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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Put this in your phone

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A Connecticut attorney and long time subscriber recently wrote a newsletter article with some common sense advice for her readers about what to do if they get served.

Essentially, “It’s scary. Don’t panic. Call or text me (and her phone number).“

Good advice for any lawyer to offer his or her clients, because anyone can be sued or subpoenaed, most don’t know what to do and may indeed panic, and we want them to know they can and should turn to us for help.

Which is why this attorney also recommended her readers program her phone number into their phone, “because you never know when you might need it”.

This is also smart because while most clients won’t get served, they might think of other legal issues they need to ask about and having the phone number programmed in their phone makes it more likely they will call.

It might also prompt them to think of their attorney when someone they talk to has a legal matter. “Let me give you my lawyer’s phone number. . .” means more calls for the lawyer.

I really like her final suggestion, that readers program her phone number not under her name but under the word “Lawyer,“ because, ‘“when you need a lawyer, you might not remember my name but you will certainly know you need a lawyer.“

Small thing, but a big thing. Maybe a very big thing. Which is why I’m stealing this idea and passing it along to you to use in your newsletter.

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Get the folks to do something

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Why does everyone talk about the importance of engagement? To get your subscribers and followers to things like respond to a question, ask you their own question, or fill out a survey?

Is it because engagement is a way of measuring the responsiveness of your list? Is it because the information they supply by replying to your request helps you better understand them—what they want, their opinion, or their experience? Is it because when you ask and they respond, it parallels a conversation, which helps foster a relationship?

Yes to all the above. But there’s something else.

Each time you ask your list to do something, however trivial, and they do it, makes it more likely that they will do something else.

When they hit reply and answer your question, or ask you one of their own, when they take two minutes to fill out your survey, even if they do that anonymously, they are that much more comfortable responding.

If they were fearful before, they are less so now. If they didn’t want to take the time before, they might now think that’s okay.

If you share the survey results with your list, or answer their question in your next post, they see how they learn something or get something by replying to you.

They didn’t get hurt or embarrassed. They responded and it was okay.

You’re training the people on your list to come a little closer to you. Which means they trust you a bit more and are more likely to respond again when you ask them to do something else.

Strangers might hesitate to sign up for your event, forward your link, or schedule an appointment. But they are no longer strangers.

So tell me, what is something you did recently to engage with your list and how did it work out?

More ideas for engaging with your list

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Should lawyers outsource content creation?

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You can hire people to write blog posts and newsletters and other content. Should you?

It depends on what you intend to do with it.

If you intend to use your content to connect with people who can hire you or refer you, the answer is no.

Write your own content. You can’t outsource you.

People connect with you and hire you because they relate to you. They hire you not just because of what you know, but because of who you are.

Let them hear your voice, not a generic voice speaking about generic legal issues. Let them hear about the cases and clients you’ve helped and what you did to help them.

Let them get a taste of your personality and a sense of what it is like to have you as their attorney.

You can have people help you with research and editing your content, but that content should come from you.

On the other hand, if you intend to use content to generate traffic and leads, for advertising and direct mail and other purposes where a “generic” you might be sufficient, it’s okay to hire people to create that content for you.

Some attorneys buy “canned” newsletters from companies that provide the same newsletters to many attorneys. The attorneys don’t pretend this content is coming from them, however. It is (or should be) positioned as “from the firm”.

Attorneys who buy canned content know (or should know) this content won’t do much more for them than allow them to put something in their subscribers’ mailboxes and remind them they are still around.

There’s nothing wrong with this.

It’s better than sending no content to clients and prospects. Much better.

Some attorneys send out a canned newsletter and also write their own content, which they publish in a separate newsletter.

Their content is by them and from them and uses stories and examples from their practice. It is this content that builds trust and relationships with readers.

Similarly, some attorneys outsource content for a blog, and use that blog to attract search traffic. They might have several such blogs, each focused on different practice areas and keywords and markets, all of which send traffic to their regular website or into their lead capture funnels.

But again, they don’t (or shouldn’t) position that blog or those blogs as having been written by them.

They might also write their own content, but, as with a newsletter, it should be separate from the outsourced lead generation blog.

Outsourcing some of your content creation might be right for your practice. But it will never do what your own content can do.

How to write an email newsletter that brings in more business

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Lede, follow, or go home

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If you want more people to read what you write, write a headline that flags them down as they go sailing by and “forces” them to pay attention.

Because if you don’t, they’ll won’t, and they will (probably) move on and read something else.

One way to get their attention is to write something unusual, as I did with the archaic, journalistic spelling of “lead” in the headline of this post. It makes you stop and wonder if I misspelled the word or I mean something else.

