The most valuable practive-building asset you own is your list. The bigger your list, the more people who know, like, and trust you, the more business you will inevitably get.
A lawyer contacted me about the client newsletter he was starting. To announce it, he was planning to send a letter to his clients, inviting them to return a response card to (1) indicate that they wanted to receive his newsletter, and (2) supply names of their friends, colleagues, etc., who also might want to receive it.
I told him that instead of asking if his clients wanted to get the newsletter, he should simply assume that they do, and send it to them. Since the main purpose of the newsletter is to serve as a means for staying in touch, he should NOT look for ways to reduce the number of people who get it. He should send it to everyone.
Besides, if you were to eliminate someone from your list because they failed to respond to your letter, you wouldn’t know if it was because they didn’t want you to send the newsletter (very few), or if they simply didn’t get your letter, misplaced it, or forgot to mail it (most).
He was smart to ask his clients to suggest names of others to whom he could send the newsletter. This is a great way to expand your mailing list to include new prospective clients and referral sources. Here are some ways to increase the number of names you get:
** Some clients may hesitate to offer names because they are afraid their friends will object to receiving unsolicited “advertising material.” Make sure your clients understand that your newsletter will contain valuable information their friends will appreciate getting (and give some examples). Another thing you could do is tell your clients to ask their friends if they would like to receive your newsletter, before submitting their names.
** Instead of asking for names as a favor to you (as this lawyer did in his letter), “offer” to send “complimentary subscriptions” to their friends, etc. Furthermore, tell them more about the subjects you intend to cover in future issues, and in particular, what problems you will help them solve or objectives you will help them achieve. Build perceived value, and then deliver actual value within the pages of your newsletter.
** Ask for names in every issue and make it easy to respond. Either put a sidebar or footnote in the newsletter (in which you tell them to call or email names), or include a self-mailer postcard with every issue (or several times a year). The more frequently you “ask” for names, the more names you’ll get.
** Call clients and ask them if they got the newsletter, and if they have any questions. Then ask them for the names of three friends: “Who do you know who might like to read about what was in this last issue?”
** Enhance the value of a subscription by telling them that in addition to receiving the newsletter, you will also send their friends valuable stuff: a “special report,” a “how-to” kit, coupons and special offers from you and/or from other professionals. You might even tell them you’ll enter their name in a drawing for a free legal service or other “prize.”
** Reward them. Offer something to any client who supplies names. (Note, this is different than offering rewards for referrals of paying clients, which is usually unethical. Check with your state bar, but I can’t imagine restrictions on compensating people for merely giving you names of people to whom you send your newsletter.) You could reward anyone who sends you even one name, but you might want to offer better rewards to those who supply a given number of names.
** Ask again. Anyone who sends you one name will send you more. Remember to send them a thank you note, remind them how their friends will appreciate getting the newsletter, and then offer to send a subscription to anyone else they know.
** When you send the first issue of your newsletter to new “subscribers,” send a cover letter indicating the name of the client who suggested their name. Of course that same letter should offer “complimentary subscriptions” to anyone whose name they would care to submit.
Ask for names, build your list of “subscribers,” and stay in touch with these people. This is a simple, but extremely effective plan for building a successful law practice.