Whether you’re the owner of an HVAC business, a plumbing company, a chimney company, or some other home service business, you want the same thing: MORE leads. BETTER leads.
You want more of the big spenders. The loyalists. The kind of clients who want things done the right way, not the cheapest way. And…You’re willing to pay for them.
Yup. You’re pouring money into your marketing to bring more of those ideal clients into your sales funnel. PPC, networking groups, direct mail marketing — you name it, you’ve done it or you’re doing it.
But here’s the catch: It’s never enough. You’re never *not* worried about the leads running out, and you don’t see how you *could* ever stop obsessing over getting MORE leads, BETTER leads.
Because, when the leads stop, business stops.
But what if you didn’t have to solely and consistently rely on PPC and other types of paid marketing to generate leads and retain clients? What if there was another *free* marketing tactic that could support lead flow and increase client retention rates — all while giving you a break from the lead grind so you can catch more shuteye?
What is email marketing?
According to Wikipedia,
“Email marketing is the act of sending a commercial message, typically to a group of people, using email. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing.”
So when you get an email from ASHRAE or HVAC Insider bearing industry news and stories, that’s email marketing. When you get an email from your vet reminding you it’s flea and tick season, that’s email marketing. And when Starbucks sends you an email announcing a new beverage with an unnecessarily long name and an ungodly amount of sugar, that’s email marketing. Each email is a touchpoint designed to build the relationship between client and provider.
Does email marketing really work for HVAC and home service pros?
The short and long answer is YES. Adestra research found that email dominates social media when it comes to purchases. Sixty percent of consumers will make a purchase after receiving a marketing email from a brand, whereas only 12.5% will click the ‘buy’ button on a social media platform. And according toLitmus research, email marketing is so effective, the ROI sits somewhere around $42 per dollar spent.
Not too shabby, huh?
Of course the thing to remember is that not all email marketing is effective. Just like there’s a right way and a wrong way to fix an HVAC system or clean a chimney, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do email marketing. If you want it to yield results, you’ve got to get it right. And this guide will help.
But first, let’s talk about what makes email marketing so powerful…
The first email marketing blast was sent out in 1978. About a decade later, experts predicted that new technology would replace email. So how and why is it that email marketing continues to be one of the most effective marketing strategies for HVAC companies, home service pros, and just about every industry under the sun?
Well, when done right, email marketing still works for a number of reasons:
#1 It allows you to be where your customers are.
As you know, the key to marketing is to be where your customers are — and they’re definitely in their inboxes. According to OptinMonster, 99% of people check their email everyday, with some folks diving into their inboxes up to 20x a day.
This is where email marketing has a leg up on social media marketing. Some people use social media sometimes, but just about everyone uses email daily.
So when you use email marketing, you get your business in front of the very people you want to reach, when and where they’re looking.
#2 It allows you to build trust with potential and existing clients.
When you have one interaction once a year (or even less frequently), it’s hard to build and maintain a sense of relationship with potential and existing clients. But email marketing allows you to build trust and familiarity, and to nurture that relationship, even when you’re not providing services or having face-to-face interactions with clients.
So, even if you’ve only provided service once or had one interaction with a potential or existing client, keep in touch with them through email. Keep showing up in their inbox. Keep providing value. Keep building trust and familiarity.
Don’t just be the HVAC company that provides the best service – be the HVAC company that provides consistent value and education. The one that cares about and continues the relationship beyond the sale. The one clients know, like, and trust.
#3 It allows you to educate clients on the problems you solve, how you solve them, and — perhaps more importantly — how you can *prevent* them.
Even though relationship building is an important aspect of marketing your business, people don’t go to HVAC companies, plumbers, and other home service pros looking for a new relationship. They reach out because they’re having a problem that they hope you can solve.
But as an HVAC pro, plumber, or chimney sweep, you solve A LOT of problems. And if your clients have only relied on you for one or two services, they might not know what all you can do for them. Tell them through email marketing!
