Contractors who want to connect with prospective clients, as well as stay in the forefront of the minds of former clients and other home professionals, should consider creating an e-newsletter to email to subscribers every month.
The advantages of doing this are many. Newsletters are a great way to improve client retention. Similar to website videos, the purpose of your e-newsletters should be to provide a public service, but the marketing value to you is built in. Contractors can acquire a free, customizable template from specialist vendors, such as MailChimp or Constant Contact.
Many e-newsletters are designed to be smartphone-compatible. Subscribers can scan a QR code that you can have printed on your brochures and business cards, and this allows them to read your latest news on their mobile devices so that they don’t need to be glued to their laptops.
Emailing the newsletter is free if you have fewer than a couple of thousand subscribers (terms vary by vendor). In exchange, you’ll receive reports and updates detailing who reads your newsletter, which can alert you to do some friendly and timely follow-up.
How to Acquire (and Not Acquire) Subscribers
Contractors should always save contact information and sort their email contacts in their online address book for business purposes. Take advantage of the fields in your address book that allow you to fill in reminders and details about who each contact is, be they real estate professionals you’ve worked with (or ones you’re trying to get to know), building suppliers, past clients, and those who have expressed an interest in your work. This makes inviting clients and industry colleagues to subscribe to your e-newsletter easy.
You can also trade and/or pay a fee for email lists from service vendors, building suppliers and real estate professionals. You can troll for prospective subscribers in the public domain. Don’t forget that those who lead you to prospective clients are themselves good candidates to become regular newsletter subscribers. Don’t discount the long-term in any marketing endeavor.
Start by emailing these lists of prospective subscribers a sample of what your newsletters include by way of an announcement, along with a link to your website, and a few headlines or the first sentence or two of an informational article that hooks your readers.
You must be careful not to send these contacts your entire e-newsletter unsolicited; they must opt in by actively subscribing, using a link that you provide them that you get from your newsletter service. Otherwise, you will be in violation of federal spam laws. It’s also a good way to alienate potential clients and strain current business relationships; busy people don’t like to have their time disrespected by being sent spam from business contacts who flout both federal regulations and commonsense ‘netiquette.
Keep It Simple
Once you’ve worked out the terms of your e-newsletter with your service of choice, take some time to develop your template. Keep the name of your e-newsletter uncomplicated and easy to recognize so that recipients will instantly associate it with your business.
Keep the design simple and the layout easy to read; too many visuals, including colors and animation, may detract from your content, which should be your newsletter’s focus.
Most subscribers don’t automatically permit the display of images. Your newsletter should be designed with that in mind and not rely heavily on images to be understood.
There are some elements that all online newsletters must have, including:
- a brief description or logline of what your newsletter is, such as “A Monthly Newsletter from ABC Construction”;
- an “unsubscribe” link for recipients who want to opt out of receiving your newsletter;
- a contact link to notify you (or your newsletter vendor/manager) of any technical glitches;
- your business contact information; and
- a copyright notation for each issue.
What to Include in Your eNewsletters
Give careful thought to the order of each item you include in each issue, and its general theme and flow. For a small fee or barter, you can include ads from suppliers and vendors; however, remember that the thrust of your newsletter is informational and not a sneaky way to monetize and purvey third-party advertising, so any ads you include should be lower in the presentation lineup.
Readers scan newsletters. You want to make it easy to find something of interest to them. The more content your eNesletter contains, the more important it is to include an eye-catching table of contents. The items in your table of contents should link to their corresponding areas of the newsletter for easy navigation.
Other items you can incorporate:
- a “Here’s what ABC Contracting is up to this month”-type of article to maintain a sense of timeliness;
- consumer-related articles that you or someone you commission can write. Keep these topical and seasonal;
- informational articles that are relevant to suppliers, such as the dangers of Chinese drywall;
- informational articles that are of interest to the real estate profession, such as local housing trends;
- a link to your website;
- direct links to your website’s videos;
- images of projects in progress (after acquiring any necessary permissions, which you can forgo by providing prior notice in your client contract);
- images of your staff and crew in action;
- information and links for community events, especially those sponsored by you or that you’ll be participating in;
- links to sites that are important to you (although you should be careful that these are not so politicized that you will alienate any prospective clients); and
- informational articles and links in the public domain that are relevant to your business activities.
What Not to Include
With the exception of ads and static information that your readers will expect to see every month, each of your newsletters should contain fresh content, and this rotating content should be prominently featured in your newsletter. Keep the static items lower in the presentation lineup. Remember that the purpose of your newsletter is to cultivate new business.
So, don’t include:
- personal information, such as family vacation photos or details about activities not related to your business;
- gossip or criticism about anyone or their business. Rumor-mongering or trashing colleagues and fellow members of the community will do more damage to your image than your target’s, and it’s a surefire way to turn off both old clients and new ones. Furthermore, you could be sued for defamation or libel;
- political, religious and other hot-button topics. A business newsletter is not an appropriate forum for such opinions;
- sounds, music, large images or animation that may take a while to load, which can cause your readers to close your newsletter without reading it;
- any content or links to content that may be considered adult in nature; or
- copyrighted information or images. Do not plagiarize content and pass it off as your own. If there’s something online that you really want to include in your newsletter, you must first ask for permission from the copyright holder (the creator or license holder) in order to link to it. However, remember that your ultimate goal is to drive traffic to your website, so make sure the content has some unique or undeniable value before going to that trouble. Including content and links that send your readers away from your newsletter should be a rare option that you provide (with the exception of ad providers).
eNewsletter Data and What to Do with It
The data collected by your newsletter manager is essential information that will help you methodically design your subsequent newsletters. Also, it will help you conduct personal follow-up, based on your individual subscriber’s reading trends. You should take advantage of these user metrics, as generating leads is the main reason for launching a newsletter in the first place. Good marketing is anticipating what your clients want, and the algorithms involved in collecting user data make your users’ interests and habits very easy for you to track.
