Lawyers Hate Email. 5 Unique Ways to Sell to Attorneys

Feb 10, 2020 | Partners

Author:
Patrick Carver
Founder, Constellation Marketing

Every day, lawyers are bombarded with advertising and marketing. I’ve heard countless stories about how overwhelming and frustrating the influx of demands for attention can be for attorneys trying to run a practice.

As someone selling to industry, it’s a tough one to break into because attorneys’ guard is up like Fort Knox. The good news is, over the years we have developed a few strategies that really work for growing a book of business of attorney-clients. There are two overarching principles we follow.

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First, zig when they zag. You’re going to have to get creative to get in front of attorneys. We had this epiphany after sending around 500 emails over the course of a month and receiving only two responses! The emails met all the criteria of what good marketing should be – and yet, they weren’t getting the job done.

Second, don’t give up after one attempt. It’s not you, attorneys are just overloaded. I’ve had prospects reply to me up to six months after my initial email! I certainly wouldn’t recommend pestering anyone, but persistence will be rewarded. Clients often forward me emails from competitors who are trying to get a foot in the door. I’ve asked them for my own benefit, “Are these annoying? Would you ever do business with someone like this who pesters you nonstop?” They’ve replied, “On one hand it annoys the sh*t out of me, on the other I respect the hustle.”

The Hub and Spoke Approach

This is a core strategy we’ve used to build our agency up to where we are today.

For all the reasons above, lawyers are a fairly difficult group to establish trust with. What’s the fastest way to surpass that? Have an attorney vouch for you.

After we’d grown to the point where we were managing six law firms, it was clear that our best leads and clients were all related in one way or another. We had seen our first two clients generate the next four. This was all because we had worked extremely hard and were delivering great results for the first folks in the door.

So, we had an epiphany. If referrals were responsible for the first wave of growth, we had to figure out a way to make that second group of four equally happy and want to share us with their network.  This effort came at the cost of spending time marketing ourselves and expanding the team more quickly, but I’m confident it’s the entire reason we grew.

We took things slow and steady, doing enough business to keep the lights on while we focused on delivering excellence across the board. Now, at 20 law firms, nearly 80% have come from referrals.

A couple of final notes on this approach. If you are trying to build business via referrals, focus on a smaller group, even just one lawyer who is very active. If you do an amazing job with them, your name will make it around.

 

UpWork

We use UpWork all the time to hire and get things done. As somewhat of an accident, we stumbled across the idea of reversing how we were using it. We’d always been on the hiring side. Were there people on the site who also needed work done, but were lawyers?

The answer is YES.

In short, we found all sorts of interesting opportunities that were available on UpWork from law firms. They were looking for new websites, writing blogs, social media help…all the things we do as part of our marketing program.

The UpWork strategy has been infinitely better than cold-emailing because we’re meeting the law firms on their terms, at a point when they really need help. It was the success of this strategy that has forced me to focus on the importance of timing in sales.

So, how did we approach this? We use it as a foot in the door to have a larger conversation. A typical job post says, ‘Hi, we’re a law firm and we’re looking for someone who can do X.’ That’s where we come in with a short proposal highlighting our experience in that service area. We also showcase the fact that we only work with law firms – this has had a great impact on the success of our pitches.

Next, we try to get the prospective client on a call to better understand the goal of the job they’ve posted. For example, if the job is about writing, the end product they are seeking is traffic to their website and lead generation. We focus on that during the call and share how we’ve successfully done that for our other clients.

But to back up a bit – how did we find these prospective clients on UpWork in the first place? Initially, I was searching for a bunch of services mixed with “lawyer” or “attorney.” It was extremely slow going. I knew there was something there, but I couldn’t continue at that slow pace. So, I began exploring other options such as hiring people from UpWork, just to look at jobs on UpWork (so meta!).

Finally, I realized I might be able to aggregate all this information with a technology solution. After quite a bit of research, I came across this amazing tutorial from Robert Tisdale. Huge props to Robert, who spelled out a lot of the concepts I was looking to develop.

In the end, I created a large spreadsheet with every possible variation of Our Services + Lawyer, Attorney, Law Firm. Then, I individually added all of those to a group using Inoreader. Now, I get a highly-targeted list of jobs that replenishes every single day. Honestly, there are too many to bid on, and right now we’re looking for someone to help manage it.

Of course, there have been a few duds and deals that we didn’t get. But, just one month in, we’ve closed over $15k in new business and have multiple deals in the pipeline.

 

Anything but Email

As we’ve mentioned, and as you probably know already, emailing attorneys is tough. It’s not impossible, but there are a million other people doing it.

What’s a smart way to avoid the rat race? Zig when they zag. For us, this means looking to other channels to conduct outreach like Facebook, Instagram, phone, LinkedIn, or (gasp) even regular paper mail!