When you consistently show up in your clients’ inboxes and educate them on how you can help, your company will be the one that comes to mind when they have a problem you can solve.
Of course, what your clients really want is to avoid problems altogether. And while they may not know how to prevent problems, *you do*. And you can use email marketing to share that knowledge and empower your clients.
Through email, you can:
- educate clients on the importance of preventative care and the cost/time savings of routine maintenance
- remind them when it’s time for maintenance
- provide tips on keeping their HVAC systems clean and efficient
- promote loyalty and membership specials that save them time and money
And when you do all this, when you provide value and build trust, you strengthen the relationship with clients beyond what you could do in a single visit once every year or so.
#4 And lastly, people like it!
According to recent research by Adestra, email is the most preferred brand communication channel for U.S. consumers. Additionally, Thrive Analytics found that 68% of homeowners are open to receiving email marketing from home service pros at least once a quarter.
In other words, your customers prefer communication through email. So, why not make use of that?
How do you get started with email marketing?
By now, hopefully you know why you should be doing email marketing. But how do you get started? What types of emails should you send, how many should you send, and when should you send them?
We’re going to answer all of those questions. But before we do, let’s talk about list building. After all, if you don’t have a way of capturing the email addresses of customers and potential customers, you won’t have anyone to send emails to.
There are a number of ways to build your email list, and once you start email marketing, you may think of some really creative ways. But for now, let’s stick with the classics:
- Add an email capture form to pages on your website. This can be a pop-up or form field where clients can enter their email in exchange for the latest special offers, helpful info around the problems your services/products solve, newsletters, company updates, blog posts, and more.
- Ask for email addresses when providing estimates. When you provide an estimate or service, ask your client for their email address. You can use email to get invoices and written estimates over to your clients quickly and keep in touch with them afterwards using email marketing. That said, permission to email is not the same as permission to send promotional emails. Make sure you have explicit permission to send emails of that nature to the people on your list before you hit send.
Once you start building your lists, you’ll want to segment the collected email addresses into different lists.
Segmenting your lists just makes it easier for you to personalize your emails and provide value that’s catered to the needs, wants, and interests of your clients. For example, you may only want to send tankless water heater service specials to homeowners you’ve installed tankless water heaters for.
In other words: segmenting empowers you to send more effective emails. Plus, Mailchimp found that segmented emails had a 100% higher open rate than unsegmented emails, on average.
So, how might you segment your lists? You can segment by:
- Demographics (like age, zip code, etc.)
- Open estimates
- Membership/VIP status/Loyalty programs
- Date of last service
- Type of service scheduled
- Homeowners vs. commercial clients
- The types of emails you have permission to send*
*For example: one person may give you permission to send promotional emails and special offers, while another may only want you to use their email for appointment reminders.
Those are just some examples. Once you get started, you may find others segments that make sense for your company and your clients.
A note on email lists: If you haven’t emailed the folks on your list in ages, you need to start by cleaning up your list. How do you do that? Removing the email addresses that bounced and look at unengaged subscribers — those who have never opened an email or haven’t opened one in over a year. It’s probably best to remove those email addresses from your list. If you’ve never emailed your clients, start with the most recent list of customers — maybe the last year’s worth. Send them an opt-in email to confirm or reconfirm that it’s okay for you to send them emails. A dirty list can land your emails into more spam folders and get your emails flagged. So, clean up your list before you start sending!
Types of email campaigns (AKA what to send and when)
Okay, you’ve got a plan for building and segmenting your email list. But what do you send and when? Is one email whenever you have a new product or service going to cut it?
There is no hard and fast rule for how many emails you should send and when you should send them. But in our experience, HVAC and home service companies see better results when they send email campaigns (rather than one-off emails) at least once a quarter.
An email campaign is a series of emails centered around a single topic, with a single call-to-action, sent in a planned and timed sequence.
