Episode 151 – Tips & Tricks: Direct Mail Marketing For Attorneys

Episode 151 – Tips & Tricks: Direct Mail Marketing For Attorneys

In this episode I’ve continued the direct mail topic and have interviewed an expert Mark Primak. He has shared some great insights & strategies and covered most of the misconceptions that you might have about direct mail. You can listen or download the complete interview below.


States – Kind of Direct Mailing

  • All States – Bankruptcy, Foreclosure, Notice of Defaults, Sherriff Sales
  • NJ – Criminal, Traffic, DUI, Landlord/Tenant, Lis Pendens, Special Civil
  • NY (5 boroughs) – Criminal & DUI
  • PA – Criminal, Traffic, DUI, Civil
  • MD – Criminal, Traffic and DUI
  • OH, 10 Counties currently.  More added monthly. –  Criminal, Traffic and OVI.  Civil and Crash Reports for PI coming soon
  • FL – Criminal, traffic and DUI
  • VA – Criminal, Traffic and DUI coming soon
  • Texas – Criminal, traffic and DUI
  • Illinois – Criminal, Traffic and DUI in most counties)
  • WI – Criminal, Traffic and DUI
  • MO – Coming Soon
  • AZ,  Maricopa County- Felony info

Richard: This is Richard Jacobs with Speakeasy Authority Marketing and today, I have a guest that I wanted to have for actually several years now, Mark Primak. He works with innovative attorney solutions or innovative legal solutions. They do marketing for attorneys but what we’re going to focus on today is direct mail, physical paper mail that’s sent out to, for instance, people arrested for a DUI and that kind of thing. So how are you doing, Mark?

Mark Primak: Great, how are you?

Richard: So I want to focus on direct mail today because there are a lot of a hubbub about it. Some people love it, some people hate it, and some people think it’s unethical, some people think it’s great. So we’re going to get into all those details but personally, I’ve built a lot of my business on it, direct mailing some of my mail pieces and I know a lot of attorneys that have done really well with it. So that’s why we’re going to talk about it today. So Mark, tell me again the name of your company I might have messed it up.

Mark Primak: The name of the company is Innovative Attorney Marketing. We’ve been in business for about 16 years now.

Richard: Have you been providing direct mail for attorneys for all that time?

Mark Primak: Yes, about 15 years ago, we started, we incorporated in New Jersey, there was no attorney direct mail marketing, it didn’t exist, and the industry didn’t exist. We saw an opportunity and timing and skill built direct mail marketing company. Thus, I’ve been dealing with thousand plus attorneys over that span of time.

Richard: When you first started it, did you have to go to war with these state bar associations like how hard was it to get this started?

Mark Primak: It was pretty easy to get it started. However, over time, there were senators that were trying to pass bills to limit attorney direct mail marketing, it mostly revolved around personal injury mailing, which is kind of a grey area that we aren’t so much after, DUI, criminal, traffic, bankruptcy type mailings but we fought each time, maybe 4 or 5 times and won every time, you can’t shut down attorneys from sending marketing pieces to try business and help to send and to navigate the system.

Richard: Why was the direct mail being attacked, what was the reasoning?

Mark Primak: It was mostly behind personal injury with ambulance chasing, it was senators trying to make a name for themselves by sponsoring a bill, it really had no basis at all to shut that down but politics is politics and they never got anyway with it.

Richard: From my understanding, each state has different rules on what’s allowed in direct mail but so far, I haven’t found many of the state’s rules to be too difficult to overcome. What do you see out there? Are there any states that just won’t allow it?

Mark Primak: Yes. There is definitely a criteria that varies from state to state. There are attorney guidelines in most states that allow direct mail marketing. Other states don’t allow the use of data for direct mail marketing for commercial purposes, for advertising purposes. There are many states that don’t have integrated state systems or an avenue by which to collect data that works for attorney direct mail marketing, which needs to go up very quickly from an arrest or a ticket occurrence.

Richard: What states do you guys offer a direct mail in right now?

