Local services businesses should utilize email marketing to streamline and automate processes. This can be done in three ways: newsletters, campaigns, and automated email sequences. Local services businesses should use all three types of email marketing when appropriate to best serve their customers. Knowing how to present different types of information about your business is half the battle.
Sender Address & Name
When you create your email address for your email marketing program, use your domain (this builds trust) and get creative, as long as it fits in your messaging guidelines. For example, try [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] The key is to create an email address for each section of your sales and marketing efforts, so your customers can keep each aspect of your business separate in their email according to their personal preferences. e.g. [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] Plus, if they unsubscribe to your marketing emails, for example, they’ll still receive transactional emails.
This setup is critical, so be mindful of this decision and get feedback from your team before setting up the email addresses and email marketing account. You want these email addresses to be used by your customers and prospects, so be sure to include that note in your emails, too. Then, be sure to assign team members (or add it to your to-do list as a solopreneur) to monitor each email account so you can provide customer service through these avenues.
Tip: Avoid using [email protected] or any free email address (e.g. @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @outlook.com) as they reduce your overall trustworthiness to customers. They also show customers that you don’t want to communicate with them via email, showing them that email is only a one-way ticket for your sales and marketing efforts. Don’t make these mistakes. Make your email addresses friendly so your customers feel comfortable communicating with you via email if they need your assistance. (Many customers prefer email communications, so let it be two-way.)
As a small business, you will likely want to say that your emails are from your Business Name. Typically, only celebrities can get away with being recognized by using their First and Last Name or Name from Business Name.
Tip: If you’re unsure of what sender name to use, A/B test. Then, once you have your winner, be consistent. Lacking consistency will only confuse subscribers and may lower your open rates.
Choosing an Email Marketing Platform
Using an email marketing platform is important to organize subscribers, review analytics, and automate the business’s email marketing. Email marketing cannot be done effectively in Gmail or Outlook. It’s best to start by using a free email marketing platform, such as Zoho Campaigns, Mailchimp, Mailerlite, SendPulse, or SendinBlue.
There are also industry-specific platforms available. Strategically, there are no big differences between each platform. The important thing to do is to choose a platform and start creating and sending emails and gathering subscriber emails. Once you do gather subscribers, it’s important to organize them in some way, either in different lists or by tags. This will not only help you send better campaigns to each audience, but it will also help you transfer lists to a different platform if you decide to use a different one later on.
Collecting An audience
Local services businesses should never pay for an audience. Instead, they should create a simple system to request a prospect’s or new customer’s email address when they create an appointment online, over the phone, or in person. This can be as simple as pen and paper (before adding them to your email marketing platform), but the key is to separate prospects and customers so you can send them different email content.
Lead magnets encourage people to subscribe to an email list. Subscribers give up their email address, and in return, businesses give them a lead magnet, such as an assessment, checklist, or ebook (see Types of Content in Other Communication Efforts). Nowadays, people guard their email addresses, so businesses use lead magnets to encourage people to sign up for their marketing emails. If a subscriber is willing to do that to receive the lead magnet, they are already interested in that business.
The best lead magnets for local services businesses are assessments or quizzes, guides or reports, and checklists. The format of the lead magnet will depend on the business’s services and what their customers could benefit from having.
For example, a heating and cooling business in a tourist town could offer a checklist on how to properly shut down a home for the winter. The checklist itself would benefit their clientele, who are likely older and are unlikely to search for a checklist on their own. Plus, it relates to their business so they can include their business details on the checklist (or even include calling their business for an annual checkup on the list itself).
Email Creation & Design
Newsletters primarily educate and engage subscribers on a recurring basis, such as weekly or monthly, to help keep your brand top-of-mind with your subscribers. Newsletters are a great place to showcase testimonials and customer success stories, introduce new staff members, product and service changes, and more. Newsletters should follow the same format each time so subscribers can recognize it.
Email campaigns can be one or multiple emails promoting one thing, such as a sale or event. Campaigns can either be automated to send at specific times or intervals, or based on specific subscriber actions, but they don’t have to be. Campaigns can be created in advance or just before they are sent, depending on the need for them. For local services businesses, campaigns are best used for promotional purposes.
For example, if a local services business is having a special discount on all services booked during a one-week timeframe, then an email campaign would be a great way to inform prospects and customers about the sale. The business could send one email on Monday, another one on Wednesday, and two more on Friday, counting down the hours for the special. Each email would focus on that one topic (the special) and the call to action would lead directly to the business’s website where the subscriber could create an appointment and lock in the special. Testimonials could be added and photos of the business’s previous work could be shared alongside the special details. Each email will be short and similar to the others without replicating the exact messages, while still maintaining the same special.
Most emails are opened on a cell phone, which means campaigns developed solely for large computer screens are often useless on a small screen. Simple, mobile-friendly emails that are responsive are more effective than immaculately designed campaigns that aren’t responsive, so businesses should be sure to use a simple layout and test all emails on multiple devices (or using a service like Email on Acid) before sending them out.
Within most email marketing platforms, businesses can see what devices their subscribers are using to view each email. Combined with testing, you can ensure that every email looks good on those devices.
Depending on the business and services offered, a local services business will want to showcase long- or short-form content within their emails. The length of the content depends on the intent of the email. If an email’s purpose is to provide a transactional purpose, such as confirming an appointment or sending a digital bill, the content should be very short. If an email’s purpose is to provide an informative purpose, the content can be longer.
For example, a funeral home emailing a family of a deceased loved one may include long-form content with condolences and next steps while a handyman emailing a repeat customer about maintenance on his lakehouse’s upkeep may be short and bulleted.
