Email Marketing: Best Practices Guide for Law Firms

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First thing’s first, you may be saying to yourself, “Isn’t email marketing a thing of the past?” In the words of Cher Horowitz, “AS IF!” While it’s true email newsletters have been around for decades, they definitely have not gone out of style – here’s why.

Why Email Marketing?

  • High ROI – Email marketing typically has a significantly higher ROI than many other marketing channels (like social media).
  • Direct Line to Clients – The #1 thing that makes email marketing more effective is that you have a direct line to your audience. People also check their email every day and expect marketing messages in their inboxes.
  • Preferred by Consumers – One study found that 86% of consumers prefer to get email-based marketing messages over Facebook ads, TV commercials and display ads.
  • Quality Traffic – Email marketing not only increases click-through rates for your landing pages but it helps make sure that traffic is relevant. The people interacting with your emails are currently in your marketing funnel, so they’ve already shown interest in your company.

Now that we know the “why,” let’s move on to the “how.” Below, we’ve outlined best practices and tips to help give your email marketing a jumpstart.  

Building Your Email List

  • A Compliant List is ALWAYS Best Practice – Make sure you have a legitimate subscriber list. That means no address book dumps, no purchased emails, and no “fishbowl” business card information.
  • Make Opting-In Easy – Provide multiple opportunities for subscribers to opt-in for your newsletter. This includes, but is not limited to, adding a newsletter sign-up form to your website, incorporating an opt-in on your contact form and including a line in your email signature.
  • A “Thank You” Goes a Long Way – Send a welcome letter to new subscribers thanking them and outlining what they can expect from your campaigns. You can also use this opportunity to ask why they signed up and what content they are most interested in receiving. 

Design & Content

  • Design for Inboxes, Not the Web – In email marketing, templates are created for inboxes, not the web. Newsletter design has come a long way, but it is important to remember the ultimate goal is getting in readers’ inboxes. This can’t be done with big files for images, videos, etc.
  • A Simple Design is the Best Design – Overall, you want to make sure your template is on brand, mobile-friendly, loads quickly and clearly conveys information.
  • What is Your Newsletter About? – Email campaigns can be created for a variety of reasons, some examples include: sharing company news and updates, summarizing published stories or blogs, announcing events, obtaining new leads and retaining current clients
  • Keep It Short & Sweet – Content for newsletters shouldn’t be a dissertation. It is best to keep it to the point so you don’t lose your subscriber’s interest.
  • Important Must-Haves! – Each campaign should include:
    • A clear CTA – this is essential for getting conversions. Try to avoid including too many as you may deter or confuse a subscriber. 
    • A clear and simple way to unsubscribe. If someone has to hunt for the link, they will give up and mark it as spam, which can affect your deliverability. 

Campaign Sending Rhythm & Tools

  • Commit to a Sending Rhythm – It is important to commit to a sending rhythm for your campaigns. You constantly want to be nurturing your subscribers, so plan to send regularly as opposed to sporadically.
  • What IS the Best Sending Rhythm? – There is no one size fits all for sending frequency. It should be whatever works best for your business. For example, it could be weekly, monthly or quarterly. Just make sure it is a realistic goal you can stick to and is in line with your subscribers’ expectations.
  • Don’t Forget to Test! – Always test an email before sending it out. This gives you the chance to catch any mistakes and see what the finished product will look like in inboxes. A/B testing can also be used to determine what email subject line, content or send time will produce the best results. 
  • Analyze Campaign Reports & Turn That Data into Action – Evaluating campaign reports can help decipher which links are getting the most traffic and what is resonating with your subscribers. This information can be used to help produce future content ideas, segment your subscriber list based on interests, and decipher the best time to send your letter – all of which can assist in increasing your overall deliverability. 

Follow these guidelines, and it’ll be nothing but happy sending for your firm!

Interested in Email Marketing? PaperStreet Can Help

Need help with your email newsletter? Never fear, PS is here! Check out our email marketing packages and find the best fit for your law firm.

The Most Popular Email Clients

Today, email marketing is one of the most important and cost-effective ways of connecting with clients and maintaining relationships with them. In fact, it is estimated that for every $1 spent on email marketing, there is a $44 return on investment.

