How to Craft More Effective Client Alerts

September 25, 2023
Kelly McNees

Client alerts: Effective business development tool, or time-consuming project that delivers minimal value?

As with most communication efforts, it depends — in this case, on how well you understand the purpose of alerts and what your audience needs and wants from them, and then how well your process produces alerts that meet those objectives. Based on some actual client alerts we’ve seen out in the wild lately, whoa nelly, is it time for a refresher on client-alert best practices.

Let’s start with the purpose of client alerts: These brief, timely summaries should

  1. inform clients and prospects about recent legal developments that are relevant to their business, and
  2. clearly explain what concrete action the client should take and when.

When handled well, client alerts establish your firm as a thought leader and highlight your subject-matter expertise. But when poorly executed, they risk annoying clients who are looking for concrete guidance.

It’s important to remember that audience for client alters is not necessarily other lawyers. Yes, GCs receive them, but these business-minded lawyers must then turn to their non-lawyer colleagues in-house to translate the legal recommendations into action items. While the legal developments are of interest, it is the impact on the business that matters most.

Now your firm needs to design a process to ensure that the right kind of information makes it into an audience-friendly format and reaches the specific segment of your email list for whom it is relevant. In most cases it makes sense for one staff member to coordinate all these outgoing messages and track their effectiveness. Here’s the best way to do that:

  • Create a template. Provide a standard format for your firm’s attorneys to use that includes space for a brief headline and calls out actionable information at the top. Avoid long, dense paragraphs or legislative history lessons. Use shorter paragraphs, subheads, bulleted lists and other visual cues that make it easy for a busy person to skim and digest.
  • Give the client-alert coordinator veto power. Large legislative developments with multiple new regulations that will roll out over time, or pieces focused on more nebulous trends are not good candidates for a single client alert. Share this type of content in an expert analysis article published with an industry journal or post it  to the firm’s LinkedIn page as an article.
  • Ensure the draft includes unique content that provides direction. If you’re just regurgitating information or sharing details general counsel could find with a Google search, you’re not adding value. Effective client alerts include analysis and suggestions for concrete next steps.
  • Determine who needs to see this content. Don’t send all client alerts out to the firm’s entire list. Segment your mailing list by practice area or industry (or both) and be selective about who goes on the recipient list. In some cases, an attorney is drafting an alert with a single client or two in mind. If you determine that is the case, encourage direct outreach where appropriate. The more customized and personal the touch point feels, the more effective it will be for developing new business. The most useful alerts are short, timely, and tailored to the client receiving them.
  • Develop a system for tracking alerts. You can do this manually or use tools in programs like Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Establish a regular cadence for sending alerts. Monitor metrics like open rate and click rate. See how factors like sending alerts early in the morning versus late in the day — or including a graphic in the headline — affect readership.
  • Ask a few clients whether they find your alerts useful. Gauge what’s working and what’s not by reaching out to a few clients you have a close relationship with or by including a quick poll in a client alert. If clients aren’t reading — or even opening — your alerts, change your strategy!