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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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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Hope

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We’re really good with the how-to’s, you and I. We know our stuff and we’re good at explaining it to our readers and listeners.

We’re also good at sounding alarms, warning them to watch out for things, protecting our flock so they don’t get eaten by the big, bad wolves of the world, and letting them know how we can help them when those wolves come around.

But we can do more.

We can inspire our readers and show them a better and safer future. We can tell them what we see (and predict), and share quotes and stories and words of wisdom from other smart people.

We can make our readers feel better and glad to have us in their life.

We can do this by reframing the bad news and putting it in perspective. And share things they don’t ordinarily see because they’re too busy worrying about their problems and working to pay their bills.

Distract them from their troubles. Comfort them and give them hope.

You may say this is not your province, you should stick to the things people look to lawyers for and not wander off that path.

But you would be wrong.

Because the people who follow us want, more than anything, to hear that everything is going to be okay.

Use your credibility, knowledge and persuasive skills to show people why they should be excited about the future. You’ll make a lot of people happy and want to hear more.

How to use a newsletter to build your practice

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Color or black and white?

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Color helps convey mood, graphics direct the eye and explain the message, and other visual elements also have important jobs to do, which is why every website, PowerPoint slide, and email are infused with them.

And that’s part of the reason I stick primarily with black and white.

In a world of color, it’s easier to stand out when your message is black and white. The same is true of layout and other visual elements. Our minds tend to lump together things that look alike, and notice things that don’t.

If you want prospects and email subscribers to think of your email as a commercial message, “more of the same advertising and promotions” they see from every attorney, use lots of color and graphics and make things big and bold.

If you want people to open and read your email, however, make it look like an email.

The old-fashioned kind—plain text (or html that disguises urls but otherwise simulates plan text).

When we get email, the first thing all of us do is look for a reason to delete it. If it looks like an ad or promotion, there’s a good chance it’s going in the bin.

But we don’t delete personal email, at least not without reading it first.

Make your email look like an email. Personal and important. Solemn and professional. And more people will read it and pay attention to your words.

Other benefits of plain text email are that it makes your messages easier to read and less likely to go into a spam folder. It also saves time because we don’t have to find graphics, get permission to use them, and crop and position them.

Many of these benefits apply equally to a website, which is why mine is also primarily black and white.

I’m not suggesting everything you do adhere to a plain text model. It shouldn’t. But think about this idea the next time you create something to send or show folks who can hire or refer you.

How to use email to build your practice

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When you SHOULDN’T do email marketing

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Email marketing rocks, for reasons I’ve spoken about many a time. But it’s not for everyone.

There are a few situations where a lawyer in private practice probably shouldn’t do email marketing.

Such as. . .

(1) Your firm or jurisdiction doesn’t allow it

There’s a difference between cold email, sent to strangers, and permission-based email sent to clients, business contacts, subscribers, and others who have opted in to a list or otherwise want to hear from you.

If you want to use email to build your practice, make sure your firm understands the difference. If they don’t and you can’t convince them or find exceptions (and you like your job), email marketing isn’t for you.

(2) You don’t need or want more business

You’ve got all the work you can handle, earn more than you can possibly spend, and are reasonably certain that this will continue. You don’t have a reason to do email marketing, or any marketing at all.

(3) You don’t believe it works for your practice

Why wouldn’t staying in touch with clients and business contacts result in repeat business and referrals?

I’ll give you a minute.

But hey, if you really believe it’s not right for you, you shouldn’t do it. Your heart won’t be in it and, frankly, you’ll find a way to mess it up to prove that what you believe is true.

(4) You don’t want to do it

That’s legitimate. There are a lot of marketing strategies that work incredibly well for a lot of lawyers I don’t want to do, and I don’t.

To each his or her own.

And that’s all I can think of.

Note, I didn’t mention “not enough time” or “don’t know how”. I don’t buy either of these. Any more than I accept “I tried it and it didn’t work.”

Like anything, it works if you want it to. It doesn’t if you don’t.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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My blog is better than your blog

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Ready for some good news? You don’t have to write a better blog or newsletter.

That doesn’t mean you can write junk and call it a day. You have to deliver value and make it interesting enough for your readers to continue to read it.

Because if they stop reading you, they might forget you.

Of course, the more valuable and interesting your content is, the more likely it is that your readers will see why they should talk to you about their situation, and/or share your information with others.

You also want to attract traffic and sign-ups to your blog and newsletter.

But that still doesn’t mean you have to be better.

It means you have to be different.

If you can, write about different topics than the competition. But that’s not the only way to be different.

You can write about the same topics (cases, issues, problems, trends, ideas, methods, etc.) other attorneys write about and still make your content unique.

