Email marketing for construction companies

How are you communicating with your digital network?

“The research shows that email continues to be a vital weapon in the digital marketer’s armoury, now accounting for 17% of digital marketing budget. This figure has increased from 14% in 2009. Continued investment can be attributed to the fact that the vast majority of responding companies (75%) rate email as “excellent” or “good” for return on investment (ROI).”

Econsultancy Email Census 2010

Maybe you already produce news, possibly in pdf format, possibly in print. Email newsletters however have now become so prolific and effective (just re-read that opening statement) that any business not producing a regular electronic update about their brand, products or services will be missing out. In this piece we examine the benefits of using email to broadcast your business messages.

An email goes usually to a named individual, directly to your customer, prospect or existing customer. It lands in their in-box. Simple as that. This means that as long as you have the correct email address and your message is not blocked by firewalls or spam filters along the way, it will reach your specific audience.

The great thing about email is that it doesn’t travel, like a letter, to the post room where it might be opened and discarded, where the address label may be lost or where it can be misdirected. Email marketing when carried out with permission saves time, saves trees, saves pollution. As we ponder the warming or otherwise of this planet. I think we can all agree that the greener our communication is, the better. But there’s more. You can measure an email’s effectiveness in real time.

“Marketing by email can decrease the cost of acquiring customers and be a cost-effective way to maintain interest in your brand, products and services over long periods.”

Nick Pauley – Managing Director

Why print cannot compete

With printed campaigns, unless you are going to follow up by telephone or send paper-based marketing by recorded delivery, you will never know who actually receives your information. You will certainly never know who reads it unless it contains a measurable call to action, like a reply form or a unique web site address. It is likely you will not know whether it was sent elsewhere or if anyone else read it either. Furthermore you won’t know which particular content was of most interest to which recipient or what was relevant. All this statistical data can be obtained easily and effectively by email marketing.

How many of us I wonder would bother to take a printed leaflet we’d received, place it in an envelope, address and stamp it and commit it to the postal service in order to tell a friend or business colleague about it ? Very few I suspect. But on the other hand, when the ability to forward an email is just a click away, it’s much more likely that it will find its way to someone else who is interested. Referred business is one of the best sorts to have. Indeed you might suggest to your readers that they “tell a friend” and maybe even provide a special link so you can monitor when they do. A printed piece of promotion cannot possibly compete with that – it might supplement a campaign but it cannot achieve what an email can.

Reputation management

You may be surprised when I say that email marketing can damage your reputation. There’s no doubt of that. Just think back a few years to the swarms of spam which invaded everyone’s in-box. If done incorrectly an email can have a negative impact on the recipient. So in order to establish and maintain a good reputation, email marketing must be carried out in responsible and legal way. This means that you must adopt best practice and always work on the principle of opt-in and opt-out – ‘permission marketing’. Permission marketing is a phrase coined by the author and marketer Seth Godin – in simple terms it means that it should be as easy for the recipient to unsubscribe from a newsletter as it is to sign up for one.

“Despite the undoubted effectiveness of mass-mailing, some people don’t like it, won’t want to receive it and will wish to opt-out. Whatever method you use you must have an effective way to manage this process in order to avoid any danger of being considered a ‘spammer’.”

Nick Pauley – Managing Director

Many recipients of newsletters choose to receive them just to ensure they’re up-to-date with news. But the effect of receiving the up-date means that whenever they need those goods or those services, their first ‘port of call’ is likely to be the organisation that sends them regular emails. Even if a recipient never opens your email, even if they never read any of the content, as long as they remain opted-in and they see it arrive regularly they will be reminded.

“What are the business messages that you want to tell to your customers? Have you finished a prestigious development, launched a new product and how many of your contacts or prospects or customers would welcome that news? Do you have excess stock you want to publicise? Could you make a special offer? Is there an industry news item which you could tell your customers about? What about new legislation or economic effects? Could you educate your prospective customers about the benefits of doing business with you and thereby derive more business?”

Ayaan Mohamud – Marketing Assistant

Drive traffic to your website

What you must certainly provide in any email newsletter is a link, or better still, links to your web site. If you have succeeded in reminding your readers that you exist, and reminding them of why they might need you, then of course you should make it as easy as possible for them to contact you. Driving traffic to a web site by email marketing is a foolproof way to ensure that the correct site is found and that competitors don’t get between you and your marketing efforts.

“With a hyperlink or unique url, readers are directed straight to your site. There is no danger of a mis-keying or of a random search for you revealing compelling competitor links in the search results which could divert business elsewhere. Smart money is now invested in targeted product ‘landing pages’ where you write the content of that page specifically to relate to the content of your newsletter. A simple tactic, but a very effective one”

Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager

Who to send to

Before you even think about designing and writing your email newsletter you will be considering who is going to be on the email list. You probably have an existing list, but how are you going build this to improve the results of your campaigns and grow your audience database? There are lots of methods and not all these ideas will be relevant, however many can be adapted to be appropriate to your circumstances.

