Email marketing for solicitors: how an electronic newsletter can maintain client care (Law Society Gazette Nov 09)

Click here to see the article on the Law Society Gazette web site.

But in the current competitive market it is essential to show them that you care. I hear from my optician, my dentist, and even my local garden centre more often than I hear from my solicitor.

Many firms that I come across never write to their clients – except to inform them of a change of address or about moving to LLP status. Fortunately, though, many firms have recognised the benefit of newsletters as a way of keeping their name in front of their clients and cross-selling their full range of services.

A newsletter is of itself an inexpensive item, but for a firm with a large mailing list it can take up a healthy chunk of the marketing budget when you add in the cost of envelopes, postage and manpower to fulfil the mailshot.

Given the obvious cost advantages and environmental benefits, it is not surprising that many law firms are embracing email marketing – and reaping a number of additional benefits from doing so.

Three very different firms that I have worked with have embraced email marketing – Arnheim & Co, Beswicks and TPP Law.

The sole principal: Arnheim & Co

Chris Arnheim is a corporate finance specialist who, having spent several years in the global law practice of chartered accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, recognises the benefit of keeping his name in front of clients and contacts. As a sole principal with a small team, he is also keen to avoid the ‘feast and famine’ situation that can arise from being too busy to market yourself when occupied by large corporate transactions.

Chris introduced a monthly e-newsletter this year. The first stage was to design and set up a simple branded template. Each month, Chris simply provides me with the text and any new contacts which need adding to the mailing list. We create the emailer on his behalf and, once it is approved, we send it out, providing the reporting statistics the following week.

‘I collect ideas for the mailer throughout the month, then it takes me about a morning to write the copy and send it over,’ says Arnheim. ‘The software allows us to have different address lists for different mailings. I have been delighted with the feedback – each month I get clients saying they like the contact and they like the format.’

The regional full-service firm: Beswicks Solicitors

Beswicks Solicitors is a full-service law firm with over 100 staff, based in Stoke-on-Trent. Serving businesses and private clients, it provides a wide range of legal services. It also has a specialist sports law division that operates globally. Beswicks had four objectives for its email marketing strategy:

  • Promotion of the firm’s brand;
  • Cross-selling all the firm’s services;
  • Promoting seminars and corporate hospitality events for the firm; and
  • Providing a cost-effective way of communicating with the international sports client base.

Within two hours of the first newsletter being sent, the Beswicks debt recovery team had secured a new instruction.

The first event to be promoted via email received a record number of acceptances. Beswicks Sports, participating in a conference in the US, was able to drive up attendance at its seminar via a pre-conference emailing to all delegates. Comments from clients and contacts were very positive, and the e-bulletin continues to raise the profile of Beswicks as a forward-looking and proactive legal adviser.

Simon Woodings, managing partner of Beswicks, was initially doubtful about the potential. ‘As the recipient of many emailers and updates, I was completely sceptical as to the effect on our business of sending information in this format. But the initial and subsequent reaction of clients and intermediaries proved me wrong, and I am now a convert.’

Woodings explains: ‘The system we use is excellent, allowing you to promote your message and corporate image at a very reasonable cost, and to monitor who has viewed what – a very useful tool for follow-up marketing. We also use it to send invitations – the cost is a fraction of postage and printing – and the effect far stronger, as you know it’s hit the recipient’s desk and that they have opened it.’

The national niche practice: TPP Law

TPP Law is an award-winning specialist law firm with a clear focus on supporting public service partnerships and projects. Clients range from large public sector organisations to embryonic social enterprises, and from charities and not-for-profit bodies to commercial businesses entering public service contracts, partnerships and joint ventures.

TPP Law produces a regular high-quality printed newsletter that is sent to an extensive database of clients and contacts and enjoys an excellent reputation among recipients.

TPP Law wished to continue to raise its profile nationally throughout its core target markets. In addition, it hosts a number of specialist seminars and events and wished to improve the promotion of these events.

Back in 2007, TPP Law implemented Enabler as its email marketing solution. Two bespoke email templates, for a seminar invitation and a multi-topic newsletter, were designed and the TPP Law marketing team was then trained to use the Enabler software and manage all their own email campaigns, including managing the data, and creating, sending and reporting on each campaign.

TPP Law’s first email campaign was designed to promote a seminar. Bookings came through in a steady flow and the seminar was over-subscribed.

Subsequently, TPP Law has launched client email newsletters for target sectors such as health and education, and issued a number of topical briefings at a fraction of the cost of an equivalent hard-copy mailing.

Mark Johnson, managing director at TPP Law, sees great potential in harnessing e-communications. ‘Enabler has allowed us to implement a structured and regular programme of contact and “touch points” with clients and key intermediaries. We often found that clients were unaware of our broader activities and experience – the e-bulletins enable us to showcase our achievements and generate new leads cost-effectively – especially in the run-up to an event or the launch of our publications.’

One of the obvious advantages of e-marketing is the ability to track and measure activities in detail and therefore evaluate the return on investment made in doing mailshots. Systems like Enabler provide comprehensive real-time tracking – allowing you to see exactly who is opening your email, which articles or web links they click through to, and what they download – information that is invaluable as a reminder to touch base with a client or contact that you have not spoken to for a while.

Speed is one of the most frequently cited benefits of email marketing. As experts in a particular issue, it provides you with the facility to circulate a comment or response to a case within hours, rather than days.

When we last surveyed law firms to identify the key barriers to the successful implementation of electronic marketing techniques, a common set of concerns emerged – nearly half of respondents noted a lack of strategy as a hindrance. This was followed closely by poor technology infrastructure and the lack of a client and contact database.

To ensure that your emailer has the highest chance of being received and read, you really should follow best practice, including adhering to the law regarding electronic communications. A specialist email service provider will have built-in controls to manage opt-outs and prevent you sending emails without an ‘unsubscribe’ facility. Guidance for marketers on the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 can be downloaded from the information commissioner’s website –

When talking to firms, we often find that they are already convinced of the benefits of email marketing, but they struggle to get the programme off the ground because of a lack of email contact data.

Professionals should aim to build a database of clients, contacts and prospects that genuinely welcome hearing from them. With anyone else we are wasting time and money, and risking our reputation by sending unwelcome emails – spam.

Although it is possible to go out and purchase a list of email contacts, we suggest that firms start with their own clients and contacts and implement a systematic approach to collecting email addresses and permissions.

Why email marketing?

Last year we carried out an online survey of the legal profession and gathered responses from 112 law firms, ranging from multinationals to sole practitioners. Respondents described how email marketing had helped them to:

  • Raise awareness of their brand among existing and new markets;
  • Extend market catchments in terms of market sectors and geographic reach (particularly overseas);
  • Enable a better understanding of the firm’s full range of services and capabilities;
  • Differentiate themselves from their competitors in the eyes of potential clients and referrers;
  • Improve their image;
  • Provide speedier communications to clients;
  • Achieve regular exposure to intermediaries and prospects;
  • Improve attendance at seminars;
  • Reduce costs of direct marketing;
  • Provide detailed return on investment information;
  • Generate qualified enquiries for services;
  • Obtain customer feedback information; and
  • Improve their environmental credentials.

If you want to learn more, Berners Marketing has produced a free guide for solicitors, with input from the Information Commissioner’s Office, which provides a practical step-by-step approach to building a high-quality email database that complies with UK regulations for data protection, privacy and electronic communications.

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