Email marketing: Why you need it and how to do it well

Vincent Ninh
May 2, 2023
min read

The numbers don’t lie: email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to promote your business — you get $42 back for every dollar you spend.

Despite the huge number of marketing tools available out there today, the humble email persists for three key reasons: it is personalizable, personal, and generally cost-effective. With a simple email, you can send pretty much any message you want to a well-defined group of customers.

Not to mention, if you’re spending a lot of time, money, and effort trying to generate leads, you want to make sure you’re nurturing those leads until they translate into a job — and a sound email strategy is the best way to do that.

Let’s go over how to get started (or get better) with email marketing, what you should send to customers, and how to add more email addresses to your send list.

Choosing the right platform

Before you even send your first email, you need a tool that will make it easy for you to reach out to hundreds — or thousands — at the same time. To do that, you need to choose an ESP, or email service provider (though having the other kind of ESP could also be helpful to your business too).

What you should look for in an ESP is affordability, ease of use, and compatibility with the tools you already use. Try to find an ESP that can integrate with your current field service app, as it will automate some things and make your life easier. 

Mailchimp is a great solution as it integrates with most field service softwares and offers free or inexpensive plans. (This article also does a good job at rounding up some of the top ESPs for small businesses.)

A few other features the best ESPs can provide are:

  • Ready-to-use, visually appealing email templates
  • Useful data so you can see what your customers are opening
  • The ability to easily segment your audience (e.g., creating a different send list for prospects and existing customers)

What you should be sending to customers

Having the ability to send literally anything to customers via email is great, but can also be overwhelming. Like what should you be sending them?

Building a basic email strategy can help you keep things organized. The best emails you can send will be valuable to your audience and help you meet your business goals. 

Here’s an example of what an HVAC business’s email strategy could look like:

Send to current customers: 

  • Once a quarter: seasonal tips to keep HVAC system running smoothly — promote blog content if applicable 
  • When applicable: details on contests and promotions (e.g., a refer-a-friend contest)
  • Twice a year: tuneup reminders 
  • When applicable: company updates

Send to prospects/leads

  • Once a quarter: seasonal content about common HVAC issues to encourage repairs/replacements (e.g., “Is it time to replace your furnace?” or “How an inefficient AC system could cost you hundreds of dollars a year”)
  • Once a quarter: customer satisfaction stories
  • Twice a year: tuneup reminders 
  • When applicable: company updates

With the simple strategy above, you’d send to each audience about 6–10 emails a year, plus a few others as needed. 

This frequency should be a good starting point for most small businesses, but if you’ve got more valuable information to tell your customers, you can certainly increase it — we’d recommend a maximum of one email per week per audience though.

Creating emails your customers will want to read

Like we just went over, to make your email strategy successful, you need to know your audiences and what types of content they prefer. But just as important is knowing how to craft those emails in a way that is compelling to them. Here are a few tips:

Write an attractive subject line.

The subject line is what determines whether a customer will open an email or not, so it’s important to get it right. You can use humor or suspense to be more appealing, but avoid being “click-baity.” 

Straightforward subject lines are often just fine too, so don’t fret if you can’t come up with something really clever (“Now offering 20% off new furnace installations” works just great, for example). 

Also keep in mind that many customers will read your emails on their phone, where subject lines tend to get truncated. As such, it is best to keep them short. Around 40 characters is often considered the ideal length. If you must go longer, make sure to include the most important part of the subject line at the beginning.

A little design goes a long way.

Using the platforms we mentioned earlier, it is fairly easy to send emails that look the part. Your emails don’t need to look like they belong in a museum, but spending a few minutes choosing (or creating) a nice-looking template or two can greatly affect how your emails perform. 

You can also throw in a relevant photo or illustration when applicable for extra visual appeal. is a good source of royalty-free stock images — or better yet, use your own photos. If you ask your techs to take just one photo per week, you’ll very quickly have a library of great images to use in your marketing materials. Plus it’s a great way to show off work that you’re proud of.

Keep things simple.

Just like with subject lines, emails with short content typically perform best, so it is advisable to follow that guideline, especially if you’re just starting out. 

In the same vein, try to keep the language simple and non-technical to ensure your message is understood by as many people as possible. If you want to touch on a topic that can’t be explained in a few words, it is best to link to your site or blog — and just preview the content in the email.

Test things.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to email marketing, so even though the tips we’re giving you generally work for small businesses, your audience might have different preferences (e.g., they might better respond to more technical language). 

Most email platforms will tell you how many people are opening your emails and clicking through the links included on those emails. Look at the emails with the highest open rates and click-through rates and see if they have anything in common. If they do, simply do that thing more often.

Also, you might be able to run A/B tests on your subject lines, meaning you can create two subject lines for a single email. Your ESP then sends each one to a small group, then sends the one that generates the most opens to the rest of your audience. A/B tests are a good way to see what types of subject lines resonate best with your customers.

How to collect more email addresses

Effectively gathering email addresses of both prospective and current customers is something all businesses can do, and it often doesn’t require much budget — if any. 

What it does require is making sure that you are providing as many opportunities as possible for these customers to give you their email. Here’s where and how you can get those addresses to add to your mailing list:

  • When collecting customer info for a job: You’re probably already asking for an email address when a customer needs a job; make sure those addresses are part of your mailing list. Easy-peasy.
  • When a customer asks for an estimate: Whether a prospective customer is applying online or over the phone, make sure you get their email. If for some reason they don’t follow through with a job right away, you can still be in touch with them and try to earn their business later on.
  • By adding a popup on your website: If you can, add to your site an email popup — a small window that opens after a visit has been on your site for a certain amount of time. In this popup, make a compelling case as to why people should subscribe to your emails (e.g., they’ll be the first to learn about your promotions).
  • By running referral contests: Referral marketing is one of the best ways to get new customers, and running regular referral contests can be an inexpensive way to keep the leads flowing in.
  • By running lead generation campaigns: Lead generation campaigns (through Facebook and Google for example) are a popular and effective way to get the email addresses of people who are likely to need your services at some point.

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