Long criticized for being Internet Luddites, remodelers have in recent years woken up to the necessity of a Web presence. And rather than sit back and wait for the hits, many upscale firms are using e-mail both to broaden and to refine their marketing reach.

Sylvain Cote, president of Absolute Remodeling, Long Island, N.Y., distributes a quarterly e-mail newsletter to roughly 1,000 inboxes. Created using Microsoft FrontPage, the newsletter includes images and stories about recent projects, company news, and other tidbits (maintenance tips and market information, for example) that might interest a homeowner.

Though hard to measure in terms of sales, Cote says that among the benefits of a regular e-mail newsletter are that it's a friendly and unobtrusive way to keep in touch with past clients. Also, by coupling industry news and technical information with a stylish design, it projects an image of credibility and professionalism for the company. “It helps establish you as an authority in the industry,” Cote says. And by offering useful information, “you're giving, not just taking — and people respect that.” But perhaps most importantly, the newsletter, with embedded links, is a direct conduit to the Absolute Remodeling Web site, which Cote says is his most effective marketing tool.

At HartmanBaldwin Design/Build, sales and marketing coordinator Karla Rodriguez uses e-mail to keep in touch with an extensive list of company contacts that include both past clients and members of the local historic preservation community. Rodriguez uses targeted e-mail blasts to invite the appropriate contacts to the company's regular workshops and showcases, which vary in exclusivity. She recently implemented an e-mail marketing program from Yahoo Small Business both to facilitate this process and to study its effectiveness.

The Yahoo service tracks how many people open the e-mail, when they open it, and whether they forward it and to whom.

“It's really helpful to be able to see the results,” Rodriguez says. “If a client opts out, and it's someone we want to be in touch with, I can follow up personally. And typically when I do that, clients are pretty receptive to staying on the list.”

The service also tracks click-through rates, which is important because, like Cote, Rodriguez also uses her e-mail messages to drive traffic to Hartman-Baldwin's Web site.

“I can see where people travel on the site when they link to it from an e-mail,” she says. “I've seen that people really like the gallery, so that has prompted us to update more often and focus our energy there as we revamp the site.”

Measuring results has also helped Rodriguez improve her e-mail copy: When she saw that breezy, conversational language led to more forwards and Web site links, she softened what had been a formal tone.

Other remodelers are taking advantage of digital media to generate publicity and raise awareness of their best work. At Otogawa-Anschel in Minneapolis, Michael Anschel prefers more personal contact with clients, but says that e-mail has streamlined his communication with the press.