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Email Marketing 101: A Primer for Real Estate Attorneys

Imagine your ideal client.  The one you love working with, in the area of law you are passionate about, who respects your opinion, likes you and trusts you, and doesn’t hesitate to pay what you’re worth.  Imagine your ideal client.  The one you love working with, in the area of law you are passionate about, who respects your opinion, likes you and trusts you, and doesn’t hesitate to pay what you’re worth.

Now imagine getting to interact regularly with that client, and other similar prospective clients who have asked you to interact with them on a regular basis with useful information.  Not legal advice, but legal and non-legal information that interests them.

You’d do it because you know you’ll be top of mind if/when he needs your services.  And you know he’ll likely share your useful information with others, and over time you will have a dedicated fan club, which will continue to grow, delivering ever better clients for you to choose from.

That, in a nutshell, is email marketing. Not spammy, throw it against the wall and see what sticks advertising, but rather, permission based email marketing.

Now, if you’re thinking you don’t like giving away information that took years and a small fortune to cultivate, then, respectfully, you should think again.

Because the information is out there, offered by someone else happy to give it and to engage your ideal client herself.
This is the digital world we live in.  Those who recognize it for what it is, a historic opportunity to interact, over and over again, with their ideal clients, will thrive.

What is email marketing, and what can it do for real estate attorneys?

Email marketing is the process of sending useful information to a select list of readers on a regular basis with the goal of establishing a relationship of trust so that the reader will be open to periodic offerings of products or services.

Email marketing is particularly useful to attorneys and other service professionals because it can establish expertise, thought leadership, and trust, which are core components in the buying decisions of clients.

No doubt there has been an explosion of email marketing, but most of it is SPAM-like, in that it is of no interest to the recipient.  Most people are tired of receiving junk email and are very quick to delete without opening it.

By they aren’t tired of receiving useful information.  In fact, they crave it to deal with the breakneck pace of life today.  Issues, problems, and opportunities arise quickly and demand (or more correctly, we often perceive them as demanding) immediate action.  And people want information that will help.  So email marketing, directed at the right audience, with the right message, will be opened, read, used, and forwarded.

The benefits for professional services firms such as real estate law firms include:

  • Improved ROI over traditional advertising in print to large audiences who haven’t asked for an advertisement, which is expensive and mostly ineffective compared to the cost and effectiveness of electronic delivery to readers who have requested the information.
  • Creating one on one trust over time;
  • Being seen as an expert because of the material provided;
  • Being viewed as a thought leader in the industry;
  • The ability to have back and forth dialogue;
  • The fact that size does not matter.  That is, a small law firm can compete with, and succeed against, a larger law firm;
  • The fact that email can be forwarded to new prospects.

How to get started

A. First things first.  Putting your email marketing toolbox together.

Do these things first, before sending a single email or newsletter.  Crafting a good email campaign is heavily front loaded, and then it becomes easy, almost routine actually.

By the way, we use the terms email and newsletters interchangeably here, because a newsletter is just a glorified email, with a bit more design and attention to elements like font size, color, logos, etc.:

1. Define your target audience.  

This audience should be the people you want to serve, rather than people who select you. Too many service professionals think regarding how they can get people to hire them; the “we take whatever walks in the door” approach.  But why not turn it around, and decide in advance to choose your clients, rather than the other way around?  Permission based email marketing allows you to do this.

2. Create a persona of your ideal client.

This is closely related to finding the target audience, of course, but taking the additional step of creating the persona of the ideal client will help you resist the temptation to broadcast to a wide audience, fearing you’ll otherwise “miss someone.” Going too broad won’t attract anyone.  Your copy will be just another vanilla message, instead of focused, personal and genuine.

3. …And find out what they’re interested in.

What issues do they have that you could solve?  Go to online forums, or local events, and listen.  Ask real estate agents what they hear as the top two or three complaints, or issues their clients would like not to have.

4. Create content.  

Create content your ideal client would be interested in, because it solves a problem, educates on issues they might be concerned about surrounding their chief concerns, is entertaining, or all of the above. Plan for each newsletter to be 500-700 words.

