Running a successful email newsletter program requires creativity, hard work and dedication. It’s not easy to get subscribers to your list or convert them into loyal buyers of your products. You’ll have some questions along the way, too – like “How often should I send out my email newsletter?”
If you’re a home improvement contractor, a design/build remodeler or small business owner looking for an answer to this question and more, this article will cover 10 frequently asked questions that will help maximize your email results when starting a newsletter.
What is a newsletter and how does it work?
A common question is “What is a newsletter?” A newsletter can be a simple, one-page email sent out periodically to your list of subscribers. Alternatively, it could be used in conjunction with sending out an announcement (with a link) to new blog posts on your website and/or updates on the latest developments in your niche industry.
What is the purpose of an email newsletter?
The purpose of an email newsletter is to keep customers informed about all things related to your business.
An email newsletter can also be used for branding purposes. It is an easy way to convey the voice of your business in writing with ease as well as help you stay connected with your audience.
How is a newsletter different from a promotional email?
A newsletter is different from a promotional email in this fashion. While a newsletter is informative, it’s not trying to sell something. It may offer discounts or special offers on occasion but in general, a newsletter is more about educating your audience and providing helpful information than persuading them to make an impulse purchase.
Why are email newsletters important in marketing?
Many small business owners, particularly contractors, question why they should start an email newsletter. There are three big reasons why I’m an advocate of creating a newsletter program.
- As explained above, newsletters are informative. They provide valuable information to your customers and prospects in a way that can be easily shared via social media or forwarded on by email. They are viewed in the same fashion as a magazine or other trusted publication.
- Newsletters give you the opportunity to keep building relationships with current clients while also reaching out to potential new ones. Over time, your readers learn more about your business and trust you more, which means when they are ready to inquire about your products or services, they will reach out to you.
- As a contractor, the last thing you want to hear is someone not contacting you for a job because they forgot about you. Your email newsletters can also help your business stay top of mind with customers and prospects. Because your newsletter is published on a regular basis, those subscribers on your mailing list will come to remember you.
With all these benefits, it’s clear that a newsletter is an integral part of any small business’s marketing strategy.
How do I get started with my newsletter?
The first step for creating an email newsletter doesn’t begin with the content. It actually begins with the backend. It involves three steps:
- Choose an email service provider
- Compile a mailing list of subscribers
- Format your subscriber list for easy import
Learn more about how to start an email newsletter in this step-by-step process.
What are the basic newsletter guidelines?
The other thing you need to define is your newsletter parameters, such as:
- How often should you send it out?
- Who are your recipients going to be?
- What content categories will you include in each edition of your newsletter?
- What topics will you write about?
Below you’ll find some guidelines for answering each question.
How often should I publish my newsletter?
The first step is recognizing that each audience is different. What works for retail will be different than what works for remodeling and home improvement contractors. Ask yourself:
What is the purpose of your newsletter? Why are you sending this email in the first place? Are you:
- Trying to increase sales?
- Driving website traffic/readership (as in a blog article)?
- Staying in touch or top-of-mind?
- Trying to close a deal?
- All of the above?
Answering this question will be a key factor in determining how often you should publish your newsletter.
As a general guide, I offer these suggestions:
If you own a small business with weekly sales or specials, you’ll want to send your newsletter more frequently to drive sales. Many national retailers do this style of the email campaign (think Bath & Body Works, Dominos Pizza and Amazon). With these campaigns, readers expect to receive emails at a high frequency.
If you sell services, like remodeling and home improvement, once a month at the beginning of the month* is usually best. You want your newsletter to come out on a regular basis so consumers don’t forget about you. Think of your newsletters like other publications, like Time or Sports Illustrated. They are published on a regular and consistent basis. You’ll want the same for your newsletter in order for your readers to trust you.
*One caveat to this is if there is a holiday at the beginning of the month. A good example of this is Independence Day in the U.S. that occurs annually on July 4. With this holiday, I often recommend altering the publication schedule so that your email newsletter doesn’t get lost.
As a contractor, what type of content should I include in an email newsletter?
The type of content you include in your email newsletter will depend on the type of business you are, what customers want to see from a company such as yours and how often you plan to send out an email.
