Getting Started with an Email List

Why should you be concerned with your email list? Why put the energy behind building your email list when email's dead ... isn't it?

​Not so fast!

Email is still one of the best ways to communicate with your prospects and customers. Check out these statistics from a recent post by DMR:

  • Average open rate for retail emails: 22.07%
  • Average open rate for political emails: 22.80%
  • Average open rate for professional services emails: 21.21%
  • Percentage of Americans that check their email while in bed: 50%
  • Mobile click-to-open rate for U.S. marketing email: 13.7%
  • Mobile click-to-open rate for U.S. marketing email: 13.7%



While social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are a lot of fun, there are no guarantees that they will be around – in its current form – 5 years from now (anyone remember Myspace?).

And even if they are, you don't own them. They can make changes to how you communicate with your fans at any time. There was a time when your Facebook Business posts were seen in all of your fans newsfeed. Not anymore. Instagram - same thing.

Being able to stay in touch with your prospects and customers how and when you want is powerful.

  • It gives you the ability you to forge stronger, longer lasting relationships.
  • It helps you build credibility while sharing interesting project stories, tips and promoting your services.
  • It helps you stand apart from the competition.
  • It makes you memorable – so when your subscriber is ready to purchase, they think of you.

Email allows you to do all of this ... and more.

Furthermore, your email list is also one of the few digital "properties" you own (your website is the other), so it is incredibly important that you constantly grow and protect your email list.
Here are the 7 steps for getting started with an email list.

​1. Choose an Email Service Provider

You need an Email Service Provider (ESP) to deliver your emails in a safe, non-spammy way. You cannot simply mass-email from your Inbox. That's a sure way to get you flagged as a spammer, and it may even get your email address shut down.

There are many ESPs out there, but one of my top recommendations for remodelers is MailChimp. Not only is it easy to set up, but it is also free to use (up to your first 2,000 subscribers). Having said that, you may consider investing in a paid plan (beginning at $10/month) to get more advanced features, particularly automation workflows – a valuable marketing tool for forging know, like and trust.

2. Create Your List

To begin, create one master list. This will be the list for everyone, and it makes it easy when you want to email all of your subscribers.

Before you start "dumping" your contacts' email addresses into your list, remember that they must have given you permission to email them. If they haven't, that's considered spam. 

It's okay to have a small list. In fact, a small list can be extremely effective as long as it is filled with high-quality prospects and customers. I once worked with a design-build remodeler who started with a list of less than 150 contacts, but he got amazing results from his email marketing program.

Pro Tip: Once you have your master list set up, segment it. One builder/remodeler segmented their list into past customers and prospects and then further segment into types of projects, for example, new home construction and remodeling. Now when they want to focus on new home construction, an email can go out that targets that particular list.

3. Create a Sign-Up Form

All Email Service Providers will have sign-up form templates that you can easily customize to fit your needs.

Keep your sign-up form simple: only request the name and email. The more information you require, the less likely someone will sign up. While you probably want to collect all kinds of information from these folks, this is not the place to do so. Save it for when they inquire about a project.

Pro Tip: Instead of simply sticking the generic sign up form widget on your website, create a page on your site that explains the benefits of being on your list. Entice people even further by creating a lead magnet (#5 below).

4. Make It Easy for People to Sign Up

In addition to having a dedicated website page, include your sign-up form in other areas of your website, such as the sidebar and/or the bottom of each blog article. Integrate the sign-up form into your Facebook Business Page and include in the signature of your email. Make it as easy as possible for people to sign up to your list.

5. Create a Lead Magnet

When I first started my business, I read a ton of books (still do) and studied a well-known copywriter, Bob Bly. He made an incredible living as a copywriter back in the 1980s (read: pre-internet), and certainly, his business evolved over the years (as all of ours should do). In every book I read by him, the one item he stressed again and again was creating a “bait piece.”

Here’s an excerpt from his Special Report, Marketing with Content:

One of the most effective and popular marketing techniques being used today, both online and offline, is the free content offer.

You know how it works: to generate a lead or an order, you offer the prospect some valuable free content in exchange for an inquiry or a purchase.

The free content can take many different forms: booklets, special reports, white papers, article reprints, manuals, even books. These items are called “bait pieces,” because they are used to "bait the hook" when you go "fishing" for a lead or sale.

The process of building marketing campaigns around free content offers is called “educational marketing” … because it generates sales by educating prospects about your product or service – or the problem it solves. (p. 12)

Today, many lead magnets come in the form of a free, downloadable PDF report.

Offering a valuable lead magnet in exchange for someone’s name and email address is how you grow your email list.

This is a key point: your lead magnet must be seen as valuable – so valuable that the consumer is willing to give up their name and email address for it.

Some lead magnet ideas include:

  • A Kitchen Remodeling Guide and/or Checklist
  • Energy Savings for the Novice
  • Your Guide to Creating a Smart Home Without Breaking The Bank
  • A Guide to Planning Your Custom Home
  • 10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Contractor

Check out my Pinterest board, Lead Magnet Ideas for Contractors, for more ideas.

Pro Tip: Keep your guide less than 10 pages and make the content easily digestible. Today's consumer doesn't necessarily want a lengthy piece. Just one that's helpful to them - and positions you as the expert.

BONUS Tip: Some of the best lead magnets are one-page checklists or infographics.

6. Create a Welcome Message

Your ESPs will also provide generic welcome message copy. If you want make an impression on a new subscriber, you’ll want your message to be personal. Take time to create a nice welcome message.

This message should go out immediately after someone signs up for your list. It should welcome them to your list, provide a link to your lead magnet (if applicable) and tell them what to expect, such as the type of content and how often you will email them.

Here's a template you can use to set up your Welcome Message:

Dear [name],
I am happy that you decided to learn more about [topic] by downloading our free guide, [insert guide title here]. 
Here's a link to download the guide: _____ .​
[Write a few sentences that describe the guide…] This document is full of information you’ll need to ensure a successful remodeling experience.
You will also receive our newsletter, [insert name of newsletter], which is published [insert how often]. It is full of tips and inspiration for your home.

From time to time you may get an extra email from me with some additional information, but I promise we won’t flood your Inbox.

Finally, I want you to know that [insert your company name] will never share or sell your email address. People who share my email address drive me nuts, so I promise I will not do that to you.

I hope you enjoy our guide, and I look forward to talking with you soon!

[Your name]

Isn't this email much warmer than the generic one that the ESPs provide?

7. Communicate Regularly with Your List

The key to building long-term relationships with your subscribers is to email them regularly – not just when you have a special promotion or event.

Speaking of promotion, while you'll always want to be sure that your readers understand that you are in business to sell your services, your primary focus with email marketing should be providing valuable, inspiring and fun information for them - articles they would enjoy and help them protect their homes.

The best email strategies involve you being a resource for your subscribers. That way, when they are ready to build, remodel or make that home improvement project, they think of you first.


Ready to start (or revitalize) your email marketing program? The Done-For-You Newsletter program may be just what you are looking for. It helps busy remodeling firms keep their newsletter on track. We write the content (which you review, modify and approve), lay out the newsletter, and automatically send it out 6 times a year. And it’s affordable!

Learn more about the Done-For-You Newsletter Program >>

Tess Wittler

Tess is a content marketing specialist for the construction Industry. She works with contractors, architects, engineers and others in the industry who want to increase business by implementing proven content marketing strategies.

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