Effective Email Marketing
Originally published: 09.01.17 by David Heimer
Email marketing can be an incredibly effective tool for contractors. Unfortunately, most contractors do a really bad job with it. I don’t say that lightly; for several years, I’ve looked at email marketing from HVACR contractors and much of it is unattractive, poorly conceived and inefficient.
Get Your Email Opened
When you send email to a prospect or a customer, what do you want them to do with it? Open it, of course!
Email recipients mostly use two pieces of information to determine if they will open the email: 1) Who it’s from (the sender) and 2) What it’s about (the subject).
Unfortunately, many contractors use a “no reply” sender email address. What does “no reply” tell the recipient? It’s like a “talk to the hand” signal. It hardly inspires a dialogue.
Your “sender” should be a real person at your company email address — not Gmail, Yahoo or any other third-party address. If you have a company icon, spokesperson or face of the company, use that name.
The subject line is precious real estate. You have only a small space to deliver a compelling reason to open the email. Don’t waste that space with extraneous words.
What’s compelling? People open email that is useful and interesting to THEM — not what is useful and interesting to YOU.
Many HVACR contractors email technical subjects to their customers. Sure, you like that information and I like that information, but most homeowners aren’t that interested. Use subjects and subject lines that are interesting and valuable to your customer.
“Your Latest (company name) HVAC Newsletter” — Really Bad
“Perfect Places For Ductless Heating and Cooling” — Bad
“Stop Fighting Over the Thermostat!” — Better
“Inexpensive Ways To Make Your Home Healthier” — Good
“4 Home Safety Tips You Should Know” — Excellent
The subject doesn’t need to be about HVACR. Position yourself as a company interested in the well-being of its customers. That frees you from needing to find HVACR-related subjects. Humor is also good. People want to be entertained. Humor can backfire, however, so be careful with it and keep it family-friendly.
In choosing your subjects and subject lines, consider your recipients — 60-70 percent of HVACR purchase decisions are made by women. It’s likely that a similar percentage of your email list is women.
LQ Hunter, the Service Nation email guru says the lists he manages for HVACR contractors are 56 percent women. Make your email subjects and subject lines women-centric and family-friendly.
Don’t send your email too often. Once every two weeks or once a month is about right. Once a week is the max. More often will cause your email to be ignored. Timing of the email is often overlooked.
“Timing is just as important as your subject line,” Hunter says. “Your open rates will suffer if both aren’t well thought out. Schedule your email to arrive Monday through Thursday before noon.”
Design for Preview Panes
Some people use a “preview pane” to look at the first part of an email. What they see in the preview pane helps them determine whether they will open and read the rest of the email.
Knowing this, you want the first part of your email (the part displayed in the preview pane) to be interesting and enticing.
Don’t fill this part with boring, uninteresting factoids such as the date it was sent, information about you and your company or boring headlines.
If you’re sending a newsletter with multiple articles, it may be good to organize your newsletter so the table of contents is displayed in the preview pane, assuming the table of contents has interesting topics written in an attention-grabbing headline style.
More than half of all email is opened on a mobile device, so your email must be mobile friendly. Limit the size of the images, and make the email effective with no images because some mobile email clients will stop images or make them optional (this includes your call to action).
Design for a narrow email window, approximately 25-30 characters wide. Be succinct (that’s a good rule for all email platforms). Don’t force the reader to click through to read your email — that’s extra slow and tedious on a mobile device.
Use an Email Marketing System
A few of the contractor emails I collected were sent out using massive “BCC” lists. Don’t do that. Your deliverability rates will drop and you’ll probably damage your email reputation.
Use a good email marketing system. There are many to choose from: Constant Contact, MailChimp and AWeber are just a few examples. These systems will improve your deliverability rate and provide useful key performance indicators (KPIs).
While we’re on the subject of KPIs, email systems generate a lot of data and KPIs. Some are useful and some are not.
“Pay attention to open rates, click through rates, number of bounce backs, unsubscribes and spam designations,” Hunter says. “Some people pay attention to the opens by length of subject line or how soon it was opened. I think those and other similar KPI’s are not useful.”
Call to Action
Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, you may or may not want a call to action. I like a call to action on every email.
There are a lot of options: coupons, special offers, free downloads, requests for more information, quotes, free energy analyses or home audits.
Be creative and be fun.
Hire An Expert
You probably didn’t join this industry because you’re a good writer and have email expertise. Most contractors don’t write well, and even if you can, your time is too valuable for that.
Hire someone or outsource your email marketing.
With respect to email marketing, industry expertise is important. Hiring a generic email marketer isn’t a good idea. You should look for someone who understands and has experience in the home services industry.
They should be able to create compelling copy, provide excellent delivery and open rates, discuss relevant KPIs and show you how to measure your return on investment.
One caution, some email marketers use your email to help promote THEM. Obviously you want to minimize or eliminate that. Their job is to market YOU.
Email Marketing I Love
I’ve never met John Prichett, I don’t know him, and I’ve never done any business with him, but every month I look forward to reading his email. John is a Realtor in the Dallas area.
Near the end of every month he sends an email that lists all the major events occurring in the DFW area for the next month.
The email is sectioned by Theater, Broadway Shows and Musicals, Dance, Concerts, Other Performing Arts, Museums, Zoos and Aquariums, Festivals and Sports. It contains the contact information for all the venues and the dates for the events. This email is useful, informative and saves time.
John’s call to action is really simple and understated: “Oh, by the way, if you know someone thinking about buying, selling or renting a home, I’d be happy to help them.” And it has his contact information.
Does it work? I haven’t sold or bought a home recently, but I certainly remember his name!
Email marketing is a great tool and a great opportunity. There’s a lot more to email marketing than I can cover in one column, but I hope this will give you some ways to make your email marketing more effective for you.