Newsletter-based Client Referral Program for Personal Injury Law Firm
Aside from changed names, this article is factual.
Early in 2005, Sandy Green of Isaac Gold & Associates, Lawyers contacted Articulate Consultants on a hunch that her idea to get new business from lapsed clients could work. Sandy oversees the firm’s marketing and advertising and acts as the primary contact for prospective clients. Once she spoke with Articulate’s principal consultant, Glenn R Harrington, she felt encouraged that the naysayers with whom she had broached the topic were as wrong in their views as she had hoped.
Indeed, Sandy found the expertise she needed. She then proceeded to prove her doubters wrong by issuing newsletters every quarter and seeing them generate referrals that have “much more than covered all of the costs every time” through the years since.
At the core of Sandy‘s problem was the unrelenting fact that, once a personal injury case is settled, the client seldom needs the same firm for legal representation again. This led her to wonder how to get satisfied clients of the past to refer qualified prospective clients today.
She also encountered skepticism. “Your past clients are past clients. Their social circles and influence have shrunk, in most cases. Even those who carry on with basically normal lives have no reason to refer others to you just because you send them a newsletter. Besides, a custom newsletter that would reflect a good image of your firm would cost a lot of money to keep on creating and distributing – plus your time. Don’t even try. It’s just not worth it.” So said the creative director of an ad agency with whom Sandy had discussed the idea. Others would concur.
Even so, Sandy felt that a lapsed client need not be like a burnt bridge, but could provide referrals after their case was settled, if only the firm had an economical way to stay in touch with them. A custom newsletter could be a relationship-maintenance tool. It could specify what referrals were wanted from readers. Sandy just needed a newsletter specialist to provide the expert know-how and help make a system of it.
When Sandy called Articulate Consultants, she understood from her role as her firm’s greeter that she would have to prove her merit as a prospective client. She summarized her marketing and public relations programs and stated that she had already been advised by marketing experts not to issue a newsletter to clients whose cases had been settled. She added that she was willing to follow the advice of an expert, collaborate, contribute effort to the venture, and give it time to prove itself. Most importantly, she wanted a newsletter expert who could prove the concept valid in practice. Harrington accepted her.
Articulate Consultants issued an estimate and purchase agreement for custom newsletter services requiring Sandy to follow the advice of an expert, collaborate, and contribute effort to the venture. Sandy signed and returned them, having accepted Harrington’s warning that it takes at least four issues over one full year for measurable results to begin.
With Sandy as the signatory and contact, Isaac Gold & Associates, Lawyers entered a contract for four four-page, full-colour newsletters per year, issued quarterly, printed, and distributed by postal mail. The articles and images of each issue would be laid out within a flexible custom template, written from source material Sandy would provide as agreed in quarterly newsletter planning calls, and accompanied by imagery either provided by Sandy or sourced for her at extra cost, also as agreed when planning each issue. The first issue went out to several hundred clients in the spring of 2005.
how the solution is implemented
Every three months, Harrington and Green connect by phone for 30 to 60 minutes. They plan the newsletter to appear in readers’ mailboxes about five weeks later.
Five weeks is the non-rushed timeline that Articulate’s newsletter clients prefer. Green says, “I enjoy getting involved in the newsletter each season. With other things on the go, doing it right just happens to take five weeks. It’s a regular thing, so you should be happy with the process and with the results. This timing works for us.”
Harrington says, “Quality must not be rushed.” He adds, “While they pay me to lead the process, I know never to push the client too much.” This is how five weeks tends to be the timeline to develop a custom newsletter with any client, from the planning call to the newsletter arriving in readers’ mailboxes.
Following each planning call, Harrington forwards the outline for the current issue – how the newsletter’s on-going formula for content will manifest in this issue. Green then has one week to provide source material for the articles, plus any imagery.
Once the source material arrives, Harrington oversees the writing of the first draft. As soon as it is ready, Green receives the first draft with a prompt for any factual corrections or other improvements toward an approval-ready draft.
The next time Green sees the newsletter, it is approval-ready content ready for layout. Her approval triggers Articulate to make any final refinements, secure any imagery needed, and forward the text and imagery to be laid out in the custom template created prior to the first issue.
Sandy soon gets her first view of the Isaac Gold & Associates newsletter as a laid-out proof. She responds with a call to Articulate to discuss any adjustments to make it approval-ready. The goal is to agree on any tweaks for the newsletter to look its best, read well, and perform effectively. This leads to her receiving an approval-ready proof soon after.
When Articulate receives Sandy's approval, print-ready files go to the printer of her choice. The print shop then delivers the printed newsletters to the mailing service. Mr. Gold is pleased to see it, and pleased with the qualified referrals from past clients that it consistently generates.
Each quarter since the first issue, this law firm newsletter has reached hundreds of clients whose cases have been settled. Sandy knows that the newsletter is appreciated because she gets more change-of-address information than ever before. “They appreciate us staying in touch with them," she says. "They want to continue receiving our newsletter.”
How does she know this? Her clients tell her when they phone in the information, or send in address corrections, that they enjoy the newsletter. When they specify which parts they like, the input reinforces the approach taken to develop each issue and becomes fodder for the planning of future issues.
When one called and spoke to Sandy, she reported a special feeling of inclusion. “Mister Gold writes to me every season, so I want you to know how to reach me.”
In addition to making past clients feel important, and seldom coming back as undeliverable mail, this custom newsletter helps this law firm to stand out meaningfully in the minds of hundreds who know what it’s like to find satisfaction through its good legal representation. Sandy says, “Referrals are up. It has been steady since the first year.” More than five years of continuing success for Isaac Gold & Associates, Lawyers and for Articulate Consultants. A Canadian, Harrington quips, “Not bad, eh?”
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