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How lawyers can use email drip campaigns to engage past, present, and future clients and referral sources

Email drip campaigns allow lawyers to build relationships with key audiences through strategic but personalized emails without having to manually write and send each one.

You have almost certainly been a recipient of an email drip campaign even if you are not familiar with that term or the concept.

If you ever visited an online retailer, left something in your shopping cart without purchasing it, and then received an email about having left that item in your cart, you received an email that is part of a drip campaign.

If you ever received a series of “Welcome” emails spaced out over a few days after joining a gym or purchasing a membership to an organization, you received emails that are part of a drip campaign.

Loosely defined, an email drip campaign is a series of emails that go out every so often at a set interval and that are triggered by some action that a user (the recipient of those emails) took.

The beautiful thing about email drip campaigns is that they are a form of marketing automation. Once the emails are drafted, the workflows (i.e., what has to happen to trigger the sending of emails) are built, and both have been tested to ensure they are effective, the campaign runs automatically in the background until tweaks must be made.

No matter their size or their practices, law firms can easily (and cost-effectively) build email drip campaigns to send emails to past, present, and future clients and referral sources that otherwise would have had to be sent manually by those firms’ lawyers and staff.

There are many reasons why a law firm would want to build an email drip campaign to engage its target audiences.

Email drip campaigns as a client acquisition tool

For consumer-facing law firms like personal injury firms, criminal defense firms, and family law firms, email drip campaigns can be deployed to assist with client acquisition.

After a prospective client signs up for a law firm’s webinar, downloads an ebook, infographic, or similar lead magnet, or simply signs up for a firm’s newsletter, the firm could put that person on an email drip campaign related to the legal issue addressed by the webinar or lead magnet. The point of the email drip campaign would be to use a series of emails to quickly but methodically build a relationship that leads to the recipient engaging the law firm through an attorney-client relationship or a referral.

To do so, the emails would introduce the law firm and its lawyers and staff, and show that the law firm and/or particular lawyers at the firm are absolutely the right people to solve the recipient’s legal problem(s). This could be done by a series of emails, sent every few days, that alternate between profiles of the lawyers, client testimonials (especially from clients who had similar legal issues), case studies (especially regarding similar legal issues), and answers to frequently asked questions.

Email drip campaigns as thought-leadership reinforcement

For business-facing law firms like medium-sized and large law firms, email drip campaigns are an excellent way for those firms’ lawyers to solidify perceptions of their thought leadership among clients and referral sources.

After someone opts in to receiving emails from a business-facing firm by submitting their email address in exchange for access to a webinar or a lead magnet, that firm can put that person on an email drip campaign that reinforces the firm’s experience with, and mastery of, the legal issue or dispute addressed by the webinar or lead magnet.

For example, if a webinar was concerning environmental regulations, presumably the people signing up to attend the webinar are interested in that topic. A corresponding email drip campaign would focus on showing attendees that the firm’s lawyers are knowledgeable about environmental regulations. Even if the webinar attendee (or lead magnet downloader) is not looking to hire legal counsel at that very moment, the campaign could go a long way in showing the attendee that when the time comes to do so, they would be a fool for not hiring that law firm’s lawyers based on the information they received through the email drip campaign.

To solidify a lawyer’s or law firm’s thought leadership, a drip campaign should lean heavily on lawyer-created content. This could include written content (such as blog posts, bylined articles, and client alerts), video content (such as recorded webinars or videos of lawyers talking about pertinent legal issues), and audio content (such as podcasts).

Complementing the lawyer-created content should be testimonials and case studies of the kind I mentioned above, information about awards the lawyers have won, references to speaking engagements the lawyers have participated in, and any other content that builds a perception in the mind of the recipient that these lawyers are the ones to talk to about the legal issue covered by the event or lead magnet that caused the recipient to provide their email address in the first place.

Email drip campaigns as a client service tool

In the right law firm or legal practice, a drip email campaign can be used to provide proactive and consistent client service in a way that can save hundreds of hours of repetitive work on the part of lawyers and their colleagues—and boost client satisfaction in the process.

