When Steve Gray Renovations opened its doors in Indianapolis, one of the company's main goals was to create a lasting relationship with past and current customers. But how do you stay in touch with clients once the job is done? “That's when we thought of creating an electronic newsletter,” CEO Steve Gray says.

For St. Louis remodeler Sage Homebuilders, compelling content and attractive design combine to engage past and present clients.
For St. Louis remodeler Sage Homebuilders, compelling content and attractive design combine to engage past and present clients.

Nearly two years later, the company boasts an impressive e-mail circulation list of 5,000-plus recipients. To create the newsletter database, the company conducted extensive networking, reaching out to past and current clients, referrals, and subcontractors, asking everyone it came in contact with if they'd like to be added to the company's e-mail list. Now the electronic newsletter averages nearly a 40% open rate and has an unsubscribe rate of less than 1% each month, according to a tracking service Gray uses.

THE ELECTRONIC ADVANTAGE Electronic newsletters, commonly referred to as e-newsletters, have many advantages over their paper counterparts, the biggest of which is cost. E-newsletters typically cost less because there is no paper or postage involved. This also enables companies to reach more recipients — thousands rather than hundreds. And homeowners are more likely to hang onto e-newsletters because they can be archived on a computer or linger in an e-mail account.

Mariette Barsoum, owner of Divine Kitchens, in Westborough, Mass., had her eye on the company's bottom line last year when she decided to go paperless. Divine Kitchens currently has a database of 800 e-mail addresses, culled from leads, current clients, and referrals. There is also a newsletter sign-up on the company's Web site.

The firm sends out an e-newsletter about every six weeks. So far, the company has received excellent feedback. “A lot of our clients will forward the newsletter to people they know,” Barsoum says.

In fact, referrals are a hallmark of e-newsletters. Recipients often will share the newsletter with friends, family, or co-workers. “It really helps us create a relationship with our clients,” Barsoum says.

CREATIVE CONTENT As with a print newsletter, determining the content of your e-newsletter is key to keeping clients interested. “You have to offer something of value,” advises Jason Stone, a principal with Sage Homebuilders, in St. Louis. “It's also important for the newsletter to look good. It should be aesthetically pleasing but also have quality writing — grammar, punctuation. Mistakes reflect badly on your product.”

Photos play a key role in Divine Kitchens' e-newsletter, which spotlights recent projects with before and after pictures and a few paragraphs about the details. The company also shares remodeling tips and has a section with favorite recipes.