The most important question to ask when planning an email campaign is: What is my goal? What do you want your clients to get from the emails? What action do you want them to take?
Once you know your goal, you can start planning how you’ll move your clients closer to that goal in each email. What do clients need to know? Why should they care about what you’re saying in that email? Why should they take action? Make each email all about what’s in it for them.
And don’t make the mistake of just listing benefits or features – make it easy for your clients to see the real end result. Make the connection for them. Always have their end goal (not just yours) in mind when you write.
A good rule of thumb is to end a feature or a benefit with ‘so that [what your client wants]’.
Schedule your routine maintenance now so that your HVAC system is tuned up and ready to keep you cool when temps climb. Plus, if you schedule in the next 10 days, you’ll receive $30 off!
The less work your customers have to do to make the connection between what you’re asking them to do and how taking that action makes their lives better, the more effective your email campaigns will be.
Now let’s get to some real world examples of HVAC emails…
Each of the following emails was taken from a campaign. As you’ll see, each email can stand on its own, even though it’s only one email in a series of emails.
Example Campaign #1: Announcement or education around a specific product or service
Topic: Tankless Water Heaters
CTA: Schedule a new tankless water heater installation
Example Campaign #2: Forward-scheduling/Seasonal specials
Topic: Forward-scheduling of routine service
CTA: Schedule routine HVAC service in the next 3 weeks
Example Campaign #3: Open estimate follow up
CTA: Get in touch
Example Campaign #4: VIP & loyalty programs
Topic: HVAC Service Plan
CTA: Sign up to become an HVAC Service Plan member
Example Campaign #5: Review requests
CTA: Leave us a review
Best practices when using email for your home service business
Hopefully by now you’re thinking of all the ways you could use email marketing for your business. But before you run off to build your first email campaign, let’s cover some best practices so you’re set up for success.
When sending an email to clients, you want to make sure that you use the best from name. While you’ll want to decide what makes the most sense for your business, here are my tips and suggestions:
– Clearly identify your company. The from name used to send your emails can influence your customer’s decision to open the email. If it’s generic and doesn’t clearly identify your company, your customer will see it and think, ‘I dunno who the hell that is. Delete.’ Which means your email won’t get your message across or persuade your customer to take action. It won’t even be opened. So, make sure your company name is clearly spelled out in the from name, like in the example below.
– Consider using the name of a person in your company. If someone in your company is well-known by customers, consider using their name in the from name field. For example, all of our clients here at Spark Marketer know who Taylor and Carter are. They have a relationship with our clients and they’re the faces of our company. So, when we send an email, we know it’s more likely to be opened if it’s ‘from’ them, like in the example below.
– Consider a combo of name + company or team. As you email clients and potential clients, you want them to get familiar with you, to feel a connection, and to get used to receiving emails from you. But let’s say you want the email to feel personal, but no one in your company is well-known enough to have their name alone in the from name. In this case, you may want to consider a combo of name and company or a team, like in the examples below.
– Use a real email address that, if replied to, will get a real response. Email isn’t a one-way relationship. Your clients and potential clients should be able to reply to any email you send and get a response from a real person. So, don’t use a from name like do_not_reply, like in the example below.
– Be consistent. No matter what from name you choose, be consistent so customers get used to seeing you in their inbox.
When writing your subject lines, remember that a subject line has one job and one job only: to get the email opened.
People are scanning their inboxes and giving out deletes more generously than Oprah gives gifts to her studio audience. So, think about what might stop the Almighty Thumb in its tracks and entice it to open your email.
Some other stats and tips around subject lines:
– Use personalization. According to GetResponse, using simple personalization tweaks, like including your client’s name in the subject line, can increase Open Rates, Clickthrough Rates (CTR), and Click-to-Open Rates (CTOR). CampaignMonitor found that Open Rates increased by 26% when personalization was used in the subject line of an email, like in the example below.
