Email marketing done wrong

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It’s funny, the guy who sent me this email is a successful blogger with a big email list. So he should know better. 

He sends emails to his list announcing each new blog post. That’s good. But the subject line in those emails all say, “New Update on [his blog]”.

That’s bad. 

Nobody is interested in knowing there’s an update. So what? Why should I care? 

You have to tell them why they should care. 

The purpose of an email subject line is to “sell” the recipient of that email on opening it. 

Make them curious. Entice them with benefits. Or both. 

Don’t just send them an email. Tell them why they should open it. 

If the recipient knows the sender, they may give them the benefit of the doubt and open the email. Will they do that week after week?

Who knows?

If they’re busy, if they’re a new subscriber and don’t yet know that you consistently deliver value, they may skip your email, assuming that (like so many other emails they receive) it’s nothing but a sales pitch. 

Or they might save it to read later, but we know that “later” often never arrives. 

The subject line of your email is the key to getting your email read. It is a headline. It must capture the attention of the recipient and convince them to stop scrolling and open your email. 

And “New update. . .” isn’t going to get the job done.

If your email is meant to announce your new blog post and your blog post has a good title, the simplest thing to do is to put that title in the subject line of your email. 

There are other options, but this works most of the time.

So, why doesn’t this experienced blogger do that? I don’t know. But don’t do what he does. 

And don’t do what he does in the body of his emails, either.

The only content in his emails is a hyperlinked copy of the title of his blog post. Nothing else. 

Why is this a mistake? Because while the title/headline might be enticing, it might not be enough to get subscribers to click the link. 

And the goal isn’t to open the email, it’s to get subscribers to read your post.

You have two options for accomplishing this.

Option one is to use the body of the email to sell them on clicking the link. Tell them more about the benefits they get from your post, share how others have benefitted from this kind of information, say something about why you’re qualified to present this information, or otherwise prove that reading the post will be worth his time. 

And yes, you could enclose the first few paragraphs of your blog post (and the link to continue reading). 

Option two is to enclose the entire blog post in the body of your email. 

That’s the way I do it. 

When you get my email, you don’t have to click anything to read my latest post. You can read the post right there in your email inbox. 

I know, by doing it this way, I get fewer people going to my blog. That would improve my traffic and engagement numbers, and make it more likely that when someone finishes reading the post, they’ll read something else on the blog. 

But I think it’s worth it. 

It’s worth it because by making it more convenient for you to read my post, you’ll be more likely to do it. And get the benefits thereof. And become interested in hiring me or buying something from me or contacting me to learn more.

Which you are less likely to do if you can’t read the post without going to my blog.

The goal is to get more people (1) to open your emails and (2) read your content. Because it is your content that convinces people to take the next step.  

Email marketing for attorneys

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Information is overrated

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The people who regularly follow you on social, subscribe to your newsletter or blog, watch or listen to your videos or podcasts, don’t do it solely to get information. No doubt they get plenty of that from you already, and they know they can get more by asking you or doing a quick search. 

They read or watch your posts or messages for information, but also because your words provide them a brief mental vacation. For a few minutes, they don’t have to think about work or their troubles. They can hear something interesting or encouraging or entertaining. 

Information is important. But it’s not everything. 

When you spend time with people you know (or want to meet), at a networking event or socially, you don’t fire up your brain and start firing off information. You don’t deliver a lecture. You chat, you catch up, you share interesting things you’ve heard. 

Your subscriber is that friend.  

If you want them to look forward to hearing from you, consume everything you write, share your content and links, and think of you first when they have a legal issue (or know someone who does), give them more than just information. Help them take a mental vacation. 

Email marketing for attorneys

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Superman’s hemorrhoids

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We all know we shouldn’t talk about sex, religion, and politic in polite company (or in our newsletter).

Unless sex, religion, or politics are your primary business, nothing good can come of it.

I’d like to add a fourth subject to the list. Our personal health.

Too many people talk about that subject and while some of their clients or readers will sympathize and wish them well, on balance, this is a subject that is usually best avoided.

