rate. Due to bar ethics and the ethics many lawyers have, few to none have the objective of sending spam mail. Although, this alone doesn’t save your messages being marked by mail security bots and even by recipients. The road to the spam folder can be paved with good intentions, too.
Why do Some Emails Get Marked as Spam?
There are three main ways that emails get marked as spam.
The first way is that the email server, be it Gmail, Microsoft or a local provider like Comcast scans new, incoming emails and assigns it a spam score. This score is derived from several factors such as the sender’s IP address, subject line and contents of the email. If it receives a high enough spam score, it can get automatically marked as spam. Many email hosting and provider services either have their own built-in spam detection systems or license spam detection software that runs on top of their email servers.
The second way things are marked as spam is manually by the recipient. This is when the recipient clicks on the email and manually moves it to spam or junk folder. Over time, their email client (Outlook, Apple Mail, etc.) will start to send emails from that sender to the spam mailbox automatically.
The third way is a composite result of the first two. This occurs when 1) enough emails are sent from an email address or domain and; 2) either are auto-detected by the server or are manually marked by enough recipients. Email servers and providers share spam information among each other to compound their strengths in spam detection. This is known as email blacklisting. It usually takes a fair amount of effort and quantity of emails. However, if you’re emailing newsletters to a large audience, you’ll want to be cautious using your email address.
How to Avoid Getting Marked as Spam
There are numerous ways for businesses engaging in email marketing to get marked as spam and hence, some precautions you can take to reduce your risks. Some of these are relatively straightforward in practice and others a little more technical.
1. Start off Slowly on New Domains
If you’re a new practice or using a new email domain, then it’s best to limit the number of emails you send in the initially. This helps to avoid appearing suspicious to your email provider and spam exchanges. If your law firm, ABC Law, uses emails ending in “@abclaw.com” and has been doing so for a while, then you don’t need to pay as close attention to this.
2. Know your Limits
Different email hosts and providers have different email send limits. For instance, regular, free Gmail users are allowed to send up to 500 emails in 24 hours. Premium GSuite users are limited to 2,000 emails per day and 100 recipients per message (via POP or IMAP). In many instances, email marketing tools will take care of this for you, but be sure in any event before you end up in your email lists’ spam folders.
3. Add Verification Records to your Email Domain
One of the more technical procedures that your firm’s email domain should have is added authentication and security verification. This can be accomplished by enabling your email provider’s DKIM, SPF and DMARC features. These can be somewhat technical, so you may want to have your IT admin or webmaster set this up for you. Essentially, these are enhanced security features that send additional meta-data along with your email, verifying that your message originated for your email address and wasn’t spoofed.
4. Request Permission to Email your Subscribers
One of the more simple, yet most effective techniques is by demonstrating courtesy and asking your email contacts for permission to sign them up. Ultimately, this will decrease the total number of subscribers. However, it can have positive effects on the rest of your numbers, such as open rates and click-throughs. By asking permission first, it will decrease the number of people who eventually end up marking your emails as spam or junk.
Additionally, you should always include an unsubscribe button at the bottom of all of your marketing emails, allowing people to unsubscribe without waiting or email you personally. Canada also has anti-spam laws, which requires both requesting permissions and including an unsubscribe function. So if you’re a law firm up north or emailing subscribers residing there, it’s critical to follow these laws. In any event, we recommend exercising these practices.
5. Avoid Sounding Spammy
This sounds relatively simple and logical in practice but can have a big impact on whether Spam filters tag your emails or let them go to the inbox. Just by avoiding the use of trigger words in your email correspondences can decrease your chances of getting flagged as spam.
6. Follow Anti-Spam Practices
Beyond trigger words and language, there are some other anti-spam practices that you can follow, including how many images, links and attachments you send along in a bulk email. Here’s a list of anti-spam practices to consider when building your promotional and newsletter emails.
7. Keep your Emails Relevant to your Audience
Earlier, we discussed how you might want to segment your list and potentially run separate emails and e-newsletters to separate audiences. This could be the clients and areas of practice related to their cases or matters. Perhaps you have a large following of lawyers and legal support professionals that signed up through CLE conferences and other seminars.
If these people are clumped into the same newsletter as your clients, you have to ask yourself if everyone is receiving sufficient value from your periodic emails. If you’re alienating them or simply not providing enough value to stay in their inboxes, eventually your emails could get sent to the clutter or moved to junk. Keep an eye on your email’s open and unsubscribe rates over time. If you notice significant changes, try to investigate where this is coming from. It may be a relevance or value problem that needs to be addressed.
Advertising Rules and Ethical Considerations
There are usually a few reasons why lawyers and firms don’t engage in email marketing and publishing e-newsletters to their audience. For small firms and solo practices, it may boil down to a lack of resources to manage an email marketing campaign. In the case of larger firms that can allocate the budget and resources, the conversation quickly turns to concerns over breaking bar ethics and rules. It’s certainly warranted and a valid concern.
Instead of reiterating what is already written, we encourage you to look at the ABA Rule on Advertising and Communications and this article on ethical email and e-newsletter marketing for lawyers. Additionally, you should research your local state bar rules concerning any other rules on advertising, lawyer communications and email marketing.
There’s a lot to cover on the topic of effective marketing strategies for lawyers. Email marketing is relatively simple and cost-effective compared to other marketing channels. However, it can still be daunting, confusing and raise some interesting questions in the process.
Is it the right fit for your practice?
In short, it’s a great fit for most law firms.
What you should take into greater consideration is what type of email marketing campaigns your firm will run. Going over this article should help you determine the reasons why you could use it and how you will run your campaigns. We’ve actually looked at each of these questions above, here is a quick recap:
Why should my law firm use email marketing?
- It’s simple and very cost-effective
- An excellent way to say top of mind
- Email newsletters and marketing campaigns can generate significant referrals
- Email subscribers are a source of traffic that you control (which is rare, in marketing)
- You have the ability to capture leads earlier in the marketing funnel
What type of campaigns will you run?
- Email Newsletters
- Drip Campaigns
- Offers, Events & Webinars
Pair these two with your marketing objectives (webinar, lead magnet/conversion, referrals). You’ll then have a better sense of the type of:
- What Campaign(s) you desire to run,
- Which audiences them too (e.g. potential clients, other lawyers, connected referral sources, past and current clients, etc.) and;
- How to promote your firm, offers and provide value to them