In general, local services businesses will send short-form content because their subscribers are busy and primarily seek that business to solve a problem rather than learn more about the business extensively.
Automated Email Sequences
An automated email sequence is ideal for nurturing prospective customers based on the challenges they commonly experience and your solutions to resolving them. An automated email sequence is also ideal for streamlining the sales process by leading prospects and new customers through the process of how your business works. This can be accomplished by leading customers to complete forms or pay their bills online, for example, which automates mundane processes for your team.
Automated email sequences can be time-based or trigger-based. Time-based emails are scheduled in advance at a specific time. Each email in the sequence is sent at a specific time interval. (For example, email 1 is sent immediately after a subscriber is added to the list, email 2 is sent one week later, email 3 is sent one day after that, etc.) This type of sequence is ideal for sending onboarding sequences to inform your new customers how your business works, what they can expect when working with you, and general maintenance tips for after your team leaves the job.
Trigger-based email sequences are based on triggers, meaning when a subscriber opens an email or clicks on a specific link within an email, they are “triggered” to receive a specific email based on their open or click (or lack thereof). These triggers show your subscriber’s behavior, so it helps them see more relevant content based on their actions and preferences.
Trigger-based sequences are often more complicated than time-based sequences because they offer more options within the sequence, but they deliver a more unique experience for each subscriber based on their behavior. By delivering a more relevant user experience to your subscribers, open and click rates, and purchases or appointments are likely to increase.
Common uses for automated sequences are for lifecycle emails. Sending specific emails at the right times during the customer journey can improve the customer’s experience. These emails include:
- Welcome emails
- Follow-up emails
- Thank you emails
The short and sweet emails essentially show the subscriber that the business cares in a timely manner. These emails can be automated and trigger-based or they can be created in advance and sent in batches, depending on the structure of the business. Either way, they can help customers stay engaged with the business and help them through the customer journey in an automated fashion.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Email Design: When a business uses both marketing and transactional emails, it’s best to have the same basic look for all emails to offer a better customer experience to each subscriber. It can be jarring if the latest campaign emails are on brand and inviting, and then the “Thank you for your purchase” email is colorless and stale. When beginning an email marketing program, you should unify the look of all emails. Yes, the look can change over time and adapt for individual campaigns, but there still needs to be cohesiveness among all emails so subscribers know it’s your business within the first one-second glance (see Visual Branding in Foundation).
A/B testing: Creating and sending content to subscribers isn’t enough for local services businesses. Emails should be tested using the A/B method. Testing means taking a small portion of the business’s list, say 10% each, to send two versions of the same email to see which one leads to more opens, clicks, and appointments. Each test should only test one thing, such as:
- Subject line
- Sender email address/name
- Call to action button color
- Plain text vs. HTML
- Long- vs. short-form email content
After the test is done, the business can wait about 24 hours for the results to see who won. Which email led to more appointments? Then the business should use the winning email to send to the other 80% of the audience. Testing should happen frequently and, if possible, for every email sent to increase conversions.
Personalization: Personalizing emails starts with using the subscriber’s name in the email and continues by using the user data to personalize each subscriber’s emails in an effort to improve their customer journey. For local services businesses, this means sending customers on your email list a reminder when their water heater needs to be replaced, for example, because the business knows when they last serviced said water heater.
This also means recommending services in an email after they received a similar service that is relevant. For example, a dog walking business might recommend a dog sitting service for when their customer is on vacation, but they wouldn’t recommend a cat sitting service because that customer doesn’t own a cat.
Segment Subscribers: Segmenting your subscribers is a great way to personalize messages to groups of your audience. Segments can be as simple as “prospects” and “customers” or far more complicated. Segments, however, can also be used with tags to increase personalization, allowing the business to send a specific message to a specific group of subscribers, increasing ROI immensely because the subscribers will find the email highly relevant based on their needs and place in the customer journey.
Local services businesses can segment or tag subscribers by the services they’ve used, city or neighborhood of residence, business or residential client, type of home or pet (or detail related to the business), how they came across the business, when their water heater needs servicing or replaced (for example), and more. The more a local services business can narrow down their customers within their email marketing, the better they can send the right messages at the right time.
Email Scrubbing: Even with local services businesses, subscribers can become unengaged. When more subscribers than usual are unsubscribing or reporting the business’s emails as spam, it’s time to scrub the list because an email marketing program is only as effective as its lists.
Before scrubbing a list, it’s important to attempt to re-engage the unengaged subscribers first. This can be done by sending a re-engagement campaign to try to get them interested in the business again. This campaign can include a lead magnet or special promotion from the business. Those who open the re-engagement campaign stay. Those who don’t will be scrubbed from the list.
Scrubbing an email list means deleting inactive subscribers, looking for and removing spam and duplicate subscribers, and narrowing down the list to active subscribers who are likely to benefit the business. Spam email addresses can be easily spotted by searching for letters and numbers jumbled randomly in an email address. Duplicate subscribers can be found using a spreadsheet. There are email scrubbing services, but a local small business can manage these processes in-house better because they know their customers.
Resend to Non-openers: Email is effective, but subscribers are busy. To increase the performance of campaigns with minimal additional effort, you can resend campaigns to non-openers. This can be automated in most email marketing platforms by checking a box or copying an email and setting the trigger to “did not open” the initial campaign. However, this should only be used on the most important campaigns because some subscribers may see the duplicate content as spam. To mitigate this possibility, businesses can limit the use of resends and be clear in the subject line that it’s a resend. In fact, you can A/B test your resend subject lines to see what performs best.
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