You can do that by offering a different opinion about the subject than other lawyers offer.

You can do that by offering additional information, examples, and resources than others offer.

But the easiest way to make your content unique is to present it in your own unique voice.

Your voice is a depiction of your unique personality. So, be yourself.

Not your lawyer self, necessarily, your authentic self.

Relax and talk to your reader (one reader, not “everyone”), like you would if you were talking to them over your favorite beverage.

Combine that with stories from your practice and your content will be original and interesting and attract the kinds of people who want to hear what you have to say. And after you’ve said it, come back to hear more.

That’s how you get and keep readers, and how you get and keep clients.

How to write an email newsletter that brings in clients

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Batch and grow rich

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Just about every productivity book or article today talks about the value of batching or bunching tasks. Don’t respond to one email, they say, answer most or all of them in one sitting. Or designate “theme days”—one day a week to work on one of your projects or areas of focus.

Tuesday might be marketing day. Thursday afternoon might be time to catch up on your reading or research.

It’s more efficient this way because instead of starting from scratch each time, we can leverage the different states of mind and pacing of different activities . Sometimes, you also benefit from the economy of scale, meaning you get more out of each task because you’re doing them in batches, alongside other, similar tasks.

One area this is true is in content creation.

If you write a weekly blog or newsletter, each time you sit down to come up with a topic, you’re starting from scratch. You have other things on your mind, and switching contexts to do something different can be difficult, especially if you’re behind.

It’s much easier to write when you don’t have to find a topic, you already have one lined up.

That’s where batching comes in.

The next time you brainstorm a topic, brainstorm several. Don’t limit yourself to just today’s topic, find topics for the next week or month or longer.

Not only will this save time and allow to write without pressure, it also allows you to develop themes for your blog or newsletter, making your content creation even easier, and arguably easier.

For example, this month you might write a series of posts about trending issues in your field. Each post could talk about a different case or argument or one of the stakeholders. One post might talk about the history, another post about the future.

One idea, several topics.

Another example would be a series of posts about the stages of handling a case:

  • Intake
  • Investigation
  • Liability
  • Damages
  • Demand
  • Negotiation
  • Settlement
  • Litigation, discovery, trial, post-trial. . .

You could get one or several posts about each of these stages. If you do a weekly blog or article, you could get three months’ worth of topics around that one theme.

Note, you don’t have to publish those posts sequentially. You could instead spread them out over six months and fill in the other weeks with content around a different theme.

Another way to create topics in batches might be to make a list of resources you recommend to your readers or clients—consumer tips or agencies or business organizations, for example.

Dedicate each post to sharing one or more of those resources, along with your experiences, observations, or explanations.

Another idea might be a series featuring some of your business clients’ businesses or products. Or a series based on war stories from several notable cases you’ve had.

Once you have a list of topics, put them on a content calendar or in your reminders app, and the next time you have a post due, you won’t have to scramble to find a topic.

You might also want to schedule your next brainstorming session, to come up with your next theme or bunch of topics.

Where to get more ideas and how to use them

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4 categories of newsletter content

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What kinds of content can you post in your newsletter or on your blog? Actually, there are only four types and each has a different purpose:

  1. Pure content. Providing information to your readers about legal matters or anything else they might find important, interesting, or even fun. This includes teaching them what you do and how you do it, and what they can do themselves.
  2. Stories. You might write about clients you’ve helped, prospects you’ve spoken to, cases you’ve handled, speakers you’ve heard, books you’ve read, other lawyers (and their cases or clients), and a lot more. Stories illustrate your points and provide context and relatability.
  3. Promotion. Selling your services (or products), or persuading readers to do something — sign up for an event, download a report, share a link, provide feedback, watch your video, and anything else you’d like them to do.
  4. Hybrid content combines some or all of the above. You might write about a legal situation you handled recently and use one or more stories to illustrate what happened, followed by promoting a free consultation or upcoming webinar so the reader can learn more.

You can find an example of these categories here, in this post.

What you’re reading is content, of course. Yes, content can be very basic and brief, and it doesn’t have to be unique, just informative.

I found this list when I was reading a longer post about general email marketing and adapted it for the legal market. Yes, this is a story, and stories can be about you and nothing more than a mere mention of where you heard or read something.

Finally, I will promote my newsletter course for attorneys which shows how to start a newsletter, build a list, create content that does most of your marketing (like mine does for my business), and do everything you need to do in less than an hour per week.

And that’s an example of how you can promote a product, service, or event in a single sentence and without hyperbole. Mention what it is and some benefits, and provide a link where readers can learn more.

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