Author: Brani Andreev, MBA, is an expert in nationwide management of process service, consultant, speaker, and developer of the breakthrough Management Model of the 4Ps™ that ensures the consistent quality of process service.
One of the top questions process servers ask is how to get new clients and grow their process service business. It is also one of the major challenges both new and experienced process servers face.
As a business, process service is a low-margin business, where service fees are usually set very close to the price or expense necessary to complete the actual process service. In order to stay profitable and be successful in the long run, process service businesses must sell a greater number of service of process, i.e. deliver more legal documents. To achieve that great number of services, process servers must attract a great number of clients with single or small volume of services or a smaller number of clients with a high volume of legal documents to be served.
Attracting and retaining clients is a constant effort for process servers in the United States. In addition to fulfilling their main duties to deliver legal documents, to locate defendants, to complete and file affidavits on time, to manage the administrative and financial side of their businesses, process servers must exercise regular effort to attract new clients. In today's world of technological advances, many process servers turn to email in order to market their services to potential paralegals, attorneys and law firms. Understanding their clients and being able to offer them the kind of process service they seek is key to whether a client actually responds and engages back when a process server initiates contact via email. Being persuasive over email is very important to whether a process server actually lands enough clients in order to boost the profitability of his/her process service business.
In general, most people have mixed feelings about email. On one hand, email allows us to instantly communicate with people much more efficiently. On the other, email can be incredibly overwhelming. One recent study, for example, found that the average U.S. worker spends nearly six hours each day checking their email!
The fact that email is a text-based form of communication is both its biggest asset and its greatest drawback. Unlike having a face-to-face conversation with an in-person human being, email is a blank slate. Though we can get our words across, it is harder to convey our tone of voice and the nonverbal cues that are a critical component of constructive communication. This makes email a very efficient communications tool for process servers, but also one that leaves a minefield of potential miscommunications and lost opportunities.
In business, most emails are a form of negotiation. When process servers send emails to potential clients, they are asking these clients to read their message and respond in a certain way or take a certain action within a specific time frame. The result process servers are hoping to achieve is to convince these potential clients to try their services and ultimately become their go-to process server.
To help you get better results when using email as a tool to attract new clients for your process service business, here are six tips that can help you be more persuasive:
1. Know the Best Ways to Use Email
When it comes to attracting clients, your goal should always be to get them to speak to you in person or, in the COVID-19 era, at least over the phone or on Zoom. That said, process servers can use email to support and amplify verbal communications efforts by:
2. Do You See What They See?
Before you hit the reply button, take a moment to think about the person who is going to be reading your message and what you know about them. Is this person a paralegal who is under much pressure from his/her attorneys? Or is it a solo lawyer who hardly has time to take care of his/her clients? What’s happened to them in the past week? What factors might be affecting their mood? Is it impossible for them to be mad about something else while they are reading your email?
If you have encountered this person before as a process server, you probably have an idea of their preferred communication style and a rough sense of their daily routine. Use this knowledge to form your communication strategy and try to add some personal relevance to your email in order to connect on a deeper level.
If you do not have a history to draw from, use what limited information you have to conduct a Downplay ™ to address the negatives the other side might be harboring. Then use Actionable Empathy™ throughout your message to make sure they know you see things from their perspective.
3. Keep It Short
When you are trying to attract new clients for your process service business and you approach them via email for the first time, think of email as playing a virtual game of chess. Would you lay out your next seven moves for your opponent on your first turn?
When you do not have a live audience to answer or interject, it is easy to get carried away and forget about the back-and-forth nature of communication required to build trust-based influence. The paralegal or attorney you are trying to entice to try your process service do not know you, your experience or background. Limit the information you share and incorporate questions, as they invite your potential process service clients to reply back. To keep your cadence and expectations reasonable, limit yourself to two questions per email. If you are sending a 2,200-word email filled with 17 new concepts and eight questions, do not be surprised if the clients you are trying to engage for your process service business never respond.
4. Consider Timing
Every form of communication comes with its own invisible clock. Waiting a couple of hours or even days to respond to an email is perfectly reasonable, less so for texting, and ridiculous to even fathom for in-person conversations. These unspoken rules are helpful to keep in mind when you are trying to grow your process service business for a couple of reasons.
First, remember that you do not have to respond to an email immediately. If you receive a message that makes your blood boil, resist the urge to respond on impulse. Wait until your emotions settle down and you are once again governed by logic.
Second, remember that these social expectations are not guarantees. Everyone has their own timing expectations and set of priorities.
To make sure you and your potential clients remain loyal to the same timeline, and interpret words, like urgent and delayed the same way, use Responsive Questions™ that address how and when you are going to connect again. For example, when you are preparing a message for a new process service client, ask them, "What’s the best time to follow up? Is Friday too late? Is the end of the month good after your deadline?"
By asking these kinds of questions, you will foster buy-in and increase the chances the other side follows through on their word.
5. Use Email Softeners
Here is a little-known trade secret that will ensure your emails are not received in a hostile or aggressive tone. Write your email and make sure you consider all of the tips offered in this article. Then go back and add email softeners like "I’m sorry" and "I’m afraid", wherever they fit. Your process service clients will never read the tone of the email the way you would like them to. Give your email a friendly and welcoming nature by taking the time to add in specific words and punctuation that support this effort. Lacking these crucial elements means your emails will have a cold tenor at best and, far too often, they will even have a harsh tone that will work against you. For positive or even neutral emails, exclamation points are great way to express energy. Sentences that end in a period will likely be received as flat and cold, even when the tone you heard in your head was upbeat.
6. Do Not Underestimate Subject Lines and Sign-Offs
Most people see subject lines and sign-offs as throwaway parts of an email rather than vital pieces of digital real estate. When you are composing messages and hoping to attract more clients for your process service business, think about a subject line as your first impression and your first chance to win your client’s attention.
When people open their inbox, they scan subject lines and mentally prioritize their emails before figuring out which messages to click. If you are using email as a mechanism to spark a quick decision or ignite a conversation after a period of silence, no-oriented questions can make effective subject lines. They warrant a response to set the record straight.
"Have we missed our opportunity?"
"Is it too late to sit down at the table? "
If subject lines are first impressions to attract paralegals and attorneys for your process service business, sign-offs are your last opportunity to communicate tone and intent. Well-executed sign-offs can ensure your message carries the intended weight of your email. Instead of using a standard sign-off, label how you would like to be perceived. Simply signing an email with phrases like "Very humbly" and "With all sincerity" may help you drive home your intention and earn you the benefit of the doubt.
Process service seems an easy business to run. Yet similar to any other small business there are many parts that need your attention constantly, and building and maintaining your client base is a very important part of your success. Learning how to properly craft messages to attract new clients and how to organize your email messages is crucial to how your potential clients respond to your messages and whether they accept your invitation to try serving legal documents with your process service business.