One of the most cost-effective ways to communicate with customers is email. The last thing you want to do is to be known for SPAM, so there are some precautions to take. But knowing the rules of the game and developing a process for collecting email addresses are important first steps. Once you have these down, using email effectively can help you increase customer loyalty with little cost and effort.
Let’s explore the topic and discuss the ins and outs of contractor email marketing.
It Takes Good Data
A few weeks back we wrote about increasing sales by maintaining a strong customer database. While the article was written for HVAC companies, most contractors can benefit from the points it covered. The biggest note to take from that article is that you need a great customer database to market effectively.
To build a strong email database requires two things: asking for email addresses and keeping data current. Without the first, you won’t have any place to start. And without the second you’ll run into compliance issues or anger your customers. Imagine a customer who wasn’t satisfied with your work receiving a promotion only a few weeks later. Not only would it upset them, but if they unsubscribed from your emails you would be in violation of the CANSPAM Act (more about that later).
Collect Email Addresses
There are a number of ways to collect email addresses from prospects and customers alike.
Digital Marketing for Contractors
Download this free, 20-page guide that will walk you step-by-step through building an online presence. From your website to SEO to social media, you’ll learn tips and ideas to help you succeed. Download Now.
- New Prospects – When someone calls to schedule an appointment with you, ask for their email address in addition to other contact details. Sometimes it helps to have something to offer, like a reminder email the day before the appointment. But simply asking will often help you get the details.
- Website Leads – Likewise, ask for their email address on your website. Most email marketing tools provide lead forms that you can use directly on your site. Just make sure your contact forms have a checkbox giving you permission to add them to your email list.
- During Appointments – When you’re onsite with a customer, make sure to add their email address to any estimates, invoices, receipts, contracts, etc. All documents you have them sign or fill out should also ask for an email address.
- Call and Ask – During a slow time of year, have someone from the office call and touch base with customers. Let them know that you’ll be sending out promotions or updates and that you’d like to make sure you have their email address on file.
No matter what approach you take, make sure you’re regularly asking for email addresses. This will help you build your database quickly!
Keep Your Data Up-to-Date
As was pointed out above, you don’t want to run into issues by not keeping your database current. One of the most important reasons is to follow the law of the land in the United States – The CAN-SPAM Act. This law enacted in 2003 outlines the basic rules of sending emails to consumers. With stiff fines and penalties, it’s important to follow the rules each and every time. The basics include:
- Offer a way to unsubscribe or opt out of your mailings
- Honor opt-out or unsubscribe requests in a timely manner
- Don’t lie or be deceptive in your subject line, email content, or anywhere in the email
- Identify yourself in every email (including a mailing address) and note that you are sending a commercial email or ad
Beyond following email marketing laws, you’ll want the data in your email list to help you identify who should receive your email. If you installed a new HVAC system last month and signed a maintenance agreement with the Smiths, then they don’t want to get an email offering a special on new HVAC installs. The more information you can keep in your customer database, the better you’ll be able to target and send the right message to the right people.
Use Email Marketing Software
There are a lot of great tools for managing email marketing. One great place to start is with a product like MailChimp. They offer a free tier as you get started and learn the basics. If that’s not a fit for your business, do a quick search and you’ll see that there are a lot of other great options to choose from.
Once you’ve chosen the right tool for you, it’s easy to manage your email list. If you have a CRM tool, like FieldPulse, Salesforce, Zoho CRM or something else, you’ll want to keep these two tools in sync. Make sure that you always have the latest information available in your email marketing tool before you hit send.
Overall, email marketing software will allow you to keep track of all of your lists and emails. Each product is a little bit unique, but almost all support maintaining different lists or segments, adding custom fields to track important information, and email templates for different needs. Using a tool like this will give you a jumpstart on your efforts and allow you to track results.
Keep in Touch Regularly for Better Customer Loyalty
Now that you know who your customers are, have them well-segmented, and you’re using an email marketing tool, it’s important to keep in touch regularly. In today’s digital age, staying in touch with customers doesn’t need to be difficult.
Emails can be used to say thank you (like on anniversary dates, birthdays, or other special occasions), promote a service or product when you want to increase sales, to stay in touch with relevant updates from your field, collect customer feedback, and much more. With almost unlimited uses, email should be a regular part of your customer communications.
Send emails every month to keep current and top of mind – waiting too long will make your list become stale. Remind people of the maintenance they should be doing, whether they’re on a service plan or not. Share seasonal updates that prompt them to call you (like checking your A/C before summer or checking for leaks before it starts freezing).
Taking Email to the Next Level
Email communications can become an important part of building your contractor business. By capturing email addresses, keeping your data current, using a good email marketing tool, and communicating regularly, you’ll be on top of the email game.
What other ways have you used email to generate business? Or any tips for your fellow business owners? Share them in the comments below.