The most obvious place to collect email addresses is on your web site. Invite people to sign up to receive your newsletter and give them a taste of what they will receive. But do this on your home page, don’t hide your newsletter sign up form in the ‘Contact us’ page. Better still, maximise this opportunity by giving your sign-up form pride of place above the fold, on every single page.

“These days building lists of potential recipients and collecting their email addresses is something that should be at the centre of what you do all day and every day – whatever organisation you represent.”

Ayaan Mohamud – Marketing Assistant

By invitation only

In your invitation for prospects or customers to sign-up to your offering you need to provide reassurance. You could say that you’ll send just one newsletter and they can unsubscribe if they don’t like it, preferably with one click. Make the offer so reassuring that there can be no objection and refer them to your privacy policy. Be upfront and honest.

Remember to include back issues of your newsletters in an archive section on your web site so that other sites can link to them. Make archive material easy to find and include a sign-up invitation there too. Not only is it good practice from a reference point of view for your readers, it is also great for your search ranking to have good, relevant information on your site.

Incentivise your audience

People like information that they can use, they also like a special offer or a competition – these are the sort of hooks which cause people to offer their email address. Think of something that you can give away, free, in exchange for their information. Make sure any giveaway is relevant to the audience and be creative – ipods aren’t always as compelling as a valuable nugget of information!

Also consider including in your sign-up procedures the necessity for a further action (double opt-in) on the part of the visitor, so they are compelled to give a valid and current email address. This also makes certain that someone else hasn’t signed up on behalf of another.

You could of course invite newsletter recipients to recommend a friend or colleague either by forwarding the newsletter or by providing their friend’s email address. You might provide an incentive for those who subsequently agree to receive the newsletter.

“One of the most obvious ways to publicise your newsletter is to use the signature feature in your day-to-day emails and put a link there to your sign-up page. Identify other newsletters which may complement yours and offer a reciprocal arrangement where each newsletter includes a link to a sign-up invitation to the other one.”

Nick Pauley – Managing Director

Building your list

Web site visitors are getting used to playing an active internet role so invite participation to your web site or blog by asking for contributions or comment. This is a great way to build your on-line construction community but also to build your mailing list. Make submission of a valid visitor’s email address a condition for submitting their content.

Not all list building needs to take place online. We sometimes forget those tried and tested marketing methods that existed before the internet and which are still most persuasive. Integration is indeed the key to digital marketing.

There are meetings you may go to, seminars or perhaps exhibitions and it’s quite acceptable to ask for a business card and say that in return you will send your email newsletter. At events try to collect delegates’ email addresses for just this purpose.

“Use a combination of direct mail and email for publicity. When combined with a white paper, competition or special offer this tactic can be very effective in both building your list through data capture but also driving traffic to you web site or micro site or landing page.”

Ayaan Mohamud – Marketing Assistant

Spreading the word

As we’ve discussed, of course you should always ask new and potential customers when you call them if they’d like to be included in your mailing list as well as inviting sign-ups on your voicemail and any telephone holding messages. Straight advertising too may provide a rich harvest of email addresses so try all the relevant media but also consider other more inventive ways like advertisements on vehicles or on billboards.

Above all, think constantly about building your lists and don’t miss any opportunity, however small, to invite people to sign up. It’s this data that will form your audience and will shape the content, frequency and effectiveness of your future online campaigns. However, consistency and relevancy are key to the ongoing success of this tactic – be cautious you don’t lose sight of either.

“Electronic communication is very different from printed material. Email recipients make snap decisions about what they ‘bin’, what they read and when they read it. Get your strategy wrong and the whole exercise fails, worse still it may alienate some of the people you want to impress.”

Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager

The most important elements

The “From” label and the “Subject” line are probably the most important elements in producing a successful e-newsletter. If no-one opens your email, no-one will read it. You are limited to how many characters you use in both these fields, so you need to make each one count.

Try to put yourself into the mind of a recipient. Forget who you are and what your wishes are for a moment. Imagine instead someone opening their email on a busy morning and finding your newsletter among fifty other emails, all demanding attention. Will they know instantly who it is from, and if they don’t already know you well enough to recognise the sender, will they at least recognise that it’s not spam?

“The “From” label carries with it the message of authenticity, make it sensible and make it straightforward. Use capital letters for proper nouns, use whole names, ie: “Nick Pauley” – not just “Nick” or “Pauley Creative” not “Pauley” and DON’T SHOUT. Capital letters used in this way are regarded in the electronic media as ‘shouting’.”

Nick Pauley – Managing Director

Provide useful and compelling information

Next consider the subject line. Remember every character in every word has to count because most recipients’ computers will only display a few of them in the ‘inbox’. For instance, it makes no sense to repeat the information in the “From” label. Instead the “Subject” line should announce the e-newsletter in a way that conveys useful information to the reader. Think too about how a reader may wish to file the e-newsletter for future reference, and try to approach your task from their point of view.