– Front-load your subject lines. Only the first 30 characters of subject lines are visible in the iPhone email app, so keep it short and/or make sure to put the most important words and information at the beginning of the subject line. For example…
– Find the sweet spot. Subject lines with 241-250 characters have the highest open rate and CTR according to GetResponse. So, use that as a guide when crafting the perfect subject line.
– Test emojis. According to GetResponse and Experian, including emojis in the subject line can increase Open Rates by more than 50%. Plus, AWeber points out that only 6.9% of subject lines contain an emoji, so using one can help you stand out in a crowded inbox. Here’s an example…
Note: If you do use emojis in your subject lines, preview your email before you send it to your list. Some CRMs don’t display emojis correctly, which could make your subject lines confusing.
– Consider using exclusivity and urgency. FOMO or fear of missing out is real. Why do scarcity, urgency, and exclusivity make us want to whip out our credit cards without even thinking? Because, to quote persuasion expert and author, Dr. Robert Cialdini, “As opportunities become less available, we lose freedoms; and we hate to lose the freedoms we already have.” So, ethically play on that fear of losing out or missing out in your subject lines. P.S. You’ll see this one a lot because it works! Here are some examples…
– Avoid spam trigger words. Including certain words in your subject lines can trigger spam filters and land your perfectly crafted emails in the Spam folder, never to be seen. Not what you want. So choose your words carefully! According to MailChimp, some of the words you want to avoid using in your subject lines are: free, reminder, % off, and help.
– Skip the ALL CAPS. NO ONE LIKES TO BE YELLED AT, so don’t yell at people in your headlines by using all caps. Another reason to skip the all caps? It could land you in the Spam folder.
– Test subject lines. While it’s always a good idea to follow best practices, you never know what’s going to resonate with your clients. So test! If you sent an email and it didn’t get many opens, resend it with a new subject line, and see if your Open Rates increase.
Preheader text is the little ‘preview’ you get of an email before you open it. It’s the text that shows up next to the subject line when you’re in your inbox, as you’ll see in the red rectangle below.
Now, the service you use to send an email will default preheader text to whatever the first sentence in your email is. But here’s a little secret: you can customize that preview text. Which means you can make your preheader text more persuasive and impactful than the email provider default.
The more persuasive and impactful you make it, the more likely your customer is to click to open the email. In fact, GetResponse found that good, intentional preheaders increase Open Rates, CTRs, and CTORs.
So don’t sleep on your preheader. Think of that text as a bonus secret weapon that will grab attention and increase the likelihood that your client or potential client will open your email.
Some more tips and stats for preheaders:
– Keep your preheader text to 40-100 characters. 40-100 characters is a good rule of thumb, but people checking their email on mobile will see less text. So, if you’re optimizing for mobile, it’s best to keep your preheader even shorter – around 30-50 characters. Just don’t go too short. If your preheader text is too short, the beginning of your email’s body copy may get pulled in and it might not make sense. Find the sweet spot and try to preview how your email will look in your CRM before you send, if you can.
– Front-load your preheader text. The amount of characters that show in the preheader text will depend on how long your subject line is. Typically, the longer your subject line, the less space you’ll have for your preheader text. So, a best practice is to put the most impactful, enticing, and important wording at the beginning of your preheader, so readers are more likely to see it.
– Consider adding a CTA that teases your email. You want the email opened, so use your preheader to add to the sense of urgency or tease what the customer can expect to get or learn if they open your email.
Here are some good preheader examples:
Writing the body copy of an email can be overwhelming. I mean, what do you write? How do you write it? Where do you start? When do you stop? Here are 5 tips…
– Remember the job of every line. The best tip I have for when you sit down to write the body copy of your email is to remember this one thing…Each line of copy has just one job: to get the next line read. Don’t put all the pressure of the sale on that first sentence. Just write a sentence that’s good enough to make the reader continue on. And then do it again. And again. Do it until you’ve said everything you need to say to get your message across.
