Law Firm Marketing:
E-Mail Gives You a Big Edge with Prospects
-- But Only if You Respond Quickly
by Trey Ryder
If you are involved with marketing legal services, then you know that e-mail
is a wonderful tool. At the same time, e-mail puts a heavy burden on you if
you hope to attract e-mail inquiries from prospective clients. In my business
of attorney marketing, ninety percent of my communication with clients and prospects
is by e-mail.
Long before e-mail, back in the late 1980s, I had a close friend who
was one of my college professors and a non-practicing lawyer. One day he met
with one of my clients and me at his home and, before we left, asked my client
to send him his information packet on estate planning.
Only two days later, I spoke with my friend on the phone. He commented
that he had not yet received the information and mumbled that my client probably
forgot to send it -- or had something more important to do.
This professor was bright, professional, perceptive -- and not old
enough that I would expect him to grumble. Still, only 48 hours after requesting
the information, he was already groaning about how unimportant he was to my
Today, e-mail greatly ups the ante. Since prospects think e-mail is immediate,
they assume you receive their e-mail the moment they send it. That’s when
the stopwatch in their head starts ticking. And, because we occasionally receive
quick responses, prospects expect a fast response from you. If they don’t
hear from you right away, they could assume their business isn’t important
to you -- or that you’re too busy to help them.
In times past, marketing prospects might wait three days to receive
your materials. They might wait 24 hours for a return phone call. But today,
prospects often expect your e-mail response in minutes.
When my wife and I planned our recent vacation, I started searching
the internet for places to stay. I contacted four hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.
Since I work late at night, I sent e-mails to all four a little after 1 a.m.
Later the same day, three answered. I never heard from the fourth.
The first lady to respond established a high level of trust, focused
on the needs I identified, explained what she offered, and assured us everything
would be the way we want it -- all by e-mail. By the time the second hotel responded,
just two hours later, I had already decided to stay at the first place, partly
due to the lady’s quick response and how much she obviously wanted our
business. In my case, two hours cost hotels #2 and #3 any chance at our business.
True, not all prospects who send e-mails are ready to hire your services.
Even so, if you treat them as if they have immediate legal needs, you’ll
put yourself in the strongest competitive position, even if they ask for a little
As part of your law firm marketing effort, if you invite prospect inquiries
1. Monitor or check for e-mails from new prospects at least every hour.
If you can’t spare the time, have someone in your office involved with
attorney marketing do it for you.
2. Respond to e-mails from prospects immediately, even if only to acknowledge
that you received them. And don’t use an auto-responder for your reply
to a new prospect. Make sure the e-mail comes personally from you. This completes
the emotional connection between your prospect and you. If you can’t answer
the e-mail right then, tell your prospect when you’ll respond more fully.
In this way, your prospect knows you received his e-mail -- knows you intend
to respond -- and knows when to expect your answer.
3. Respond to your prospect’s question or concern as quickly
as you can. Many lawyers are slow to respond, especially to people who are not
clients. If you respond quickly, you’ll rise above competing lawyers and
demonstrate that you want and welcome new clients.
4. Send your prospect articles and information. You make a positive
impression when you send your prospect something. Even if you haven’t
yet addressed your prospect’s concern, you can provide him with information
he can review, such as an article you wrote on the topic, your biography and
information about your services.
5. Start a dialogue with your prospect quickly. Whether you offer information
by e-mail -- or simply identify your prospect’s problem and invite him
into your office -- the quicker you begin your conversation, the sooner your
prospect feels he knows you and concludes you want his business, which gives
you a big edge over other lawyers.
I know lawyers are often concerned about the point at which the lawyer/client
relationship begins and the potential ramifications. Whenever possible, I encourage
you to create a strong sense of relationship with your prospect, even if it’s
not a legal relationship. The sooner your prospect feels he knows you and can
trust you, the sooner he stops looking for a lawyer and focuses his attention
If you don’t want to provide information or advice by e-mail,
then use e-mail to provide your biography and, if you know a little about your
prospect’s problem, emphasize the importance of resolving his problem
quickly and decisively. This usually causes your prospect to respond favorably
when you invite him into your office to discuss the matter further.
If you want new clients, you’re wise to assume that your prospect
is contacting several attorneys by e-mail -- and that he will hire the first
lawyer who responds. Then do everything in your power to make sure that lawyer
This will increase response to your attorney marketing efforts and
draw approval from those in your office involved with marketing legal services.
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