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Build an Email Marketing Strategy That Pays Dividends Over Time
What comes to mind when you consider the phrase “email marketing?”
Most likely, you immediately think of all the unread emails in your inbox, which you know you’re never going to actually open. If that’s the case, then you’re undoubtedly wondering why your building industry business needs to use email marketing
The answer is simple — good email marketing will provide the right content to the right person at the right time to convert them into a customer!
Here’s a personal story that illustrates this:
I was once at a fundraiser for a local fire company. Sherwin Williams had their local rep there handing out goodies in exchange for emails. Even though I’ve never considered using Sherwin Williams for paint, I signed up just to support what she was doing.
For the next year, I ignored every email I received from Sherwin Williams. I literally never opened a single one.
After a year, I went through one of those phases where I unsubscribed from any marketing emails that I knew I’d never actually use. One day, a Sherwin Williams email came through, and I opened it with the intent to unsubscribe.
I discovered a coupon for 30% off. The email even told me that there was a store right down the street from where we lived at the time, which I never even knew. And the timing was perfect, because my wife had been wanting to paint the living room for some time.
Instead of unsubscribing, we went down to Sherwin Williams, used the coupon, spent hundreds of dollars, and came away very pleased with the experience. Two days later our living room was freshly painted! Not only that, but we made many follow-up purchases before selling that house.
In the above story, you can see how the following three phases occurred:
- Right Content: The email included a promotion to get me in the door and showed me where the door was.
- Right Person: They accurately identified me as a homeowner who would likely remodel and need paint.
- Right Time: This is tricky, because I did intend to unsubscribe. However, they persistently got into my inbox and eventually found me at a time when I was ready to paint a room in my house.
By following these three best practices, Sherwin Williams gained a customer simply by capturing my email over a year prior at that local fire company event.
This method will work for your business too. In fact, we do it every day for our clients in the building industry.
Email Marketing Strategy for the Building Industry: Setting Goals and Being Human and Helpful
Let’s take a closer look at the building blocks you need to find success with email marketing, starting with setting goals and being human and helpful. You’ll need to master both of these concepts if you want to be effective in reaching your target audience and giving them content they actually want to receive.
The first step to building a successful email marketing strategy is to begin at the end. Ask yourself, what is the goal of my strategy?
You can further break that question down into this: what is the goal of this campaign of emails?
Which can be further focused into another question: what is the goal of this specific email?
How you answer each of these questions will become the frame for achieving long-term success!
Here are some examples of how to think through each question from above:
- What is the goal of my strategy? An effective strategy is one that seeks to nurture contacts in your database through the buyer’s journey, including the Stages of Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. This should result in a specific number of contacts converting into customers at the end.
- What is the goal of this campaign of emails? A great goal is to educate your database on the solution to a problem that you believe they have while presenting them with the opportunity to open a conversation about how your business can solve that problem for them. Shoot for a specific number of contacts actually taking that opportunity to begin a conversation.
- What is the goal of this specific email? Each email’s goal should be to provide value that encourages the reader to take a specific action, such as clicking on the call to action (CTA) at the end, with a specific number of contacts taking that action.
In the examples above, you’ll notice that each section includes having a specific goal, such as an amount of people who click the CTA. You can track these goals by a percentage which allows you to benchmark performance regardless of how many people each email is sent to. For instance, if 20% of people click the CTA, that would be both 20/100 or 200/1,000. Benchmarking the percentage allows you to compare these emails consistently.
Remember, this is a process that takes time and constant adjusting. Setting goals is an ideal you’re working towards, and not every email is going to hit its goal. When this happens, you can be sure that the analytics for that email will have valuable insights into where you missed the mark. Then, you can take those insights and apply them to the next one for a better outcome.
Being Human and Helpful
Only talking about yourself and not providing helpful value to the reader is the fastest way to achieve a high unsubscribe rate, which is the exact opposite of what you want to experience with your email marketing campaign.
Our friends at HubSpot have wisely coined the term “human and helpful” as being at the core of what a good email marketing strategy should focus on.
Being human means thinking about the reader’s experience in the following ways:
- Why do they want to open your email?
- How will they feel about what’s written?
- If they’ve opened one, what reason did you give them to open the next email?
