E-mail marketing in three easy steps

Are you using e-mail to stay in touch with your customers? If not, why not?

Are you using e-mail to stay in touch with your customers? If not, why not? It’s the easiest and least expensive way to communicate with your customers and to stay top of mind. Here’s how to do it with the least fuss.

Select an e-mail service provider: You do not want to send e-mail from your personal or business account. Sending business mail from your personal account looks unprofessional. It’s what you might expect from a handyman.

When you send e-mail from your business account, you place it at risk. It doesn’t take many consumers flagging you for spam to find your domain blacklisted. Then, you will have trouble getting your e-mail delivered to anyone. Even if a blacklisting isn’t a concern, simply managing the mail list opt outs, cleaning out bad addresses, dealing with bounces, and so on, makes it too laborious for most busy contractors.

The best solution is to use an e-mail service provider, such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, or any one of several hundred other companies. E-mail service providers are “whitelisted” for better delivery from Internet service providers, meaning your mail has a better chance of getting delivered. In addition, the e-mail service provider offers design templates and other tools to help your mail appear more attractive. The e-mail service provider provides a double opt in, helps you manage bounces and bad addresses, takes care of unsubscribe requests, and generally makes list management simple. It’s definitely worth the small price most e-mail service providers charge.

Craft your messages: For many plumbing contractors, the message is the most challenging part.  What do you write about? Write about the same thing you would in a consumer newsletter.

While every message should contain a promotion (i.e., a special offer), every message cannot be totally promotional or you will lose subscribers. If you want your mail to be read, write about things that interest your customer. Write about her home. Write about things to do with kids, recipes, the local community. Write about water conservation, tankless water heaters, bathroom mini-makeovers, adding grab bars, why homes should have flood alarms, and so on.

Communicate with your customers by e-mail on a monthly basis. One month a quarter, send your customers an e-mail version of your newsletter and include a coupon related to a newsletter article. Another month, provide a consumer information piece and include a coupon. On the final month, make a “family and friends” special offer that they can forward to others.

Build your list: Consumers are more reluctant to share an e-mail address than a credit card number. To collect e-mail addresses, give people a reason to share their e-mail addresses. Make it in their interest. When the homeowner calls for service, offer to e-mail a picture and bio of the plumber you will be dispatching to their home.

Don’t like the bio idea? Instruct your call taker to ask the homeowner if she will be using a coupon. If not, offer to e-mail her a coupon for $10 off today’s service. 

Include space for an e-mail address on all forms and invoices. Request it every time you request an address and phone number. 

To make your company more environmentally friendly, announce that you are eliminating carbonless copies. Tell homeowners you can mail or e-mail a copy of the service invoice.

Whenever someone presents you with a business card, say, “Great, you’ve included your e-mail address. If you don’t mind, I’m going to add you to our newsletter list.”

Home and garden shows present another opportunity. Don’t forget to include an opportunity to sign up for your newsletter and money saving e-mail offers at every home show. 

Don’t overlook your website. Offer to send people a coupon when they subscribe to your e-mail newsletter through your website.

Do not buy a list. Even if a purchased e-mail list is legitimate, the people on the list did not give you permission to e-mail them. Your mail will inevitably be seen as spam, which may cause your e-mail service provider to drop you.

Keep at it!Building an e-mail list takes effort, but the payoff is reduced communication expense, a stronger relationship with the people on your list, and a more profitable company.

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, which is the website for cutting-edge plumbing ideas from the leaders in the industry. Visit www.ServiceRoundtable.com or call 877/262.3341 for a free tour.

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