Aaron & Partners is a 25 partner practice serving Cheshire, Shropshire and North Wales providing commercial services to OMBs and private client services to the directors of those business as well as other HNW individuals. It has particular specialisms in the logistics sector, specialist property services (including planning, environment, minerals, renewables) and professional practices. Scott Hadden, head of marketing, has been with the firm for eight years and has two assistants in the areas of communications and data analysis. Last year, the firm increased fee income by 20% and greatly improved profits. Whilst most firms produce e-newsletters, Aaron & Partners has made it an art form.
From small beginnings
When Scott took over the marketing, there was one standard e-newsletter (called “The Law Letter”) produced in text format and sent out to one big pool of data. His first task was to develop a variety of newsletter templates that incorporated the firm’s distinctive orange colour. This has now become something that helps their communications stand out from the crowd.
Unusually, the database is a bespoke system – based on software others use – designed by the firm’s creative agency. Another early task was to go through the 1,500 email addresses in the system and dissect it with questions such as Who is this person?, What do they do? and What is likely to be of interest to them?. The result was over 20 lists – some based on sectors (such as waste management) and some that could be grouped on the basis of likely shared interests such as directors.
Early invite to events
The e-newsletters are used to promote the firm’s legal seminars before any direct mail or other promotional activities are used. So, for example, those HR professionals who receive the HR-specific newsletter The Tribunal have first option and a guaranteed place at the six annual Employment Law Road Show events (each limited to 50 delegates) repeated around the patch. Typically, 60-70% of the bookings derive from the e-newsletter. These events are bookable on-line and free to attend although delegates have to pay for copies of detailed case law notes and other supporting material.
Sector focused events
Where newsletters and events are targeted at particular sectors, the firm will collaborate with other advisers. This means that newsletters/events are less about Aaron & Partners’ lawyers and expertise and more about the issues that matter to the clients. It also makes better use of clients’ time if they can hear a number of perspectives at the same event.
Web and social media integration
All newsletters and e-alerts contain links to specific sections of the web site so that readers always see information that is relevant to them and the firm receives regular positive feedback on its web site content which is constantly updated.
The firm sets a weekly theme for its Twitter posts – providing tips, a five stage process, five things you need to know and other items – about a particular topic, with a link to a specific web page. Visits, views and comments are collated and used as the basis for future newsletter articles.
First to market
“We try to react as quickly as possible to developments” adds Scott. “For example, a week after the big family law case last year (Radmacher -v- Granatino) we arranged a seminar on what the case was likely to mean in relation to pre-nuptial agreements for other advisers – accountants, banks and the like. We were the first people to get out there with something which supported our positioning as the leading advisers. Despite the late notice, there was a good turnout” because the event was relevant and “hot off the press”. The firm also tries to get emails out on the same day when an important news story breaks.
With a variety of newsletters –commercial, property, human resources and the logistics sector – and regular alerts on new developments, the need for a flow of good quality content is vital.
“We encourage our lawyers to write and a partner signs off everything that goes out. We do buy some material in – where we have exclusive use in our territory – but it rarely (if ever) goes out in the format it is received. It’s easier for a lawyer to edit or top and tail an existing article than it is to start from scratch. It’s also a good way for trainees to learn – to take a relatively dry subject and find ways to make people engage with it. Where we produce reviews, event reports or commentaries in-house on developments, the marketing team will interview the relevant partner and provide a draft for review”.
Where there are is an insufficient flow of legal changes – such as in the property arena – a slightly different approach is adopted. Associates and assistants with specialist knowledge and experience are profiled. Not only does this make networking at events easier for them but generates a stream of enquiries from clients who say “I didn’t know that you did that”.
Statistics on email opens and click throughs are monitored carefully and whilst there are variations this is usually around 35-40%. When it dips below 30% the format is refreshed or timing is varied until it returns to a higher level.
Client and file opening procedures have been modified over time so that entries are automatically made to the database engine – and the regular, high quality alerts are seen and valued as an important part of the client service.
Rated amongst the leaders
“Whilst the private sector is starting to pick up, the market isn’t really growing. This means that we are winning work from other firms. Whether this is because clients are outgrowing their small practice advisers or whether they want lower rates and a more personal service than they might receive from the largest firms varies. What was interesting was that in a recent Online Ventures report – focusing on the Manchester legal sector web presence– we were rated third overall for online content experience after DLA and Beachcrofts. That’s a really pleasing achievement and quite remarkable for a firm our size”.
“We are constantly improving what we do. The software will be revamped so that we can specify people’s interests more precisely, there will be a major upgrade to the web site and we will continue to refine the newsletters so that they remain fresh and relevant”.
Aaron & Partners has also developed a niche advising other professionals on regulatory and disputes and a further newsletter is being developed for this sector – as well as integrated web site content and a series of tailored events.
Scott concludes “Good email marketing isn’t earth shatteringly new. But it is a much undervalued tool beyond providing a monthly reminder of our presence. People shouldn’t underestimate its effectiveness. The software now allows us to analyse reader behaviour in great detail. I telephoned a person recently who had re-read an article over 20 times – he said “Thanks for the call – every time I meant to call you about that I was interrupted”. Personal follow up can make all the difference”.
COMMENT by Kim Tasso: Managing a database where decay rates are typically around 30% pa is a thankless and onerous task. However, a well-structured database of the firm’s clients, referrers, contacts and targets is absolutely essential for good segmentation to underpin great marketing. Ensuring that newsletters are focused on clients’ needs rather than purely lawyer peacocking is another important element. And I like that the email campaigns are fully integrated with an events programme and that careful attention is paid to analytics so that a live person telephones as part of the follow up process. There are rarely quick fixes in marketing but doing the fundamentals right in an integrated manner over a sustained period of time is always more effective than having-a-go at the latest technological fad.
* Kim Tasso is a management and marketing consultant specialising in the professions, a freelance journalist and author www.kimtasso.com/blog2 Twitter: @RedStarKim