Mark Primak: Right now, it’s probably about 10 states that we have comprehensive data. They are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Florida, Texas, Maricopa, Arizona, Illinois, Wisconsin, Connecticut, we’re about to open in Virginia.

Richard: When you said “Maricopa”, is that the Maricopa County in Arizona?

Mark Primak: Yes. So in certain states like Arizona, they don’t have comprehensive systems that speak to each other, so Maricopa County is a very large county and it represents a significant percentage of the population and we’re able to acquire DUI, misdemeanors and felonies; for attorney direct mail marketing, just the felonies are really timely enough. At the moment, it’s probably like 3,100 of those in a given month, the DUIs and the misdemeanors are not as timely but they are very useful for other types of mailings.

Richard: Did you do New York and New Jersey?

Mark Primak: New York, I don’t think I mentioned but in New York, we do have the Five Boroughs of New York to the extent of criminal, DUI and just some serious traffic.

Richard: What practice areas; you mentioned DUI/DWI traffic, criminal, what other ones do you have data for?

Mark Primak: In every state, the core data that we acquire is a criminal traffic DUI type of stuff. In all of 50 states, I pick up notice of default and sheriff’s sales which can be used for a bankruptcy type mailings. That’s catch-as-catch-can depending on what counties you’re looking for, some counties have more data than others. In New Jersey, for example, which is our core state, we have a lot of other things. We have special civil, there is a lis pendens, there is landlord/tenant, there is bankruptcy foreclosure type mailing if that could be done.

In Pennsylvania, we just started doing civil, divorce, child custody, we’re getting into a little bit of the personal injury side of things by starting to collect the accident reports and certain municipalities in New Jersey and soon, it’ll be the whole state of Ohio that I’ll have crash reports for. So we’re always looking to expand into areas that can benefit and help a law firm generate and drive business to their practice. Virginia should be live around the fourth quarter of this year, I would say.

Richard: Any other states that are coming in the next 6 months or a year or less?

Mark Primak: We’re actually always looking at states coming live and some of these states that we already data are not permissible to use the data for marketing purposes. There are two or three other states that I wouldn’t mention at this time but we’re always looking to expand and we’re not going to promote a state until we’re confident that we have comprehensive data that’s going to be timely enough for a defendant to respond, for an attorney to retain and send a letter up and make it happen.

Richard: How much does it cost to actually send the mail? What would each element cost?

Mark Primak: There are basically two components of the pricing; there’s a name charge and a mailing charge. In most states, you can just pay name charge and mail your own. Most attorneys want us to do turnkey and do the whole thing for them, so name charge and mailing charge, and that’ll vary depending on the state. For example, in Pennsylvania, we have a physical army on the ground that goes into each DJ, as they call them, District Justice, which is a court, on a weekly basis collecting all the criminal complaints. This is a very expensive proposition to send live bodies and collecting data as opposed to an integrated state system that we can access a mainframe and pull down data. So basically name charges on the low end could be as low as 25 cents a record, and in some cases, like in New York, as high as $3 a record. So it just depends on the state. Most states are probably around 40 cents a record.

Richard: How much for the fulfillment part, the licking, stamping, printing and all that stuff?

Mark Primak: So fulfillment generally runs at like 79 cents a letter, and that includes the first class postage, the printing of the letters, the personalized envelope, importing a variable data, collation and fulfillment on a daily or weekly basis or as needed, and then there are some upgrades to that 79 cents like if you want to upgrade to bond the paper, add 7 cents, or if you want to print color, it adds 15 cents. There are upgrades and you can go from there depending on volume and what your targeted market is.

Richard: So it sounds like attorneys are looking at a $1.25 to $1.50 out the door per name as a ballpark, is that fair?

Mark Primak: Yes. I would say it’s more like a $1 to a $1.29 turnkey, all in, for the most part if you’re hitting Pennsylvania or New York, which has a higher name charge.

Richard: Right. There, it could be $4 or something but okay.

Mark Primak: Three dollars or 4.

