Drip email campaigns: law firms either hate them or love them. (If you need a quick refresher course, a drip email campaign is a series of automated emails sent out either at predetermined intervals or when triggered by the recipient’s behavior, such as opening a message in the series.)

A number of attorneys are achieving great success with these automated email streams. Others have not adopted the legal marketing strategy at all. Most law firms, though, fall in between the two extremes—they have played with drip email campaigns in the past, either created internally or through an attorney marketing partner, or they are currently dabbling in email marketing without any strategic plan. Unfortunately, these scattered approaches lead to mediocre results at best.

Consistent, automated emails campaigns are absolutely integral to any law firm’s success today, from nurturing leads into clients and providing better client service to generating more referrals for a larger caseload with less marketing spend. The biggest obstacle that most attorneys have to implementation is that they have no idea where to start.

In this guide, we will delve into how attorneys can write an email drip campaign in a single day and be well on their way to engaging more clients with marketing automation. This article—part one of the guide—shares fundamental knowledge that you need to know about attorney email marketing before beginning. It is designed to help you:

  • Understand the importance of email marketing and automation in law firms today
  • Estimate your return on investment (ROI)
  • Learn strategies for increasing email engagement rates
  • Develop a strong foundation and good habits for all attorney email drip campaigns (ideal for law firms that are new to email marketing and automation)

Part two will focus on actually writing the email messages. Additionally, the piece will share psychological strategies that make emails more appealing and share examples of well-written campaigns. All in all, this how-to guide provides a comprehensive road map for developing your first drip email campaign from scratch in a single day. Let’s get started.

Why Attorneys Need to Invest in Email Marketing and Automation

Email is a powerhouse in the marketing world. Forrester Research reports that 90% of email messages reach the intended recipient’s inbox, while only 2% of Facebook fans will stumble across a law firm’s post in their News Feed. Here are a few more staggering statistics:

  • Pew Research claims that more than 90% of online adults utilize email
  • 83% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers employ email newsletters as part of their content marketing strategy, according to Content Marketing Institute
  • Campaign Monitor estimates an average of $44 returned for every $1 spent on email marketing
  • The Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric determined that email achieves an ROI of 122%, much higher than other marketing strategies

While email marketing used to be considered a sleazy tactic, the times have long since changed. If your law firm isn’t including it in your broader attorney marketing strategy, you are missing out on massive returns.

Of course, email marketing in and of itself is not a magic bullet; the strategy must be backed by competent, high-quality service that ensures loyal clients (and positive online reviews), as well as a comprehensive marketing plan that ensures resources are dedicated down the right avenues.

Email achieves an ROI of 122%, much higher than other marketing strategies.

Once those pieces are in place, however, your law firm can expect to see significant ROI on each drip email campaign. For instance, let’s say that you spend $200 to develop each email message of a five-message campaign, for a total of $1,000 spent. If your retainer is $2,000, then converting just one lead into a client pays for the entire drip email campaign and more.

The key to success is saying the right things to the right leads at the right time. We will discuss this next.

Step 1: Know Your Audience

Before writing a word, it is essential to know your audience. Without understanding your potential clients through and through, your email messages are sure to fall on deaf ears.

Therefore, consider these questions before moving on to the next step:

  • What situation or challenge would make a prospect reach out to your law firm?
  • How can my legal practice help to resolve these specific pain points? What would their lives look like afterward?
  • What are your prospective clients’ values and what kind of content would they find valuable?
  • How can my law firm add value to their lives?
  • What could I say or do to build trust with recipients?
  • What is my audience demographic?

Answering the questions above at the start of each drip email campaign not only helps to get into your audience’s mindset, but also ensures that you are focused on appealing to the right kind of lead that can result in new business.

BONUSES: Learn more about obtaining higher-quality leads in our blog article. Then, find out how to qualify leads and land better clients with our step-by-step guide.

Step 2: Understand the Structure of a Great Marketing Email

Typically, the basic structure of an attorney marketing email includes:

  1. “From” name
  2. Subject line
  3. Greeting
  4. Brief message
  5. Call to action (CTA)
  6. Closing
  7. Optional: postscript
  8. Contact information

“From” Name

This is the name that recipients see in the sender field when the email pops into their inbox. Though you may be tempted to designate this as your law firm’s name, consider taking a more personal approach. Try “Mike Johnson, ABC Law Firm,” for instance. Nearly 70% of U.S. recipients claim to base their decision to open an email on the name in the ‘From’ field, according to Campaign Monitor, so putting a human face behind your legal practice could make the difference between them ignoring or opening your emails.

