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  • Writer's pictureCooper Shattuck

Where to Start Email Marketing: Building Your Lists

In a recent post, we talked about the effectiveness of email campaigns such as newsletters for clients and referral sources, but where do you get the email addresses? This is going to take a little work. While you can hire someone to prepare and manage your email campaign, you should take the time to create and manage the list. Email campaigns work best with those with whom you have some connection. Only you know those connections.

Start with your contacts list.

Every mail program has an associated contacts list, and you can download a CSV (comma-separated values) list of these contacts to put into a spreadsheet (Excel, Numbers, etc.). While it may seem daunting, it won’t take as much time as you think to go through the entire list, even if you have thousands of contacts. You can likely take care of this task in the time you might otherwise take one person to lunch. If it makes you feel better, divide it into multiple tasks. You can get it done in a week by spending a few hours per day. Additionally, if your firm has a master list, each attorney should review their contacts so that a master list is useable by the firm.

You will find that your contacts can be split into at least two lists, maybe three.

You may discover many more if you divide them into categories by practice areas. (Don’t be tempted to get too specific as you will want to cross-sell your services.) One list should be attorneys – potential referral sources. Another list should be former and existing clients. A third list could be a catch-all for everyone else. The content and tone of your emails and maybe your newsletters might need to be different for each list. There may also be professional responsibility requirements for the content of these lists, as well.

Rule 7.3 of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct prevents solicitations – communications with prospective clients.[i] You should consider an email as qualifying as such a communication.

However, communications with other lawyers who may refer clients do not fall within this rule. Existing and former clients don’t qualify either. Be wary of sending emails that might be considered solicitations to contacts on the third list identified above, as they may not qualify for the exception. Obviously, all of this could be impacted by any amendments to these rules. And none of this should be considered legal advice. Remember, the Alabama State Bar will give you free advice on ethics matters so long as you ask before you act.

How do you grow your list?

You should be continually collecting names and email addresses. When you get a new business card from someone you meet, add them to your list. Collect them at seminars. Update your list with your new contacts when you add them to your email contacts list.

Email campaigns are cost-effective and generate results. Take the time to do them well and right. Let us know if we can help. When you hire us to manage your direct email marketing, we will design and disseminate monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly email marketing campaigns to your former and existing clients as well as existing and potential referral sources. We will also provide data and metrics related to the success of the email marketing campaign so that you can track its effectiveness.


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