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Email marketing can be a powerful means of bringing in new and repeating business. Compared to other marketing channels, email marketing costs less and typically has a high return on investment.
Once you commit to email marketing, you will need email marketing software to deliver your campaigns. With so many options out there, the abundance of options can be paralyzing.
Here’s an overview of several platforms to help you determine the best fit for your firm. But first, let’s talk about why you need to care about email marketing.
Why Email = Profit
Email is much more effective at reaching your intended audience than other channels. Though social media marketing is sexy and current, email marketing has much higher engagement.
A Facebook post reaches an audience member, on average, 2% of the time. Whether it is due to timing or the fact that Facebook is turning down the dial on unpaid content, your followers and friends probably will not see your Facebook posts. Email messages, on the other hand, reach their destination inbox 90% of the time, with comparatively little effort.
How to Build Your Email List
Before you send out an email campaign, you need an email list.
First, you have your clients. You should, at the very least, have a spreadsheet listing your clients’ email addresses, names, and other contact info.
Beyond that, your current email provider should have a list of your contacts you can export. In addition to clients, your contacts should include referral sources and potential clients.
While this may be a good starting point, growing your email list should be a consideration. You can only send email blasts to a static list for so long before it is milked dry.
One easy way to build your list is through in-person networking. (This is how I end up with an inbox full of lawyers’ marketing emails.) Go to a networking event, collect people’s business cards, and add them to your mailing list. The drawback to this method is that you are adding people to your list without their permission, which might annoy them. With this tactic, you may wind up with a high unsubscribe rate from this channel.
Another common method of list-building is offering “lead magnets” on your website. Lead magnets are downloadable pieces of content designed to provide value to your visitors and get them to give you their email addresses. A Sign Up for Our Mailing List box on your website is not a lead magnet. People do not value those as much as you would hope. Downloadable content is much more effective.
Personally, I love lead magnets. (Here are examples from my own website.) They provide value to my audience and establish trust, which makes recipients more likely to work with me.
Email Marketing Software
You should not blast out emails to clients through a mail merge in Outlook or by BCC’ing a thousand people. Instead, you should use email marketing software.
Email marketing software sends out emails on your behalf. The emails sent appear to most people as though they are from your email address, but the delivery is done entirely by the software or service.
Why should you use email marketing software instead of sending a mail merge in Outlook? There are a number of reasons.
Email hosting providers and clients like Gmail and Outlook put caps on the number of people to whom you may send an individual email. Gmail limits you to 500 emails, and Outlook maxes out at 100.
How many people actually opened your email? Beyond that, how many people clicked the links in your email to visit your website? The most important metrics of an email campaign’s success are open and click rates. With Outlook and Gmail, you cannot see how well your emails were received. You may find that some email subject lines are more compelling than others, and you have a few very loyal subscribers who consistently read your emails.
The more you know about your audience and their interest in your subjects, the better you can market to them in the future.
One big advantage of using email marketing software is that you can send good-looking emails using drag-and-drop templates.
That said, sending your email campaigns in plain-text is an increasingly popular way to mimic the look of a typical Gmail or Outlook message from a friend or colleague. Consequently, these personal-looking emails might be more likely to get an open, click, or reply.
For more serious email marketers who have websites featuring downloadable content or webinars, automation lets you create a sequence of emails which are sent based on a client’s action. If a client provides their email address on your website to download a PDF, you can automatically email them the PDF and follow up with an educational email sequence related to the PDF’s topic.
A good automation process takes care of all the steps for you. First, it will verify the subscriber has a real email address, so that a potential client can’t just subscribe as firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, it sends the sequence of emails that you choose in the time interval you set. You may want the first email to go to the recipient right away, and then the next email two days later.
You need a way to easily manage your list of subscribers. They should be able to sign up for your mailing list on your website or through links.
Moreover, some people should not receive every one of your emails. Firms with varying practice areas, for example, may choose to send an IP-themed newsletter to IP clients, and a real estate-focused newsletter to their real estate clients. Email platforms allow you to create multiple email lists with different groups, categories, or tags (the verbiage varies between platforms) for each recipient.
Don’t spam people.
The poorly-enforced-but-still-existent CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 makes it a violation to send commercial emails that do not include the physical address of the sender and an unsubscribe option. Email platforms all have built-in compliance features including unsubscribe options and email footers with the sender’s company address.
Email Platform Options
There are a lot of options for email marketing platforms to use.
They all send mass emails, but some have a different focal point (e.g. simple editor, customer service, automation sequences, integrations).
There are two tiers when it comes to email marketing: The basic and the behemoth. For most solo and small-firm lawyers, the basic email platforms will work fine.
The most popular basic platforms are probably MailChimp, AWeber, and Constant Contact.
All these platforms have the same features described above, with minor differences.