Being helpful means providing the following forms of value:
- Does each email have something relevant to the contact?
- Is it educational, or does it offer your reader the opportunity to find a solution for a problem they know they have?
- Does it position you as a trusted authority, while not coming across as smug or arrogant?
When building your strategy, designing campaigns, and writing a single email, keeping your goal in mind and writing to be “human and helpful” will provide you with the most return on the investment of your time, resources, and money.
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Capture Traffic and Build a List
You’re going to need a list of recipient email addresses before you can start email marketing.
Now, you can find many “gurus” out there giving you pitches on how to quickly and cheaply build massive lists. Usually their recommendations involve shady or downright illegal practices, which is something you want to avoid at all costs. There are regulations governing email marketing, and it’s possible to get into some pretty deep waters if you’re abusing peoples’ inboxes.
There’s a second, more impactful thing to consider, though. Why would you take the time to send an email to someone who wasn’t interested in your product or service?
It’s pretty simple — we all get too many emails. That makes it hard to stand out in someone’s cluttered inbox, especially if they weren’t expecting to hear from you.
The best thing you can do is to build a list from scratch by following our Website Optimization Guide for the Building Industry, which involves using HubSpot’s powerful forms and email marketing tools. Be sure to read that guide, as it’s the foundation upon which this entire email marketing strategy is built.
Ultimately, you’ll position forms and calls to action in front of your website visitors. In exchange for something they want, some of them will give you their contact information. This is how your list will grow!
Segment Your Email Marketing Lists
Segmentation is collecting relevant information about contacts to effectively group similar contacts together for marketing purposes. In other words, segmentation is all about sending the right email to the right person. This significantly raises your chances at making a conversion, which can help your business grow.
You may think that all your contacts are relatively the same, but you’ll be surprised at how different they can be. Every list of contacts or customers has many subsets that respond in different ways to different marketing messages.
Here’s an example of what this looks like in real life. Imagine a local community near you called “The Hideout”. It has a high volume of vacation homes, which means that these homeowners are often putting a lot of money into their homes during the summer months.
If you’re a remodeler in that area, it would be in your best interest to market strictly to homeowners in this community in the early spring. You can do this by asking contacts where they live when they sign up for your list!
This one little piece of data will allow you to build a list of people who only answered The Hideout to your community question. Then, you can go into HubSpot, build a list of people who live in The Hideout, and send them emails promoting summer renovation projects. Now you can send them emails that provide specific content for their unique needs and preferences.
Here are a few other ways you can segment your marketing lists:
- Full-time or part-time owner: Both types of people will have different property needs that you can target in specific ways.
- Lead source: The lead source is how the person found your company. Referrals convert much more highly than cold leads.
- Contact type: Does your company serve regular consumers, other businesses, or a mixture of both? Segment these categories to make sure you’re keeping your content relevant to the group at hand.
Segmentation is a slow and steady process. Keep at it, and try to learn as much as you can about the similarities and differences of contacts in your database.
HubSpot will classify your segments into lists. Their exceptionally powerful software can build lists from any mix of data points in a contact record which gives you the ability to focus down to even the most minute details.
Building effective lists is something of an art, but the overall concept is easy. Practice will make perfect, and the more you use the lists tool, the easier it will be for you to build pinpoint-accurate lists!
Pace and Consistency for Email Marketing
When you’re considering email marketing as a way to increase sales, two things can make or break your effectiveness:
Pace refers to how often you send a marketing email to your list of subscribers. Every business is different, so you’ll need to test different paces to see what your list prefers.
When we’re working with new clients, there’s a few things we look at to determine the pace of campaigns.
1. Are You Selling a Service or a Product?
Service-based businesses do well with a newsletter email, usually monthly or quarterly. This keeps your name and services on their minds without appearing pushy. In this type of business, customers don’t need your services all the time. But when they do, you want them to think of you.
Businesses that sell products will benefit from sales and educational email campaigns of a higher frequency, but the pace still depends on the product cost. Here’s are two different examples:
- Faster pace: If you run a home supply yard with lumber, tools, and other products, a weekly email with promotions and highlights will make sense to your subscribers.
