Home Equity Builders (HEB) maintains a constant and upbeat presence in the minds of homeowners in affluent Great Falls and McLean, Va. Thanks to the postcards in their mailboxes, residents know HEB is local, wins awards, and does high-end remodeling as well as handyman work. What's more, they know to expect another postcard soon. That's because HEB produces the cards in series. “The key is for people to see my name again and again and again,” says Sharon Rainey, president.

HEB's postcard campaign demonstrates the simple but effective use of database marketing, says David Alpert, of Continuum Marketing Group. He says the most productive use of this tool is “establishing and maintaining contact with existing relationships.” These four rules can help you do that.

Craft a relevant message. Four of HEB's current postcards are for its design/build services, and four are for its handyman services. The design/build series speaks to “the most discerning homeowners in Great Falls and McLean,” inviting them to see their neighbors' remodeled homes online. The handyman series offers to “free up your weekend and get your home into that showroom condition it deserves,” a nod to the busy executives in HEB's target area. The cards are professionally designed and printed on glossy, high-quality stock.

Mail to the right list. A great message is worthless unless it reaches the right audience, says Alpert. Noting that new homeowners often want to make changes, Rainey rents a local “new movers” list every month from Info USA. She also mails to a regular list assembled over the years and supplemented by finding names in a local paper's home sale listings. Targeting such a small geographic area allows HEB the luxury of building its list name by name.

Mailing lists can be broad or narrow. For instance, you can “hit everyone with a certain income within two miles of a project,” notes Alpert. He warns, however, that (1) residential turnover can be very high, so list maintenance is essential, and (2) most purchased lists are restricted by how many times you can use them.

Reinforce the brand. All of HEB's eight postcards have the same logo, color scheme, dimensions, and typography. But no two are the same, and the series is retired after 18 months or so. Homeowners will lose interest if they receive the same piece again and again, says Alpert, or if the images are dated. The goal is to “help people become more aware of your name and create brand preference” for when they're ready to do that high-end kitchen, for example.

Track your success. Every HEB postcard has one or more “calls to action” — visit the Web site, call the office, check out the online photo gallery. HEB tracks “every single phone call that comes in,” says Rainey, with calls and Web site traffic tending to spike after a mailing. Depending on the size of the spike and the workload of the company, she can mail out more or fewer postcards the next time.