I’m not suggesting a complete ban. But if you talk about your health or an injury or condition, don’t do it too often and, whatever you do, avoid the gory details.

Because most people don’t want to hear it.

Some people are hypochondriacs and will get all hinky thinking they have what you have or will be its next victim. Some people have weak stomachs and don’t want to hear about things that ooze, severe pain, or chronic conditions.

But perhaps the most important reason is that people want to think of their lawyer as a superhero—strong, impervious to illness and pain, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Don’t spoil the movie in their mind.

They know you’re human. They like hearing some things about your personal life. But they don’t want to think about you as someone who might not be able to protect them from monsters.

So, if you have a choice, and you almost always do, think twice about discussing your illness, injury, or condition.

When in doubt, leave it out. Find another way to illustrate your point or tell your story.

There are some health-related subjects that are relatively safe. You can speak about taking vitamins, getting in your reps, or going for your annual checkup.

You can even talk about an occasional headache, bump, or bruise.

But if you do, it’s probably best to talk about that in the past tense. Because when a superhero gets blasted by a death ray, they’re back on the job long before the third act.

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Speaking of books. . .

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If you read a lot of books, or want to, but are busy and can’t always justify the time to do it, as I recently struggled with, I’m going to make things a little easier for you by pointing out some additional benefits.

Specifically, some ways you can use what you read to get more clients and increase your income.

Not just by learning new or better marketing or management ideas, but also by improving your productivity, speaking, writing, and negotiating skills, developing new habits (or getting rid of old ones), becoming more creative, reducing your stress, and so much more.

Good things that can make you better at what you do and who you are.

You can also use the information you learn to generate content for your blog or newsletter, videos or podcasts. And you should because many of your subscribers, prospective clients, and professional contacts want to learn many of the same things you want to learn.

Developing more content this way could be as simple as writing book reviews or blog posts that summarize key ideas in these books.

You could add these books to an ongoing “recommended reading” list and post it on your blog. You could compile your favorite quotes and stories and use them in your writing or presentations.

You could write guest posts about the books for blogs in your clients’ niche, interview other people who are following these ideas, or interview the authors themselves. You might even create workshops and teach others about the principles you’ve learned, or show people how you use them.

You could also use these books in your networking. If you’re at a function attended by physicians you’d like to meet, for example, asking them if they’ve read the latest book by one of their colleagues can be a great way to start a conversation.

If nothing else, you can give away copies of your favorite books to clients and professional contacts, as a way to add value to your relationships or to thank them when they do something nice for you.

In short, you can feed your reading habit and build your practice at the same time.

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Size doesn’t matter

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A tiny list of subscribers can make you a fortune. It’s true. You don’t need tens of thousands or even thousands of subscribers to your newsletter, blog, podcast, or channel.

For one thing, someone who reads or listens to your content won’t know they are among a handful. And can be as impressive as any other attorney.

Your article or post shows them you know what you’re doing. They see you understand their problem and have solutions. They hear success stories about how you’ve helped others in their industry or market. And they get a sense of what it would be like having you as their attorney.

Instead of merely telling the world the services you offer and asking them to trust in your ability to deliver results, your content proves you know what you’re doing.

You can also leverage your content to score interviews and joint marketing alliances with other professionals and influential people (who also don’t know you have very few subscribers).

You might start small but as you post more content online, you get more traffic from search and social sharing. Your list grows organically, bringing you more leads and inquires and new clients.

Regularly posting content makes you a better writer and marketer. It helps build your reputation. It helps you attract referrals from lawyers in other jurisdictions who find you from afar. And it supports your speaking, networking, advertising, and other marketing efforts.

But even if nobody finds you online, your online content give you a place to send prospects and leads you generate from other sources. It also gives your clients a place to send people they know to find out more about you.

Your content is an online brochure of sorts, that speaks to your prospects on your behalf and shows them why they should take the next step.

You might post just 5 or 10 articles on your blog and never add another. But that’s more than enough to show the world you know what you’re doing and convince them to find out more.

How to start and grow a blog that makes your phone ring

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3 simple ways to grow your email list

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“The money is in the list” is a classic marketing truism.