Start a list of topic ideas.  You’d be amazed at how many ideas you can come up with just by reflecting on your practice.  Keep a running list and add to it whenever you think of something that might be useful.  Then go to the list when you’re ready to write.

Two things need to be in place to have a successful email campaign.  First, a list of people ready to hear a particular message, and second, a message tailored to that list, offering clear, compelling and useful information to the reader.
The campaign will suffer, perhaps fatally, if either is missing or out of sync.  It has been said that even brilliantly crafted content cannot overcome the wrong list.  That is, a message the list doesn’t care about.

And conversely, the right content, even if poorly drafted, delivered to the right list, is highly likely to succeed.
Keep that in mind as you look at your target audience and the content you intend to offer to them.

As you create your content, keep the 80/20 rule in mind.  That is, 80% of your content should be useful and informative, and 20% promotional, such as an “About Us” or “What We’ve Been Up To Lately” section.

Finally, be genuine.  Write in your own voice.  Resist the temptation to be formalistic.  You are a professional, and you want to portray that, but you can be genuine and somewhat casual without dropping into the locker room.  Write as you would talk to your prospect in the hallway of a business convention.

Over time, you’ll add to your list of new subscribers who opt into your offer and by your readers forwarding your useful email to others.  The possibility of forwarding is why you see the curious statement in an email or newsletter service you’ve subscribed to, offering a free subscription.  It is curious because, after all, you’re already a subscriber.  Well, the offer isn’t intended for you.  It’s meant for the people you forward the email to.

5. Decide how often to publish.

Somewhere between long intervals, where the client might forget you, and so frequent that you become a pest, or risk pushing out “content” for the sake of publishing something, rather than informing with useful material. Once per month is probably a minimum.  Every few days is likely to be too much.  Trust your instincts.

6. Create an editorial calendar, scheduling out publication over the next twelve months, and select an email vendor.

 Pretty self-explanatory here.  Take your calendar out or sit down with your writer if you decide to outsource, and schedule topics and releases.  And select an email vendor to automatically respond to subscription and download requests, and to schedule your future publication dates.  There are several excellent providers, including Mail Chimp and Constant Contact.

7. Create a lead magnet.

Create something useful to the prospective client you can give away in exchange for agreeing to be on your mailing list.  Some ideas:  a checklist for consumers to consider before entering into a home purchase.  A similar checklist for business buyers or renters of commercial real estate.  Other ideas are an ebook, a podcast or video of useful information that can be downloaded.

8. Create a stand alone landing page or dedicated landing page on your website.

Use either vehicle, just don’t have the landing page be the Home Page of your site.  Most readers will be disappointed when they click on the link which was supposed to take them to the download/subscription page, only to find they are on a website, which will require further navigation on their part to get to the destination you promised in the offer.  Web visitors are very prone to moving on (clicking out) when even the least amount of resistance is present.

B. Build an email list

Now it’s time to figure out how to get your newsletter subscription offer to your target audience.  That is, building a list of email subscribers.

There are many possibilities.  Again, the most important thing is to be sure your offerings will go to prospects likely to be interested in your message, and opportunities you choose to work with.

Start local, with existing clients and people you know personally or professionally who might be interested in your newsletter.  Then, work out from there.

Strategies to get more people on your email list include:

  • Paid advertising: you can also use paid online ads, such as Google Adwords or Facebook, targeted to your audience, to gain subscribers.
  • Invite people in your existing network to sign-up for your list.
  • Post on social media websites announcing your email list, and asking your followers and connections to sign-up.

Do-It-For-You professionals
If this seems like too much work, or you’re simply not interested in doing this yourself, there are copywriting professionals who have dedicated their businesses to creating newsletters for professional services firms.  And some focus exclusively on law firms.  You can order a la carte from them, or turn the entire project over, at a cost most firms would find reasonable compared to the potential return on investment.


Now you have a basic understanding of email marketing, and what it can do for your real estate law firm.  Take this basic outline and expand your knowledge with online learning, some free and some fee-based.  And then give it a try yourself.  You may find the process enjoyable.  But if not, or you’d simply rather spend more of your time practicing law, there are professionals who would be happy to help.