We spend a lot of time talking about how to get more people to visit our sites, click on our e-books and contact forms, and call our offices. The software we use in these systems is already much more efficient than systems law firms used 10-20 years ago — we immediately know lots of details about clients, from contact information to case information, and all of this info can help you and your team close sales more often.
But if you’re operating with any kind of volume, you’re probably not going to be able to pick up the phone every time it rings (that’s why we have receptionists and call answering services), and it’s unlikely that you’re going to have time to connect and follow up with every lead generated from a marketing campaign. While it’s still incredibly important to apply your “personal touch” to automated interactions with clients, using pre-prepared emails can save massive amounts of time.
There are a lot of ways to integrate email automation into your business, but we’ll stick examples that apply specifically to law firms.
#1 – Autoresponder sequences
One of the most commons ways to use email automation is with autoresponder sequences. Autoresponders can be explicitly advertised, included as an add-on/follow-up for lead magnets like e-books and contact forms, and even to provide information to clients after they retain your firm. Autoresponders are a relatively easy way to “get your feet wet” in email automation.
My favorite way to use autoresponder sequences is as a follow up for an e-book. To break down the basic flow: users see ads for an e-book containing content related to the firm’s practice area, they click to the landing page and enter their information to download the e-book, and then they receive emails automatically every day or every other day.
The content of the emails can vary quite a bit, but we’re looking to do a few specific things.
- Build trust/relationship with the lead
- Position you/your firm as an expert on the practice area
- Subtly explain the benefits of retaining the firm/proceeding with legal action
Autoresponder sequences can also be made up of lots of different types of content, and can be delivered across different platforms. For example, a sequence for a family law firm might include email content, video content, remarketing ads triggered by views of specific content, and specific follow ups in Facebook Messenger if they contact the firm. Once they’ve engaged your firm, all of these marketing channels and automations go from being marketing and sales tools to customer service tools.
#2 – General site automation
Automated emails are an easy way to make your firm seem like you’re really on top of things even if you don’t have time to reply to every single email your office gets. These sequences can be very short, one or two emails at most, telling the client that you’ve received their information and will be in touch shortly. If you have automated scheduling (Calendly, Acuity, etc.) you can take this one step further and offer a link to schedule and even pay for an initial consult, and follow up with email and SMS reminders. While you’re making these sales you can also collect information about clients that will speed up any intake process.
Depending on what services you use for intake forms, scheduling, payments, and so on, you’ll usually have a few options for how to automate client outreach based on actions that occur in those services. Many services include these kinds of automations in even on their basic plans, so it’s usually easiest to set up automated emails within each service. Similarly, it’s always best to use native integrations between services when available, but don’t be afraid to lean into Zapier or IFTTT — you can double check what you’ll be able to do with those automation apps, but you can generally get what you need to do done.
Although this doesn’t really happen until you win a sale, increasingly, clients also want to text their attorneys. It’s tempting to push users towards free services like Facebook Messenger, but paying for something like Zipwhip or CallTrackingMetrics (call tracking is a great tool, too) can allow you to connect with clients in a way that feels more familiar or even private. Running it through a platform instead of your personal line can present a number of benefits, but it’ll also allow you to automate things like reminders for document collection or court dates.
#3 – Automate intake forms
Too many law firms still operate on paper and there’s absolutely no reason for that. Sure, documents need to be printed and signed, and you’ll receive documents that will need to be scanned into your system, but there’s a huge amount of internal office paperwork that could be digitized.
I touched on this above, but a lot of the existing intake documents you have can be converted into online forms which can output fully prepared documents directly to a cloud provider (Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, etc), your email or even directly to your printer — and all of that can happen automatically when a client fills out a form in their browser on their phone, in your app, or on an iPad in the waiting room of your office. These forms can be sent out to clients before they come in to the office, so you can spend more time talking to them about their case and getting things done.
There are tons of options for building forms, and most CRMs and email automation services offer form builders — these are great and can be used very effectively for a range of applications. For most intake forms, I use Gravity Forms, and either use their native Add-Ons or pass data through Zapier. It allows for slightly more flexible design, but it is a little more difficult to get set up. Once you configure your forms, it’s easy to implement on WordPress sites, and has a lot of flexibility in terms of functionality.
#4 – Follow ups
We’ve touched on a few ways you can automate marketing interactions before you interact with a client, or during the first interaction, but automations can also be useful for closing sales after you’ve made a proposal and met with a client.
There are some workarounds to do the following types of automation without a CRM, but generally these will require the use of tags or a deal status indicator.
For every consult and appointment, you can use email and SMS automations to send reminders prior to the meeting, offer more sales/marketing content after meetings to close sales, and you can even use email and SMS automations to request reviews from happy clients after they’ve engaged you.
For clients who do engage, you can use CRM tagging to classify their case type, and use email automation to send out specific document collection instructions based on the type of case the client has. Once the case is in progress, you can use tagging to trigger automatic emails that inform clients about the status of their case (these can be generic emails or can be dynamically populated by information entered into the CRM), or simply educational materials from your site. All of these types of content add value for clients, and having educated and relaxed clients can make your job significantly easier. These educational materials are not only a chance to make sales and keep clients happy, but you can temper or re-orient expectations (it’s a good time to explain the client probably won’t be getting a $100 million settlement — I mean, maybe, but it really seems unlikely).