Ignore it to your peril.

Because without a list, and regularly staying in touch with it, you’re relying on “one-step” marketing, which is more difficult, more expensive, and slower.

How do you build a list? How do you get people to give you their email and permission to stay in touch?

There are many ways. Here are 3 of the simplest.

Start a blog

High-quality content will establish your authority and attract traffic from search engines and social sharing. Prospective clients come, see that you know what you’re doing and that you offer a newsletter with more valuable content, and an incentive to sign up.

NB: It is the incentive that will get the most sign-ups.

Make sure you add a prompt to fill out your opt-in form on every post and page.

Leverage OPL

One of the quickest and most effective ways to build your list is to leverage other people’s lists.

You know people who know people. People with friends and followers and subscribers who are a good match for you. When your friend mentions your newsletter or free report and provides a link to it, some of their subscribers will follow that link and join your list.

Your contact will tell their list about your information because you’ve shown them said information will benefit their clients and subscribers. They’ll also tell them because they like you. And because they would like you to tell your list about something they offer.

You can also leverage other people’s lists by publishing guest posts and doing interviews on blogs and podcasts that target your market.

At the end of the post or interview, you get to mention your free report.

Tell everyone

Wherever you go, whatever you do, make sure people know you offer free information that can help them, their friends, or their clients or customers.

Mention your free report in the footer of your emails. Mention it when someone you meet asks you a legal question. Promote it at your speaking engagements. Add a link on your social media bios, groups, and posts.

Promote your information and let your information promote your services.

Bonus

You can promote your newsletter with ads.

You may not be allowed to advertise your services, or want to, but if you can (and want to) advertise your free report, ebook, or checklist, you can drive a lot of targeted traffic to your newsletter incentive offer.

Promote your information (with ads) and let your information promote your services.

The key to making everything work? Good content. Valuable information that helps people.

And the willingness to tell people about that information.

How to start and promote an email list

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Write your content for two people

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Yesterday, we talked about creating the kinds of content your audience wants to read. But the subject isn’t the entire story.

Your readers also have preferences regarding how you present your content.

They might prefer you to write formally, like the good lawyer you are, or more casually and conversationally.

They might like in-depth pieces or prefer something more basic. Or perhaps a mix of each.

How about what your content “looks” like? Does your audience like brief articles, 200-500 words, or something longer, perhaps 1000-2000 words? Do they want images or illustrations or is plain text just fine?

Do they want videos or audios they can listen to on the go or do they prefer being able to skim and highlight written text?

One of your most important questions is how frequently your audience wants to hear from you. Is daily too often? Is quarterly not often enough? Would they prefer to hear from you once a month with longer pieces or once a week with something they can consume in a few minutes?

Perhaps a mix of shorter pieces and the occasional longer one is just right.

But here’s the thing. Just like the subject of your content, people don’t always know what they want until they see it. And just because they’re used to consuming other content a certain way doesn’t mean they expect or demand yours to be the same.

If you have the time and resources to research how your readers want to consume the content you provide them, and you are willing to fine-tune your content to suit them, this might be worth exploring.

But you can also go another route. Give them what you want to give them and let them to adapt to you.

Because people do adapt.

Besides, if you’re giving them interesting and helpful content, how you dress it up and deliver it isn’t really that important, is it?

To some on your list, it is important. But you’ll never please everyone, nor should you try.

Instead, write for two people. Write for your ideal reader. The people who love what you do and how you do it.

And write for yourself.

Write what you want, package and deliver it the way you want to.

Because if you’re not happy, if you don’t enjoy writing your newsletter or blog or other content, if it is a chore instead of a labor of love, it’s going to show.

Give people what they want, but don’t sacrifice yourself to do that.

How to write a newsletter people want to read and you want to write

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What kind of content does your audience want?

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You need to know what your readers want you to write about because if you don’t give what they want, or you give them things they don’t want, they might not continue to be your readers.

People want what they want.

And leave clues about what that is.

