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The Friday Five

Five Steps to Starting an Email Newsletter for Your Law Firm

By Laura Ernde

If you’re a successful lawyer, you’ve already mastered how to communicate with your clients one on one, keeping them informed about their cases and what to expect next. But what about reaching out to all your clients at once through an email newsletter?

An email newsletter can be an inexpensive and easy way to reach out to clients and make sure they think of you the next time they need your services, especially if you are not in regular contact with them via ongoing legal work.

Let’s walk through the steps involved in launching an effective email newsletter. Good news: Technology has made it easier than ever to create and send an email newsletter, as well as track its effectiveness.

Step 1: Outline Your Goals

All good communication strategy begins with the question of what you want to accomplish. Spell this out first. It will inform every decision that follows — especially the type of content you will want to include. If you don’t have a good answer to the “why” question, maybe you don’t need an email newsletter after all. You’ve just saved yourself a lot of time and energy.

Step 2: Identify Your Audience

Let’s say your goals are to engage with your clients and expand your referral base. Now you need to identify your audience. Most likely this will be your current clients, former clients and professional connections.

You will want to include as many people as possible, but don’t be tempted to purchase bulk email lists or add people you don’t know. It almost goes without saying that sending unwelcome emails is no way to build a trustworthy business.

Step 3: Choose an Email Marketing Platform

Now, let’s get to the nuts and bolts of bringing your newsletter to life. Starting an email newsletter shouldn’t require a lot of new technology, but one thing you’ll definitely need is an email marketing platform. A free or inexpensive platform will have tools and tracking features to help you build your newsletter and evaluate its effectiveness.

There are numerous online solutions to choose from. Costs vary depending on the number of people on your email list and how often you reach out to them. MailChimp, for example, is free for fewer than 2,000 email subscribers. Others range from $10 per month to upwards of $200 per month. Good2BSocial evaluated the five email platforms that are most popular with law firms.

Step 4: Determine the Content and Frequency

Quality content is the most important feature of your newsletter. Draw articles from your blog or the news section of your firm website, with links to your site for more information. If you don’t create a lot of content now, spend some time thinking about what kind of information you will want to include. For example:

Based on your content plan and your budget, decide how often you want to send your newsletter. Do you have enough valuable information to generate a weekly email? Or would a monthly or quarterly newsletter make more sense? Think about the timing. Are there events or other reasons you want to time your newsletter to go out on a certain day or week?

Step 5: Get Started Publishing

Most email marketing platforms such as  MailChimp will guide you through the process of building your email list, including how to get the appropriate permission to add people to your list. This is a critical step to avoid being perceived as a spammer and being blocked from your prospects’ inboxes. MailChimp recommends that you get permission to send emails by asking people to sign up online.

To design your newsletter, you can use the built-in templates and tools that MailChimp and other email marketing platforms offer. Or, consider hiring a designer to help you create a professional-looking template and style guide that’s branded to your firm’s website.

Depending on your time and budget, you can write the newsletter in-house or outsource the work. Designate yourself or someone else to keep the newsletter on track. (Read Susan Kostal’s “Content Under Pressure” column for tips on creating compelling content.)

After the Launch

After you send your first newsletter, you’ll want to pay close attention to the kind of feedback you’re getting.

  • Is the newsletter meeting your original goals?
  • What percentage of people opened your email?
  • What links did they click on?

Use the metrics provided by your email platform and Google Analytics when planning future content.

Don’t forget to share your newsletter on social media (and make sure sharing tools are embedded in your newsletter template!) to build your subscriber base and widen your influence.

Related: “Email Marketing That Really Works” by Karin Conroy.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Laura Ernde Laura Ernde

Laura Ernde is a communications and media relations consultant based in San Francisco. Previously, she was communications director at the State Bar of California and covered the California Supreme Court for the state’s largest legal newspaper. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter @LauraErnde.

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