Does your Law Firm make this Huge Email Marketing Mistake?

email marketing mistakeYesterday I ran across a question from another lawyer on Google+ regarding email marketing. The specific question was, “I am interested in building a list of people that consult with me over the phone. Does anybody collect emails via staff over the phone?  Any thoughts on how to do this?”

What I love about this question is that the lawyer who asked it has recognized what many lawyers fail to understand – that building a list of people who consult with him is an absolute must for a law practice.  Failing to do so is a huge email marketing mistake that could cost your firm thousands of dollars each year.

Many lawyers are making a huge mistake by not collecting contact information for the prospects that call their firm or visit their website. In this blog post, I’ll review some of the reasons that lawyers in general (and you in particular) may be afraid to collect this information, put to rest any objections that you may have to doing so, and review the 5 major benefits to building a list of prospects and customers.

So let’s jump into it…

Why lawyers are afraid to collect contact information

There are 4 main reasons that lawyers are either afraid to collect contact information, or they just don’t do it. Here they are:

  1. They are afraid of getting in trouble with their state bar. Believe it or not, many lawyers are just ignorant of what their ethics rules say. I highly recommend that you take some time to familiarize yourself with Rule 7.3 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (or your state’s equivalent rule), including the comments to that rule. If a prospect reaches out to your firm and requests information, you are well within your right to collect their personal information so that you may follow-up with them and send them the information they requested.
  2. Lawyers are lazy. Lawyers aren’t really lazy, but when it comes to list-building they frequently are. Most lawyers haven’t built the systems necessary for them to properly request information from prospects that call their firm. They haven’t taken the time to learn about email marketing software, such as Aweber or Infusionsoft and the power of these programs to truly transform your practice. They don’t know how to collect email information on their website. Believe it or not, this software is incredibly easy to use. You can set up an account, add a form to your website, and create an email response all in about an hour or less. (If a tutorial on how to do this would be helpful to you, please post a comment below or reach out to me directly on G+).
  3. Lawyers are afraid of rejection. Some lawyers are just afraid that when they ask for this information from prospects, they will be met with rejection. This is entirely possible. However, when I asked my paralegal (who answers all my calls) about this, she said that the only prospects that refuse to provide information are frequently looking for free legal advice. The best prospects will freely provide any information you ask for.
  4. Why collect information from a bad prospect? When a prospect calls most firms, the lawyer may take a minute (or 30) to talk to that person right then and there and conduct an impromptu phone consultation. After wasting 30 minutes, they realize that this person is not a good fit for their firm, or the prospect decides that they have no interest in pursuing a lawyer that has the free time to take an unscheduled phone call. Because the relationship is (according to the lawyer) over, no information is collected and the contact is lost – never to return. Regardless of whether or not you have a viable prospect on the other end of the phone, my paralegal is instructed to collect the name and email address, at a minimum, for every single prospect that calls the firm.

As an aside, scenario #4 happens way too often in many law practices. In every single office sharing environment I’ve been in since I started my law practice 9 years ago, I’ve heard lawyers in the offices next to me take these calls on a daily basis. They rationalize this choice in their head by deciding that If they don’t take the call, they will lose the prospect. Here’s a quick tip: the best prospects will wait for your call back because they know you are busy and in demand.

If you have any other objections that you think I missed, please feel free to post them to the comments section below.

Now that we have objections out-of-the-way, lets take a minute to dive into the 5 main benefits to building a list.

5 Benefits of Building a List

Before I discuss the benefits of building a list, I want to clarify what a “list” is. Other marketers (such as Dan Kennedy) have referred to a list as a “Herd”, Seth Godin calls it a “Tribe”, and others simply call it an “Email List”. Whatever you decide to call it, you will quickly find that your list is one of the most valuable, if not THE most valuable asset to your firm. Here are 5 reasons why that is:

  1. Each person you come into contact with has long-term value to your firm. Most lawyers don’t fully comprehend or understand this statement. The goal of your marketing should not be to get someone to pick up the phone and call you to hire you. The goal of your marketing should be to obtain a prospect’s permission and email address so that you can continue to engage them in a long-term conversation, which over time will become a strong relationship. Some of these people will become clients. Some will refer other business to your firm. Some will do absolutely nothing. But if you don’t gather that information over the phone or through a sign-up form on your website, you have no way of following up with these people who might otherwise need your services (or know someone else who does).
  2. Since members of your list have already requested information from you, they will be more receptive to future marketing materials from you. If someone raises their hand and tells you that they want you to send them information, then they will be more receptive to future information from you. This is not considered solicitation because the prospect has asked you to send the information. These people want this information, they wait for it, they get excited when they see the email in their inbox or the package in their mailbox. All you have to do is send it.
  3. The more times a prospect comes into contact with you or your firm, the more they will start to feel like they have a relationship with you (i.e. they begin to know, like and trust you). It is human nature for people to develop an affinity for someone or something that they are familiar with. If you can send useful, relevant, timely information to clients and prospects then they will start to feel like they have a relationship with you and your firm. They will become more likely to seek you out for repeat business or refer your law firm to others.
  4. Permission marketing is more effective than “beat them over the head” marketing. The “old way” of marketing was to shout louder at your prospects than any of your competitors so that you could get their attention. This might mean a bigger ad in the yellow pages, or a prominent billboard in your city. The theory was, the more people who see your advertising, the more likely someone, anyone, was to need your services and call your firm. The problem with this form of marketing is that it is expensive and growing more and more ineffective by the day. People are bombarded with so many marketing messages that they have begun to tune many of them out. What is much more effective is to answer your prospects questions so that they begin to look to you and your firm as their trusted source of legal information. This starts by gathering their permission to put them on your list.
  5. Members of your list are more likely to refer new business to you. As I mentioned above, members of your list are invested in you and your firm. As you continue to follow-up with them, they will come to trust you. Even if they do not need the service you are providing right then and there, over time they might. Or perhaps they will come across someone else that needs the services your law firm provides. By continuing to follow-up with your list and staying top of mind with these prospects, they are more likely to refer you to their friends and family members that may need your services.

What now?

If you are reading this and you don’t know where to turn next, I recommend that you start by putting together a call script so that whoever answers your phones will begin collecting the email addresses of every single prospect that calls your firm. Next, I would put an opt-in box on your website with a service like Aweber or Infusionsoft so that you can begin following up with your prospects, automatically.

Need extra help? Sign up for my email list by clicking here and shoot me an email to set up a short time to talk about the problems you are having and what I can do to help you.

If you have thoughts or experiences that you would like to share with regards to building an email list, please feel free to comment below.