Think about your previous content that produced a response and look for ways to provide more like that. If you’re not sure, if you don’t have enough metadata to know what they like or share or comment on, ask them. Either directly in your emails and posts or via surveys.

Do they want updates on specific developments in the law? Cases, legislation, trends, and the impact on them or their business?

Do they want you to explain how you do what you do or do they want more do-it-yourself information, so they can do some things themself?

Do they want more hard information or more stories about people like them who (with your help) have solved their problems and achieved their goals? (Yeah, give that to them even if they don’t tell you they want this; they do.)

Do they want you to interview other professionals occasionally? Do they want guest posts? Do they want information about your practice area or speciality or about allied areas as well?

What are they interested in? What do they care about? What do they want to hear from you?

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell them what you want to tell them. Say what you want to say, even if they’re not ready to hear it.

When they sign up for your newsletter or subscribe to your posts, they’re telling you they want to know what you think and recommend. They want interesting and helpful information. But, as Steve Jobs said, “customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them”.

So show them what you want to show them. But don’t ignore what their replies, comments, shares, questions, or your research tells you to give them.

What to write about in your newsletter

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In my humble (but accurate) opinion

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Risk and reward. That’s what’s at stake today when you publicly state your opinion. You risk offending people who hold a different opinion, losing followers, and even losing clients who didn’t know you thought that way.

On the other hand, you might gain the allegiance of clients and followers who never knew how you felt about an issue and love you more because you do.

Opinion-based blog posts can help you win friends and influence people, or they can explode in your face.

So, lawyers, where do you draw the line?

You draw it on the side of expressing your opinion.

Because that’s why people read your blog or social posts.

If they just want straight news and information, they can get it anywhere. They follow you because they want to know what you think.

They want you to guide them, warn them, and lead them. They want to know how you see things and what you recommend.

They want your opinion.

That doesn’t mean you have to light fires and watch them burn.

Tell them what you recommend, and why. Tell them what you do, or would do if you were in their situation. But also show them both sides, contrary views, and other factors they should consider.

Because that’s what a good advisor does.

But you also convey your opinion without coming right out and stating it.

You do that every time you publish something, by the topics you choose to write about and the examples you use to illustrate them. You also do that by the subjects you choose to avoid.

Your readers might not know precisely what you think about every subject, but they get a sense of what’s important in your world, and for many subjects, a sense is enough.

Finally, while you might eventually choose to play it safe regarding a certain opinion or topic, your default should be to do the opposite.

Be edgy. Go out on a few limbs. Take some chances.

Yes, you might lose 10 followers if you go too far; I’ve done that. But you might gain 100 because you did. I’ve done that, too.

That’s what makes it interesting.

A successful life doesn’t require the complete avoidance of risk. It requires the intelligent management of risk.

Of course, that’s just my opinion.

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Let me entertain you

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Most people read your blog or newsletter because they are looking for information. But you can also use your content to entertain them.

It’s a great way to connect with your audience. Make people smile or think about something besides their problems and they’ll like you and come back next time to hear more.

But it depends on how you define entertainment.

Humor is fine, if it is appropriate and you don’t overdo it. A sprinkling of puns, turns of phrase, wry observations, and colorful asides can show your audience that you are down to earth. Not just a legal machine, but a person they can talk to and might like to know.

But you have to be careful. Especially today, where it’s difficult to know what is and isn’t acceptable.

You have to know your audience. And maybe have an editor or someone who can tell you when you’ve gone too far.

But entertainment isn’t just about humor. Sports, games, books, and music are also entertaining. Use them, either to make a point or add context or color to your information.

If you’re writing about winning a case, for example, and you’re in a hockey town, go ahead and use phrases like “hat trick” or “shutout”. Or talk about something you saw or heard when you were at a game.

What we’re really talking about isn’t so much about being entertaining, it’s about being interesting.

Not just the facts. Not just the law. Something else people will recognize and relate to or like hearing about because it’s different.

Speaking of different, did you see Heidi’s latest Halloween costume? Girlfriend did it again.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of a way to fit that into a blog post for lawyers. Wait, I just did.

How to write interesting articles and blog posts

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