published January 29, 2013

By Maria Laus, Author - LawCrossing

Ways for Law firms to Ensure that their Newsletters are Read

Ways for Law firms to Ensure that their Newsletters are Read


Good mailing list management is the key to newsletter distribution. Personalized notes improve readership and effectiveness dramatically. Since the outward appearance of the newsletter in the mail can determine if it gets read or tossed, first-class delivery is generally worth the extra cost.

This article discusses data base management and its role in newsletter distribution, and effective methods of distribution so that the newsletter gets to the intended reader.

If the attorney makes the effort to write and produce a good newsletter, every attempt must be made to get it into the hands of the people who will find the information of value. Ignoring this small detail can cause the whole effort to be wasted or in some cases even backfire.

For example, one law firm emphasizing municipal law mailed their quarterly newsletter to all their clients, referral sources, and friends. Since the newsletter was edited by one of the municipal law attorneys, it contained almost 80 percent information related to this practice area. But the firm also had a significant number of clients who had no interest in municipal law, such as clients who were served by the firm's worker's compensation practice group. There were other types of clients too, including numerous small firms and individuals who were served on such matters as general corporate business, wills, probate, and estate matters. When the newsletter was sent to the clients who were not involved with municipal law, the firm began to get negative feedback. The newsletter recipients were looking for "something of relevance to me or else my attorney would not have sent it." Finding nothing of interest, they expressed frustration that the firm wasted their time in sending the newsletter, plus questioned the firm's internal organization and control of external communications.

In situations where a firm develops a general-interest newsletter with several subjects in each issue, attorneys can express their client orientation by ensuring that each newsletter is accompanied with a personalized note drawing attention to something in it. A small note to the effect "I believe you will find the article on profit sharing on page three to be of interest" goes a long way to show personal attention to individual client needs.

The right distribution method

The preceding illustration points out the importance of good internal control of client communication. With the multitude of data base software programs available today, an attorney can sort clients and others by their interest area. From this can come a mailing list and labels that enable the attorney to mail specific information to specific people-the ultimate in target marketing!

Unless a firm is very large and there are data processing personnel on staff, mailing list management is best handled by outside vendors. There are companies that provide mailing lists, usually called direct mail specialists or similar names that are in business to provide mailing lists of all kinds. These pre-prepared lists can be purchased in label form, and are generally considered to be about 70 percent reliable (but this can vary, so ask when the list was last updated).

If the attorney prepares his or her own list of names, other companies who specialize in handling mailing lists can be of great assistance. These companies charge for setting up the mailing, printing labels, and making alterations to the list. Typical costs depend on location and service availability. They will range from $35-60 for a one-time-only setup fee, $0.20-0.30 per name added to the list, and $0.10-0.15 per existing name to make changes.

Professional mailing list companies can typically create numerous "fields" of data for each name. A field is a piece of information. A name of a person is a piece of information or a field. The person's title is another field, and so on. Other fields are their Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code, street address, city, and zip code. But the real value of the mailing list data base is apparent when other fields are established, such as type of business, area of interest, and legal needs. Almost any number of fields can be created.

This enables the attorney to generate a mailing list of people who meet certain criteria-for instance, all claims managers for insurance companies in New Jersey. A mailing list can easily be generated that contains all persons who have this title, work for this kind of company, and work in this state.

Mailing methods

Because the purpose of attorney newsletters is not only to communicate information but also to make a positive impression on recipients, the "package" the newsletter is delivered in is important. The options are a self- mailer, individual wrapper, or standard envelope.

Self-mailer usually means the newsletter has a place on it for label and stamp, is folded into letter size, and stapled or taped together. Wrappers are almost like envelopes but usually open on the ends. They are usually paper or clear plastic, and may have some sort of message printed on them. The standard number 10 (letter size) envelope is used for newsletter. Thicker newsletters should be mailed flat in larger envelopes.

Any of these three methods is acceptable, providing the newsletter arrives in good condition. Self-mailers are acceptable only if the paper is thick enough to withstand handling. Regardless of how they are wrapped, distribution of attorney newsletters should be via first-class mail. This ensures overnight delivery in many cities and delivery within two days in most.

Bulk mail can result in two-day same-city delivery. Anything beyond 20 miles will take considerably longer. The attraction of bulk mail is its reduced cost. But in the quantities involved for most attorney newsletters, the difference is minimal. Bulk mail permitting regulations change from time to time, so careful attention must be paid to post office regulations. Costs are about $100 for the annual permit. Each piece mailed by a profit- making organization is charged at roughly half the first-class rate. Because of other issues involved with bulk mail (buying an indicia stamp, getting the items into zip code order and bundled correctly, etc.), most law firms find first-class mail to be the better choice.

But perhaps the single greatest reason against using bulk mail is that many people simple toss out, unopened, any bulk material. This may mean that the newsletter never even gets into the hands of the intended receiver, let alone read!
Attorneys can perform a test mailing by addressing at least one newsletter to their home and another to themselves at the office. This will provide information on both delivery time and condition.

Related Articles