- Slower pace: If you’re a custom home builder who only builds 3-6 homes per year, then a weekly email would be much too high of a frequency. In this case, you might want to consider a monthly or quarterly newsletter. There are some exceptions for short durations of higher frequencies, like if you’re running a promotion or need to sell another house ASAP.
2. How Expensive Is Your Product or Service, and How Much Do You Need to Sell in a Year?
Every business has a projected number of total sales they need to hit all their goals. Correct email marketing frequency plays a big part in meeting those sales numbers.
When considering your frequency, think through how many sales you actually need and how expensive your product is. If you only need a few big-ticket sales to fill up your year, you should send fewer emails than if you’re selling hammers and nails at your home supply yard.
3. How Do Your Buyers Get Your Product or Service?
In a world of instant gratification, your customers’ wait time matters. When determining frequency, consider how long your customers need to wait to receive your product or service.
If your customers can stop by and get it right now, then a higher email frequency can help you generate more impulse sales. If your customers need to wait weeks, months, or more than a year to receive it, then a lower email frequency is best. You’ll stay on their mind until they’re ready to commit to that bigger purchase.
Consistency is sticking to what you decide long enough to measure the outcome. This is where the magic really happens!
Starting something without sticking it out is a recipe for failure in any circumstance, and the same is true when you’re doing email marketing.
It could be really easy to skip one day, which turns into two days, and ultimately you look back and realize you’ve skipped the last 3 times you were supposed to send a newsletter.
Consistently sending your emails will give you a number of great opportunities:
- You’ll be building trust with your audience: If you said you would send a monthly newsletter, then your audience expects to hear from you monthly.
- You’re pulling a lever for your business that can produce immediate sales: When you send an email, you could be reaching someone who is ready to buy and remembers your business the moment your email shows up in their inbox.
- You’ll have the opportunity to study your metrics: This will give you further insight into how your list is responding so you can continually improve your email marketing strategy.
By determining a pace and then consistently sticking to it, you’ll be setting yourself up to enjoy the long-term success of a well-executed email marketing strategy!
Email Marketing Content and Design
You may have a solid email marketing plan, but you’ll only see real success if you’re sending emails that help generate increased sales for your business. The best results are going to arrive when you focus on both the content and design of your emails.
The first step to writing a successful email is to define the goal of that email. You need to know what value you are providing and what action you want the reader to take. Starting here gives you a frame for the entire process so you can know what you should — and should not — do.
If your goal in an email is to provide information about choosing lighting for a new home and are hoping that the reader will respond with further questions, you need to deliver quality content about home lighting. Introducing any other topic in that email would be misleading and unhelpful for your reader.
By keeping your emails focused, your readers will have a better experience and be more inclined to respond to your CTA.
Coming up with content to write about can be daunting. Here’s some of the topics we include in newsletters for our clients:
- Culture: Prospects love seeing more about the people and actions behind the scenes at a company. Have the confidence to pull back the curtain a bit! This can include team member highlights, exciting company news, or updates about new certifications.
- Education: Nothing holds someone’s attention like an educational email that answers the questions they’ve been asking! Education is at the core of most of the newsletters we write for our clients.
- Promotion: Promotion is important and should be included in every email in some way. Ask yourself, “What action do I want the recipient to take?” Then build your email to encourage that action. Another way to look at promotion is through physical sales or discounts. These can be great ways to boost email open and reply rates. And as always, avoid being spammy so your readers can feel like reading your email was a good use of their time.
- Social Media Links: The more places you can interact with your intended buyer, the more likely they are to purchase from you. For example, a well-written email including links to your Facebook Group can help grow that group more quickly. Then, you’ll be interacting with your target audience in two different locations, which will allow you to support the content from the email with more content in your Facebook Group, or vice versa!
Photos can have an amazing impact on the ROI of an email, but you should exercise moderation when including them. Too many photos could actually distract people from the goal of your email.
Use photos to support your conversion goal. If your topic is about beautiful log homes, and the goal is to schedule consultations, then a few photos are definitely going to excite your readers.
However, adding too many photos to that email could lead to unintended results. Your readers could spend too long looking at the pictures and get distracted by something else before reaching the CTA. Or, research-savvy readers may choose to take their own action and start researching something else related to the email’s content.
Another important element of visual content is background color. Change the colors in an area to draw attention to something. This will usually be your CTA, but it could also include a button to join your Facebook Group or a registration link for an upcoming webinar.