Nearly 70% of recipients claim to decide whether to open an email on the name in the ‘From’ field.

Subject Line

One of the most important elements of any email, the subject line is responsible for both informing recipients about your message’s content and convincing them to read. The more valuable your email seems, the greater the chance of a recipient clicking to open. Competition for attention is fierce—this should be one of the areas where you focus the most attention.

Research shows that subject lines possessing the following characteristics perform the best:

  • Snappy snippets: Although there isn’t a hard and fast correlation between fewer characters and higher open rates, shorter subject lines can be more appealing on mobile devices with limited screen space. With approximately 56% of all messages now being opened on mobile devices, according to Litmus, shorter subject lines (35-38 characters for the iPhone oriented in portrait mode) may lead to a significantly higher open rate.
  • Clear value: This is research-backed common sense. If recipients don’t instantly see the value of stopping their day to read your email messages, they won’t do it. Clearly communicate the benefit of your email within the subject line to hook readers.
  • Personalization: Adding in the recipient’s name or geographic area can make the email feel tailored to each prospect, thereby increasing interest and engagement.

Mailchimp reports that emails within the legal industry achieve an average open rate (the percentage of emails opened out of the total number delivered to inboxes) of 21.33%, meaning that you can expect roughly 1 in every 5 recipients to open an email from your law firm at any given time. Should you experience a much lower open rate on your drip email campaign, subject lines should be one of the first things to adjust and test.

If recipients don’t instantly see the value of stopping their day to read your messages, they won’t do it. Clearly communicate the benefit within the subject line.

Greeting

Many marketers simply stick with the reader’s first name but again, it is always best to match your brand and your contacts’ expectations. If recipients would be offended with the use of their first name, stick with a more formal “Mr. Smith” or avoid using names in your greeting altogether.

Brief Message

This is the body of your email. In most cases, short messages perform better than long ones for the simple reason that people are busy and won’t take the time to read lengthy paragraphs. Use short, concise sentences to maintain reader interest and cultivate momentum through to the end of the message.

Regarding design, keep in mind that statistic above—more than half of all emails will be viewed on smartphones and tablets. Keep the design simple for smaller screens and don’t be afraid to experiment with text-only emails to avoid image clutter. 

CTA

Each message should include a targeted call to action. It can be repeated or rephrased multiple times but an email shouldn’t try to convince readers to take more than one action, such as calling your law firm for a consultation.

Closing

Quickly wrap things up at the end of your message. Feel free to use the individual’s name that you put in the “From” field and mention your law firm’s name as well.

Optional: Postscript

Including a P.S. after your message taps into the ways that our brains work: humans have limited attention spans so we tend to remember the first and last bits of what we read. This occurs with subject lines, calls to action, and email messages themselves. Key into this mental habit by writing a postscript into your message to reiterate your call to action, such as a hyperlinked “P.S. Don’t forget to download your free 100-page personal injury e-book now!”

Contact Information

Let your readers know how they can reach you directly by phone, email, or online. Just be sure that someone is manning the phone lines, email accounts, and social media profiles that you mention in this footer area.

A Brief Word About Email Personalization

Personalization is key for email marketing success in today’s landscape, where prospects are looking for the brands they truly connect with among the dozens of emails that they receive every day. The average open rate for emails with personalized copy is more than 18%, compared to just 13.1% for generic emails, according to Statista.

Note that personalization doesn’t just mean inserting the recipient’s first name at the beginning of the message. Rather, personalization should be a comprehensive attitude to attorney email marketing, from crafting subject lines that appeal to each demographic of recipient to curating email copy targeted to the subject matter they are interested in.

The average open rate for emails with personalized messages is more than 18%, compared to just 13.1% for generic emails.

Look for ways to tailor the message elements mentioned above without pushing too hard to connect with prospects. Recipients will notice if you try to force a connection to “sell” them.

Step 3: Determine Your Purpose

There are many different types of attorney marketing campaigns, such as:

  • Introduction: Ideal for after a new prospect opts into your email newsletter, for instance
  • Top-of-mind: Check-in emails that share content and news in order to continually keep your legal practice’s name in front of recipients
  • Referral: Designed to promote client referrals from past clients
  • Cold lead / Reengagement: Perfect for reconnecting with recipients who have not engaged with your law firm throughout a period of time (such as not opening any of your law firm’s emails within the past 3 months)

Each type of drip email campaign can be customized to your needs and resources. For instance, you can write a 10-email sequence or a smaller 5-email campaign, and even combine types of campaigns such as promoting referrals within your top-of-mind emails. This freedom provides the flexibility to create tailored campaigns, but it also means that you must set out with a clear objective in mind or risk creating a muddled campaign with no clear objective.

