Benjamin Franklin is well known as being one of the founding fathers of the United States. He was also an acclaimed author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, chess master, husband, father, statesman, and diplomat. He played a major role during the enlightenment period of our country, invented a number of tools that we still use every day, and was instrumental in the development of fire departments and the university system. He was a true visionary, able to see possibilities and opportunities invisible to everyone else, to think “outside the box” well ahead of his time.
Imagine what he could teach us if he was alive today. Imagine what he could see. Imagine what he would create.
Benjamin Franklin may not be able to deliver the keynote address at the next American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys marketing conference, nor can he invent the next best thing since the Internet, but his words of wisdom from eras gone by remain applicable to today’s email marketing strategies.
Consider these inspiring quotes, attributed to Franklin. Think about them from an email marketing perspective. Put them in context for today’s markets. Apply them to your estate planning practice’s marketing strategies.
“Well done is better than well said.”
One obstacle frequently claimed by professional service providers with regard to email marketing is that they don’t have a list to market to. They may have grand plans on how to market their niche or lesser-known services, but they just can’t seem to get their campaign off the ground. Franklin might find fault in that logic.
It doesn’t matter how great your strategy is if you don’t implement it. Get started. Start now. Grow your campaign, your strategy, over time. Tweak things along the way. The results of your campaign (the “well done” part of Franklin’s statement) will inevitably be better than no results at all, which is what you get if you just keep talking about it.
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Email is about first impressions. You have 10 seconds or less to get your prospect’s attention. Don’t squander the opportunity to reach out to your prospects and [virtually] tap them on the shoulder. The subject line is the first thing they see. Make sure you capitalize on it, using the space to pique their curiosity, establish your credibility, address a common paint point, convey a sense of urgency (as appropriate), all while telling them what to expect in your message. Make them want to open your email.
Beyond the subject line, however, be sure to provide valuable content. If your email newsletter is chock-full of sales pitches and “special offers,” how much relationship capital are you building with your audience? Clients and prospects have an ever-increasing expectation for value when they make decisions, particularly when it comes to services like estate planning. They want to work with people who give them “something extra” (no, not another special offer) — items of value that help them now and in the future. They seek advisors who are willing to go the extra mile, providing support and resources without additional charge. In today’s competitive marketplace, you have the ability to set yourself apart by giving them what they want and need while establishing a long-term relationship for years to come.
How would your clients respond to great advice that helps them protect their futures? As an attorney, you have oodles of knowledge and wisdom to impart. Your readers, be they clients or prospects, want to learn from you. They want you to teach them. Give them what they want. Provide them with informative articles and resources that give them peace of mind, help them organize their lives, and position you as a trusted advisor, a thought leader. Someone they can turn to in times of need.
“Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn.”
Your email newsletter or other email campaign is the perfect opportunity to engage your prospects and get them involved in their estate planning. By sharing helpful, quality information on a regular basis that encourages them to think about their unique (or not-so-unique) situations, while also reminding them of your expertise and accessibility through bylines, calls to action and stories, you are cultivating business relationships that will likely result in new business. Give them the tools they can use to build the mental foundation while they continue to design the blueprints of their comprehensive needs.
You know that your prospects have no idea of the scope and breadth of their true estate planning needs. They won’t know until they come in to meet with you and discuss their family structure, wealth, risks, challenges, obstacles and opportunities. Provide them with content that addresses the multitude of issues they might need to consider. Discuss FLPs, GSTs, trust administration, and charitable giving strategies. Let the information soak in. Get them thinking about what they might need to protect themselves, their families and their futures. Then welcome them warmly when they ultimately realize that they need your help to meet their needs and achieve their goals.
“If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”
Traditionally, firms used such factors as specialized expertise, attentiveness, range of capabilities, longevity and service quality to set themselves apart. These factors still matter. But in the information age, they’re no longer enough. You now must also show that your firm is better than others at providing information that clients and prospects find useful, helpful or instructive. In other words, you must become a thought leader.
Email newsletter marketing can give you the best return on investment when it demonstrates thought leadership. Two key characteristics of content that position you as a thought leader are its relevancy and value to your target audience. Competition is intense. Your business clients are your competitor’s prospects. So you must truly demonstrate your expertise and value frequently, staying top of mind. Thought leadership helps you build trust and credibility with your audience.
If you’re not sure how to present your firm in a more thought-leadership way, review what other firms are doing. You may not always know how successful another firm’s strategies are, but you will certainly be inspired by what you find. Subscribe to fellow AAEPA members’ newsletters and blogs. Take note of what kind of content they use in their newsletters, and then improve upon it, customizing and personalizing it so that it is uniquely your own. Turn articles into videos every week. Provide your own perspective on a new law change. Publish a podcast. Develop a “tip of the week” series. Do something that makes you stand out from the rest in a unique, visible and compelling way. Be a thought leader, like Franklin.
“When you are finished changing, you’re finished.”
Some firms get stuck in a marketing rut, afraid to rock the boat, to upset the apple cart, to throw a monkey wrench in an existing process. People are afraid of change. But you need to shake things up now and then to ensure that your marketing strategy is delivering the maximum amount of return on your investment. If you continue thinking the same way year after year, and don’t challenge the status quo, you are likely missing out on opportunities.
Improvements are always possible, regardless of how successful your campaign may be. In email marketing, this is especially true. If everyone involved in your marketing strategy thinks the same way, agrees on everything, and no one proposes a different tactic or approach, you are guaranteeing mediocrity at best. Alternatively, if you use the same messaging day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, you should not be surprised if your ROI diminishes over time.
Give your email marketing a facelift. Make sure that your content is always fresh and engaging. If your most recent call to action campaign worked wonders, give it to someone outside of the marketing department and ask them how it could be even better. What would they change? Then release your new and improved campaign, and measure the success of that campaign compared to the original. Which one was more profitable? Tweak again, and repeat.
Not everything you do will improve on what you have, but you have to keep looking for something that might. That’s the key to changing and getting better. If you don’t demonstrate that you are evolving to meet your prospects’ and clients’ emerging needs, someone else will.
Through email marketing, you have the opportunity to present added value to your client and prospect base by sharing informative, educational and helpful content that your readers will appreciate and value, while simultaneously generating top-of-mind awareness, building relationships and demonstrating thought leadership.
Over 200 years later, Benjamin Franklin can still teach us a thing or two. Listen to what he’s saying. Then follow his sage advice to improve your email marketing campaigns.
Becca Fieler is an Online Marketing Specialist for BizActions | PDI Global Marketing Solutions, a division of Thomson Reuters, serving as a strategic partner in the planning and implementation of electronic communication and marketing initiatives. She develops and oversees comprehensive programs that present marketing strategies and solutions to diverse audiences, including attorneys, accountants, banks and credit unions, human resource companies and other professional service providers. Read more of Becca’s blog posts here.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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Keywords: Benjamin Franklin, Email Marketing, Prospects, Content,