To help you understand the most essential concepts of email marketing, we at PaperStreet have compiled our best practices for a successful email marketing strategy that drives leads and strengthens your client relationships.

Successful email marketing requires a solid understanding of which email clients your audience is using. If you thought the web browser market was fractured, check out the email program market!

email-program chart

Source: https://kinsta.com/email-market-share

As you can see, Apple Mail (especially when accessed via mobile devices) and Gmail dominate the market. However, a significant number of users are still using clients like Outlook and Yahoo.  Personally, we use the mailchimp.com template system, but we have had success with campaignmonitor.com and constantcontact.com to send out emails too.

Knowing the different email clients that your audience is using can help you understand how your emails look depending on where they’re being viewed. This is a good reason to test all your email newsletters in all programs.

Once you’ve figured out the basics of the different email clients you need to consider, it’s time to start thinking about content.

6 Tips for an Effective Email Subject Line

It may seem pretty simple to type up an email. On a daily basis, we probably send anywhere from five to 50 emails a day, but that doesn’t mean email marketing is an easy task. If you want to gain attention from your audience through email, then you’d better come up with an enticing subject line or your email will be deleted in an instant. If you need some pointers on how to hook your audience, do not fret — we’ve got a few to share.

Be Clear & Definitive

People want to know exactly what they are getting into by opening an email and if it is worth their time. If the subject is wordy, convoluted or confusing, then the email will most likely get trashed. Remember: people are going to be browsing the subject lines, and they don’t want to read a book. Keep it to around 40-50 characters.

Use More Verbs and Less Adjectives

The subject line should tell your readers what action to take, instead of being too descriptive. Use words like improve, create, and respond. A good example would be: Take Two Minutes to Change the World. It calls the reader to action and states the purpose without giving too much away. Just keep in mind that the subject line needs to grab attention while still stating the main message of the email.

Change Up the Subject

Make sure you are not using the same subject lines over and over. For example, if you send out a weekly newsletter, then make sure the email subject line represents the contents of that specific newsletter. If someone continues to receive an email with the same headline over and over again, it will most likely be ignored.

Share the Consumer Benefit

Tell your recipient how they will benefit from opening the email. Will they save money, accumulate more business, or gain something new? If there is no incentive in it for them, then why should they even open the email?

Create Urgency

A great subject line should encourage the recipient to take action right away. It should make them feel like they are missing out on something if they do not open the email. If you can present the urgent value of the information you are sending in your subject line, then it is more likely someone will open it.

Avoid Spam Trigger Words

Our last tip:don’t forget to avoid spam trigger words. These are words that email providers identify as potentially fraudulent or malicious. Using one of these words in your subject could be the single difference between your recipients even having the chance to see the subject line or not.

Making Sure Images Are Showing Up in Emails

Another content-related consideration that you should be making is whether or not the images you’re using are showing up — just because they’re working for you doesn’t necessarily mean they are viewable by recipients. Below, we discuss why and how to fix this problem.

The Case of the Disappearing Images

You’ve created the perfect signature with your awesome logo. You followed all the rules and made perfect HTML to be cross-browser and cross-email program compliant.  It looks great.

But then when a client receives your email, a dreaded red X appears for your logo. WTF?

“Right-click here to download pictures.”

Ugh.  How did that appear?  It is simple.  Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Apple Mail are all trying to protect their users.  They don’t want spammers or email tracking devices to load automatically.  Images must be approved before they will load in the email.

Unfortunately, there is little you can do.  Your recipients must “Click here to download pictures” to view your cool logo. Without that, they will not see your nice images.  The good news is that once they typically click that, then all future messages do automatically appear.

Wondering if this fits here as this seems to have more to do with campaigns than email clients? If so let me know and I can move this.

logos in emails

My Emails Look Great, but How Effective Are E-Newsletters?

Now that you have content tailored to the various top email clients and an effective subject line, you may be wondering how effective your newsletters can be. A law firm client recently asked us whether e-newsletters are worth the time and effort they take to create. Do they truly reach clients? Or just end up in email trash bins?

Not As Effective As You Think

Our short answer: e-Newsletters are a cost-effective way to connect with clients.

The long answer:  Thanks to tracking technology, you don’t have to take our word for it.

