Successful law firm marketing in today’s electronic environment can include everything from online banner ads to Twitter feeds to Facebook pages and more. Amid the many available options, one of the most effective tools for attracting the attention of referral sources can be found in a well-orchestrated email campaign.
We recently sat down with legal marketing guru Dennis Weber to discuss what it takes to build and maintain a top-flight email campaign. Dennis is the Founder of General Counsel News, a Dallas-based online legal publication offering a venue to assist law firms, legal vendors and expert witnesses with complete digital campaigns targeting private practice lawyers and in-house counsel nationwide. He has spent more than 25 years in the legal marketing arena.
Following are some initial highlights from our discussion. We’re planning on a follow-up blog post soon with even more insights from Dennis and his team:
Q. What makes email marketing effective for those in the legal industry? Aren’t people so buried in email that they might simply tune out?
A. Used properly, email can be an extremely reliable tool for making sure that your clients and potential clients are aware of your capabilities and accomplishments when they’re making decision about who to hire or who should receive a case referral.
Unlike the old days when snail mail newsletters required multiple content submissions, high production costs and expensive distribution, email marketing takes less time and costs a lot less. Those same benefits also exist when you compare email marketing to many of the current electronic marketing tools we see law firms using today, such as sponsored ads on search engines, which can be prohibitively expensive and require daily monitoring.
Q. What are the key elements of a solid email marketing campaign?
A. These are five key areas we focus on with every campaign we handle:
- Current email addresses
- Extensive client/prospect information
- Targeted content
- Clear subject lines
I couldn’t tell you how many clients I’ve worked with over the years who maintain horrible contact data, including many who’ve discovered that at least a third of their list is outdated. The first step to effective email marketing is ensuring all data is as current as possible AND updated frequently. It is not uncommon for 15 percent or more of the information included in a contact database to change in a single year due to firm/company movements, clients/prospects retiring, etc. Although it takes a lot of administrative effort to maintain a large database, it can pay off in spades when clients and prospects are receiving your communications.
Unfortunately having the basic name, title, company, address, etc. is not enough for a good database. You also need information related to practice area, company size, legal spend, client/prospect, industry, etc. This is important but time-consuming work because gathering such data must be done one contact at a time and can require some extended online research to identify the most/best data.
The extra effort is worth it, since the more information you have available, the easier it is to ensure your emails are reaching the right people. However, you must also make sure your content is relevant to recipients. It makes little sense to send an update on your work in a tax case to clients or prospects who are interested in solely environmental law. With the proper information, you easily can run queries and refine any database to pinpoint those contacts who may be interested in hiring you or referring a case.
Once you have something ready to send to your email list, it is crucial to select a subject line that is crystal clear in terms of what your email contains. Some might think that being coy with the text of a subject line will increase the likelihood that an email will be read, but doing so can cause a negative impact.
While it may seem counterintuitive, it is actually a good thing if recipients delete emails they are not interested in reading. In fact, you are saving them valuable time by including a clear subject line. For example, a subject such as “FMLA – Complimentary CLE Webinar” is far better than “Complimentary CLE Webinar.” Anybody interested in FMLA is likely to read your email, while those who don’t care about FMLA will delete it based simply on the subject line. If someone opens an email with an ambiguous subject line only to discover they’re not interested in the topic, then they are more likely to opt out of receiving your future email marketing messages. The opt-out problem does not exist when an unopened email is deleted.
Frequency is another important consideration in email marketing. In days gone by, printed newsletters were time consuming, costly and once-a-month at best. With the convenience of email, you can develop a single piece of content and make sure it reaches your important audiences with increased frequency using less time and less money.
It is also important to note that you do not have to toil for hours to develop content. Something as simple as a text email with a clear subject line referencing and linking to an informative article can be just as effective as using content that you’ve produced on your own.
Demonstrating thought leadership through your own content is important, but your audience also will appreciate it if you are a supplier of trusted and useful information from other sources. This tactic typically is most effective if you send such an email on the same day the content is posted on another site (rather than something posted last week). By doing so, you’re showing clients and potential clients that you’re current on today’s news and that you should be someone they consider the next time they have a legal issue that dovetails with your expertise.
Bruce can be reached at email@example.com.
Dennis Weber is the Founder and Director of Data Applications at Dallas-based General Counsel News. You can follow General Counsel News on Twitter at @GenlCounNews and you can reach Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Muse Communications helps lawyers, law firms and legal services companies tell their story and grow their business through content marketing and highly targeted media relations. For more information, contact us at email@example.com.