Always on my mind

E-newsletters keep your services front of mind with customers.

Imagine for a moment, your business without email. Some readers will recall a time before electronic communication, and certainly some of you choose to limit your use of email where possible. The impact of email to our communication landscape is profound, and its effect on marketing communications is as important as radio and television were in previous generations. Like many technologies, email can be a powerful tool for your business when used appropriately.

E-newsletters, e-blasts, email promotions – whatever you may call them – provide a tremendous opportunity to communicate with your clients and prospects. Relative to many marketing methods, e-newsletters are inexpensive. And, since most companies’ email lists are comprised of clients and prospects who have contacted them in the past, e-newsletters are highly targeted.

Be a problem solver.

All service companies are hired to solve problems. Be it a weedy lawn, a lack of useful outdoor space or lack of time with family because of yard work – in essence you are all in the business of solving problems for your clients and e-newsletters allow you to communicate your problem-solving ability to your audience.

In some cases, the client knows they have a problem, but they need to be told that you offer a specific service that can address the issue. A client may hire you for a specific service such as weekly maintenance, but remain unaware that you offer additional services like lawn applications or aeration. If you’ve ever had a client hire another company because they did not know you offered the same service, you know that it’s maddening. In this scenario, the client had a problem they needed solved, but their contractor did not do an adequate job of informing them about their range of services.

A regular e-newsletter serves as a simple and friendly reminder to your clients about the services you offer, which increases your upsell opportunities, raising your revenue per client. As consumers, we look for the easy solution, and as you solve more and more problems for a client, they will be less inclined to seek assistance elsewhere. Your goal with an e-newsletter should be to make sure all of your clients know about all of the services you offer.

In other cases, the client doesn’t realize they have a problem that needs solving. Services like aeration, dormant oil applications and pruning are all important and useful, but not often top-of-mind concerns for a client. An e-newsletter is an efficient medium for alerting your audience that now is the proper time to schedule a service. Doing so provides a long-term benefit by positioning you as an expert in their eyes, while providing short term benefits by encouraging the client to buy additional services from you.

The easiest way to develop a newsletter schedule is to picture yourself talking to your best customer. Imagine they ask you, “What should I be doing with my property this month?” Most of us would have no problem answering that question, and picking a topic for a newsletter shouldn’t be any more complicated.

Be a company you’d want to do business with. There’s a sales adage that states, “All things being equal, people prefer to buy from friends, and all things NOT being equal, people STILL prefer to buy from their friends.” Psychologically, we are predisposed to avoid cognitive dissonance, and this means that as buyers, we prefer sellers who make us feel good about our purchases. Have you ever thought, “I like this product but I can’t stand my sales rep.” If so, you probably don’t maintain that business relationship, or you certainly don’t put any effort into giving them any more business than needed. Conversely, think about the companies you love doing business with. Most likely it’s not just the product or the service, but something less tangible that makes you think, “I’m really glad I found these guys,” and makes you happy to continue spending your money with them.

Our clients want to feel good about their buying decisions, too. In an ideal world, we would have the time and manpower to develop person-to-person relationships with each of our clients, but realistically this is difficult to achieve. Newsletters – both printed and electronic – give your company a forum for communicating the tangible and intangible things that set you apart from your competition. Think of these intangibles as your “brand” – the thing that will make a client happy they are working with you.

Thanks to their low cost, e-newsletters are well suited for this effort. The most difficult part is determining what sets you apart. What are you trying to portray? Professionalism? Experience? Superior service? Certainly. But be aware that most consumers take marketing-speak self-promotion with a grain of salt. Do you have friends who always tell you how great they are? It’s annoying. We are impressed by displays of humanness more than we are claims of superiority. Again, think of your friends; it’s always more endearing to hear a friend tell a funny story about a recent mistake they made than to hear about their latest victory because it’s humanizing to hear that we all have similar struggles.

We want a human element – so how do you incorporate that into your newsletters? The most important step is to be honest. You may want to be the biggest landscaper in your market, but if you’re a small family-run operation then be honest about it. Talk about the good and the bad of this business, talk about a new baby, talk about it when you lose a great employee, talk about the things that will make a reader feel they know you better as a person. Above all else, be true to who you are.

Practically speaking.

With easy-to-use online services such as Constant Contact, e-newsletters can easily be created on a DIY basis. But, just as I could put down my own lawn applications, opportunity and completion are two different things. The two most common issues landscape contractors run into are collecting email addresses and staying consistent with their e-newsletter efforts.

Developing an Email list.

As common as email addresses are, many of us are hesitant to ask our clients for them. It’s a lot like asking for the sale; too frequently we think it will be an imposition. It’s not. These people are clients or prospects; they have an interest in your business. Ask them as early as you can in your discussions, and whenever possible give them a logical reason they need to give you their email address, such as receiving an emailed estimate or an emailed invoice/statement. In my business, we have to email PDF proofs to our clients, and I’ve never had a client balk when I asked for their email address. One of my clients instituted a simple but effective approach: he paid his employees several dollars for any new email address they acquired from a client. Get comfortable asking for email addresses and make sure any website form has “email” as a required field.

Being consistent.

A common situation with landscape contractors is that they start strong with a nicely personalized newsletter in the early spring, and then they get busy and don’t think about it again until fall. If you decide to implement a monthly e-newsletter program, you need to be realistic about who is going to actually put them together. It’s not terribly difficult, but then again neither is putting down fertilizer, and I still don’t do that on schedule. Decide who is in charge and make them accountable. If you determine that it’s not likely to get accomplished internally, consider hiring someone to help with the process.

Now is better than perfect.

It’s easy to get hung up on perfection, but don’t sweat it. Remember that your newsletter is unlikely to get more than a few minutes of attention and that “now” is better than “perfect.” Get it as close as you can, then send it. The consistency will benefit you, even if it didn’t have that one perfect photo you were hoping to include. Since it’s so easy to get off track with your schedule, don’t nitpick your newsletter if there’s any chance it will delay the distribution.

On the other hand, I often get asked if once a month is too frequent to send e-newsletters, because you don’t want to annoy their clients. My response is that I get DAILY emails from They aren’t stupid when it comes to marketing, and I keep shopping there. If a client decides to unsubscribe from your list, it will probably not be because you’re emailing them too often, and it’s also simply unlikely that you will have the time to send too many e-newsletters. Realize that some people will unsubscribe, and you can’t really worry about them. Write for the people who do read your newsletter and commit to a regular, consistent approach.

E-newsletters are one of the most flexible, targeted, and cost effective ways you can communicate with clients and prospects. Consistent and informative e ones will position you as an expert problem solver and help you sell more work.


The author is vice president of sales at Focal Point Communications.

October 2014
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