Step 4: Diagram Your Drip Email Campaign

Next, diagram the email sequence. Determine how many messages will be involved and when they will go out. This drip email campaign from Pardot is a great example of a simple email drip sequence diagram based on the recipient’s behavior (as opposed to a predetermined schedule):

drip email campaign

Source

When creating a drip email campaign based on a preset schedule, it can be difficult to know how often to contact recipients. Reach out too often and you’re annoying or invasive. Reach out too late and your competition engages the prospect first.

Here are a few helpful rules of thumb regarding campaign timing and frequency:

  • Respond at lightning speed: If someone opts into your email list or downloads a piece of content, they should receive a response email within minutes. According to InsideSales.com, up to 50% of sales go to the business that responds to a prospect first.
  • Connect a handful of times per month: Marketing Sherpa reports that more than 60% of recipients enjoy getting promotional emails every week. Two emails per month is the sweet spot for open rates, according to the Database Marketing Institute. Start out in the neighborhood of 1-4 times per month for emails like top-of-mind campaigns and attorney email newsletters.
  • Test various times and frequencies for your audience: Ultimately, the best way to discover how often your recipients prefer to receive communications is to ask recipients, and then develop campaigns and test performance. If you experience a high unsubscribe rate when contacting recipients 3 times a month, switch to bi-weekly and assess the impact.

Up to 50% of sales go to the law firm that responds to a prospect first.

In part two of this guide, we will explore writing a five-message Nurturing drip email campaign designed for prospects who download a piece of content—in this instance, a personal injury e-book about car accident injuries from a personal injury law firm’s website. It is intended to prompt the recipients into calling the legal practice for a complimentary consultation or scheduling a consultation online. This diagram for this e-book nurturing campaign looks like this:

 

Expert email marketing tip: During this planning phase of an drip email campaign, draw your sequence out by hand like the series above—don’t just map it mentally! You will want to refer to this document as you write in order to stay on track and avoid confusion. 

If you don’t have time to diagram or develop a drip email campaign, try the James Legal CRM, which automates prospect follow-up (and sends out killer, specialty-specific content!) as well as review solicitation.

Keep in mind that this is just a basic, foundational campaign to iterate upon for your particular prospects. In many cases, and in certain legal specialties, it may take a dozen touchpoints over the course of several months to nurture a prospect into a client. Recipients may not be ready to commit to pursuing their issue just yet and need much more information from you before deciding whether to call your legal practice.

Keep contacting recipients using varied campaigns to appeal to their needs and don’t give up on unresponsive prospects after just one drip email campaign. 80% of people require 5 follow-ups after initial contact, according to The Marketing Donut.

80% of people require 5 follow-ups after initial contact.

Step 5: Define Success and Determine Which Metrics to Track

Indicators of a “successful” drip email campaign could include:

  • High open rate: the percentage of recipients who opened their email message out of all emails delivered to inboxes
  • Significant click through rate: the percentage of people clicking the link within your email (to call your law firm or to schedule a consultation after landing on your “Book a Consultation” landing page, for instance)
  • Low bounce rate on your webpage: the percentage of website visitors who leave your attorney website after viewing just one page
  • Low unsubscribe rate: the percentage of people who opt out of your email messages

Of course, the ultimate metric of drip email campaign success is the number of new or repeat clients coming into your law firm, and the amount of revenue produced compared to the total cost of the campaign. However, the elements above can indicate that you’re on the path toward success (or demonstrate where to improve) and may therefore be important metrics to measure.

When developing a new drip email campaign, always set a realistic performance goal, determine your successful campaign milestone, and decide which metrics to measure in order to judge progress throughout the life of the campaign.

Step 6: Writing the Email Copy

Now that you understand how to develop a great campaign, it’s time to explore actually writing an attorney marketing campaign. We will return to this in part two of this guide, soon to be released on the James Publishing & Attorney Marketing blog.

While you’re waiting for the guide, download our free prospect content for 4 legal specialties: bankruptcy, criminal, family, and personal injury.