Why is law firm marketing like keeping fit? Everyone knows that keeping fit is good for you; the problem is that despite that, few people do it. The same goes for lawyers and the notion of maintaining a proper ongoing communication with all your clients, referrers and prospects. We know we should and it makes perfect sense to do so, but we just don’t.
It’s a smart move if your law firm marketing starts with regular communications to everyone on your contact database on an ongoing basis.
This article explores why that is so and offers some suggestions that will help.
The best way to maintain regular client communications
While the best way could be by phone, snail mail or smoke signals, of course it isn’t. The way to start your law firm marketing is newsletters, and today that means electronic newsletters. Sending a regular newsletter to your clients and referrers electronically is both efficient and cost effective.
You also have the advantage of the receiver being able to on forward it to others, or post it on social networks, increasing it’s reach and providing your law firm with leverage off those in your contact database.
Why send newsletters to clients?
The best explanation, I think, is to use an analogy; if you imagine your client database is a five acre lot, and next to your lot is another five acre lot. One lot is barren, the other is constantly maintained. It is watered, ploughed, the soil nurtured and fertilised.
Which lot harvests more? The answer is obvious.
If you maintain regular contact with your clients and keep them informed with valuable information, your clients will appreciate that. When they need help, or know of someone else who needs legal help, they will think of you and your firm. It’s really law firm marketing 101!
Basically, the more you put into it the more you will reap.
Newsletter – publication timetable and analysis
We suggest you send newsletters eight times a year – at least. Why eight? Because you need to communicate regularly and consistently as the cornerstone of your law firm marketing strategy.
If you look at the whole year, sending a newsletter in December will be less effective because people are too busy. You could (and should) send a Christmas greeting or card at this time, that’s fine, but a newsletter article won’t be opened and read. The same goes for the month of January. People are on holidays and are not tuned in to reading a law firm newsletter then.
That leaves 10 months from February through to November. If possible you should avoid the school holidays if you want to maximise the engagement with your readers. Therefore that means that a newsletter should be sent around every 5 weeks during this period.
Measuring engagement will help you plan for future editions and will also generate follow up opportunities based on reader behaviour. At the very least you should be able to measure which readers ‘opened’ the newsletter email and ‘clicked’ to read an article or visit your website. Which readers have shown interest in a particular article is golden information from your perspective – it’s really just the start of your law firm marketing, sending those readers more information or conducting a seminar or webinar on the topic then becomes possible.
For example, if I was to do an article on a recent change in the law that I knew affected a lot of my clients and at the end of the article I included a call to action, inviting clients to contact the office. No doubt some clients would do so and make appointments. But there would be many others who were interested and yet for all sorts of reasons failed to contact you. Knowing who was interested enough to read the article (but did not call) enables you to know who to follow up. This list enables you to call or email who you know are interested and who have not yet made an appointment and chat with them.
Each newsletter should appeal to as many people as possible and we therefore recommend you have three legal articles. It helps if you combine that with an article of personal interest about the firm too.
What should the newsletter articles be about?
The articles need to inform and be useful. Providing esoteric legal points may interest a group of lawyers but will bore the socks off your clients. So you need to consider the audience. The tone needs to be informative and practical. If the audience thinks you are ‘talking over their heads’ you will be irritating. So you need to find the right balance. It is also important that the material be interesting. The articles need to be written by a person with writing flair.
Lawyers good at drafting contracts or pleadings may not be good at writing articles. It requires a completely different style and is foreign to the way normal legal communications are made. Without wanting to labour the point, a defensive advice is not what your clients will want to read or regard as valuable.
The centrepiece of your law firm marketing strategy
Running a law firm is hard enough and doing all the marketing tasks that should be done, is harder still. Realistically, most law firms know they should send regular newsletters out but don’t because of the many moving parts that are involved in putting a newsletter together, sending it out and following up.
Principals often feel they won’t be able to produce one when it is due to be sent out. Yet despite all this most law firm principals know in their heart they should be sending a newsletter. The problem is setting aside the time to do it, not once but regularly.
For many firms sending a newsletter can devastate the smooth running of their firm. Once one is sent they need to plan for the next one. If you start sending newsletters and cannot follow up with subsequent editions, the clients will be confused and frustrated. The purpose of this marketing strategy is to be able to produce ongoing information as a regular communication flow.
For other firms (and this is twisted logic) they feel it’s best to do nothing and hope the work comes in and doesn’t get referred to your competitors. If this is the marketing thinking of your law firm, perhaps it’s time to rethink. It is most certainly a strategy your competitors would want you to embrace!
Avoid snail mail it’s expensive and hard to measure
In my old firm, I was responsible for sending out the newsletters. In those days we posted out umpteen thousands via snail mail. It certainly brought in new work but you never knew who was tearing the newsletters up and who was deeply interested in the different articles or offerings. The cost was huge.
Apart from the postage, the time taken by the different solicitors to draft the articles was significant, not to mention the effort I had to undertake to cajole them into doing it in the first place. Then when the next newsletter was due out, this process was repeated. Grrr!
Where to from here?
You can therefore stimulate demand by your regular newsletters, not just meet it! This is a critical point to digest. You can actually stimulate demand and grow your firm. With newsletters you can also grow the firm exactly as you want it to grow.
So rather than make a resolution to ‘get fit’, take action and start communicating with your clients. Be fit! If this fitness program resonates with you, please feel free to contact us to find out how newsletters can help you grow your firm.
About the author
Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.