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Marketing & Business Development

Effective Email Marketing for Lawyers, Part Three: The List

By Ritchenya Dodd

In previous posts, Ritchenya Dodd discussed how to break through inbox clutter to deliver targeted messages, and evaluated the template-building capabilities of online email marketing services. Today, she discusses managing email contact lists to ensure your messages reach the right people—and how to avoid becoming an accidental spammer.

If you’ve decided to invest time and effort into email marketing, as you begin building a sweet-looking email template and sweating the details of your first message, you also need to think about how to build and manage your subscriber list. After all, who receives your email marketing message is every bit as important as what is contained in the message.

Yo also want to ensure your message is not perceived as spam by your recipients, your email marketing service or your ISP. Remember the “report spam” button that allows you to ding annoying email that you receive? Email messages reported as spam can have dire consequences for the sender. Email marketing providers close the accounts of customers found to have violated their anti-spamming rules, and server administrators can blacklist senders labeled as spammers.

So what qualifies as spam? Any unsolicited email sent to a list of people is spam. If you send an unsolicited email to one individual, it’s not spam. But if you are sending to a list, email marketing sites will require you to obtain permission from recipients before sending your email. In fact, they often require a “double opt-in,” meaning that once subscribers choose to receive your email by subscribing or giving you their email address, they must confirm the choice.

Keeping you from becoming an accidental spammer is a major advantage of using an email marketing service instead of sending mass emails from your own email or Outlook account. They will make sure you know and follow the rules.

Building Your List

So how do you build your list when you can’t send target recipients an email asking them to subscribe? There are a number of ways to build a clean, actionable email list:

  • Website or blog sign-up. Invite visitors to your website or blog to sign up for email messages, which may include special alerts, a newsletter or notices to events. You can use different devices, from a pop-up message that asks for an email address before continuing on to read your blog, or a simple subscription form.
  • Social media outreach. Build your list by posting content to LinkedIn discussion groups, for example, with an option to sign up for your emails. Create a special landing page on your website specifically for people who click on these links that makes it clear where to enter their email address—avoid sending them to your home page where they can get lost.
  • Create a sign-up sheet. Post it in the reception or waiting area of your office asking people for their email address so they can receive additional information from you. Put a sign-up sheet on the nametag table at conferences you are speaking at or sponsoring, and circulate it when you speak to an audience.
  • Experiment with online advertising. Investigate Google Adwords or posting ads on social media sites that invite prospects to sign up for your newsletter or alerts via email.

Online email marketing software will allow you to easily create and customize autoresponders, or sequences of emails, that communicate with subscribers. Once a name is entered into your mailing list, for example, you can send out an auto responder thanking that person for subscribing, point them to additional resources—and begin to create a dialogue with them.

A Word of Caution: Practices to Avoid and CAN-SPAM

There are many common practices that can get a sender into trouble. Don’t purchase lists, use lists from organizations (even if you are a member) or download your contacts from Outlook. In each of these instances, the contacts have not consented to receiving your email. Email service providers also advise against using business cards collected in fish bowls unless you provide donors notice of your intent to send email. A good resource on the subject is Mail Chimp’s Field Guide to Email Marketing.

In addition to getting consent to send email messages, you want to ensure your messages comply with the federal CAN-SPAM Act. The act prohibits senders from using false or misleading header information (such as in the “From” or “To” line), and from using a deceptive subject line. You have to identify your message as an ad, include your physical location and an option for recipients to opt-out of receiving future messages, among other things. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission enforces CAN-SPAM and a summary of the act’s requirement is located here.

Keeping It Clean 

Once confident you have a good list, you want to protect it by keeping it current. Another big advantage of using an online email service is the list management capabilities which allow you to group your lists (such as by employer), track your emails and update your list. They also have some great tips for re-engagement campaigns to ensure you stay on your subscribers’ radar.

Doing email marketing correctly does take some time and attention—two things attorneys have little to spare. But the rewards can be great. Email marketing has the potential to build a base of engaged contacts whose trust you have earned, who are motivated to use your services and to recommend you to their network.

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

Categories: Daily Dispatch
Originally published April 16, 2012
Last updated October 16, 2018
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