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LEGAL CENTS: Why email marketing continues to thrive

By: Jane Pribek//May 25, 2012

LEGAL CENTS: Why email marketing continues to thrive

By: Jane Pribek//May 25, 2012

Jane Pribek

When I initially considered writing about email marketing, I thought, “How very 1990s.”

How wrong I was.

It turns out that in 2012, email marketing, done right, remains an extremely effective strategy for lawyers.

Milwaukee bankruptcy lawyer Ed Harness, for example, wins over potential clients with emails about his dog, Elvis, which he often brings to the office. Harness invites people to sign up for his emails in exchange for a PDF on surviving credit card debt. When the email with the PDF arrives, a short note from Harness is attached explaining his nontraditional work environment and introducing Elvis.

It’s a great way, he said, to get past potential clients’ initial hesitations.

“As bankruptcy lawyers, people don’t want to see us,” Harness said. “They come to us as a last resort usually. We really need to establish a rapport and put them at ease before they come in.”

Raleigh, N.C., divorce attorney Lee Rosen said he estimates nearly 100 percent of his clients signed up to receive his informational emails before they signed representation agreements.

Rosen initially attracts readers with the promise of a PDF about moving out of the marital home. The resulting email then also contains a link to his website, where those interested can watch a video of him speaking casually about his practice and philosophy, concluding with him telling viewers to relax and imagine their post-divorce lives.

“I get no fewer than a dozen emails every day,” he said, “that range from, ‘Thank you so much for the information you’re provided’ to ‘You have turned around the image of lawyers in my mind.’”

Rosen uses a “double opt-in” system, he said, to ensure that those who request the information are who they say they are and really want the freebie. Once a person enters his or her email address on Rosen’s site, they have to follow through with clicking a link in the resulting email.

Harness includes a field for phone numbers, he said, which he uses to follow up with a call.

Once users are signed up, the daily emails begin.

It’s not that Rosen, Harness or their staff members are manually sending them. They outsource that task to “autoresponders” or marketing services that send a predetermined sequence of emails the lawyers have written.

They could send the emails themselves, but in high-volume practices, remembering who’s on whatever day of the sequence would be time-consuming and error-prone.

What Rosen finds the most appealing about autoresponders, he said, is their owners are better versed in federal anti-spamming laws than he cares to be. They’ve included “unsubscribe” links on every email, for example, which is one less thing to worry about.

Both Rosen and Harness use AWeber as their provider. It’s inexpensive: You can try it for a month for $1 and its highest price is $194 for a year’s subscription.

Rosen said he’s happy with AWeber, but for the truly cash-strapped he suggested a similar, albeit free, service: MailChimp.

It’s important to keep the emails informational, while taking care that they don’t resemble a generic commercial blast.

Rosen has crafted his emails so carefully, he’s fairly certain many recipients think he’s written to them personally, which he’d like to do if he had the time, but he doesn’t. His emails begin as daily communiqués, but gradually taper off during the course of about a year.

Harness’ emails continue for about a month, he said. He knows people read the emails, he said, because they often inquire about Elvis.

Email is just one of his many marketing tools, though, Harness cautioned. It’s also important to keep up with social media, Google Adwords or whatever else works for you, he said.

But email, in comparison to other forms of marketing, he said, keeps him on prospects’ minds with little or no effort beyond the time it took to create the email sequence and to make that follow-up call.

“It works,” he said, “and it keeps me out of the Yellow Pages.”


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