Richard: You have clients that are doing well in New York and Pennsylvania, so even though the cost is higher, they are still profiting, right?

Mark Primak: Absolutely, yes. I mean the ROI has to be there or we wouldn’t pursue a given state. And typically when it’s more expensive, it’s better because it’s variables of entry. Companies just can’t acquire the data, you got to send somebody in, they charge exorbitant amounts of money at the county level to acquire the data, and then you have to process the data. But at the end of the day, there are less attorneys doing it and all we care about is our lives. So if you’re spending a dollar and you’re generating 3, our clients are pretty happy and that return on investment will vary depending on how mature a market is or immature a market is. I’m comfortable 2 to 3 times returns on investment is what I expect. I think attorneys are getting 3 to 5 times in most states.

Richard: Have you had any superstars that reported back to you that they were just blowing ahead of the water?

Mark Primak: I have friends along the years that report back good information but most attorneys hold back. They don’t want you to know that they’ve spent $1,000 and generated $25,000 probably for fear that I’ll raise my rates or something, which I wouldn’t. I’ll be thrilled. That would just be great information to hear but I just look at a minimum ROI that I would expect given what I do know, and that’s really, for the most part, 2 to 4 times what you spent over an 8-week period.

Richard: A lot of attorneys are gun-shy about spending money, they feel like are they going to get a return, but that’s what I like about direct mail is that you’re not stuck for a year. I mean what’s your minimum engagement period?

Mark Primak: I don’t lock any attorneys into long term contracts because it’s a partnership mentality. If you’re not making money, I don’t need to take your money because contractually, you’re obligated to keep mailing, doing something that’s not working. Generally speaking, if you’re mailing enough letters, this is a numbers game type of marketing, direct mailers. So if you’re mailing enough letters, by the end of week 8, you should see the return on investment, whatever that’s going to be is what you can expect. We have call tracking numbers we put on letters, we are able to track the campaign who is calling from the letters, and even sending text messages when you miss a call with that person’s number. We do a lot of cool things to ensure that you capture that call.

Richard: When you say you provide data, what is the data? Is it just name and the address of the person and the offense or what are the fields?

Mark Primak: It’ll vary depending on what the state will put out but for most states, it could be first name, middle, last name, city, state, zip, issue date of the ticket or arrest, any applicable court date, statute number, description of the offense, birth date in many cases, and then some ancillary information, male/female, Hispanic/non-Hispanic and that kind of information. Everything you would need to import into a letter to be very descript, so when that defendant receives it, they understand you’re fully aware of what’s going on in that defendant’s life as it pertains to their arrest or ticket.

Richard: Who writes the letters?

Mark Primak: Well, you do, Richard.

Richard: I’ve written some pretty good ones but I mean when I am not involved…

Mark Primak: When you’re not involved, I have samples that I send out that attorney prospects can use as a guide in writing their own. So the attorney writes the letter. The messaging is important. You could spend 20/30 minutes on the messaging and I help them with the letter, so we go back and forth. I know this business inside out; I created the industry for the most part in the northeast. So I’ve dealt with thousands of letters and I know how to format them, I know the attorney ethics and guidelines, what needs to be said and not said, and I help them and hold their hand in creating the best possible letter that we can. That is, of course, if you don’t.

Richard: I’ve seen some other companies out there that say they do direct mail. They’re pretty restrictive, by the way. Are there any companies, without naming names that are out there that are mailing the places they’re not allowed to mail and could an attorney have problems if they’re working with one of these companies that does this?

Mark Primak: There is definitely that going on. I’m aware of some states where I get calls asking me for data and looking into the prospect of acquiring the data, learn that it’s not permissible for a commercial use or marketing. So we stop at that point. However, there are a lot of companies out there that are acquiring it one way or another and re-selling it and there are attorneys that are buying it and sending letters but we do everything up and up. If it’s restricted, there are contracts involved and acquisition of data and all of that stuff, we won’t break that or going to a state that an attorney will have any issues with, which is why if any of your attorney clients are interested in doing direct mail and then they engage with us, they can feel secure that we’re a company that takes that very seriously.

