3 Ways to Use Email Marketing to Build Your Business

By Mitch Lapides, President, FulcrumTech, LLC

Email marketing is one of the most effective and affordable promotional tools available today. In this month's feature, we give you 3 great strategies for using email marketing to boost your business, plus we provide 7 quick tips for creating a successful email campaign.

1. Develop an Email Newsletter and Look Like an Expert
Building a list of people who have requested to hear from you is the first step to successful email marketing. And it all starts with the e-newsletter because that's the list and brand builder. An e-newsletter accomplishes 3 major objectives:

  • Builds your email list
  • Increases your brand awareness
  • Presents you as the expert.

In this way, an email newsletter helps you achieve the long-term goals of building customer retention and loyalty. When you have something new to announce, your subscribers will trust and listen to you because you're the expert.

To create an effective newsletter it's important to keep it short, interesting and informative. For plumbing and HVAC contractors, a typical newsletter could easily include:

  1. The Big Idea. In a feature article, highlight a great idea for a new fixture or appliance that can deliver an aesthetic upgrade or strong cost savings to a home or business. Consider including a picture or two to show off one of your company's recent projects related to the topic.

  2. Keeping Things Running. Provide a timely plumbing/HVAC maintenance reminder or tip. This is a subtle way of suggesting them to call you to schedule maintenance or repairs.

  3. Service Improvements. Discuss news about your business that focuses on a benefit to your customers. Some examples could include:

    o Working with a great interior designer (who refers the installation to you)
    o Using the Weinstein showrooms to display the various models customers can choose from
    o New extended hours.

2. Use Promotional Email to Cultivate A Relationship with Your Customers
Communication is a vital part of all relationships, and promotional email is another way to help keep your company "top of mind" with customers year round. So when they need your products or services - or someone they know does - you will be the one they call or refer to.

And promotional email is both effective and cost-efficient. According to research done by the Direct Marketing Association, for example, email marketing generated a return-on-investment of $48.34 for every dollar spent on it in 2007.

Some ways to keep in touch with, while gently promoting to, customers via email throughout the year include:

  • A thank you to customers after completing a job
  • Seasonal maintenance reminders and tips
  • A brief survey asking what they liked about your services and what you could do better
  • Company news, such as new hires, expanded hours or services, new product lines, company-sponsored events, etc.
  • Preferred customer promotions
  • Holiday greetings

3. Generate New Leads with Referral Email
Since referrals are a major way plumbing and HVAC contractors generate leads for new business, use email to make referring easier for your customers. Here are tips on how to best use email for boosting your referral rates:

  • Make it easy for your customers to forward your emails or e-newsletters to friends by including "Send to a Friend" functionality. This allows recipients to click a button, type in an email address and send the email to a friend. (This functionality is available with most email marketing services, such as those listed below.)
  • Offer an incentive for customers to forward your email. For example, include a coupon for a discount off future work for customers who refer you. It might be just the encouragement they need.

Email Marketing Resources
Keep in mind that it's important for your promotional emails and e-newsletters to look professional. There are numerous Web-based companies that provide email-marketing products - such as e-newsletter templates - for small and large businesses alike.

In addition, you may find your company's email marketing program could eventually use more capabilities and features. An email service provider (ESP) may be what you need to help deliver emails, host images and ensure your emails are CAN-SPAM-compliant. Here are a few examples of some low-cost "do-it-yourself" email distribution tools:

Today most of your customers use the Internet to communicate. So you'll find investing some time, effort and a portion of your advertising budget to developing an effective email marketing strategy should pay off nicely in the future.

7 Quick Tips for Creating a Successful Email Marketing Campaign

  1. When building an email list, add only those customers and prospects that have agreed to be there.

  2. Always give your email recipients the chance to "opt out" of your list.

  3. Let your customers and prospects know that their information is safe with you, and you won't share it with anyone else.

  4. Don't send too many emails to avoid annoying your recipients.

  5. Be sure to include contact information for customer service in each and every email.

  6. Put your company's name in the "from" box so recipients know instantly who it's from.

  7. Don't make recipients read too much copy before getting to the point of your message - it' important to strike a balance between being concise and giving the amount of information needed.

About the Author: Mitch Lapides is president and founder of FulcrumTech - a full-service interactive marketing agency that specializes in all aspects of online promotion including email newsletters and campaigns, as well as Web site development and optimization.