Enhance your readers’ experience with the right visual content, and you’ll have them looking forward to seeing each new email you send them.
The design of your email is another critical component for maximizing the effect of your email marketing strategy.
There are a few main components of design you should consider whenever you’re drafting a new email.
The first barrier you need to overcome for successful email marketing is called “selling the open.” This means actually getting the recipient to pay attention to your email!
The sender’s name, subject line, and preview text all work together to entice the recipient to open your email. The sender’s info should be specific and recognizable to the recipient, if possible.
Our best practice includes using the sales rep or the business name for the sending name, and that person’s email address for the sending email address. This leverages existing rapport from the beginning and shows that a real human in your business is reaching out to the recipient.
A strong subject line is one of the most important parts of your entire email operation.
Your subject line needs to stand out, create interest, or promise the solution to an existing problem in order for a majority of your recipients to consider opening the email.
Be creative with your subject line — without being spammy — to make sure your reader knows what to expect and why they should open your email.
Your preview text is the final puzzle piece to selling that open. If written well, it will further explain what the reader will find when they open the email.
We often take an interesting line or focal point of the email and use it again as the preview text.
AIDA — Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action
Great emails don’t write themselves. Thankfully, frameworks exist that maximize your ability to add value to your emails without having to become a professional copywriter first.
When writing the body of an email, you’ll want to remember the simple framework known as AIDA. AIDA is an acronym for the order in which you’ll write the content of your email. Here’s a breakdown of the process:
- Attention: The first thing that your viewers see or read should capture their attention. This may be a short section like a heading that reads, “Outdated Plumbing Can Cost You Thousands in Extra Repairs.” The goal is to gain their commitment to reading the rest of your email.
- Interest: Once you’ve captured their attention, it’s time to increase their interest. This helps them see how the problem/solution relates to their life/circumstances. Continuing our plumbing analogy, this would be a great spot for photos of outdated plumbing fixtures and questions that make the reader wonder whether the plumbing fixtures in their home are outdated, too.
- Desire: Now, you’ve captured their attention and proven that they should be interested in the content of your email. At this point, they need to actually want your product or service as the solution to their problem. Use social proof as a powerful form of validation here, such as a short testimonial from Barbara saying, “John and his crew replaced our fixtures with new, efficient ones. They look great, and we no longer have dripping faucets!”
- Action: The last piece of the equation is the most important — tell the reader what to do next! It seems so simple, but science has proven that people are motivated by being told what to do next. Adding a call to action, such as “reply to this email for your fixture assessment” or “click the button below to schedule an appointment” can be the difference between a successful email and one that gets no responses.
AIDA can be your simple, secret weapon to ensuring that you always write a good email. Sure, it’s still going to take some work to become proficient. But using a copy framework will align your efforts with success!
You’ve gone through all this effort, and now you can hit send, right?
Not without adding a closing, first!
This small detail adds so much value to your reader. If the email comes on behalf of a sales rep, we like to include their headshot, direct contact info, and a short greeting (excited to help on your project) in the closing. By doing this, readers will begin to feel as though they know the rep, even if they have yet to meet in real life.
When a physical or video meeting does happen, the prospect already knows what the rep looks like and hopefully has formed a favorable impression of the rep based on the emails received.
We also use a different background color to draw attention to this area, like a soft gray. This will help readers better find the closing section if they’re ever looking for contact information.
Now that your email is successfully written, what comes next?
The Steps to “Send”
If you’re using Hubspot’s email marketing tool, the next step is to “Review and Send” your email. Make sure you’ve segmented your list properly. Then select all the lists that should receive this email.
Next, choose who you don’t want your email going to. While this may seem unnecessary, the truth is that over time there will be contacts who don’t want to hear from you. Best practice is to build an “opt-out list” which adds addresses that opt out, bounce, or are unengaged with your emails for a long period of time.
Now, before you hit “send,” when should this email actually go out? Chances are, the “send now” option is not your best course of action.
Take a moment to think before sending. You’re probably writing this email during work hours. Which means that your ideal prospect may also be working, too. While there can be benefits to sending emails during work hours, we’ve found that noon or early evening works best for our customers.
