Before deciding which direction to take his company’s marketing campaign, Steve Gray, of Steve Gray Renovations, in Indianapolis, asked himself how he could best keep his company’s name in front of past and future clients. The answer: a monthly e-newsletter featuring photos and video of ongoing projects, as well as small news items and helpful home-maintenance tips. “We do so much interesting work that it seemed only natural to share these projects through an e-newsletter,” Gray says.

As clients become increasingly Web-savvy, remodelers such as Gray are taking to the Internet to reach them. Often the most effective — not to mention the most affordable — way of doing so is by building an online community with a company newsletter.

David West, owner of Meadowview Construction, in Georgetown, Mass., has also launched a monthly e-newsletter that he sends to everyone on his e-mail list including family, friends, vendors, subs, designers, architects, magazine editors, and even a few competitors.

West built his e-mail database by constantly collecting e-mail addresses from clients and business associates. “If you meet someone and get their business card, ask if you can send them your newsletter,” he says. “Getting a client’s e-mail address should be as automatic as getting their phone number.”

Reinforcing Your Brand

SGR presents itself as an industry expert by providing home maintenance tips (bottom) and promoting its local TV affi liation (top).
SGR presents itself as an industry expert by providing home maintenance tips (bottom) and promoting its local TV affi liation (top).

In crafting a newsletter, both Gray and West set out to reinforce their company brand, using templates and logos that are consistent with their companies’ Web sites. They also had very specific ideas about the type of content that would make it into the newsletter.

One of West’s goals was to keep the newsletter content personal. “A lot of companies pay for generic newsletters with canned content. We wanted to make ours unique,” he says. Meadowview Construction’s monthly newsletters consist of one featured story (written by a staff member) as well as new product information and a tool of the month.

According to Gray, the material should be interesting and brief, but more importantly, the tone should be kept light. “We realized a long time ago that no one was going to read a serious newsletter about nothing other than how great SGR is,” he says. “So we let the photos, videos, and fun copy do the talking for us.”

Measuring Success

For each of these companies, e-newsletters have succeeded in becoming what West describes as a “subtle, non-threatening way to keep people up to speed on what we are up to.” According to Gray, “when each newsletter goes out, I brace myself for no less than 50 e-mails asking for more information about our products and services. The newsletter has become one of our best lead sources.”

Of course, such instant impact is not necessarily the norm with e-newsletters. “Just like with other forms of advertising, this requires consistency and patience,” West says. “I am in it for the long haul with this kind of marketing. After a while, people will begin to automatically think of us.”

As with any other form of marketing, an important part of the process is tracking and measuring success. Gray monitors newsletter leads the way he tracks all of his leads, asking clients where they heard about SGR and constantly updating records.

Through the company that built the template for his newsletter and that manages his listserv, West is able to keep track of exactly who is opening his newsletter, who has opted out of receiving it, which e-mail addresses come back invalid, and which links are the most popular among readers.

Both Gray and West agree that it’s best to hire someone else to manage the creation of your company’s newsletter. “I used to send out e-mail blasts with multiple e-mail recipients in the address bar and it was very unprofessional,” West recalls. Since outsourcing, West says that client response has been much better.

In getting started, Gray insists that the most important thing is to know how to reach your client base. “Know your audience and how they like to communicate,” he says. “And keep away from sales talk in favor of short, informational, interesting news.” And even if response rates aren’t immediately encouraging, don’t give up so easily. “No matter how much time you think you’re wasting on this, don’t quit,” he says. “You won’t be disappointed in the positive results.”