The Power of E-newsletters

PHOENIX — Linda Minde, co-owner of Tri-Lite Builders, has been sending out an electronic newsletter to her network of past, current and (hopefully) future clients since August of 2003. Each month, with the help of a freelance editor/marketer, she crafts five to seven articles that tell the evolving story of Tri-Lite Builders to those who know the company best.

“As far as content, we look for things that are relevant,” says Minde.” “Obviously, we look for things that will put our company in a good light.”

A recent e-newsletter announced the winners of two Tri-Lite giveaways, selected from entries received from attendees at local home show ­— a carpenter for the day and a $1,000 Tri-Lite remodeling credit. Another article focused on green remodeling and the relative ease of which meaningful steps can be taken toward greater energy efficiency. Then there was an article about the company being named a finalist for a local community involvement award. All of these items speak to not only the professionalism of Tri-Lite but are also a testament to the kind of people that own the company and work there.

Minde credits her public relations/marketing firm (PRangle) for pushing the company to begin sending out a monthly e-newsletter. Now Minde is proud that they went along with it: “We were country before country was cool.”

Minde had several different goals in mind when she first started doing the e-newsletter six years ago. The first measure was the open and read rate. This is the number of times that people open your e-mails and read them. In the beginning it was up around 45 percent, which is extremely high. Today the number has settled into the mid-20s, which is well above the Internet industry standard open rates of 10 to 15 percent.

Eventually Tri-Lite began to see the newsletters drive real business. One of the recipients was a prospective client that had gone with a different remodeling company three years earlier. Tri-Lite kept in touch and later got a better result.

“We had an e-newsletter reader contact us about six months ago,” says Minde. “He responded directly to one of our e-blasts. He sent me a little note. So we called him, and he reminded us of the project we missed out on three years earlier. Now he had moved to a different home and the reason he was calling us was: One, we kept ourselves on his radar screen; and two, he was looking for a more professional contractor because it was a bigger project. I believe that keeping your name out there, even if you lost the first job, can ultimately pay dividends, and in this case it certainly did.”

‘I really believe that you do have to keep your name out there. They say you should be touching people three to four times a year.’

Building a list

Tri-Lite sends its monthly e-newsletter to about 2,200 people. The company is very careful to receive permission from each of the individuals it sends its newsletter. They also give plenty of opportunity for recipients to opt out of the newsletter at any time. The company never wants to be viewed as “spam.” It is really much nicer to know that you are only going to those people who have OK’d your keeping in touch,” says Minde.

The names on the list come from a wide range of sources. Any time the firm exhibits at a local home show or festival, the company collects e-mail addresses from attendees who enter drawings. Any leads are asked if they’d like to be on the list as well.

“Last month we exhibited at a local festival. We had never had a booth there, and we gave away a carpenter for the day and a design agreement. So we got a bunch of leads, and we called them all and asked them if they wanted to receive information from us. The ones who said yes, we put in our database,” Minde explains. “So when we sent our April e-newsletter, we got a response from someone who met us there. He said: ‘I am thinking about doing an addition; is that something that you do?’ I really believe that you do have to keep your name out there. They say that you should be touching people three to four times a year. I am saying every month is good for me.”

Minde is also careful to add recipients from her wider circle of business associates, colleagues and industry partners. “I am pretty diligent that whenever I get a business card, I ask them if I can send them our blast. Everyone who owns a home is a potential remodeling client. And if you think about it like that, any kind of partnerships — interior designers, realtors, mortgage people — all should be kept in the loop with news from our company. We are involved in three chambers of commerce. There are board members of charities that you work with — all of those people are prospects and potential sources of referrals.”