Megan Bedford: Email Marketing Critical to Driving Home Services Leads in 2020

Mike PersingerMarch 3rd, 2020
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Megan Bedford is a believer in targeted email marketing for the home services industry. 

Through her company, Mugyver Consulting, Bedford acts as a defacto chief marketing officer for smaller companies in the trades. In a February webinar for ServiceTitan, she offered tips on running an effective, automated, targeted email marketing campaign for your home services business.

How important is a targeted email program? Beford told participants in the webinar that companies that haven’t launched a program should make it a top priority in 2020. 

A campaign she launched for a client illustrates why: 

  • A targeted email for furnace tuneups, launched in October, produced 51 total calls. 

  • An ongoing unfilled estimates campaign led to 50 more. 

  • Emails timed with expiring memberships produced 38 calls, and one about boiler tuneups generated 36. 

  • An email about gas fireplace maintenance generated 23 calls, and one about a humidifier add-on for existing furnaces produced another six.

  • And a holiday card, sent largely to thank customers for their business, generated 47 calls. 

And the cost? Because targeted email marketing closes at a high rate, she puts it at about $12 per lead for this campaign, and says it can drop to as little as $7.14 per lead. 

Her client might have gotten closer to that lower number, she says, if the campaign had started in September instead of October, to get the most out of winter tuneups.

Why didn’t the client start earlier? Because October is when the client switched to ServiceTitan Marketing Pro, making it all possible. 

“I don't know about you guys,” Bedford told the webinar audience, “but I don't know too many other types of advertising right now that you can do in home services that have a cost per lead under 12 bucks.” 

Here’s what you need to know about targeted email marketing for the trades and how to launch a program for your company. 

Is targeted email marketing worth the effort? 

In 2020, marketing your business is difficult, and not cheap, Bedford says. 

“The cost per lead is rising,” Bedford says. “When I'm looking at pay-per-click right now, for instance, the cost per lead is really going up. I'm always looking at different ways that we can bring down that cost per lead and make sure that you're in front of the most customers and your existing customer base.”

Targeted email marketing accomplishes both those goals, and it is considered one of the most effective marketing channels, earning $40 for every $1 spent. Plus, in a recent study by Thrive Analytics, 68 percent of homeowners are open to receiving email marketing communications from home service providers at least quarterly. Only a third of them are open to getting direct mail or a promotional text. 

Email also has a much higher engagement rate, at 23 percent, than social media (about 0.6 percent). 

The bottom line? Email marketing works—as long as it’s targeted, designed for your business, and delivers a message your customers want to see.

ServiceTitan Marketing Pro makes building and targeting email marketing easy 

Here’s what using Marketing Pro and ServiceTitan means for a sound email marketing strategy: 

  • Personalized communication directly with your customers. A targeted email can, for instance, let customers for one segment of your business know you do other things. “You may have just gone and seen them for a furnace unit, but they have no idea you're actually an electrician too,” Bedford says. 

  • Audience targeting. Unlike with direct mail or social media, you can target people likely to be receptive to your message, not just a broad swath of geography. “This is a great way to target businesses or customers very specifically,” Bedford says. 

  • A high conversion rate. “Some of the highest that I've seen in marketing.” Bedford says. 

But if targeted email marketing is so great, why aren’t more companies using the strategy? Simply put, it can be difficult without the right tools. But there are other reasons for what Bedford calls a “big hole in home services businesses’ marketing right now.”

Among them:

  • A lot of people don't know how to manage email marketing.

  • They can’t find a cost-effective provider who can do it for them.

  • Targeting is time-consuming, and without the right tools can involve tedious manual labor to parse a big list.

  • A cookie-cutter approach that mass emails your whole customer base risks the delivery of messages that don’t resonate and lowers conversion rates.

ServiceTitan solves all those problems, Bedford says, because the customer relationship management (CRM) data is paired with a powerful, integrated email platform.

What are some targeted campaigns ServiceTitan data can power?

Bedford offered some examples but suggested that companies think about their customer base and the way their data is organized for more ideas. Among the possibilities:

Unsold estimates: Often, companies will do a job estimate, but there is no follow-up system even though it cost a lot of money to get that lead. Targeted email marketing can put a campaign in place that every time the system sees an unsold estimate, an email automatically goes out as a reminder the customer can call with questions. “This is my favorite campaign,” Bedford says, “because it's like having a salesperson working for you 24/7.” 

Educational pieces: Many customers have gas fireplaces but don’t know that they need to be tuned up — or that your company does that. How about water filtration systems and the benefits they bring? Or furnace and boiler tuneups? What educational pieces could you do that help consumers and drive revenue to your company? 

Expiring memberships. Is this something you neglect now? “I think so many times we look at our memberships and they're going to expire ... yet no one's following up with that customer,” Bedford says. “Say, ‘Hey, your membership's about to expire. Here's a great deal to rejoin.’ How many of those customers do you lose the membership because you don't have a follow-up system? 

Spring/fall tuneups. If your organized data shows installation date or date of last service, you can target customers specifically with a drip campaign for service and maintenance. 

Other preventative maintenance. An email about remembering to have your tankless water heater flushed is part customer education, part marketing. “You probably don't have a ton of tankless customers unless you just do water heaters,” Bedford says. “But a lot of people don't know that these need to be flushed, right? Everyone needs to hear. You're going to target a very specific type of customer, and if you labeled it correctly in the data, you're going to have the ability to reach them.”