Ultimately, you’ll want to test what works best for you, but those are two good places to start.
Finally, you can hit “Review and Schedule,” which will give you the chance to look everything over once more before confirming that all the details are right.
And with that, you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor! You’ve sent a well-executed email.
24 to 48 hours after sending your email, you’ll want to begin checking the analytics of how it performed. Make note of what did and did not go well so you can know what to do for the next email.
Over time, the results you see from following this process and analyzing the data will continue to build the momentum of your online marketing strategy.
Email Marketing Automation for Builders
Email marketing automation is the next piece of the puzzle. Unlike emails that you manually build and send, automated emails are built ahead of time and are automatically sent in response to a trigger event.
Trigger events are actions that a prospect takes, usually on your website. Two classic events are filling out a contact form and interacting with a chat bot. If you’ve ever given your email in either of these instances, you almost certainly got an automated email in response.
Automations provide significant benefits, such as:
- Removing the need for someone to send a templated response to each trigger event.
- Providing a perfectly timed response, whether that be immediately or next week. In many cases, responding to a lead within six minutes can make or break your results.
Despite all the benefits, you need to make sure you’re considering the following precautions:
- Keep it human: Automations rely on personalization tokens which are snippets that insert contact properties into predefined places. If the contact properties lack proper formatting, the email will appear disjointed when the recipient reads it. For instance, if an automated email spells the recipient’s name in all caps, it will be easy to tell that a human did not write it. Since one of the keys to email marketing is to be human, it’s critical that you continue to be so — even when using personalization tokens and automated emails.
- Keep it analyzed: Automated emails run on autopilot, so you may be tempted to skip analyzing them. Resist this temptation! Because they’re on autopilot, they are actually a great source of data about what is and is not working well about your email marketing strategy.
- Keep it relevant: Automated emails need to be relevant to the trigger event and recipient. As with regular email marketing, when building an automation you need to define the goal of the automated email. That will help to ensure that the recipient is expecting to receive it and gets value when they open it.
There’s an almost infinite number of ways that people can use automated emails in the building industry. With that in mind, here’s a few examples that can get your gears turning:
- Newsletter sign up: When a website visitor fills out a form requesting to receive your newsletter, an automated email is perfect for providing immediate value. You can say “thanks for signing up” and add something that a subscriber would find useful, such as a link to a PDF download containing relevant information.
- Contact form submission: When people fill out a contact form, an automated email can set the recipient’s expectations. For example, the email can say, “Thanks for contacting us! Your inquiry has been received, and normally we’re able to respond within 1-2 hours.”
- Consultation request: If you’re using forms that have meeting links for your sales team built in, you’ll definitely need to send automated confirmation emails that let the prospect know the details of the meeting they just booked. (If you’re not using meeting link forms, they’re a fantastic, low-friction way to get your hottest leads directly into a meeting with your sales staff.)
- Schedule confirmation: Automated emails can still be useful after a contact converts into a customer. One of our favorite scheduling tools, Jobber, features powerful text and email automations that can keep your clients up-to-date with the status of their job or the arrival of your crews.
Combining Both Strategies
Now that you know how to run a successful email marketing strategy and how to build powerful automations in response to triggers, it’s time to put it into action.
Begin building automated emails in response to your form inquiries. This will get you some practice writing relevant emails, and it provides immediate value to visitors who fill out the form.
After that, begin implementing the newsletter strategy. As you develop this strategy, you’ll be encouraging your previous visitors to return to your site. Over time, this will help them see value in what you provide and some of them will become delighted customers!
Who Will This Guide Help?
This Ultimate Guide to Internet Marketing for the Building Industry will help anyone whose business is related to building, repairing, maintaining, or improving homes and properties.
From one-man plumbing companies to multi-million dollar custom home builders, we’ve used this process to attract these companies’ ideal prospects and help them convert to satisfied customers.
By carefully reading and implementing the processes in this guide, you can build a strong internet marketing strategy to help your business achieve long term-growth!
Who Wrote This Guide?The Coutts Agency is a family owned online marketing agency focused on helping building-industry business owners use the internet to attract and convert their ideal client. Our background in building industry sales and marketing provides us with unique authority on attracting and converting leads through internet marketing.
We’re your Building Industry Marketing Partner!
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