When I ask remodelers what marketing tactics they rely on most, the No. 1 answer is almost always referrals. That’s as it should be, for an obvious reason: Referrals come from a credible third party, so your company becomes instantly trustworthy. The only real problem is that referrals are mostly out of your control. You have to hope that a customer knows someone who’s going to remodel and that the customer remembers to drop your name.
Next on the list after referrals are the usual suspects: canvassing, coupon mailers (Valpak anyone?), print ads, direct mail, radio spots, and so on. The benefit of tactics like these is that, unlike referrals, you can get your message to the masses. These tactics are costly, but they can be a valuable and effective part of your marketing plan. But to get the full benefit of these marketing tactics, you need to commit to long-term campaigns, and that’s something that few remodelers do. Many, in fact, will try a tactic once, then give up on it.
Game of Luck
This is what I call the “Casino Strategy.” Regardless of the tactic you choose, the success of doing it only once relies heavily on luck. Since it takes repetition to achieve top-of-mind awareness and brand recall with consumers, doing a one-off campaign means you’re hoping your message will hit home with a prospect at the very moment that they:
- Have a need or desire for your service
- Have the money to spend on your service
- Have a motivation to proceed that outweighs the desire to keep their money.
Put another way, it’s very much like putting a $10 casino chip on Red-12 at the roulette table. Yes, this number will certainly hit at some point in time. But will it happen when your chip is on the table? Not likely, so your one-off campaign misses the mark. To make this strategy work, you have to keep putting that $10 chip down over and over, hoping this will be the time when Red-12 hits.
It’s the same with remodeling prospects. You have to engage in a long-term campaign to make sure you’re “on the table” when the prospect is ready for you. This is what makes the casino strategy so costly. Wouldn’t it be something if there were a magic casino chip that could sit on Red-12 for the next 30, 50, or 100 spins of the wheel without further investment?
The Magic Chip
Believe it or not, there is. What we’re looking for is a marketing tactic that combines the widespread coverage of casino strategy tactics with the trust factor that referrals bring, at little to no cost to you.
Have you guessed the tactic yet? It’s email marketing. Email marketing allows you to stay in constant contact (pardon the pun) with customers and prospects and helps you to build relationships and earn trust. Best of all, it costs next to nothing to send messages over and over and over again.
So why do fewer than 10 percent of remodelers have an active email marketing program in place? My guess is that it’s the same reason why people would rather put $500 into a casino than into a savings account: the potential of immediate return. An email marketing program can take months, if not years, to see big results. But the long-term benefits are there to be had.
It’s Easier Than You Think
The biggest obstacle to overcome is the seemingly daunting task of building your list. But you can start with an audience that you may be overlooking: past customers. Then move to the phone calls and emails you receive. Your website gets traffic, I assume? How about the events you hold and the home shows you participate in?
Once this list is assembled, building relationships with this audience will accelerate your growth. Your list is arguably the most valuable asset in your business. If you’re not actively trying to build and maintain a list, then you’re not only missing out on a marketing opportunity, you’re missing an opportunity to increase your company’s value.
Promote it. You have to get the word out, so promote your subscription email service or newsletter in everything you do—on your trucks, in your print ads, on your business cards, even on your estimates. And don’t be afraid to be aggressive and take it offline with some casino tactics too. You could, for example, paper a neighborhood with your newsletter sign-up as the primary message. What do you think will yield a higher response: “Get a free tip in your email” or “Get a free quote”?
Keep It Real
In my opinion, you shouldn’t get caught up in the hype of fancy HTML emails and newsletters. You don’t want to make the reader feel as though they’re just part of a list. Plus, most email services won’t download images by default, which means that pretty email is going to look very ugly at first glance.
Great emails start conversations. One good way to do this is to simply ask for a reply! It reminds the reader that you’re human, that you care about her, and that you want to help. As an added bonus, email algorithms, such as Gmail, take note of email addresses that are responded to, which keeps your future emails out of the spam box.
Email marketing is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful tools in a remodeler’s marketing toolkit. But it’s being overshadowed by shiny buzzwords like SEO, social media, and the like. If you’re patient and stay committed, you will see great returns in the months and years to come.
Email Marketing Dos and Don’ts
DON’T make every issue an advertisement
DON’T miss an issue … ever
DON’T forget your manners
DON’T sound technical or show off
DON’T use a generic email address, such as newsletter@ …
DON’T EVER use a noreply@ … address
DO provide valuable information
DO support your brand image
DO write in a conversational tone
DO use a personal email address
DO encourage readers to share/forward
Mark Harari spent six years as head of marketing for a Baltimore-based remodeling company. Currently he is the director of marketing for Remodelers Advantage. This article is a PowerTip from remodelersadvantage.com and was adapted with permission.