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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 client.

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. Thatís when the stopwatch in their head starts ticking. And, because we occasionally receive quick responses, prospects expect a fast response from you. If they donít hear from you right away, they could assume their business isnít important to you -- or that youíre 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 ladyís 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, youíll put yourself in the strongest competitive position, even if they ask for a little more time.

As part of your law firm marketing effort, if you invite prospect inquiries by e-mail,

1. Monitor or check for e-mails from new prospects at least every hour. If you canít 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 donít 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 canít answer the e-mail right then, tell your prospect when youíll 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 prospectís 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, youíll 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 havenít yet addressed your prospectís 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 prospectís 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 itís 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 on you.

If you donít 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 prospectís 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, youíre 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 is you!

This will increase response to your attorney marketing efforts and draw approval from those in your office involved with marketing legal services. © Copyrigiht 2004-2011 by Trey Ryder LLC. All rights reserved.

About The Author

Trey Ryder is a law firm consultant who specializes in Education-Based Marketing for attorneys. Trey Ryder offers lawyers three free articles by e-mail: 9 Smart Ways to Cut Marketing Costs and Improve Results, 11 Brochure Mistakes Lawyers Make, and Marketing Moves Most Lawyers Miss. Send your name and e-mail address to and ask for his free e-mail packet of articles.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.