Utilizing Email Marketing Technology

Most email marketing services now automatically generate statistical reports that allow you to track the effectiveness of your newsletter campaign. Our favorite, MailChimp, shows you:

  • How many clients opened your newsletter and the names of those specific clients;
  • Of those who opened the newsletter, how many people clicked on a specific article;
  • What articles were the most popular;
  • How many people unsubscribed to your newsletter;
  • How many complaints you received, and more.

Services like MailChimp will send out your newsletter for free, so the only cost to you is the time or money it takes to write the content. If you already write copy for your website in the form of blog posts and news releases, then all you need to do is repurpose this content, drop it into a pre-created newsletter template and, voila!, you are done.

Analyzing Results

So, let’s say your law firm or business commits to doing a newsletter for several months. The next step is to use these statistical reports to determine where and how you should improve your efforts, or, if in fact, e-Newsletters aren’t for you.

We’re going to use PaperStreet’s e-Newsletter as an example:

STEP 1: Look at Your Open Rate vs. Industry Averages

For our past three newsletters, we’ve had an average of 37% of clients open our newsletter. The industry average for our field is 25%, according to MailChimp, so already we know we are doing something right.  (The average open rate for the legal industry is roughly 17%).

If your average is low, one possible problem may be that your newsletter does not immediately explain to your audience what it is about and how the information can help.  Work on improving the title of your newsletter, which appears in the email subject field. Swap out a vague title like  “March Newsletter for Tax Attorney, LLC” with something compelling: “Tax Update:  How New Regulations Affect Your Business & Family.”

STEP 2: Compare Open Rates of Your Newsletters Over Time/By Subject

Let’s say your open rates are decent. Now it’s time to compare newsletters over time to see what topics clients are most interested in.

Looking at the past three PaperStreet newsletters, the most popular one by far was about law firm website redesigns (the other two were about Lawyer SEO and Law Firm Internet Marketing). This is actually a surprise. Our initial assumption was that SEO (Search Engine Optimization, the process of boosting your website’s rankings on search engines like Google) would have been the hottest topic.

In other words, analyzing your newsletters’ data is key to understanding marketing strategies and hot topics that you may be overlooking. This is important info to give our team members in sales. We may be underestimating our clients’ need for a website facelift.  It also tells us that this is a topic we should write about again in the near future.

STEP 3: Look at Click Rate

Your open rate is the percentage of people who open your newsletter. Your click rate is the percentage of those people who actually click on a particular article.

Looking at your click rate can be helpful in seeing even further detail on what info your clients want. Maybe they like legal news but ignore the article on your firm’s new attorneys. For future newsletters, you want to give clients more of what they want, and keep other info as concise as possible (or improve the presentation so that they see more clearly how this info can benefit them).

In the case of PaperStreet, click rates have taught us the importance of a catchy headline.  In general, we’ve found short, info-packed lists (“Top Ten Best Practices”  “Seven Things to Avoid, ”etc) do well, as well as articles that include graphics, photos, or other visuals. Headlines with personality and humor, where appropriate, also work well. The most clicked-on headline we’ve had to date is “Awful Lawyer Ad and Website Clichés – Funny if They Weren’t Costing You Money and Clients.”

STEP 4:  Look at Complaint Rate/Unsubscribe Rate

If you find that a lot of your newsletter recipients are complaining and/or unsubscribing (the legal industry average is only 0.02 % and 0.12 % respectively), you should scrutinize whom you are sending your newsletter to and how you obtained their emails.

Did these people knowingly sign up for this kind of information? The correct answer should be “yes.” It is better to have a small, quality list that builds over time than run the risk of being labeled a spammer.

Management Details to Consider

Typically the first email that goes out will notify you of any bad email addresses, which then should be removed from your list by you.

It is mandatory to include an unsubscribe feature, usually in the footer, to allow recipients to “opt out.” These unsubscribers will be” automatically removed from the list. You will not have to do it yourself.

You can include a sign-up form on you site (in fact, it is encouraged) for clients to “opt in” and receive messages from your firm. MailChimp likes to know where you are getting your emails. This looks legitimate.

You can have multiple lists for distinguishing your clients by categories. One of the great things about Mailchimp is your contacts are easily managed with minimal work done by you.

Finally, you can always export your list from Mailchimp to update your local contact data, as many firms and companies like to have them locally as well.