Richard: It’s very important to know and I know that worries a lot of attorneys. They’re going to make sure their license is good, there’s no bar complaints and all that. So that’s good.

Mark Primak: It’s really straightforward what you can and cannot do, A lot of attorneys are nervous about it but it’s basically X, Y and Z and you’re good and the X is maybe putting advertisement on the letter, it’s not saying you’re going to jail for a speeding ticket and it may be putting a disclaimer at the bottom, it’s very straight forward. So we have all the guidelines and rules for each state to make sure that our attorney-client partners are covered.

Richard: When your letters go out, how fast do they go out? The reason I’m asking this is I have my beliefs about it from my experience but I know a lot of attorneys believe “If you don’t mail them right away, then they’re going to hire someone else”.

Mark Primak: Yes. They go out right away. So as soon as an arrest or a ticket hits the state system or picking it up or whatever the acquisition process is, it comes in and gets distributed to whomever is purchasing those types of lists and those courts or in those counties and the letter goes out right away. In some cases, there are re-mail programs where there are court date polls, so a week from today, which is Wednesday, people have an upcoming court date, and this is from New Jersey in particular, and we will look and see who has a court date next Wednesday that has not yet retained an attorney and we pull them again sending that letter out.

It’s very interesting because about 65 to 70% of defendants receive that second letter wind up calling at that point because they say, “Man, I have court on Tuesday, I got to deal with this matter”, and they pick up the phone and they retain an attorney. So getting back to the question do you get them out right away or does it matter if you get it out 3 days after. There is a case to be made and especially for; criminal, there is a DUI, those defendants tend to wait till the last minute to lawyer up. Is it a mature market where you have a lot of letters on top of each other hitting a mailbox? Do you want to spread yours out? It’s all good for the most part, it’s always best to get out into the mailbox as quickly as possible. However, that’s not the end-all by any means.

Richard: Is the best practice for attorneys to typically mail twice a week apart?

Mark Primak: In certain states, you have that ability to do that based on court date polls and the type of information that we can disseminate like is there an attorney attached to that record already; if there is, we are not going to pull it again clearly. In other states, it’s basically a one and done approach. We get the data, we send the letter. However, I’ve done approaches where I’ll just reach back two weeks later and grab that prior week’s file from two weeks ago and just re-mail it all at once. So it’s like you’re hitting them early in the process and then you’re hitting them late in the game where they have court date that’s approaching, and that’s been very effective too. So there are lots of different nuances, lots of different ways to skin this cat and generate our ally and drive business.

Richard: Okay. You mentioned heavier paper, I think we talked once about stamping the outside envelope with various things like “Important (open immediately)”. Any other things you’ve seen done that will boost response?

Mark Primak: I believe that the use of color definitely boosts response. There’s been some studies that through the post office picking the variety of companies that are involved in direct mail that that show that printing in color drives the eye. It improves open-ability rate. As it relates to upgrading paper or not, if you’re mailing a lot of letters, probably it doesn’t pay to upgrade the paper because it absorbs too much cost but if you’re mailing criminal or DUI stuff, that generates a high fee and you’re only sending out 100 or 300 of these things a week to add 15 cents is not going to break the bank and probably worthwhile to differentiate yourself from the next letter. But if you’re mailing 2,000 traffic letters where you can make 300 bucks or 200 bucks for a traffic event doesn’t pay at 2,000 times 15 cents, another $350 a week.

Richard: The conversion rates, like you said, you’ve seen 2 to 1 and higher and sometimes 3 to 5 to 1.

Mark Primak: I look for minimum 2 to 3 time return on investment in most states; some states, it’s 4 to 5. It depends on the state, it depends on how long marketing, direct mail marketing has been going on in that state. How many attorneys are sending letters. There are only so many people that are retaining attorneys so clearly if you have 10 attorneys sending letters in a given state, they are going to share in all of that and then when you add 30 more on top of them, you can have attrition. So 2 to 3 times is what my expectation is. Depending on the state, it’ll vary but 2 to 3 times at a minimum is my expectation.