Fun campaigns: Letting your customers know when the home show is, where it's going to be, and whether you’re going to be giving something away can drive awareness, and potentially business. There is also potential for targeted emails for holidays, birthdays and just to thank customers for their business.  

Once you analyze your data and your customer base, you can leverage these and other cool ideas, Bedford says. 

What are the steps to take to launch targeted email campaigns?

Here are the questions to ask yourself before you dive in: 

Do you have organized data? The better your data, the better you’ll be able to target your message. Invest time and training to get clean data. The effort will pay off. 

Do you have a plan? What types of other marketing are you doing? Could you coincide some email marketing campaigns with that? Do you have special offers? Integrating targeted email with other marketing is essential.

Do you have photos and videos you can use? They can be fun or educational or both, but visuals can personalize your emails. 

What educational topics can you explore? Can you use an email to explain the benefits of a water filtration system, or of having your furnace or air conditioner tuned up? What safety issues can you address? 

One example: Setting up a targeted email marketing program for unsold estimates 

  1. Choose your audience: An unsold estimates program can be targeted by sales, automated, and the program could include, for instance, any unsold residential estimate over $250. 

  2. Send an initial followup email: Everyone who fits the criteria will get an email on the first day after the estimate is given. It’s nothing more than, "We know you have a lot of choices, thank you for giving us the opportunity to give an estimate." It can be automated to include pictures or videos from the estimate, links to social media pages or your website, or to show reviews. 

  3. If the customer still doesn’t book … : Two days later, another targeted email goes to those who haven’t booked, with different messaging. “We know you have a lot of choices, and we’re here to answer any questions that you may have." Link to your reviews, to remind the customer of your reputation. 

  4. After three more days … : If the customer still hasn’t booked, a third email goes out, possibly offering a small discount for a future repair. 

All of these emails are automated based on your data and criteria you set, and it’s like having a salesperson follow up with the customer three times. 

FAQ: What webinar participants wanted to know about targeted email marketing

How big is the typical targeted email send? 

That depends on what your database is, and what you’re targeting. “When you're doing a highly targeted campaign, like that water heater when I was talking about, that's a much smaller audience,” Bedford says. “So anywhere from 20,000 down to 100 people, depending on how targeted your message is.”

What are the best practices for subject lines? 

For the subject, I try and keep it pretty short. It's really trial and error and figuring out what works best with your customer base. And I change it up all the time.

How does email marketing compare with Facebook ads? 

They are two different products with different objectives, Bedford says. “Facebook ads are not nearly as targeted. Facebook is really more branding, so it's to get your name out there, whereas email marketing can be a mix of branding, also a call to action, so you can have lots of different objectives with both.” 

What is the best time of day to send emails? 

There’s a trial and error aspect to this, so try various times. Bedford says she always sends in the morning, but you can test to see when your audience has the highest open rate. 

How often should I send emails so customers don’t feel like I’m spamming them? 

Try not to hit the whole customer base more than once a month. But four emails per month, once a week, is not too many. Customers will let you know, through unsubscribes or other feedback, if you’re sending them too many emails. The best practice is to think about what you are trying to get from the customer before you hit send. If you can’t answer that question, don’t send that email. 

Is there any value in purchased email lists?

Buying generic lists off the street is not the best bet. The people you email should be expecting to hear from you. That's the basic golden rule to live by.

A better possibility? Gather a list with a giveaway at a home show, with name, email address, phone number and physical address, and have your success manager create customer records for those people, tagged “home show 2020.” Then market specifically to that list.   

Is there a benefit to sending a newsletter via email marketing?

If it’s full of educational items that's great, Bedford says. “But ask yourself, what's in it for the customer? What do you hope to gain from it? Do you think your customers are going to enjoy it? There has to be something in it for the customer to open it and read it.

How can I make the emails look professional?  

Marketing Pro has templates that can be personalized for your business. A ServiceTitan team member can walk you through things like adding social sites, photos and videos. “I'm not a graphic designer, so if I can do it, anybody can do it,” Bedford says. “It's not rocket science, it just takes some time and some practice.”

Anything else to remember?

Yes. Pay close attention to your subject line — no exclamation points, dollar signs, emojis, all-caps or words such as “free” or “promotion” or “offer.” Those are red flags for email service providers trying to protect their customers, and they’ll get you marked as spam in a hurry. There are good online resources, including sendcheckit.com, for testing the spamminess of your subject lines. 

What's considered a good open rate?

Double digits (anything over 10 percent) is good, but some campaigns can be much higher. Generally the more targeted your message, the higher open rate you can expect. Some could be as high as 50-60 percent. 

How do you define success within email campaigns?

That depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Thank-you emails have a different goal, for instance. But two big indicators of success are lead generation and cost per lead. “By far, Marketing Pro is my lowest cost per lead right now,” Bedford says. “At the end of the day, I'm interested in lead generation, if that’s the intent of the email campaign.”

What advice do you give those who want to start doing targeted email marketing?

  • At first it can seem overwhelming, so don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

  • Have at least a 90-day plan. Nothing great happens immediately.

  • Unsold estimates programs are a great place to start.

  • Build from there, do one thing at a time and watch your business grow. 

What if I have other questions?

Email marketingpro@servicetitan.com and the people who monitor that email address will be happy to answer any questions you have.

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help home service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.

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