Mission Number 1
By Van Hardenbergh
The best move I have made during two decades of practice is to start marketing using direct mail. This simple technique changed my life, making it possible to earn a fortune while enjoying my practice. Most lawyers don’t get to do either, but direct mail has given me and many other lawyers a very high level of professional accomplishment and personal satisfaction.
Fortunately, it isn’t rocket science. Even though it is a simple process, there are a few critical steps that many lawyers ignore. Test your knowledge: In order for your direct mail campaign to be effective, what must you convince people to do first? If your answer is “Pick up the phone,” it’s time to backtrack a little.
Your first mission is to get the recipient to open the envelope. Sounds simple, right? Wrong! Brain surgery is easier. Think about how many pieces of mail you get every day. Do you open them all? Hell, no! We all open our mail the same way: over the trash. We make an A pile of stuff we are going to open right away (bills, personal correspondence), a B pile with stuff we set aside thinking we might read later (catalogs, newsletters), and a C pile, which goes directly in the garbage.
So the first thing you have to do is survive the trash can, preferably by landing in the A pile. In the best-case scenario, the recipient will open your letter first and call immediately. What are some methods that can increase your chances of getting your envelope opened? Three secrets may be helpful to those seeking to get hired.
- Use Teaser Copy—Some lawyers send out letters that have sales copy on the front or back of the envelope. Good examples include “Lowest Fees—Guaranteed!” or “Se Habla Espanol.” These marketing messages can help consumers decide that a certain mail piece is “meant for them.” The downside is that your mail piece is immediately branded as “junk mail” with a commercial purpose, and if the mailman doesn’t throw it in the trash, the recipient may.
- List a Local Address—Some lawyers have more than one office. If this is the case, letters should bear the return address that is closest to the trial court. People search for a lawyer just like you and me: They want to find somebody close. In the old days, we might have tried to get a copy of the Yellow Pages in a certain city and peruse the ads to find counsel. When people get letters offering help with a ticket, they use the same logic.
- Be Different—There are a number of ways to set your envelope apart from the competition. One way is to use a colored envelope. You can also stand out like my good friend and marketing mentor, Bob Battle. He has his own stamps with his picture that say “In Bob We Trust.” I use hand-addressed envelopes. Some attorneys will use distinctive logos. Anything you can do to be different will give people with a reason to pick you rather than a competitor.
Bonus (and this may be the best tip of all): Win the race to the mailbox. There is no substitute for first place. Many times I will get a call from someone who has gotten only one letter—so far. My letter reaches them before anyone else’s, because I mail my letters daily. As soon as a case is entered into the courts database, I find it and add it to my list. Within hours, the letter is printed and the mail piece is assembled. Every day, we make multiple deliveries to the Petersburg post office, which is located directly behind our office.
We provide the same service for many of our members, and their response rates reflect the immediate mailings (see the article about our Print Shop on page 2). To find out how we can help get your letters prepared and mailed, call Teresa at (844) BUY-CAMS.