Email has been around for a long time. In fact, the very first email was sent by engineer Ray Tomlinson in the late 1960s. More than 40 years later, email is still alive and well and plays a key role within many successful marketing plans.

For HVAC contractors and business owners, email is an easy, impactful, and low-cost marketing method that should not be ignored. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s close to impossible to get anyone’s undivided attention for even a second. However, if done right, email can act as a great medium to get directly in front of your customers and keep their attention. Not only should email marketing drive conversions and increase return on investment (ROI), but it also gives you a way to speak specifically to your customers’ interests.

Devise a Plan

As you begin putting your email plan together, here are some things to think about. Before you begin anything, you’ll need to choose the email service provider (ESP) that is right for you. The ESP you choose will be dependent on a few factors:

• Budget — The cost of ESPs tends to vary significantly. Read the fine print very carefully and ensure it provides what you need within the budget you have. There are great options available on a tight budget, but you need to make sure they will work for you.

• Email requirements — What functionality and design will you require? If you want to be able to customize your design or make it interactive, you need to ensure the ESP has those capabilities. If you want a lot of great templates to be able to work from, check them out before making your final decision.

• Internal resources — Do you have someone internally who is savvy with email marketing, or will you need a lot of hands-on help from your ESP? Check to see what kind of support is offered and that it suits your needs. You should also make sure there are plenty of training videos so that you can easily get everyone onboard with your vision.

Form a Collection

I have found that many contractors and business owners don’t put enough importance on capturing customer information. Phone numbers are generally stored for contact purposes, but email addresses are left by the wayside. This is a mistake, because email is often more convenient for the customer and more valuable for driving additional revenue.

The responsibility of capturing this information lies in the hands of those who are customer-facing — the technicians and customer service representatives (CSRs). During day-to-day operations, they must have the tools to capture this information, including scripts to prompt them to ask and places to record the email addresses — both on the service ticket and in the customer database.

Make email address collection easier for your team by weaving email communications into your standard process. For example, automating appointment confirmations or sending receipts via email will give your technicians and CSRs a great excuse to request and record the customer’s electronic contact information. In-person service appointments are not the only way to capture email addresses from current or prospective customers. To optimize your email marketing, allow customers to sign up for your emails on your social media channels and website.

Additionally, make the sign-up process easy and intuitive. Include a short piece of content explaining what they are signing up for, followed by one box to include their email address and another box for their name. You may also allow them to choose what types of emails they want, such as promotions, news, do-it-yourself (DIY) tips, etc. Once those are submitted, someone in the office should transfer the information into the company database and add the customer into the proper categories.

Segment Your List and Plan Ahead

Once you’ve captured email addresses, it’s critical they aren’t just stuffed into a file drawer never to be seen again. You need to develop an efficient internal system that allows technicians and CSRs to submit the customer information and add it into your customer database as well as your ESP marketing system.

Once you’ve completed this step, assign each customer to designated groups in order to ensure targeted campaigns. Segment your customers by residential or commercial, male or female, age, past purchases, and needs specific to certain customers, such as allergies, energy efficiency, etc. This will allow you to speak to your customers’ interests and personal needs directly, keeping their interest and attention.

Once you segment your list, create an email marketing calendar. Plan ahead for the next three to six months and decide which messages you will send to which customer segments and when. Minimize un-subscribers by choosing a moderate frequency. One email newsletter and another promotional or seasonal message each month works well. Your ESP dashboard will allow you to measure how many emails are delivered and opened, and, most importantly, how many customers followed your call to action (conversion rate).

All of this information and planning is only as good as your team makes it. Capturing and segmenting email addresses and creating an email marketing calendar is crucial to finding success with email marketing. Once everyone is on board and your systems are in place, you can be confident that you’ve laid a firm foundation for an email marketing program that will help build your business.

Publication date: 10/20/2014

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