Email Marketing Basics: List Building and Growth

email marketing

Email marketing should be a part of every law firm’s online marketing strategy. With up to a 4,300% return on investment, this crucial and versatile marketing tool is integral to the success of your digital marketing efforts. Email marketing takes many forms, such as:

  • Automated email drip campaigns
  • Direct emails
  • Newsletters
  • Auto-response emails
  • Email learning courses

No matter what type of email you’re sending, key best practices for email marketing center on how you build and grow your contact list.

Put Your Best Foot Forward: Compile Your List of Existing Contacts

The first thing you need to do in order to effectively leverage email marketing is to build a list of contacts. Trying to build an engaged and enthusiastic pool of individuals from nothing can seem intimidating, especially if you’re just getting your feet wet with email marketing. Luckily, you’re probably not starting from scratch. Below are several contact demographics you likely already have in place — and who would be excited to hear more from you.

  • Former Clients

For law firms, the first people you want to add to your list are your satisfied former clients, especially if they have indicated that they are interested and willing to receive ongoing communications from your firm. Your former client base will give you a solid foundation of email recipients who will regularly be reminded of your firm and who will engage with and advocate for your brand. They will recommend you to their family, friends, and acquaintances who could benefit from your services, and they will share your message and content in their social circles — both online and off.

  • Colleagues and Peers

Depending on your legal practice, you will also likely want to add another segment of contacts to your list: your colleagues and peers. By marketing to these individuals, you will be able to increase your number of referrals, demonstrate competency and leadership in your field, strengthen and grow your professional network, and more.

  • Existing Clients

Another contact group that you may consider adding are your current clients. While they will likely be in touch with your firm on a somewhat regular basis while you are helping to resolve their legal issue, they can also be a valuable resource for many of the same reasons as your former clients.

  • Media Contacts

Some firms have also cultivated relationships with individuals in the news and media. Adding contacts who may be interested in (or able to) provide your firm with publicity — especially in your local area — will create opportunities for your law firm to gain greater visibility among more diverse audiences.

  • Other Professional Contacts

If you have done work with other organizations, such as nonprofits, professional associations, charitable groups, etc., you may want to include them in your email contact list. They could reach out to you with new opportunities to gain positive exposure with influencers within your community, your profession, and your target audience of potential new clients.

Getting your contact list off the ground with these groups is your first step toward executing successful email marketing campaigns for your law firm.

Grow Your Emailing List — The Right Way

Once you have a base of contacts, you will want to continually grow your list. There are many different ways to attract new contacts; however, there are definitely right and wrong ways to go about it. Below, we discuss the pros and cons of certain common practices.

  • Getting Visitors to Opt In

The most effective way to grow your list and gain interested, engaged members of your targeted audience is to provide site visitors with a way to opt in to receiving messages from you. For example, you could create a form that allows visitors to subscribe to your blog content. You could allow visitors to submit details about their legal issue so you can advise them about whether or not they should come in for a consultation. You could provide a valuable resource (an ebook, an infographic, access to a series of “learn more” emails, etc.) that visitors can receive in exchange for their contact information.

Where possible, you should get a “double opt in” by having people verify their email address after completing a form fill. This ensures that only the most qualified leads and most eager followers will remain on your email marketing list.

  • Manually Add Contacts

In a lot of cases, it makes sense to manually add contacts to your email list. For example, if a potential new client calls your firm rather than filling out a form on your site, their contact information should be manually added to your mailing list (since they would have been added to your list as a potential new client through your website anyway). A similar approach can apply to many of the audience segments discussed above: clients whose cases have been brought to a close, new clients, new contacts in your professional network, new media connections, etc.

Best practices for manually adding contacts include making sure that anyone you manually add is open to receiving messages from you. If you casually exchanged business cards with someone after an introduction and handshake, it might not be in your best interest to add them to your list of people who will regularly be receiving messaging from you. A good rule of thumb is to put yourself into the other person’s shoes. If you had just met someone and gave them your contact information, would you want to receive the message you’re sending?

While it’s tempting to add as many contacts as possible to your email list in order to reach the maximum number of people, you can turn a lot of people off by sending messages to them without first building your relationship a bit, which could translate to unsubscribes or even having your emails marked as spam.

