Email marketing for lawyers is a form of direct marketing, which uses electronic means to deliver your firm’s messages to your target audiences. Used effectively, this type of digital marketing can deliver a high return on investment.
There are many ways in which email marketing can work:
- Transaction emails: for example, when a prospective client completes and submits an enquiry form on a website, an email should be sent back in acknowledgement and response.
- Newsletters: these are emails sent to provide recipients with information of use and interest to them, for example, to keep existing clients informed. They do not necessarily carry any promotion, at least not prominently, but instead that regular contact is maintained with existing clients.
- Retention-based emails: similar to newsletters, these may include promotional messages but are focused upon providing information of value to your audience, aimed towards building a long-term relationship with them.
- Promotional emails: these are more direct and geared specifically at enticing an audience to take more immediate action.
Why is email marketing for lawyers relevant?
Email marketing for lawyers provides a number of potential benefits:
- Maintaining contact with existing clients
- Making contact with target and prospective clients (where permission has been granted to do so)
- Increasing traffic to the firm’s website by encouraging recipients to click links within the email
Email marketing is widely used within legal services, the most common activity being a regular client newsletter. The challenge is to stand out from the other emails in the recipient’s inbox. Firms need to avoid taking a ‘scattergun’ approach. This is ineffective and prone to errors, which can be damaging both to a firm’s reputation and its relationships. A considered and well planned approach to email marketing is the best way to ensure effective implementation.
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How to make email marketing work for your firm
a) Email planning
The first part of any email marketing activity involves planning for the objectives your firm needs to achieve. These should be in line with your wider digital marketing strategy, as email marketing is one of the tools to help you achieve those goals.
For example, promotional emails will usually have an immediate goal:
- The recipient makes an enquiry leading to new work
- The recipient downloads a whitepaper
- The recipient requests further information about the firm and its services
Depending on what your organisation is looking to achieve, will inform the type of email marketing to pursue.
b) Build and grow your database
Your firm will need a genuine opt-in database to implement email marketing successfully. This means the database is made up solely of ‘subscribers’ ie people who have agreed to allow your organisation to send them emails with marketing messages (ie transaction emails, newsletters, retention-based emails and promotional emails.)
Permission must be explicitly given to your organisation by all people to whom marketing emails are sent. Firms that fail to meet this standard can put their reputation at risk; the email may be considered ‘spam’ and a recipient may have recourse to bring the email to the attention of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which has powers to impose fines in certain circumstances.
It’s important to grow your database through subscriptions. Do this by creating a web-based email sign-up form that people can complete and submit to your organisation as notification of opting in to your mailing list.
The form should be prominent on your website, featuring on all relevant pages. Website visitors have already expressed an interest by clicking through to the website, and a ‘subscribe to our mailing list’ form is a quick-win opportunity to develop that interest further.
Take other opportunities to promote the email sign up, for example, include links to the sign-up form on your organisation’s blog, through its social media activity, on email signatures, mention it during any presentations your organisation may deliver. If your organisation is hosting an event or exhibiting, take printed copies of the form for people to complete on the spot. Offer something valuable for free such as a white paper, and ask if recipients would sign up to your newsletter at the same time.
Another avenue to explore is asking for clients to opt in during the new client creation process.
At the very minimum, each database contact could in theory consist of just one field– the contact’s email address. But as with anything, the more information you have the better, as it could prove useful in other circumstances. Other data to hold should include:
- Name, surname and title (keep these three fields separate)
- Date permission granted
- Source of permission
- Telephone number
- Date of birth (not age, as this would need updating annually)
- Frequency (how often they’d like to hear from your organisation)
- Services of potential interest
An effective sign-up form should:
- Be easily found and accessible from multiple locations
- Tell subscribers what they can expect and what benefits they will enjoy eg format and frequency of publication, type of content
- Include a notice in small print stating your anti-spam stance explicitly and that you value subscribers’ privacy
- Generate an automated email response to the email address provided, acknowledging receipt. This also helps to check that the email address provided is legitimate and can be entered into your database.
c) Executing your campaign
Emails can be created and viewed as HTML or as text emails.
Text emails are the plain ones – text only, as the name suggests. If you use a Windows operating system, and you open Notepad and type there, you will be creating a text file. These emails are smaller, and plainer. As these are text only, the copy really counts here
HTML emails are more complex in design, containing images, different fonts and hyperlinks. They take longer to download and not all email systems are set up to support them, meaning sometimes HTML emails are rendered as text emails at the recipient’s end. Because of this, you should give your subscribers the choice of how they would like to view your email – in plain text or HTML.
d) The make-up of an email
The pre-header is a line or two of text displayed above your email header. Often, it’s the line of text that will redirect you to ‘View online’. With more and more people viewing emails on mobile phones, the pre-header is also the ideal space to redirect to the mobile version of your email.
