Today's post is by Rod Burkert. In one way, shape, or form, Rod has been performing business valuations since the late 1980s. In July 2000, he started Burkert Valuation Advisors in Philadelphia where he ran a "traditional” valuation practice for 10 years.
From March 2010 to March 2022, Rod traveled full-time throughout the US and Canada in an RV with his wife and their dogs. When he saw the possibilities of a location-independent BVFLS practice, he started rbCOACHING, which focuses on strategies, tactics, tools, and tech that can build/grow/scale BVFLS firms.
Today, Rod has settled in Bisbee, AZ and focuses solely on his practice building coaching … all created by leveraging his professional network, content marketing, social media, virtual assistants, and available technology.
Are you guilty of using email trailers that read like a legal blitzkrieg?
And if someone receives one of your emails by accident, do they have to jump through hoops to fix your error? Do you think your legal-ised trailers protect you from liability?
How do you feel when you receive emails with THOSE kinds of trailers?
Or are you so numb to them that you don’t even bother to read them? More importantly, are you missing an opportunity to personally connect with your email readers?
Lots of questions here ... let’s dive in.
Email trailers. The (sometimes … oft-times) tortious language we insert at the end of our electronic messages.
Here is a trailer from a recent email I received – typical of what we all encounter. I added the bracketed numbers that tie into the notations that follow.
The information contained in this electronic message and  any attachments to this message are intended for  the exclusive use of the addressee(s) and  may contain confidential or privileged information.  No representation is made on its accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this electronic message.  Certain assumptions may have been made in the preparation of this material as at this date, and are subject to change without notice.  If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this e-mail and any attachment(s) is  strictly prohibited.  Please reply to the sender and  destroy all copies of this message and any attachments from your system.
The funny thing was that this email was announcing/promoting an article the person had recently written, and it included a link to where it was published. My thoughts:
1. There were no attachments.
2. Haven’t recipients on the email list previously been verified?
3. There was no confidential or privileged information.
4. Does this mean that I can’t rely on the accuracy of your article?
5. Given the nature of this email, what assumptions?
6. See #2.
7. Strictly prohibited by whom or what?
8. You mean I should waste more of my time by replying to you?
9. There is no obligation, legal or otherwise, to do so.
This is what happens when we use the same trailer for every email we send. It’s boilerplate … most of it does not apply … and it alienates your reader.
So why do we use these email trailers?
I think there are two answers:
1. Big firms include them and we ape their behaviour so we look like we’re part of the cool crowd.
2. Perhaps, more importantly, we believe they will limit our liability.
You may have other thoughts/ideas.
Question: Has anyone ever seen a written representation from a law firm that says these email trailers will, in fact, offer us the protection we seek?
If you receive an email from me, you’ll see I don’t do these trailers. I used to, but I stopped doing it years ago. The world is still spinning. And I haven’t been sued. Here is what my email trailer looks like:
A while back, this subject was addressed in a LinkedIn article. The author was from Australia, and he talked about practices he sees in his country ... and I liked some of the alternative email trailers he highlighted.
This one is from an attorney (an attorney!) in Sydney:
We don’t disclaim anything about this email. We’re quite proud of it really.
The attorney says: “Traditional footers are crap. And not only that, I’ve researched it across practically every major jurisdiction and there is not a single, solitary case anywhere that’s been won or lost based on a footer. They are irrelevant in terms of protecting anyone.”
Or this one from an accountant in Brisbane:
If I need to limit my liability, I’ll tell you. Until then, consider my capacity to help limitless. Oh … if you read this and find inspiration in it, please click here.
The link takes you to a Thank You landing page on the firm’s website that invites you to read about a charity that she supports.
There were other examples that expressed some humour and, like the trailers above, gave a glimpse of the professional’s personality.
So what are we hoping to accomplish with our email trailers?
If we think the primary purpose is to limit our liability – and that effect is a stretch – then why bother?
An alternative is to use an email trailer that connects with readers, maybe even make them smile, and not one that sounds so off-putting.
My suggestions going forward are:
If you can’t banish this kind of trailer completely, reword it so it doesn’t sound so harsh. People don’t want to be admonished for an error they didn't make.
Use your email platform (Outlook, Gmail) to create alternative "signatures" for different kinds of communications. For example, no trailer is needed if you're just scheduling lunch.
Otherwise, we are missing a marketing opportunity to be much more engaging with and likeable to our email readers.
Oh, and don't forget the email trailers (aka signatures) on your phone and tablet. Given that we interact more and more on our mobile devices, it is important that we close out emails sent from them in a friendly, engaging, professional way.
What do you think? What do you do? And more importantly, why do you do it?
Everyone has a different idea of what a successful practice is. The practice you want is personal because it is based on what “successful” means to you. I help practitioners focus on the strategies, tactics, tools, and tech to build/grow/scale their versions of successful practices. If you want some help with that, email me at email@example.com.