– There is no ‘perfect’ email length. So many people worry about length. How long should my email be? How short should it be? What’s the *magic* word count? Spoiler alert: there is no one-size-fits-all email length. The truth is, you have to consider the content, the context, and the audience. Are you emailing about something your clients are already familiar with? Then a short and sweet email will probably do the job. Are you educating them on a new service or product that there are bound to be questions or objections around? Then take the time to spell it all out for your clients. If you don’t answer those questions and address those objections because you’re trying to fit your email into some standard length, your email won’t convert and your clients won’t take action.
– Consider personalization. GetResponse found that personalization — like including your client’s first name in the email and tailoring content to the services they’ve had or service they might be interested in — can improve Open Rates and CTRs. So consider ways of personalizing your email. And even if you’re sending an email to many, write the copy with one person in mind. Make them feel special, the way I felt reading the beginning of this personalized email…
– Remember, you’re a human talking to a human. Relax! One of the mistakes I see business owners make is in the *way* they write. Many sit down at a computer and switch into thesis or essay test writing mode. They think they have to be rigid and formal in their emails to clients. That’s a mistake.
Yes, you’re a professional, bur you’re not writing a college thesis. This isn’t a paper for a medical journal. It’s you, talking to your clients, mano-y-mano.
So relax, have fun, and don’t be afraid to add a little personality to your emails, like Chanti here.
– Stick to one CTA. Have you ever received an email with so many calls-to-action you didn’t know what to click first? Not good. Stick to one CTA per email, so your clients know *exactly* what you want them to do. That doesn’t mean you should only ask your prospect to take action once – it just means you should only ask them to do ONE thing. Too many CTAs, too many options, leads to cognitive overload and decision paralysis. Which means your clients won’t take any of the actions you’re asking them to take. So, if the purpose of your email is to get clients to schedule annual service, call them to take that action and that action alone in your email. If you have something else you want them to do, save it for another email.
Take a look at the example below – they repeat the same CTA throughout the email, so there’s no ambiguity about what the company wants the client (me) to do.
Alright, you’re wrapping up your email and it’s time to sign off. Don’t get lazy here. Use your sign-off to make the email feel more personal, more like a 1-1 thing. Add a touch of personality, and make sure the name you end the email with is consistent with your from name. Again, another fun example from Chanti.
Two bonus tips for email content:
– Optimize and keep design simple. Just because you *can* get fancy with your design, doesn’t mean you should. Remember, what’s important is the message. So, keep your emails clean, easy to read, and *mobile-friendly*. More and more of your customers are checking email on their smartphones, and according to a consumer survey cited by SaleCycle, 42% of people will delete emails not optimized for mobile, rather than attempting to read them.
– Make it easy to unsubscribe. When you build your list, your instinct may be to hold tight to those email addresses. Pry them from my cold, dead hands, right? But having people on your list who don’t want to receive your emails anymore is actually bad for you. Those folks are more likely to just delete your emails, or worse, send them to spam. Both can affect your deliverability and Open Rates. So, don’t omit an unsubscribe option or hide your unsubscribe link or button somewhere. Make it easy for clients who no longer want to receive emails to unsubscribe and clean up your list. Take a look at some of the examples below.
Go Forth & Email
Wow, that was a lot of information to cover. I hope you’re not as exhausted as I am. Instead, I hope you’re feeling energized, empowered, and ready to make email marketing work for your business.
To make things just a little easier on you, we’ve put together a downloadable Email Best Practices Cheat Sheet. Grab yours below!
Plus, we whipped up some downloadable email campaign templates for HVAC and chimney companies to use. Want the templates? Simply enter your email address at the forms below and we’ll send the templates right to your inbox!
And feel free to customize them and add your brand’s personality to them before you send – after all, no one knows your clients, brand, or services like you do.Now, go forth and email!