For 99% of law firms out there, MailChimp will do exactly what you are looking for. It has a very intuitive interface, the drag-and-drop editor is extremely user-friendly, and list management and automations are easy.
It also integrates with a lot of third-party apps. This is one of MailChimp’s most defining features compared to the other options out there. MailChimp’s integration with other software you use will make your life easier, cutting down on administrative to-dos.
But if you need complex automations, MailChimp is not the best option due to its simplicity (although it is very unlikely this will be a major concern for solo lawyers).
MailChimp has a free tier for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. For many solo and small-firm lawyers, that is sufficient. The only drawback is your emails will feature MailChimp branding. If you want to remove the branding, you can pay $10 per month. Automations and integrations also require a paid MailChimp package. Pricing scales to the number of subscribers you have. 2,500 subscribers costs $30/month, 5,000 subscribers costs $50, and so on.
AWeber has a feature set very similar to MailChimp.
One area of distinction is that AWeber has an industry-leading deliverability rate (the chance an email gets to a recipient’s inbox rather than getting bounced). This isn’t a critical concern when you have a small list, but as your list grows you may get frustrated by lost opportunities.
AWeber’s other point of distinction is customer service. They are available via phone, email, and chat. This is a plus if you are new to email marketing. Customer service is subjective though, so experiences may vary.1
In terms of templates, AWeber has about as many templates as Constant Contact and MailChimp combined. If you cannot find the perfect template, you probably have not looked hard enough.
One drawback is AWeber, unlike Mailchimp and Constant Contact, does not integrate with Google Analytics. This makes its reporting features lacking.
AWeber pricing starts at $19/month for your first 500 subscribers and $29/month for up to 2,500 subscribers. The pricing model and points are similar to MailChimp.
Constant Contact’s main point of differentiation is its intuitive user interface and wide array of email templates.
If you thought Mailchimp was easy to use for novices to email marketing, you may be surprised to see Constant Contact’s UI.
Constant Contact also has very good-looking mobile design—a big consideration if most of your recipients will be reading emails on their phones.
UI friendliness aside, there are several drawbacks. In particular, email delivery is slow (~15 minutes) compared to Mailchimp and AWeber.
Constant Contact is also more expensive than MailChimp and AWeber for a number of standard features. An account with automations (standard with any paid package at Mailchimp and AWeber) starts at $45 per month. Otherwise, Constant Contact’s feature set is on par with MailChimp and AWeber.
Beyond the basic tier, you get the behemoth tier. These are your powerhouse email marketing platforms that do a lot more than just send emails.
The behemoth tier include options like Infusionsoft and Hubspot. Both options are very expensive and very unnecessary for most law firms. Using Infusionsoft or Hubspot is like killing a mosquito with a hand grenade.
These platforms are very sophisticated and integrate fully with your CRM system and website. This is great if you have use for the data they can provide, if you have a business development team, and if you have a comprehensive online marketing strategy with many different components. For many and solo and small-firm lawyers, that is unlikely.
Infusionsoft is still popular with a certain subset of lawyers. Often, these lawyers seem to have been referred to Infusionsoft by lawyer marketing consultants.
Infusionsoft integrates with your website, and it is basically your CRM. Infusionsoft knows where your email contacts have been on your website. You can create “triggers” so that if a visitor to your site goes to your Contact Us page and does not reach out, you can automatically send them an email to give you a call and make a note in your CRM to reach out to them.
It is very powerful software. If you have a serious advertising and marketing budget—I mean spending like $10,000+ per month serious—it can help you convert potential clients into paying clients.
The drawback to Infusionsoft is its massive learning curve and numerous superfluous features. It bears repeating: this is overkill for most solo and small-firm lawyers.
Infusionsoft is also wicked expensive for email software. It starts at $199 per month for 2,500 contacts. There is also a required one-time $1,500 onboarding fee. Infusionsoft is so complex (and unintuitive) you need a consultant to teach you how to use it.
With Hubspot, you are not just paying for an email platform, you are paying for a high-end business management.
Beyond sending emails, it provides SEO and blogging recommendations, social media monitoring, calls-to-action, landing page help, lead management, Salesforce integration, and calendaring.
Hubspot, like Infusionsoft, also has a steep learning curve and is probably unnecessary for your needs.
If you are interested, however, you can pay $200-$2,400 per month. Plus the onboarding cost of $600-$5,000, based on your tier.
But if you are just looking to be able to easily manage your list and send emails, this is not the platform for you.
Do Your Research
Picking the right email platform for your firm is going to take a bit of research, and it is highly unlikely you will need the hugeness of Hubspot or Infusionsoft. Once you pick an email platform that is right for you, create your (properly segmented) lists and start brainstorming your first campaign.
Featured image: “Email marketing on blackboard. Email marketing handwritten on framed blackboard” from Shutterstock.
From personal experience, MailChimp’s customer service leaves a bit to be desired (zero phone support and long back-and-forths with their support team via email). ↩