For a second or two, you’re reading and, therefore, a bit more likely to continue reading.

Remember, you can’t bore people into reading. So do something different, interesting, or fun.

But that’s not the only way to do it. You can’t go wrong promising benefits, asking a thought-provoking question, or sharing a surprising fact, statistic, or quote.

You can also win friends and influence readers by leading with a story.

People want to hear what happened to your client, your friend, your friend’s client, or you.

Your headline should be simple, make the reader curious, and give them a reason to read your first sentence. Of course, that first sentence has to be good enough to get them to read the second sentence.

You can also get attention with images and other visual elements: charts, lists, color, bullet points, sub-heads, unusual typography, and a P.S. (in a letter or email).

But while all the above is true, it’s also situational. If you’re writing to someone who knows you personally, or to your list of regular readers, to some extent, you can assume you have their attention and can get away with being clever, mysterious or weird. People who know you are probably going to read what you write because they know you and want to hear what you say.

Which is why you will find more than a few of my headlines make you question my sanity and want to see my bar card.

Just having fun. Because if it’s not fun for me, I’m pretty sure it won’t be fun for you.

And if it’s not fun, why bother?

How to write something people want to read

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Could this be true?

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I was on social media the other day. Yes, I do that occasionally. A company had surveyed a group of lawyers, asking them what they wanted out of their practice, and posted the results.

Nearly everyone said they wanted better systems and automation, to make their practice run more smoothly. They also wanted more affordable help.

Makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is that only 14% said they wanted help with marketing—“getting more good clients, more reliably.”

Why so low? Who doesn’t want more good clients? What’s going on here?

Ah, what’s going on is that the firm that conducted the survey helps lawyers automate their practice. So their clients’ and followers’ primary interest is in becoming more organized and efficient.

That’s their bias.

Go ahead and survey a cross-section of attorneys and I think your results might be a little different.

Of course my list is also biased. If I did a survey, I’m sure I’d find that most want more good clients and cases.

Because who doesn’t want more good clients?

Okay, some lessons.

  1. Before you draw any conclusions about the results of a survey, make sure you know who’s conducting it and of whom.
  2. Surveys are a great way to engage your list. People like to share their opinion and are curious to see what other people say about the subject.
  3. Surveys are an easy way to generate content for a blog or newsletter and social media. I just did that and it wasn’t even my survey.

Go forth and survey some folks. Or find someone else’s survey and talk about it.

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The law is boring. You aren’t.

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Most people who read your content aren’t interested in hearing about the law. Not all the time, anyway, and not in as much detail as might interest another lawyer.

Keep that in mind when you fashion your next blog post, article, or video.

Give ‘em a summary, the highlights, the down-and-dirty version, because if you do more, at some point, they’ll tune out.

“Yes, but. . .” you say. “What should I write about if not my area of expertise?“

Write about the reader. Their life, their business, their industry, their niche, their local market. Write about things they are experiencing and talking about and worried about, or might be soon.

Even if there’s nary a legal issue in sight.

If a legal issue applies, mention it. Explain it (briefly). Provide advice and how-to’s, to warn them, protect them, and add value to their life or business.

But your readers are more interested in themselves, so talk mostly about them.

Of course you should also write about your actual clients, since you know them best of all. Tell their stories, their problems, their cases, and how you helped them.

Real people experiencing real problems or seeking to protect themselves from harm.

Again, mention the law if it’s applicable, but sparingly. Your readers are more interested in hearing about what happened to your clients, and what to do if the same thing happens to them.

What else?

Well, your readers also want to hear about you.

Oh yes they do. Especially if they’re thinking about hiring you or referring you. Yes, you, slayer of problems, bestower of benefits, protector of rights, friend to the friendless.

People want to know about what you do and how you do it.

Tell ‘em.

To do that effectively, you might want to start documenting what you do, so you’ll have it on hand when you need it.

Keep a journal or database and, at the end of each day, make a note about what you did, who you helped, the victories, struggles, defeats, and what you think (and feel) about it all.

Then, when you’re looking for something to write about, you can go back to your log and find something worth sharing.

You may think your account would bore your readers, because to you, it’s just another day doing more of the same. You’re too close to it, my friend. Record the days, step back, come back later, and you’ll be surprised at how interesting your days will be to your readers.

The law itself might be boring; you aren’t.

But even if your stories are as boring as dry toast, your readers will still want to hear them. Because as you tell your stories, you’re also telling your clients’ stories, and to someone who is similarly situated, those stories are endlessly fascinating.

How to write interesting stories

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