It seems obvious to say but avoid using any phrases which might brand your e-newsletter as spam. Instead use language which describes the contents in as concise and accurate way as is possible. Again, be honest above all else. Your readers will appreciate your candour. Be especially careful not to over-use punctuation because again this could put your e-newsletter in the spam category.

“There are plenty of online applications these days that can help reduce spam scores before you commit to the ether. We tend to use on our clients’ broadcasts which helps us identify readability issues across a range of email browsers as well as testing the content for the latest ‘spam’ phrases”

Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager

Your first email newsletter

As you set out your first email newsletter consider that you will probably wish to continue the same brand and template style for future editions. What you are doing now is setting a pattern for a recognisable format, so it pays to take a great deal of time getting it right. Do test it thoroughly first before committing your email newsletter to a large readership.

Once a style is established, it will form the basis of the level of trust between your readers and you. The same “From” content and a similar style of “Subject” lines will establish your newsletter as something to be expected, something to be recognised and trusted. This trust will build over a period of time so consistency of appearance for your subsequent e-newsletters is of great importance.

Apply the same or similar rules in the body of your email. Keep always in the front of your mind your readers’ likely reactions. Keep it short, sharp and to the point. Place really important information at the top, use bullet points and keep words to the bare minimum.

“Email is a tool that needs constant A, B testing to achieve maximum impact. However, we suggest you only ever test on a small segment of the database while maintaining a consistent front to the majority. If changes are necessary implement them over time. Above all, always log the changes and measure their effectiveness. This way you’ll not go over old ground.”

Ayaan Mohamud – Marketing Assistant

Pictures may not speak louder than words

The use of images may be advantageous but always use ones that have some benefit for the viewer. Just placing masses of images in a newsletter because it looks good won’t make you any friends. Images that illustrate content are preferable, for instance pictures of new products, completed projects, recent events and awards, etc.

In case readers cannot view the newsletter for any technical reasons, start the content with a link inviting them to open a copy within their web browser. Put this right at the top, before anything else appears. Follow this with the name of the newsletter and the organisation sending it. If it is your first email newsletter you may like to ask your readers here to add you to their anti-spam ‘white lists’ to ensure that subsequent newsletters get through.

Laying out your email

You do not have to use a template but familiarity does help with reassurance. You have mere seconds of your readers’ time in which they will make that ‘read’, ‘save’ or ‘bin’ decision so anything you can do to reassure them will be wise. Remember to include your brand, your web site address as a hyperlink and a manned email address. By that I mean, make sure that if someone clicks ‘reply’ their response will go directly to an email address that is regularly checked. It is advisable to have your identity both at the top and at the bottom of the email and links to your website within the body of the text too. Make it as easy as possible for recipients to respond.

If it makes sense to do so, invite your readers to forward the email newsletter to others who might be interested. You can do this by providing a link which automates the purpose. You should include somewhere – probably at the foot of the e-newsletter – contact details, unsubscribe details, any copyright or permission information, a statement explaining why the recipient is receiving the newsletter (because they have signed up to do so) and information about the organisation that is sending it.

“There are legal requirements to include certain facts and it is very important that you comply, to keep you communication within the law and to establish and maintain your organisation’s reputation. The BIS (UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – ) or your local business advisory service ( will be able to provide you with details of current legislation. As will the CIMCIG”

Nick Pauley – Managing Director

The email marketing nirvana is building anticipation. If your prospects are expecting an email from you at a particular time – end of the month or week or whatever – and you send it brimming with relevance to people who are eager to receive it, then you have achieved your goal.

Giving them just a taste of what will be arriving next time and when builds expectations. That way you know they will be expecting your email and they will open it and be much more likely to continue to read your communications or indeed pass them on. And of course, if you’ve promised to send your next email at a certain time, you’re much more likely to stay on schedule!

I will end this particular article on a timely statistic from Econsultancy’s 2010 email census:

“The vast majority of responding companies (75%) rate email as “excellent” (28%) or “good” (47%) for return on investment, and this is higher than for any other digital marketing channel apart from search engine optimisation (78%). As was the case in 2009, only 4% of respondents say email is poor for ROI.

So, on that particular note next month’s article will be on Search engine optimisation for construction companies and how we can help you to improve yours with some simple yet practical advice.

For further information on our digital marketing services please call us on 01908 671707.

About Stuart Dinnie

Stuart has worked in the world of digital marketing for over 15 years. With his measured and planned approach, he has delivered robust digital strategies for construction companies to achieve real business growth. He now heads up the team at Pauley Creative as Managing Director and is leading his team & clients towards digital marketing excellence. He’s worked with over 100 construction clients; helping them on their digital transformation journey, providing sustainable strategies that return year on year incremental growth, delivering award-winning websites and adding value from board level to marketing assistant.

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