How to Win at Email Marketing by Segmenting Your Audience

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Before you begin reading this piece, you will ideally want to have chosen what email software your firm will be using and you will have mastered sending different types of marketing emails.

The next step in conquering email marketing for your law firm is segmenting your email list and email marketing automation.

What is Segmenting?

Segmenting is the process of creating specifically targeted lists of email recipients who all share identified characteristics. The goal with segmenting is to ensure that people who receive your emails actually want to open them.

While you can send one very broadly written email to your entire email list, it is unlikely that email will resonate with all of your recipients.  Instead, you can segment your list to reach, or specifically exclude, certain people.

For example, you may want to send an email only to members of your email list who have expressed interest in your firm’s corporate governance practice area. Or,  you may want to send a promotional email to a segment including “all people who are not current clients”.

The most important thing with creating segments is that each segment must have a purpose. It can be easy to get carried away and do a lot with the data you are collecting, but if you have no definitive goal (e.g. “converting potential clients into becoming actual clients”), segmenting is pointless.

How to Create Segments

Segmenting requires that you have data points to work with. Without a way to separate members of your email list, you have nothing.

There is a right way and a wrong way to segment, and the right way starts at the beginning of your email marketing list setup. Planning for segments at the beginning of your process ensures you have information you can easily work with moving forward.

Planning for Segmenting From the Beginning

When you are starting from scratch to create your first email list, you will probably already have a few email addresses. Those contacts will include current and former clients, colleagues, and others in your network.

In building your list in your email marketing software, you should add as many relevant characteristic fields as you can. When you add new contacts to your list, you have the option of adding information in fields other than “Email Address.” You can use fields like First Name, Last Name, Phone, Address, etc. You can also create custom fields that you specify. You should take advantage of this.

When building your email list for the first time, you must create a field for the type of contact they are. You may want a limited set of categories like:

  • Current Clients
  • Potential Clients
  • Referral Sources (Non-Lawyers)
  • Referral Sources / Colleagues (Lawyers)

And with that, you have a baseline. Now you can send an email specifically to potential clients to educate them about your practice.

Creating Segments Over Time

After you start sending emails to your contact list, you can send segmented emails based on the behavior of your contacts.

Email marketing software knows which emails have been opened by each subscriber, which links they have clicked, and what content on your website they have downloaded–if you are collecting that information. You can know where your contacts’ computers are located, whether they are on mobile devices, and more. Any of these data points can be used as the basis for creating a segment. Today, or five years from now, you can create segments on-demand using any of these data points.

Why Automate Your Email Marketing?

Automated emails are sent to specific contacts in your email list based on them falling into a specific segment.

Email marketing automation involves using software to help you automatically segment your clients and perform repeated marketing tasks. There are two reasons you should automating your marketing:

  1. Engagement with your clients will likely increase.
  2. You will save a lot of time.

The goal of marketing automation is to serve your clients better. Though the process may sound a bit impersonal, it is a win-win: your clients stops getting irrelevant content, and you get more engagement. Increased engagement means your clients are more likely to reach out to you when they need your services.

An automated campaign requires a trigger that you set up. Some event has to happen to make the subscriber fall into an established segment. Some examples:

  • Subscriber joins your mailing list and joins with the source “Mailing List Subscriber”
  • Subscriber who is a potential client clicks a link on a promotional-oriented email campaign
  • Subscriber downloads a piece of content on your website
  • Subscriber completes a survey, providing feedback on their preferences

Automated emails based on segments are powerful. They save you a ton of time and manual work. Things like sending a welcome email to each new newsletter subscriber can help build trust with your subscribers and make them more likely to open your future emails.

Types of Segmented Campaigns You Should Send

There are different types of segmented campaigns you will want to send. Here are a few examples.

Ebook Download Series

One of the most common email automation activities is an ebook download. A subscriber clicks on your website to download an ebook, and they automatically join the “Download Ebook” segment you have set up. The ebook is then sent to their inbox automatically in an email campaign after their email address is verified.

Once the downloadable material is sent, the subscriber should receive follow-up emails over the next few days or weeks if you choose. This series of automated emails is also commonly called a “drip” campaign in marketing lingo.

If someone downloads an ebook on “how to get divorced” they can then get a sequence of educational emails related to divorce. Since we know that this subscriber is interested in getting divorced, they would probably benefit from relevant content. And, most importantly, they might ultimately be looking for a consultation.

Drip campaigns work particularly well following a downloadable guide. Because you know the subscriber is interested in a particular topic, you can stay engaged with them over time by providing additional material. Otherwise, they may just download your guide, read it, and never come back to you.

After receiving the downloadable material, the drip campaign should continue. They should receive a simple email asking them if they found the book helpful. Instead of you having to send this email manually to every single person who downloads your ebook, this automated and segmented campaign does all the work for you. The email can look very personal (like it came from you and wasn’t sent by an email machine), and encourage your subscriber to reply and engage with you.

After that email, you may want to send additional emails related to your ebook topic. One email can be a link to a blog post related to the topic of your ebook. If you are inclined, you may also want to have a follow-up email letting them know that if they are interested in speaking with a lawyer about this topic, you can help.


Here’s an example of a one-off email that can either be sent to your entire list manually when you’re looking to get more data from your subscribers. You could also automatically send it after a subscriber has completed an email series, or has been a subscriber for more than X days, for example.

Most of your email list subscribers will have different interests. If you are a family lawyer, some people might be interested in divorce. Some other people might be divorced and interested in information on modifications of orders. Alternatively, you may not have kept good records of your email subscribers and not know exactly what everyone is interested in. Surveys can be a way to play catch-up on getting that information you didn’t get earlier from your subscribers when they joined your list. A survey asks them to effectively segment themselves. The responses to those surveys can help you create segments to market to specifically in the future.

In effect, you can later send emails only to people who selected as their survey answer, “Yes, I have killed someone and may kill again, and should probably hire a lawyer.” The perfect segment for criminal defense lawyers looking to have more targeted emails! And, instead of having to manually create sub-groups and segments with this information, your email software can do it all for you.

Targeted Newsletters

If you have a multidisciplinary practice, you have clients with different needs being served by different practices. Immigration clients may not care about what is going on in your commercial real estate practice. When you have content to share related to one practice area, send a targeted email specifically to subscribers who would find the content interesting.

You may be thinking, “Let’s just send it to everyone and maybe one immigration client would find commercial real estate interesting.”

No. That’s not the point of segmenting.

While some immigration clients may be interested in commercial real estate, your immigration segment probably has a very different amount of knowledge on commercial real estate than your commercial real estate clients. You should be speaking to each of these segments based on their knowledge of the topic. You should not send a “Commercial real estate 101” email to a segment of experts in commercial real estate, just like you should not send an email about “Updates in H-1B laws” to commercial real estate clients.

Instead, if you are going to send a newsletter about one specific topic to a broad audience, send two variations. Send the in-depth variation to a segment with experience and knowledge of the topic to demonstrate your command of the subject matter. And for those unfamiliar, use less legalese and insider language. And, importantly, only send emails you think your segments will find relevant, or they may stop opening your emails.


Using segmenting can help you send more relevant, engaging content to a specific set of subscribers. Take it from someone who has built a lot of segmented campaigns—get as much data as you can on your audience, and plan smart from the beginning.

More in this Series: Beginner's Guide to Email Marketing


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