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Marketing & Business Development

Effective Email Marketing for Lawyers, Part One: The Basics

By Ritchenya Dodd

How many emails per day do you delete before reading more than the Subject line? Has your fear of adding to your contacts’ inbox clutter—and recipient irritation—kept you from including email in your marketing plans? Well, the truth is, there are lawyers using email as a very powerful marketing tool with absolutely no offense. Done right, email marketing beats almost all possible ways to deliver a targeted message to a receptive audience.

Break Through the Clutter, Reach Your Target Audience

So what’s the difference between the email messages that get deleted and those that are saved, even forwarded? The difference lies in the focus of the message: The more your message is about the needs of your audience and the less it’s about you, the more likely your email will be seen as a service rather than clutter. Think about it. Who would you rather talk to at a cocktail party? The person who rattles on endlessly about himself, or the person who asks what you’ve been up to lately?

The two most crucial keys to effective email marketing are actually true for all successful marketing efforts:

  1. Identify your target audience as specifically as possible, and
  2. Create a core message that is designed to resonate with this audience.

So, for example, a newsletter that delivers best practices advice in an area that has clients tangled in knots, or shoots out quick, easy-to-read updates in a fast-changing area of law, is likely to be read and appreciated. Attorneys who send these types of newsletters and alerts position themselves as experts in fields to which they want their clients to turn in moments of need.

On the other hand, announcements about new attorneys who have joined the firm, office openings, firm anniversaries and big wins are not viewed as value-added messages. You can still communicate these important events, but don’t make it your lead. Consider including this type of firm news at the end of the substantive messages.

Send Like a Pro

The good news about email marketing is that there are more ways than ever to easily build professional-looking email newsletters, alerts and invitations. The bad news is there are so many options that they can seem overwhelming. In essence, there are only a few ways to tackle email marketing:

  1. Build it yourself. There are literally scores of online services that will walk you through building an email list, choosing and building an email template, distributing your emails, tracking them and managing your list (MailChimp, Emma, Constant Contact, etc.). The best of these offer advice and support. Done well, your readers will come.
  2. Outsource. If you are already using an agency for advertising, marketing or public relations, it may be worth the time savings to add this item to their workload. Because agencies specialize in communications, they often can produce well-written email communications, and do so more consistently and efficiently than you can on your own.
  3. Try a hybrid. There also are some great hybrids—email platforms that provide coaching assistance. In addition to providers that specialize in email marketing, check with your current website host. It may provide an email service that is compatible with your site’s content management system. If that’s the case, your host also is likely to provide support.

Your approach to email marketing will likely depend on the resources you have on hand to devote to the project. If you are on a tight budget but have some downtime to experiment at night, building an email template can be fairly easy and a nice break from your usual work. If you don’t think you can tackle one more thing, you may want to outsource.

Tip: If you just don’t have it in you to build an email template but don’t have the budget to outsource it, consider hiring an intern. The online templates are fairly easy to use, but they do take some time to tweak and patience to sit through the process and the coaching. This can be a great project for someone in need of experience. Once a template and the corresponding tools (email list, links to your website, URLs and passwords for your social networking platforms) are in place, you can probably take over and run with it.

Next Up

Look for a second post in the coming days with more information about some of the popular email marketing service providers.

Ritchenya A. Dodd is a vice president with Infinite Public Relations LLC. She has held in-house legal marketing positions and ran her own marketing communications firm. She is a lawyer and was a journalist, including with the Associated Press and The National Law Journal. She can be reached at

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Categories: Business Development, Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Marketing, Legal Technology
Originally published March 29, 2012
Last updated July 17, 2018
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