Stop Using Purchased Email Lists!

As you consider your newsletter strategy, you also want to think about who your recipients are and how you’re obtaining them. Before you can send any email-marketing material, you must have permission from every single one of your recipients. If your initial reaction to that statement was, “but what if…,” then stop what you’re doing, because you don’t have permission. (Consider reading Mail Chimp’s Rookie Mistakes Guide to learn more.)

Purchased lists are not permission lists. We have seen campaigns fail to send because a client has purchased their list. We spend time drafting great copy, putting together a great design, testing, more testing, and then the email cannot be sent because the list is purchased. So we always ask that first now: where did you get your list?

There are definite sanctions if your list is not permission based. Some of these are explained below.

Federal CAN-SPAM Act

The United States federal CAN-SPAM Act became law on January 1, 2004. According to their website, the FTC says that if you violate the law, you could be fined $16,000 for each offense (multiply $16,000 times the number of people on your recipient list). Yikes, that can get expensive quickly. ISPs around the country have already successfully sued spammers for millions and millions of dollars under this law. Here is a review of the law from the FTC.

Because of this law, all major email marketing companies like MailChimp, Constant Contact, and Campaign Monitor require your list to be permission based – usually, recipients must double opt-in to send from their networks. A double opt-in list means they agreed to sign up to your list from your web site and also clicked on a verification email link that you sent them.

We have had clients purchase lists, not tell us where they get them from, and we upload the list to the mailing company to send. Lo and behold, the list is rejected on the first send, because they are not opt-in. This includes purchased lists from the Florida Bar and all other bar associations. Sure, they may have opted-in to the Bar, but not to your list.

Using purchased lists just wastes a bunch of time and money. Sometimes small campaigns can sneak under the radar. But the bottom line is: if it is not permission based, you are in violation of federal law.

Potential Blacklist of your IP Address

Let’s say you skip the email marketing companies’ sending platform because of their pesky permission requirements and send it yourself. If you send this from your own computer network, you may end up on spam blacklists like spamhaus.org. All it takes to get on a blacklist is for you to be reported a few times to the right people.

If you get on a blacklist, then legitimate clients will not be able to receive your email, it is blocked, or goes into junk mail. We have seen this a lot. It creates havoc in trying to run your business. Your IT person is also going to hate you, as it is very hard to get off the list. It almost always requires that you move email servers to a new IP range – costing you more time and money.

Easy, Fast, and Professional Email Blasts

There is a lot to consider when strategizing, writing, sending, and analyzing your email campaigns and newsletters. But doing so successfully is key, as email is the most important way of reaching your clients on a professional level.

Luckily, PaperStreet has just the expertise you need to ensure email success. Whether you are sending announcements, tips for clients, celebration cards, or event invitations, once you decide to set up an account, it’s easy to get started — and PaperStreet can help!

If you want help setting up a E-Newsletter, PaperStreet can:

  • Create an account for your law firm on your preferred email marketing service;
  • Design a custom newsletter template that matches your website and branding;
  • Consult with you to ensure you are using a proper email list;
  • Train you on how to send out the newsletter yourself; and/or
  • Write custom content.

To open an account we will need:

  1. A credit card (for our email service, MailChimp, to have on file). This is used to purchase the credits to send out emails.”
  2. Your list in excel format.
  3. Column 1 – Recipient’s First Name
  4. Column 2 – Recipient’s Last Name
  5. Column 3 – Recipient’s Email

Please note that Mailchimp has good spam practices in place to ensure they are a credible service. This means that your list would need to be stripped of any “info@” emails and any emails that will get bounced back.

To create an email campaign we will need:

  1. Your message. Remember to keep it simple and avoid wordy paragraphs. Lists are great and easy for people to skim (as we all know how many emails we read each day).
  2. A theme idea. We will guide you in selecting a format and create graphics that communicate your message but adhere to your brand.

Once everything is ready to go, we can send test emails and then “blast away!” PaperStreet can walk you through how to send out future campaigns from any computer.

To learn more about how we can help you build an outstanding, engaging email marketing strategy, contact us today!

Maybe remove this because it may dissuade the reader from actually reading the rest (if they think newsletters aren’t effective)?

Changing “I” to “we” throughout for consistency — please let me know if that’s not preferred!


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