10-Step Email Marketing Plan for Landscape Contractors

Tips from Matt Hudson, the Strategic Landscaper

Email marketing can be a very effective tool in your overall marketing arsenal. To make it work, though, you must have an understanding of what email marketing is and what you’re trying to accomplish.

1. Quick overview of email marketing

First of all, email marketing is all about your list—how well you put it together, how well you manage it, and how well you communicate with it. There are a couple of overarching points to keep in mind:

  • You want to form a relationship with those on your list
  • To build a relationship, you want to personalize the email content, as if you are talking to a single person
  • Don’t obsess over list size; focus on how many people actually open your emails because that’s what really matters

2. Understand that you’re trying to build a relationship

Create a conversation with your content, as opposed to just making announcements or sales pitches. Show that you understand your customers and can help solve their problems. And as you build out your email calendar, always respect your subscribers’ private space, which in this case is their email inbox. Always think about what you’re sending them, when and how often. Listen to feedback as you get it.

3. Identify your ideal client

Get to know everything about them: goals and desires, what they fear, what drives them crazy, what they like and dislike. Write it all down. What’s interesting is that your ideal client will differ from your not-so-ideal client in all of these areas. So paint a picture of your ideal client—because that will help you create better content for them.

4. Determine how to separate your lists

You’ll want to have several types of email lists, as opposed to just one massive list. There are generally three types of lists: prospects, current clients, and strategic partners such as other contractors and business partners, vendors, etc.

Keep in mind that a current client list is worth 15 times that of a prospect list. So really be careful to nurture this list with great content that speaks to the audience’s interests and needs.

5. Select your email marketing software

Can you send marketing emails from your simple email program (i.e. Outlook) on your computer? Yes, but you’re better off to use specific email marketing software.

Keep in mind that your email list is always being rated and judged by email providers such as Gmail and Yahoo. This is where we get into something called “list hygiene”. Some businesses, while definitely not recommended, simply buy email lists from a third party. They load a list into their email marketing software and start spamming away. Providers like Gmail and Yahoo notice this—they’re really, really smart, you know—and will start sending your emails to recipients’ spam folders.

So with that in mind, the first thing to do is avoid buying a generic third-party list. Secondly, refrain from spam-blasting people. And thirdly, pick a good email marketing software with a good reputation that can get your emails delivered to actual inboxes.

Here are some good software options:

  • Constant Contact – great for a beginner, minimal advanced features but can be quite effective
  • Aweber (what Matt uses) – semi-advanced
  • Mail Chimp – semi-advanced
  • Get Response – semi-advanced
  • InfusionSoft – advanced
  • OntrPort – advanced

For the typical landscape company, all you really need is a beginner to semi-advanced software. That’s why Constant Contact is so widely used to landscape and lawn care companies.

6. Building your lists

To build up your primary mailing list, start by adding your existing customers, of course. Again, do not add prospects because doing so could damage your list hygiene. At this point, it’s OK if many of these people haven’t specifically “opted in” and told you they wanted to start receiving emails from you; you’ll give them a chance to “opt out” when you start sending emails. This is why it’s important to start off with only people you know and who know you, i.e. your current customers.

Naturally, though, you’ll want to build up this initial list by adding new subscribers. There’s a pretty straightforward formula to help do this: Targeted Traffic + Irresistible Bribe = Large, Responsive List. In other words, you want a list of people who are looking for the services you provide, and then offer them something they’ll value enough to provide you with their email address. Those two things will help you create a good list that responds well to your emails.

7. The offer

As just pointed out, one-half of the critical equation is the offer. Some good examples of valued offers include tips and advice, and really just any information related to your services and how you can help solve one of the email recipients’ problems. Other examples of good offers include e-books, discounts, giveaways, and free training or workshops. Don’t be afraid to get creative, but do think about the person’s needs, etc. (as described above in step 3).

Also on the topic of the offer, copywriting and design techniques are very important. We could do an entire video/article on just this topic. For now, though, let’s just say they are really important, and warrant you doing a little reading up on the subject, or maybe even hiring a professional copywriter and/or designer to help you out.

Once you have your offer figured out, you’re not done. Now you have to think about presentation. There are a couple common ways to present your offer. First, your email software should allow you to create a web form. Secondly, and perhaps much more effectively, you can use something called a squeeze page, otherwise known as a landing page. Here the email recipient would click on a link in your email, i.e. the offer, and the link then takes them to a website page where they can enter their name and email address. Leadpages.net is an example of a semi-advanced tool that can help you here.

8. The opt-in

When someone decides to take you up on your offer and provide you with their email address, they are “opting in”. There are two types of opt-ins:

  • Single opt-in is where they give you their email address and you immediately add it to your list
  • Double opt-in is where they give you their email address, but then you send them to a web page that says something to the effect of, “check your email and click on the link we send you to confirm that you want to receive information from us”.

Expect to lose some people if you elect to use the double opt-in; some people are just not going to go to the extra trouble to opt-in. But, hey, you might want to consider the double opt-in as a useful filter—because people who won’t go that simple, extra step could very well be the type who never open one of your emailings. Again, your objective isn’t massive list size, it’s engagement.

9. Create different types of emails

First, you should set up a series of pre-determined follow-up (auto-responder) emails that are automatically sent to new subscribers once they opt-in. For example, if somebody gave you their email in exchange for your e-book, “10 ways to reduce lawn maintenance costs”, you know just what they are interested in. Thus, you know just the type of content you should be emailing them.

There is no hard and fast rule as to how many auto-responder emails you should send to someone, or for how long you continue sending them. Again, just use some common sense and keep your email recipients’ needs in mind. You might want to send a couple within a week or so, and then back off the frequency as you go forward. Whatever you do, always monitor opt-outs to identify if you might be over-emailing and annoying people.

Next, outline a series of what we’ll call “broadcast emails”. A common practice is to make these seasonal, such as spring cleaning updates, summer watering tips, fall fertilization, etc. You can tie in some specials, promotions and events.

10. Key takeaways

That’s a lot to chew on. In summary, here are some key takeaways:

Subscribers come for the content but stay for the connection.

Use tools to automate your process.

Seek help if you feel you need it. Once you get everything set up, email marketing gets a whole lot easier. That upfront investment in professional creative help could prove to be well worth it.

Be real. Tell stories, solve problems and engage the audience. And don’t always be promoting. Sure, you can and should ask for the sale from time to time. But mix those pitches in with good content the audience values so they stay on our list and ultimately do business with you at some point, now and/or in the future.