For example, if you are a remodeling contractor that’s focused on kitchen and bathroom remodels, you could write an article about cabinetry, flooring, countertop options and new appliances or fixtures that you saw at the NAHB’s International Builders’ Show (IBS) and the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS).
If you are a landscaping contractor, you can write an article about the types of flowers that look good all year long, which trees are great for shade in the summer or the benefits of mulching.
If you’re going to send out an email newsletter monthly, then it’s best for readers if they get at least two articles each month that are non-promotional in nature. The Done-For-You Newsletter Program for Remodelers, as an example, offers three sections:
- The Welcome Message – The welcome message is a critical component of any newsletter program. It is a way for you to have a friendly conversation with your subscribers and in the process, create a stronger relationship with them.
- The Feature Article – The feature article is the main article of your newsletter, typically 500-600 words on a topic that is informative and inspiring.
- The Home Tip – The Home Tip is a quick tip that homeowners can implement immediately. Some ideas include a reminder to change the smoke detector batteries (spring and fall), grill maintenance tips and how to measure your space for a new washer and dryer pair.
Why the newsletter welcome message is important?
Let me take a moment to share why I feel the welcome message is the most important part of your newsletter.
Welcome messages often include information that helps your customers feel as though they know your company better. Some ideas include:
- News about a project you’ve been working on.
- Changes in business, such as a new service.
- A reminder of existing services, such as snow removal in winter or storm and hail damage repair.
- Awards won.
- Conferences or continuing education you’ve attended and why it’s important.
Keep in mind that people want to do business with companies they know, like and trust so your welcome message is a great opportunity to share a little bit about your personal side, too. Some ideas include:
- A recent trip you took or will be taking soon.
- Community happenings or festivals that you or your business are participating in.
- What your kids/grandkids or pets are up to. Secret: people love seeing photos of kids and pets. They shine the spotlight on the human-to-human connection.
What contractors can write about in an email newsletter?
One of the biggest challenges with email newsletters is figuring out what to write about. The possibilities are limitless, but you still need a good place to begin.
Here are some simple tips and suggestions for what to include in your email newsletter:
- Answers to frequently asked questions. What questions do your customers ask you all the time? These make great article ideas.
- How long does a remodeling project take?
- Can you pour concrete in the winter months?
- What do “allowances” mean in a renovation contract?
- What are the different types of ___ ? There are dozens of options for flooring, tile, appliances and plants for landscaping the backyard (just to name a few). Write an article on these topics.
- Is (green) really worth it? Address the skeptics by writing about what high-efficiency options are worth the investment, versus which ones aren’t. NOTE: You can substitute “green” with anything else people may question.
- What kind of ___ should I use for ___? Use this idea to write about a specific topic, such as “What kind of lighting should I choose for a master bathroom?”
- Project Stories: Write about a recent successfully completed project for inspiration.
If you want more ideas, download 52 Content Ideas for Residential Contractors.
What is the best email newsletter service?
This is an often asked question. The best email newsletter service depends on your needs and budget, as well as the size of your list. If you’re just starting out with less than 500 subscribers, then Mailchimp or ConstantContact are two good options for contractors because they have several pre-built newsletter templates and their drag-and-drop interface is fairly easy to use. They also easily allow for dropping in photos, something that makes a contractor newsletter different from others (because you want to showcase your projects).
Make sure you choose a tool that can grow with your needs. For example, segmentation of your mailing list is going to be quite important as you advance in your email marketing initiatives, as is the ability to integrate at least one landing page and forms to grow your email list.
If you are looking for a cleaner newsletter template, ConvertKit (affiliate link) is my email newsletter service of choice and is often the go-to email service provider for bloggers and creative entrepreneurs. The interface is clean, their composition elements simple and they allow for a more personalized newsletter. Landing pages and forms are included in their monthly fee, too.
It’s also worth noting that most email newsletter services offer free trials so I recommend you take the time to try several different ones before settling on one.
Your newsletter is a way to stay top of mind with your customers and prospects. The articles you send out should be relevant, informative, useful and inspiring for your readers.
If you are a small contractor and don’t have an email newsletter, schedule a Newsletter Planning Session with me.