I was impressed by an e-mail newsletter I received the other day from Harleysville, Pa.-based Gehman Custom Remodeling. Not necessarily by any whiz-bang features or crafty design, but because of the nature of its content. The newsletter explained, in easy-to-understand terms, President Bush’s consumer tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements: what it means, why it’s better than a tax deduction, what it can be used for, and its availability. It was great, hands-on info conveniently delivered to customers’ and potential customers’ (and this reporter’s) e-mail inboxes.
Nowhere in the e-mail does it say, “So pick Gehman Custom Remodeling for all your energy-efficient-upgrade needs!!” Why? Because it didn’t need to. With this newsletter, and similar issues before it, the company is positioning itself as an industry expert. No exclamation points or flashy marketing pitches are needed to tell the customer to choose Gehman Custom Remodeling. Instead, the homeowner will see the company’s expertise, begin to trust it, and, when the time comes, likely think of Gehman first.
“Our hope is that it’s setting us up as the experts,” confirms co-founder and president Dennis Gehman. “We were looking for a way to stay in touch with our existing clients that we could do more often. We do a quarterly postal mailing, and we wanted a way to stay in touch more frequently but not have the expense of a printed newsletter.” Using electronic delivery also helps the remodeler green its operations as its customers are greening their homes. (In addition, the quarterly snail-mail newsletters are now printed on recycled paper.)
The informational-rather-than-marketing nature of the e-mail also means that recipients will be more likely to forward it to family and friends, who in turn may subscribe themselves and also potentially pass it on. This viral marketing technique is one way Gehman has grown its subscriber list, which it first developed from an existing customer database, to 3,500 recipients. Subscribe and unsubscribe services are all done behind the scenes via the e-newsletter service, Constant Contact.
Gehman sends the blast e-mails about once a month. Some are informational—one covered energy audits—and others showcase photos of similar project types, such as kitchen islands or porticoes. Gehman reports that featuring customers’ homes also adds to the pass-on factor that leads, again, to new subscribers.
There is still some direct marketing going on. Occasionally the e-newsletter promotes company events, such as an open house at a client’s recently renovated home or culinary events held in the remodeler’s showroom kitchen.
Gehman relaunched its Web site last week using a system that will allow for better tracking of how visitors are using the site. It also is exploring alternative newsletter service providers that offer writing services in addition to newsletter management.