Richard: Are there any states or metros that you feel are just really tough or saturated or is there always opportunity?

Mark Primak: I can pick New Jersey which is I think a mature market. I still expect a 2 to 3 time return there. So it doesn’t matter how many letters are going, defendants are going to make calls and if they like the attorney, they feel that they know what they’re talking about and they offer a competitive fee quote, they’re going to get retained. At the end of the day, I do still think or see a 2 to 3 time return in New Jersey. In places like Ohio, that potential for 4 to 6 to 10 time return’s there. I am not sure exactly but we just started in Ohio a few months back maybe 6 months ago and I have one particular that said he drive 70% of his overall business from the mailer and he could be happier. So again, I don’t get exact feedback but I extrapolate what I can based on conversations. I relate that information to other prospects, other attorneys that are calling to inquire about the service.

Richard: I have some attorneys that tell me, “I wouldn’t do direct mail, it attracts crappie clients. I have clients that come in and say, ‘Look at these letters I got, I would never hire these people’.” I hear other attorneys that are doing direct mail and loving it. So do you feel like it attracts low quality clients or is that just really a myth in the mind of the person?

Mark Primak: You definitely are talking about criminal and DUI, you probably get the lower class of people. You and I are not necessarily committing crimes that we’re getting busted for. However, we could certainly and you could certainly pick up a client that’s maybe upper middle class that has money and he just wants you to take care of them, that’s the best possible client you could have. But most clients are what they are and what small practitioners, with small 1 to 3 attorney law firms, if you’re in the game of reaching out and helping defendants, you’re going to have a whole array most or many of which are on the lower scale. It’s a very relative term. But they have money and at the end of the day, it’s all about return on investment, driving business to the firm.

Richard: What about other languages? Do you do any mail in Spanish or other languages?

Mark Primak: Yes. In certain states where we have Spanish surname tables, for example, we have the ability to deliver Spanish surnames to match up with the Spanish letter. So if you are a lawyer that speaks Spanish and you are going after that population, we can tailor a campaign to target a Spanish surname, so it’s more directed towards what the attorney is looking for in that regard. That’ll expand even more so in the near future when we launch our next adoration of our admin site as we call it, which is our delivery mechanism.

Richard: What have you seen that makes an attorney successful versus not in doing direct mail?

Mark Primak: There are a few things that separate success with failure and direct mail is a numbers game. It’s understanding that throwing enough letters out there, because what you’re looking for is consistency with regard to the incoming call volume. Once you’ve achieved that, you’re going to close 40% of those, I think 40% is a percentage that I’d come up with after questioning 20 attorneys with the close rates are the average of 40%. So if you’re getting 20 calls in a week and you’re consistent with that, you know you’re going to close your fair share of them.

Richard: How about a call rate? I mean all this can vary but do you have a ballpark call rate; out of every 100 letters, how many calls do you get?

Mark Primak: Yes. We started putting call tracking numbers on the letters. So a call tracking number would be an area code, a local area code to you and any number that we pull from the call tracker and we have a private number on the letter so anybody that gets a letter and calls that number, it’ll forward to your office or your cell phone, wherever you direct that’s devoted to and that allows us to track those calls. So until recently, we really didn’t have great data to kind of go back on. However, we have more and more data and in that regard, I can throw some numbers at you but I’d be pulling stuff out of the air.

At the end of the day, we’re still looking at ROI more so than anything else. I think direct mail in general is a 1% response rate across the board and all industries. I think what we do, the synergies are so high between putting your message in the hands of a defendant that needs help at the time they need it, so it’s going to be higher than the 1%. At the end of the day, if you’re spending $1,000 a week over 8 weeks, 8 grands, you should generate $16 to $24,000 from that 8,000 spent. It’s all about ROI to me, it’s all I really care about at this point.

