Demographers, scientists who study population characteristics, warn that depending on where you are located, up to 35 percent of your client base will disappear within the next 12 months. Many will move away, but most will simply forget about you. Worse than that, your more aggressive competitors will steal away another 5-15% of people who you have represented in the past. Marketing experts estimate that up to 50% of your total “past client and contact list” could be disappearing each year.
If you think this seems ridiculous, stop and think about it for a moment. Look at your old client list and check how many of them have contacted you again for another legal matter or even to refer someone to your firm. Most lawyers have only a vague system for repeatedly marketing back to old clients and others who have contacted their firm. When lawyers do get around to thinking about a firm newsletter, the first thing most do is to contact some newsletter company who is going to send them a “canned” newsletter that they will slap their firm name onto. This isn’t nearly good enough. Worse, sending a newsletter that is boring, as most “canned” newsletters are, actually turns people off.
Newsletters aren’t as hard to do as you may think. Back when I first started my solo practice, I knew that publishing a newsletter would be an important part of my marketing mix. I really didn’t have any idea how to get that done, so I spoke to a local print shop and then began writing all my own articles. I even took the time to research bulk mailing at the post office and learned how to get a discount when mailing the newsletters out.
I knew, even back then, that having a mailing list was going to be very important. Today when I speak to young lawyers about attorney marketing, the very first thing I tell them to do, even if they have no money, is to start the mailing list. Ever since the beginning of my (then solo, now multi-lawyer) practice, we have kept our mailing list(s) on very simple programs, first MyMailList, but now we use Infusionsoft for everything. Our CRM is the one place where we can put every single contact and develop responsive marketing lists.
The Most Important Asset of Any Business
The most important asset of any business, including a law firm, is not the fixtures, the computers or even the people. The most important asset is “the list.” It is that collection of names and addresses of everyone who has ever expressed any interest in hearing anything you have to say. These are people who will give you permission to market to them. In our office, the list is made up this way:
- Every person who raises their hand to request any of our information
- Every potential client who comes from any other source, but who has contacted us
- Local attorneys who do not compete in our area of expertise (personal injury, medical malpractice, and ERISA disability)
- All of our vendors
- All of my local friends and relatives
- Other professionals who would likely be in a position to refer clients to us
The Most Important Feature of Any Newsletter - Don’t Be Boring
I’m sure you have seen the newsletter services who solicit your business. The vast majority of these services are doing nothing more than slapping your name on a generic, pre-written newsletter and then telling you that “having your name in front of your clients will help them to recall you when its time to refer a new client to you.”
I’ve looked at a lot of these services and subscribed to some in the distant past. The problem with most, if not all, lawyer newsletters is that they are stupefyingly boring. The best way to test is to call up some of these companies yourself and ask for samples. Read the articles. Are they interesting to you? How about your non-lawyer spouse? Your teenage kids? Are all of the articles that are pre-written even applicable to your area of practice?
Here’s a mistake a lot of lawyers make: They claim that their newsletters are directed to other lawyers in an effort to get referrals. They may also claim that they are directed toward “business to business” marketing, thus, they need to be “different.” I get one newsletter from a local business law firm that is so densely packed with legal jargon, case citations, and boilerplate contract language that I glance at it when it arrives only for a quick laugh. They are wasting their money big time.
You see, whether you are writing to the lawyer down the street or the young lady who just raised her hand to ask for some of your information material, remember that you are writing to a human being. We are all wired basically the same. We will pick up and read something that is interesting and, if it’s really good, pass it along to one of our friends. It does you no good to send a fancy four-color newsletter if it is not opened, read, and remembered.
I've been mailing out a solid newsletter for the past ten years now and it has been integral in generating referrals and business from my list. Newsletters are so effective that I think every single lawyer out there should be mailing one out every month. However, designing and writing newsletters can take up a good portion of your time and they can be a lot of work, not to mention very expensive. But don't let the price scare you! You may be investing money in a newsletter, but the cases and referrals that come from it will more than pay for the cost.