Email/Mail Best Practices

By: Linda Quindt, CLM, Firm Administrator of Finch, Thornton & Baird, LLP

Whether you are attending an ALA conference, have attended an ALA conference or are just trying to schedule a one on one meeting with one of our 8,000+ members, you are probably wondering how to be the most successful in starting a conversation. Law firm managers wear many hats and are having to do more with less. So more than ever, your first impression needs to be thought through and strategic. When you receive the membership list and/or attendee list and want to send email and/or piece of mail you need to have insight into what our members want to see or possibly even more important…not see. Below is a list of best practices which the BPRT has compiled from ALA’s membership. We hope you will find this information helpful as you continue to build engagement and relationships with our members.

Best Practices for E-mail engagement:

  • Communicate with a personal touch to a membership list or attendee list. Mass emails can come off as impersonal and are most often ineffective. (Tip: Composing a personalized message conveys you care and want to build a win-win relationship).
  • It’s highly unlikely a follow up email will stand out if you’ve never met the person or didn’t keep notes about the person that you can reference. The exception would be if you know enough about the person to be confident that they’ll want to talk to you, then it’s worth a shot.
  • Be a name dropper. Be open with how you got their contact information e.g.: I met John Smith at the ALA Conference this past weekend and he suggested I get in touch with you. He told me xyz about your organization and it sounds like a problem we just solved for another client recently. (Tip: Be sure to copy John Smith on the email too so he can help you make the connection).
  • Go the extra mile with research. Often business partners will call the receptionist and ask who the contact is for their product or service. Once you get this information, do some additional research. (Tip: Look at the Firm’s website and or search the contact name on LinkedIn to confirm the information you have been given is likely accurate).
  • Send follow up emails at the right time. Sending emails immediately after a trade show or event is not recommended. The prospect is likely trying to get caught up from being out of the office and need a little time to breath. (Tip: Wait a few days, a week or two is recommended, to send a follow up email and it will likely get more notice). Waiting gives the prospect a chance to travel back home, get resituated and give some thought to what they heard and learned at the event.
  • Keep emails short and to the point. Resist the temptation to pitch your products in detail. It is better to talk about the problems you can solve and try to set up a call. You’ll get a better response if emails are simple and to the point rather than a wall of text. (Example: It was nice chatting with you at the ALA Conference last weekend. I hope you enjoyed the XYZ session. You mention (organization name) is hoping to __________________ and I’d love to chat more about that. Do you have time next week for a 15-minute call?).
  • Be Patient and allow for follow-up time. If your website can inform who has visited your site, use it to your advantage. Most likely, if a prospect went to your website, they wanted more information on your company. It is okay to send a follow up email saying you noticed they were on your site and offering to provide more information. If they don’t respond right away, avoid sending multiple follow up emails. Perhaps they were looking at your site to get information to discuss with others at their firm, and they haven’t had a chance to complete their due diligence.
  • Do your homework! Just because you have a name, title and firm name, doesn’t mean you have enough information to craft a personal email. (Tip: Look at their website and see how many attorneys there are, what is their practice area, and then explain what you can do for them).
  • Be accurate. Avoid saying “it was nice to meet you at the conference” if you really didn’t meet them.” Dropping a business card isn’t the same as speaking to each other.  (Tip: A better approach would be to recognize they stopped by your booth and offer to provide additional information). If you do have a conversation at either a conference, meeting or via telephone, the member is going to be expecting a follow-up from you in the future, so take good notes and provide what you said you would deliver and/or remind them what you have to offer.
  • Respect the decision-making process. If you have already been informed by the ALA member that their organization is currently not in the market for your product or service, avoid emailing all the partners or other people at the firm. (FYI: In most firms, the attorneys just forward it to the ALA member and that is guaranteed to leave a bad impression).
  • Match the member’s communication style. If we call you and leave a message, it is because we want to talk to you directly. (Tip: Do not respond via email unless you have returned the call and the prospect was unavailable).
  • Have a compelling subject line. 35% of email users open messages based on the email subject line alone.  Here are some compelling examples:
    • (Referral name) said I should get in touch
    • Have to say, I’m really impressed by your work
    • Did you know this about (insert pain point) – mentioning pain points grabs attention because they trigger the desire for a potential solution
    • Don’t visit our website (unless you want results) – reverse psychology

Best Practices for Mail Engagement:

  • Do send direct mail marketing materials after a call or meeting where you have had a conversation and asked if they would like some additional materials.
  • Before conferences, make sure you mail your materials in plenty of time to promote your upcoming presence. Some members will leave for a conference a week early to enjoy the location. If you mail a tease for something at conference, they may see it until they return from conference.

As ALA members, we rely on our business partners every day. We may need YOU but don’t even know it yet. Most members are open to learning about you and your products or services provided the timing and presentation is right. Most purchasing decisions in law firms are a long-term process and you will yield the best results by making yourself visible in an unobtrusive fashion; being consistent but not excessive; and always maintaining a professional presence. ALA members love knowledge so educate us about your product or services with bite size pieces over an extended period of time as you build a relationship. Once you establish relationships, email and/or mail will likely be very effective.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Quindt, CLM, serves on ALA’s Business Partner Relations Project Team. She is the Firm Administrator of Finch, Thornton & Baird, LLP in San Diego, California.

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