By first growing your connection with personal interactions (phone calls, personal emails, meetups, etc.), the contacts you add to your marketing email list will be more receptive and open to your message.

  • Use Publicly Available Information

While not an absolutely frowned upon (not to mention ineffective) practice, utilizing publicly available contact information for individuals needs to be undertaken with care and tact.

Like many practices online, your approach for contacting someone who you’ve never met should mirror what you would do in person. First, introduce yourself. Send a message that explains who you are and why you are emailing this person. If you intend to send them future messages – explain what they can expect to receive from you and why and how often.

Also make sure that you have explicitly offered a way to opt out of receiving future messages from you (or your firm). Make that process clear, simple, and straightforward within the copy of all messages. In fact, it’s illegal to not have a way for people to opt out of receiving communications from you, so be sure to include unsubscribe language wherever and whenever applicable.

If possible, send a message that allows people to demonstrate their engagement. Depending on your law firm’s practice and the audience segment, asking people to take a brief survey could be a good way to gauge their interest; anyone who completes the survey stays on your list; anyone who doesn’t can be emailed less frequently or removed entirely.

You could also offer a promotion of some kind: provide a free downloadable resource for those who volunteer information beyond what you already have. If you captured someone’s name and email from a publicly available source, perhaps ask for the industry they work in, an answer to a question about their interests, their business address, a phone number, or some other piece of information that will help you gain a better understanding of that person. If people participate, keep engaging with them; if they don’t, engage with them less or take them off your list.

  • Purchase Lists

The practice of purchasing lists of new contacts is going extinct, especially among ethical marketing professionals. One reason for this is the precipitous drop in its effectiveness. Think of your own inbox today. How do you handle emails in your inbox from strange addresses? How many emails go straight to your spam or junk folder? (And how often do you even check your spam or junk folders for emails?)

The simple truth is that people react poorly to emails that come out of nowhere. In a best case scenario, they simply unsubscribe; it’s more likely that they will mark your message as spam (because that’s what it is) or take further action by reporting you to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), your local or state bar associations, and/or other relevant authorities.

Even if what your law firm is doing is “technically” not a violation of the law or other professional rules of conduct, your brand will suffer (sometimes irrevocably) as a result of utilizing black (or perhaps gray) hat tactics.

To learn more about the legal issues surrounding email, visit the FTC’s guide.

Key Takeaways for Building and Growing Your Email Marketing List

We’ve touched on a lot of material above and really only scratched the surface of this issue, so here are a few distilled insights you can put into practice right away:

1. Consider Your Audience

If you’re adding someone to your list, carefully consider how your message will be received. Cater your email send approach to your various audiences based on their engagement level, how they were added to your list, and the status of your relationship.

In practice, this means segmenting your list into different categories, developing a persona (or personas) for those segments, and crafting individualized strategies for engaging with different groups of recipients.

2. Be Polite

The disconnect between how we act online and in person is growing smaller and smaller. Think of your email marketing strategy in the context of your “real life” personal relationships. Would you approach your recipient this way in person? Have you politely introduced yourself? Would you appreciate a similar message from someone whom you’re similarly familiar with?

It’s not uncommon to treat a list of email addresses like just another report that comes across your desk. But behind every one of those addresses is a real person receiving real messages from you and your law firm. Don’t treat that person like a number — treat them like a person.

3. Get Started

Many law firms mistakenly believe that implementing an email marketing strategy is out of their reach because they don’t have a lot of website visitors, they aren’t “popular” on social media, or that it just takes too much effort. As we mentioned above, you likely have a large pool of contacts you could begin emailing too — even if it’s just quarterly to get started.

LaFleur: Email Marketing Experts

At LaFleur Legal Marketing, we know that email marketing is a crucial part of any effective digital marketing strategy. We use best practices and data-driven innovation in the legal sector to create holistic online marketing solutions for law firms, and we would love to help you get the most out of your email.

Call us at (888) 222-1512 or fill out a brief online form if you’d like to discuss how we can work together to help you get more cases.

And stay tuned to the blog (or subscribe!) — we’ll be discussing more practical ideas for email marketing in the future.

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David VandeWaa has spent over a decade teaching writing, literature, and history in high school and college classrooms. His work has been published in academic journals, he has traveled extensively in Europe, and he occasionally posts anecdotes about his experiences on his blog.