There are two kinds of email marketing programs at professional services firms:
- Email marketing programs that work, positioning their firms directly in front of the people that matter, driving engagement with client and prospects while showcasing the firm's knowledge.
- Email marketing programs that don't work, filling their client's and prospects inboxes with irrelevant junk, doing little to position their firm as helpful or trustworthy.
We looked at hundreds of thousands of email marketing campaigns from professional services firms worldwide to see the difference between good and bad email marketing campaigns.
In this post, we review the data behind 19 successful email marketing programs at law, consulting and advisory firms. We look at how they are performing and what makes their approaches much more effective than others in their industry.
The datasets we used to identify best practices for email marketing were:
- The industry benchmark for Professional Services from Campaign Monitor's 2022 Report.
- Anonymised data from a random subset of firms using Passle's Client Connect feature.
Smashing the benchmarks
The 19 firms we have anonymised here have adopted a professional services-specific, best practice approach to their email marketing.
We'll cover the specifics of what that best practice is, but first, let's compare a best practice approach to the industry average from Campaign Monitor.
Email effectiveness is generally broken down into three dimensions:
- Open Rate - The percentage of the total email list that opened the email.
- Click Rate - The percentage of the total email list that clicked within the email.
- Click-to-Open Rate - The percentage of email openers that clicked.
These three metrics together show how effective emails are at reaching and engaging clients and prospects. Let's take a look at how adopting a best practice approach impacts each metric.
A high open rate signals that your firm's expertise is making it in front of the people that matter.
The average firm in the dataset had an open rate 180% higher than the industry average, while the smallest improvement was at least 63% higher.
All four factors we'll look at from a best practice approach impact open rates, content, delivery, technology and feedback.
Consistently delivering excellent content from a trusted source is the difference between being dismissed as noise and positioning the firm's expertise directly in front of ideal clients.
A high Click Rate signals that your firm's expertise is valued by those that matter.
The average firm in our dataset had a Click Rate 16x higher than the industry average, with even the worst performing of the best practice firms performing 1.5x better.
Professional services firms tend to have relatively few clients, each of high value. The cornerstone of successful marketing in professional services is being able to demonstrate the expertise of the firm to those clients and prospective clients.
Being able to deliver relevant, valuable and interesting content is the difference between being one of the many emails your prospects opened that day and being the first item on their to-do list to contact.
Click-to-open rates function as a single metric to assess your email marketing, encompassing both Click Rate and Open rate.
Click-to-open = Open Rate x Click Rate
The firms in our report averaged 3x better Click-to-Open rates than the industry average.
A high Click-to-Open rate signals that the email marketing approach adopted by the firm is reaching the people that matter with content that they value.
Best practice professional services email marketing programs
In professional services markets, those firms that can position themselves as the most knowledgeable, capable and helpful win. Their competitors try to keep up.
The firms in the dataset above have worked out how to position their firms as valuable and helpful directly in front of the clients and prospects that matter.
Effective email marketing programs have four critical things in common:
- Excellent content (high value, relevance and trustworthiness)
High-value, relevant insights from identifiable and trusted authors at the firm are the cornerstone of all professional services marketing and email marketing is no different.
The firms in our data set generally published much more content, around more niche industry topics, in a much more useful way than their competitors. Instead of sending long, generic content, these firms are able to send digestible insights from their most knowledgeable people.
- Consistent, reader-managed delivery
One way or another, your audience will control their inbox. If you don't give your audience the ability to control exactly which content they receive and how frequently then you'll lose.
The firms in our dataset were regular in their emails, building trust through consistency, but the key to this is that they sent exactly what their clients and prospects asked for, exactly when they asked for it.
- Built for purpose technology
The technology behind how an email are delivered and how users should sign up to receive them are easily avoidable hurdles that trip up many savvy marketers.
Much of the difference between the firms in our best practice dataset and their industry competitors comes down to the best practice firms selecting software proven to work and letting it do the job.
Managers of effective email marketing programs spend much less time worrying about how their program is performing and much more time on the strategic components of marketing that influence the performance of the firm.
Email marketing is just one aspect of the firm's communication mix, the time, investment and expertise required to execute and maintain bespoke technology are better applied elsewhere. These extremely high-performing firms in our best practice dataset are proof of that.
- Feedback tailored for professional services firms
If an email marketing program is effective, but nobody at the firm can see the value it brings, then that program and what it brings to the firm are at risk.
An effective program demonstrates, in a way that is clear to the firm, the value that it brings. The metrics we've used above to assess the performance of the program are best used internally within the marketing team to understand performance.
A different approach is needed to show the impact email marketing has for the firm. The most effective way to do this in a professional services context is to show the firms and people engaging with the campaign at a granular level.
A practice group head won't care about a Click Rate or an Open Rate, but they will definitely care that firms representing 85% of their annual billings are clicking and reading their content every week.
What effective email marketing means for marketers and firms
The marketers that have built these programs have been successful because they solved these key best practice elements that other firms don't.
Where their competitors are sending less relevant, less valuable, less reader-centric content, these firms are winning attention in the online space and they are winning in the market.
These marketers are winning in their careers as a consequence.