For example, a real estate or criminal defense lawyer can create an email drip campaign that periodically sends out emails to clients informing them about upcoming deadlines. That campaign could also include answers to frequently asked questions. That way, clients would proactively both know what to expect in the coming weeks and months in their matters, and have their (common) concerns and questions addressed in writing without having to speak with a lawyer or staff member.

In practices where lawyers typically need documents and other information from clients in order to assist them in their matters (such as personal injury and estate planning), an email drip campaign can send periodic reminders to clients to make sure they are aware of their responsibilities and deadlines for providing certain documents or information to their lawyers. The emails could also explain why the documents or pieces of information are needed and how they are vital to the recipients’ lawyers’ abilities to provide effective legal representation.

Some caveats

As you can tell, I am a firm believer in the power of email drip campaigns for lawyers and law firms as a sales tool, a marketing tool, and a client service tool. As big a proponent I am of drip campaigns, there are some things lawyers and their colleagues need to know before creating them.

First, it will take a fair bit of time to both design each campaign and the content of the emails within it.

Once a law firm has decided that an email drip campaign could be beneficial, it must actually design the campaign. When it does so, it needs to answer a number of questions.

What is the point of the campaign?

What will be the triggering events that cause emails to be sent?

How frequently will emails go out?

How many emails are needed?

What will the emails say?

Will the campaign be strictly email-based?

Or will it be designed so that lawyers or staff will be notified when an email recipient DOES NOT take requested action so that the lawyers or staff can call the recipient and persuade them over the phone to do what they were asked to do?

If you or your colleagues get frustrated while building a campaign, remember that email drip campaigns are often labor-intensive on the front end. But over their lifetimes, they will free up multiples of the time that went into their construction and maintenance.

Speaking of maintenance, my second caveat is that you should expect to test the timing of and content within your drip campaign before and after you activate it. Before you go “live” with a campaign, you will want to make sure the timing of the emails makes sense and that their content is both likely to resonate with recipients and persuasive.

Once you go “live” with a campaign, you might find that your emails are not frequent enough. Or maybe they’re too frequent. You might find that the content of the emails isn’t persuasive enough. You might find that recipients aren’t actually asking the kinds of questions that your emails are answering—and vice versa. You might find that more emails are necessary to educate and guide recipients. You might receive feedback from recipients suggesting you take the campaign in a new direction.

Email drip campaigns can only be as effective as they are customized for the needs of your practice and your law firm. The tinkering you will ultimately need to do with your campaign(s) is perfectly normal and should be viewed as a necessary step to help you improve their effectiveness.

Finally, when using email drip campaigns for client acquisition and marketing purposes, be mindful of your “call to action” and how hard of a sell you want to make in your emails.

If you are at a consumer-facing law firm and your drip campaign targets people who have indicated through a triggering event, such as submitting a form on your firm’s website, that they are in the market for a lawyer, you should feel comfortable focusing on recent results you have obtained for clients, explaining why you are the right lawyer or firm for the job, and prompting the recipient to call your office for a free consultation.

But if you are at a business-facing law firm and your drip campaign targets people who signed up for a webinar or downloaded a lead magnet, you might want to think twice about making a hard sell and asking for a free consultation. Instead, your call to action might be a request for additional content regarding the legal issue that is the subject of the drip campaign, with a corresponding soft sell of an introductory conversation with a partner or a practice group leader at your firm.

It is OK to come across as “salesy” to people who want to be sold. But for people who are early on in their process of researching lawyers and law firms, especially those who are doing so on behalf of their employers, coming across as salesy could drive those people away.

Take a cue from leading companies and organizations

Client acquisition, thought-leadership reinforcement, and client service are just three of the many ways email drip campaigns could give your law firm a boost. I bet that within a few hours of reading this blog post, you will think of at least one additional use for an email drip campaign at your firm.

(Here’s a hint: Think about situations where you or your colleagues tend to send the same emails to a particular group of people like current clients or prospective clients over a similar period of time in connection with the same triggering event. If those emails do not have to be too heavily customized each time they are sent, they are good candidates for being part of an email drip campaign.)

Follow the lead of many of the companies and organizations you interact with on a daily basis by considering how an email drip campaign could help you and your law firm engage past, present, and future clients and referral sources. Yes, you and/or your colleagues will need to invest some time and energy into creating the campaign. But the return on your investment could be sky high.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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