TIP: Read this article on Client Communication.
The data you can get from your newsletter manager includes:
- how many people click on or open your emailed newsletter;
- who these people are;
- when they open your newsletter. Special alerts can prompt you to follow up with subscribers personally, which they will really appreciate;
- how much time users spend reading your newsletter;
- how often particular users read your newsletter by monthly trends;
- which links within the e-newsletter get clicked on the most and which get clicked on the least, including those of vendors;
- the geographical location of your subscribers; and
- interactive features, such as auto-respond messages and online polls. These can add a personal touch for each user’s experience, which can ignite their anticipation for future issues.
Once you have acquired data, you can make marketing decisions based on it, such as what content is popular and what’s unpopular (including ad providers), how much time users can realistically devote to reading your newsletter (which may lead you to shorten it, if it’s especially long), and what they’d like to see in your issues that you don’t yet provide.
As well as demonstrating that you’re comfortable with online technology, e-newsletters can arguably gather more information for you than you actually provide in them. By committing a few evenings or weekends each month, you can use interesting articles and information that you run across and save for yourself anyway and insert them in your newsletters. You’ll also become more motivated to research industry trends on a regular basis, and you can parlay your discoveries into fresh newsletter content. A newsletter lets you to compile this information and package it attractively, and rewards you by automatically filtering through all the users’ details to provide you with the solid information you need to help you focus your marketing efforts for acquiring new business. It’s easier than you think, so start exploring this low- to no-cost opportunity now.
TIP: Send your former clients a newsletter that makes them feel like an “insider” who’s connected to you while you’re subliminally marketing to them. As an example, tell them about a new, unique tool you acquired and what it does.
Creating Customer Profiles for Marketing Purposes.
From a marketing standpoint, there is nothing like delivering the right message to the right prospect, at the right time. There is little sense in wasting money on advertising that reaches prospects who have no use for your products or services. To customize messages for your potential clients, you need to have information about them–information that you intentionally gather and store. This information can also be used to create loyal customer relationships, whether those clients are repeat customers or whether they refer you to other new customers.
As an example of how customer profiling works, it’s been proven that online purchasing is enhanced when buyers are shown other choices similar to ones they’ve already made, or from vendors they’ve already purchased from, or even those whose sites they’ve simply browsed. These “recommendations,” such as those shown while you’re shopping on Amazon.com, or the scrolling ads that appear in your free email account window, are the result of mining stored data using cookies and analytics. But just because you may be a one-person operation doesn’t mean that you can’t do some of this valuable data-mining yourself, old-school.
Here are some examples of things you should consider trying to capture when “profiling” your contracting customers:
- The customer’s age
- Income level
- Education level
- Personality (i.e., Were they pleasant to interact with? Did they attend their inspection?)
- Is the customer a do-it-yourselfer?
- How long has the family been in the home?
- Personal interests and hobbies (as evidenced by items around the home)
- Do they have pets?
- Household size and composition
- Single parent with small children?
- Single parent with school-age children?
- Single parent with teenage children?
- Couple with small children?
- Couple with school-age children?
- Couple with teenage children?
- Couple with children living away from home?
- Extended family in the home (such as elderly parents/grandparents)?
- Any special-needs family members?
You should also compile data about the home itself, such as:
- The age of the home
- The size of the home
- The last sale price of the home (and last assessed taxes)
- Any outbuildings, such as garages or barns?
- Does the home have a swimming pool?
- What type of roof?
- What major repairs are evident?
- What upgrades have been made (and when) according to any permits that were required to be drawn? (This information is often available through the property’s tax assessment records.)
Don’t forget to track and update information having to do with your own interaction and transaction(s) with your clients, such as:
- Products and services you have previously sold them
- What did they buy?
- Reasons for buying?
- How often do they buy?
- How did they hear about you?
- Review site?
- Friends or family?
- Real estate professional?
- Trade show?
- Print ad?
- Products and services you have previously marketed to them
- How did they prefer to communicate with you?
- By phone?
- By email?
- What were the results of the Client Satisfaction Survey Client Satisfaction you asked them to fill out the last time you worked for them?
You can gather all this information from a number of sources, including on the jobsite, from your own client paperwork, and from public records (such as those found in person or online through the county tax assessor’s department, and other public sources). Each time you interact with your customer, his/her profile should evolve.
By entering this data into a basic spreadsheet program, you can not only keep track of client data in an organized way, but you can use certain information for occasional targeted campaigns that focus only on certain clients in certain areas or those having specific identifiers or demographics.
If you send out monthly e-newsletters to your past clients, you can use some of this information to customize them for your subscribers. This personalized touch will make your marketing memorable.
TIP: Read this article on Upon Completion of the Construction Project.
It’s not necessary (and not very smart time- or money-wise) to launch only single-note, generic advertising campaigns and then cross your fingers and hope they reach someone who needs what you’re offering. These days, it’s easier than you think to actually target clients who want your services.
There is a surprising amount of easy-to-access customer information that you can plug into your own marketing plan, and some of it you simply have to observe or ask for; the rest you can find online, and without paying for it, like the big dogs do. So, make the most of your marketing by customizing the right message to “hyper-target” the right customer at the right time.