Email is completely saturated. Why? Because it’s super easy to get started, you don’t have to talk with anyone, you can send out tons and tons of messages, and it can work. However, by taking part in it, you’re just one message out of all the pressing emails fighting for attention.

It can be enticing to shoot off an email blast with the idea that if even ONE person acts, then it’s worth the time and investment. This can certainly be true, but it’s been so overdone that the engagement rates are depressingly low.

A smarter approach is to look at other venues where attorneys are congregating and work that angle. Recently, we’ve been developing our Instagram presence and so far, we’re seeing positive signs.

Why choose Instagram? Isn’t LinkedIn the best platform for professionals?!? We’ve tested both, and it’s clear which works better for us. I have a sense that LinkedIn is inching closer to the spammy environment that email has become. I know colleagues who are crushing it on LinkedIn, and it might work very well for you, but it hasn’t for us at this point in time when trying to interface with attorneys.

Don’t be afraid to try different angles. Above all, find out what works for you.

 

Content “for Lawyers”

Content on your website, optimized for search can have a transformative effect on your business. This is at the core of our value to attorneys. Our pitch is pretty simple: there are people out there searching for your service, we help you to be seen at that intersection.

You can do the exact same thing to lawyers. Lawyers, like everyone else, need things. We’ve put together a list of some of the most popular keywords out there that would be attractive targets for pages.

Content for Attorneys

The image above is just part of the story. We ran some additional combinations and here are the number of keywords available for content:

  • Searches that include “for Lawyers” – 46,480
  • Searches that include “for Attorneys” – 23,901
  • Searches that include “for Law Firms”  – 5,405

If you can develop content that provides useful information for these queries, you stand to become an authority on the topic and generate leads from the traffic.

If you’re not deep in SEO, this may not be a very intuitive strategy, but it can work for anyone. In a nutshell, Google is looking to provide searchers with the best answers to their questions. If you keep that in mind and take any of the topics above, your goal would be to create the BEST resource on it. A simple starting point is to put that keyword into Google, then click through all the top results. Jot down some notes about good things and areas where you could do better. Make an outline and take a crack at it.

You’d be surprised how quickly you can rank for these low competition, ‘long-tail’ keywords. For more information, we’re happy to expand on best practices or share some resources.

The Interview

If you haven’t picked up on the theme of this article – lawyers hate being emailed constantly – bless your heart. 🙂 That’s only partially true, though.

Attorneys don’t like being emailed if you are selling something. They can sniff you out like McGruff the Crime Dog. Occasionally, the universe will align and you’ll get your message to the right person at the right time, but in our experience this is rare.

What kind of emails do attorneys like? Ones where they are going to get something out of it. Specifically, being featured in an article. This idea came from working for a client who was trying to get hired by attorneys. With our personal experience being so negative, I knew it would be an uphill battle trying a straight sales campaign for her.

Instead, we crafted a strategy around creating articles that could feature the attorneys as special guest commentators. This worked fabulously.

We started by choosing a topic of expertise for our client, where she could demonstrate her skills, but also one that would be interesting to attorneys. Then, we asked a simple question and conducted outreach. We promised to add a link to their website and they would be featured amongst other top attorneys in the state.

Shockingly, nearly everyone replied back almost immediately wanting to be involved. At this point, I didn’t even think lawyers knew how to use email, based on my dismal previous efforts! And mind you, our client’s website was not some traffic juggernaut with a ton of hits every month. It looked good, but it certainly wasn’t The New York Times. Nonetheless, it worked. We had established a direct line of communication and awareness to our list of top prospects. The key was making a small ask and playing up the value we could provide. And let’s face it, everyone likes to feel important and receive attention.

In the period following each article, our client has converted many of the contributors into paying clients. This strategy alone has transformed her business and established her as a thought leader and practitioner of choice in her market.

Could you do something similar? Is there a topic that fits in the Venn diagram between your expertise and your prospects?

 

Final Thoughts

The overarching theme here is don’t be afraid to be different. In fact, you should actively seek that out. We’re all after attention, and it may feel counterintuitive to try tactics that no one else is doing instead of so-called best practices, but these might turn out to be your most lucrative sales paths.

Focus on solving some of the core problems faced by attorneys. Typically, these revolve around getting enough clients, taking work off their plate, or making their quality of life better. Whatever your product or service is, dig deep into who would be the best candidates for it. It’s easy to simply say ‘I want lawyers.’ But, you’ll get further by asking which type of lawyer? Lawyers in what scenario would really like my service? What characteristics have your best clients all had in common?

Digging down to a subset of your target industry will help you interface with more, high-quality candidates. Spend extra time thinking about this part of the process instead of a spray and pray approach and the quality of your interactions will improve dramatically.

Find what works for you and figure out how to scale it up. What works for you won’t work for me, and vice versa. The point of this article was certainly to share some strategies that have worked for us, but really it was meant to inspire you to think differently.

Now, happy hunting!

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