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Legal marketing folks promoting email newsletters drinking their own Kool-Aid

Larry Bodine, who is a pretty bright guy and well respected in the legal marketing arena for good reason, recently lauded the value of email newsletters. Email newsletters have value, be it diminishing, but Larry may have gone overboard here.

I sent out the August 12 edition of the Professional Marketing e-newsletter to 4,000 subscribers.  A counter I put on the newsletter showed that 4,980 unique readers opened the email.  How can this be?  Simple: nearly 1,000 people forwarded the newsletter and gave it a whopping 124% ‘open’ rate.

What Larry fails to tell folks is that open rates for email newsletters can be bogus. The open rate is generally tracked through the use of a tiny invisible graphic that sits on the publisher’s server. When a recipient opens the publisher’s email, the tiny invisible graphic is downloaded, and each download is detected and marked as an open.

Email recipients generally use use the preview feature of their email client. In preview mode, the email will go ahead and grab the invisible tracking graphic and therefore register as having been “opened.” The recipient, however, might never have really opened your email, or even glanced at it. The same thing happens when the email newsletter is forwarded.

Email newsletters still have value but let’s not get carried away. The fact is we are overloaded with email. Email newsletters often include multiple brief articles for which a reader does not know if they have any interest until they open it. And there is no question that email newsletters have no where near the viral marketing effect of a blog. LexBlog would not be where it is today if I started an email newsletter on the power of professional marketing blogs for law firms.

For those seeking more info, Tom Kane at his Legal Marketing Blog is covering the effectiveness of email marketing for law firms.

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