This has the ‘to’, ‘from’ and ‘reply to’ fields. It can be used to build a sense of familiarity in the recipient toward your emails. Use a personalised email address for the reply field, ideally using a sender known to the recipient, e.g.Fred.Philpotts@yourlawfirm.com), as this builds trust. The ‘from’ address should also include your organisation’s name. A meaningless ‘from’ address will confuse the recipient as to the origin of the email- which isn’t helpful when you are looking to stand out in the inbox through familiarity.
Arguably the most important part of an email, subject lines help a recipient identify an email and entices them to open it. Consistent subject lines, for example using the name of your organisation and the newsletter edition, can build familiarity and help recipients recognise emails when they land in their inbox.
For example: ‘XXX solicitors – HR newsletter spring 2016’
As with everything online, testing different subject lines will lead to a formula that works for your organisation. One thing to consider however is that spam filters scrutinise subject lines, so avoid using characters, i.e. #2$%&^^%### or !!!!!.
If your database is well populated and includes contacts’ names and titles, it should be possible to personalise the greeting of the email. ‘Hello Peter Jones’ can be more effective than ‘Dear Valued Client’. Occasionally, the subject line can be personalised as well to boost responses.
This is the actual content of the email, which can be both text and images, or even one or the other. The structure should allow recipients to scan and navigate the email easily. Consider the length of paragraphs, use of bolding and colours as well as sectioning information with bullets and borders.
Avoid using too many images as this can increase the size of the email, meaning it will take longer to download (consider your mobile audiences) and may even be blocked by some email systems if too large. Images can also obscure text if the image does not load at the recipient’s end, so be sure all text can be read even if the image does not display.
HTML emails need to be tested across a range of email clients (eg Outlook, Outlook Express, Apple Mail etc), and should be tested for a spam score, before being deployed.
The Call to Action
The Call to Action (CTA) is what your organisation wants the recipient to do once they have read the email. This could be a hyperlink to a webpage, displayed as a graphic rather than in text to entice click throughs.
It’s important to remember that value of an email is determined by the recipient. Organisations can only take steps to create and disseminate content that is likely to be relevant to recipients, addressing their needs. This takes some testing, and seeking feedback where possible. Emails can offer:
- exclusive content
The general principles of writing online copy apply to marketing emails.
Start with the most important information first so that it displays at the top of the email (this is called ‘above the fold’). Use a minimal amount of hyperlinks as these by their nature will take the recipient out of and away from the email. The main hyperlink that should be included is the CTA. And remember the importance of the subject line – get this right and recipients are more likely to open your email.
For email newsletters, use a consistent structure. The email shouldn’t consist of entire articles, but rather links to the blog or website where the full articles are displayed. Unless the newsletter consists of only one article, in which case it may help to publish it in full. Sending out too much long content in a newsletter can put off time-poor recipients.
Also, as with all marketing communications, the content of marketing emails should follow a consistent tone of voice, being representative of the organisation. Consistency in this respect is important and will dictate the ways in which your target audiences build trust and a relationship with your organisation.
e) Database segmentation
The technology behind email marketing allows for mass customisation. Even simple personalisation can improve results. Segmenting your organisation’s database allows you to customise email marketing activities based on specific attributes, such as demographics or purchase history.
Customisation can mean including the recipient’s name, or sending either HTML to text emails based on their preference. It can even be as sophisticated as measuring a recipient’s preferences and tailoring content to suit them. For example, you may choose to divide your database according to size of organisation or location of a head office. This way it is possible to send emails that are slightly different and tweaked to different target groups.
Emails should be delivered at consistent times, but the best time for best results should be tested. Common sense tells you not on Monday morning or Friday afternoon, but it varies by audience, and testing is the best way to make an informed decision. For commercial organisations such as legal service providers, generally speaking the best time of the week to send marketing emails are between Tuesday and Thursday.
g) Email analytics
Email marketing, as with all digital marketing tools, offers a range of tracking options to measure, analyse and optimise activity. Some of the more helpful performance metrics include:
- Number of emails sent and delivered
- Number of bounce-backs ie emails not successfully delivered
- Number of unique emails opened (emails can be delivered, but not opened)
- Number of unsubscribes
- Number of ‘forwards’ (ie not using the ‘forward to a friend’ option)
- Click through rates
Email marketing is a form of direct marketing that can arguably render the best return on investment of any digital marketing tactic; it is highly targeted and customisable, and cost effective if applied efficiently.
Successful email marketing requires careful planning and testing, and gaining explicit permission to send email marketing to a person is a prerequisite. It is important to continually build your organisation’s database of contacts to ensure sufficient reach of your emails.
MailChimp’s resources & guides offer information for all user levels of email marketing.
Campaign Monitor’s resource page is also good for beginners.
We also like Dotmailer’s resource page.
Gill specialises in content and social marketing for professionals, including law firms and accountancy practices.
Gill can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mobile: 07715 414364.
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