You’ve probably seen every kind of law firm email blast imaginable – from law office Christmas cards to recaps on Supreme Court opinions to very technical emails about developments in particular areas of law. Some attorneys use email marketing to keep current and prospective clients aware of the firm’s activities and experience, while others use it to educate clients about developments in the law. Of all the time spent on creating email blasts, what works best for law firms to bring in new business? Where are attorneys wasting their time?
I spoke about email marketing with Russ Korins, the director of marketing at Cohen Tauber Spievack & Wagner, a 20-attorney corporate law firm in New York City.
Who Are You Trying to Reach with Email Marketing?
If you’re looking to get new business from your email marketing campaigns, you first need to start by evaluating who it is you’re trying to reach. “You really want to understand how the firm has gotten its best business historically,” Russ said. “How have the attorneys at your firm developed their best clients? Marketing should be helping attorneys to do better at what they have already done successfully. In our case [at CTSW], that started with figuring out how we got the best business.”
When he started at CTSW, Mr. Korins interviewed each of the attorneys in the firm to find out where they got their best clients from and who the ideal client they wanted was. With that information, Mr. Korins could focus the efforts of the firm’s marketing, including their email marketing, to effectively reach current and prospective clients to bring in new business.
You should try and evaluate whether it is doing you any good by curating broad email blasts that briefly discuss new updates in the law. Just because you see that “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t mean it is actually effective and worth your time. When you start creating email blasts that provide “recent updates in divorce law” to all of your clients what is that doing to bring you new business? Is the content relevant to all of your readers? If you find that you get business mostly from friends of current clients, you’ll want to tailor your content to them. Even if you’re hoping they’ll read your content that they deem irrelevant because hopefully they have a friend who could use your services, realistically, are they going to read your email on “updates in divorce law”?
How Effective Are “Explain the Law” and “Updates on the Law” Emails?
Over the years I’ve received many generic, email blasts from law firms explaining developments in areas of law (I’m sure you have too), and I’m not sure that they are all that effective. Writing treatises to clients about the law demonstrates the firm knows the law, but, I wondered, does it ever achieve its goal of bringing in new business? I’m not going to read this novel of an email you sent me. Aren’t your clients paying you to do this so they don’t have to?
Mr. Korins was quick to make a distinction between emails that explain the law versus emails that provide updates on the law, and how his firm dealt with each.
“Mass emails explaining the law might be effective for some audiences, but in our case, nobody mentioned mass emails as a source of their best clients,” Mr. Korins said. He suggested two possible reasons for this. First, clients are unlikely to read a long email analyzing the law. Second, the email doesn’t start a conversation between the client and the attorney, which is what he’s hoping to achieve with these emails. “Educating a businessperson on substantive legal issues is tricky,” he said. “People have short attention spans. They’re pressed for time. We want to give them digestible and engaging content that sets the table for a conversation.”
Mr. Korins was “more optimistic about emails that provide business-oriented updates on the law. “We did one last spring about a life sciences-related Supreme Court opinion. It was very specific to that industry, so we did a targeted email to our clients in that industry. We weren’t explaining the law itself, but rather why the business stakes of a legal development were important.” The targeted approach helped the firm provide relevant content to their readers.
Taking a Targeted Approach
CTSW takes an industry and practice area-specific approach to email marketing. It includes a mix of emails to specific segments of email recipients, in addition to more general mass emails.
Specific industries Mr. Korins’s firm works with, like commercial real estate, receive targeted emails. “If there’s an article in the Wall Street Journal about commercial real estate, a partner in commercial real estate will forward the article to clients in commercial real estate.” The goal, Mr. Korins said, is not to just show an update on the law, but communicate to clients that the firm can help clients with issues that they care about.
On mass emails, Mr. Korins suggested, “The limited mass emails we send work best for awareness, to remind our clients and friends we’re there for them, but not for legal education. The most effective mass email we sent simply celebrated the achievements of our clients.”
However, Mr. Korins cautioned that what works for his firm may not work for firms in different practice areas.
Email Marketing Isn’t One-Size Fits All
Firms in different practice areas shouldn’t necessarily take the same approach as CTSW. Russ notes that because his clients are corporate clients and that the firm gets their business mainly from referrals, the firm has a specific email marketing strategy that caters to their clients.
If your firm is a volume-based practice like wills or real estate closings, or is in a highly competitive practice area like personal injury, this approach likely won’t work for your firm. However, the lessons are the same – if you’re employing email marketing, or any sort of marketing – first know who you’re trying to reach. Then, figure out what the goal of your campaign will be. Once you know who you’re writing content for and why, then you can craft a targeted message that speaks to your reader.
One of Many Law Firm Marketing Tools
For CTSW, email marketing is one of many tools the firm utilizes to bring in new business. Email marketing should complement other methods of marketing.
While email marketing may be inexpensive compared to search engine marketing, SEO, networking, or print, radio, or TV advertising, on its own it may have a limited upside. Using email marketing to complement networking or advertising can help your firm to reach and engage your target client.