Richard: Yes, it makes sense. The reason I asked is that how many letters are enough, that’s what I was going to ask you. So if an attorney does 100 letters a week, that’s probably a low volume with you I guess, and they should expect 4, maybe 6 or 8 calls but no more than that. So they shouldn’t say, “I am not getting a lot of calls, you don’t worry about the calls you do get”, but I just want to have the feel for the expectation of the numbers.

Mark Primak: On the numbers, you separate it into traffic, criminal, and DUI. When it comes to traffic, you need to send out a lot more letters. For example, I would say 700 letters a week is the right number if you’re doing traffic. If you are doing criminal, it might be 150 to 200 letters a week. If you’re doing DUI, the same, 150 to 200 letters. That’s because of the fees that you can generate with the traffic. So it does vary depending on what you’re targeting, what the state is, how much competition, and we could have that conversation should anybody want to reach out to me.

Richard: I hear from attorneys, “We tried direct mail and it worked but then it stopped working”. What a lot of attorneys experience that do it is some of them will do it for a while, it works well, maybe other competitors come in and their response may drop. Do you have people that come to you and say, “Help! Our ROI’s going away, we’re using someone else and their list seems to change and now we’re not getting clients.”, Do you have any diagnoses and repair in what you do?

Mark Primak: Yes. I say that all the time actually and there are a lot of factors that can cause that. One is you get into a market that’s immature and then over time it matures, so there are more attorneys sending letters on top of you so your ROI just naturally kind of diminishes. At that point, you need to employ the best practices for maybe upgrading to color, upgrading the paper, changing the messaging, call tracking. Of course online and offline marketing work hand-in-hand. So if you’re working on all cylinders, you are going to maximize the effectiveness of any campaign.

Richard: For attorneys that want to contact you, which I highly recommend they do on the qualifying states, how do they get in touch with you? What’s the best way, by email or phone and all that?

Mark Primak: My direct line is 609 254 3750. They can just call me and mention your name, Richard Jacobs, and I’ll take special care of them.

Richard: I appreciate it.

Mark Primak: And of course, they can also contact me on the website.

Richard: Okay. Tell me the website and email too so they have three different ways to contact you.

Mark Primak: So they can contact me at mark@innovativeattorneymarketing.com, or they can go on the website www.innovativeattorneymarketing.com and just fill out a short form and I’ll reach out to them.

Richard: Anything else that you want to ask that I should have asked you that we missed out on?

Mark Primak: No, I think you covered most of it. There are always additional questions that an attorney may have and I’m happy to answer it, and frankly I probably have most every answer because I’ve been doing this for so long and I’ve dealt with so many attorneys in generating ROI for the last 15 years. So feel free to reach out.


Richard Jacobs

About Richard Jacobs

My name is Richard Jacobs, and I've discovered quite a bit about the plight of solo practitioners and small, 2-5 attorney firms like yours these past 12 years.

I've come to understand the unique challenges in marketing ethically and effectively that attorneys face because I have:

  • Helped over 180 attorneys author their own practice area book and become the 'implied expert' in their practice area
  • Helped hundreds of attorneys successfully navigate Google's search algorithm changes, growing their websites from 2 potential clients calling a month to 4+ calls per DAY for some clients.
  • Interviewed and promoted over 507 attorneys nationwide, in practice areas such as:
  • DUI / DWI
  • Family Law
  • Criminal Defense
  • Bankruptcy
  • Auto Accidents
  • Social Security Disability
  • Slip & Falls (Premises Liability)
  • Real Estate
  • Estate Planning / Probate
  • Wage and Hour Claims
  • Expungements / Post Conviction Relief

Before you decide to invest in your marketing, it makes sense to first request your complimentary, custom, no obligation video website review.

Richard is the author of 6 books published on Amazon, Kindle and Audible.com

Richard is available for speaking engagements on direct marketing for attorneys and has recently spoken at the following legal conferences:

  • PILMMA (Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing & Management Association)
  • Las Vegas DUI Summit – Private event for DUI attorneys
  • New York Boutique Lawyers Association
  • Perry Marshall & Associates Marketing Academy (Marina Del Rey, CA)
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)