I have been working with HVAC contractors for almost 30 years so my example below is based on that type of business, but it can easily be applied to any service.
At the beginning of each season, successful contractors dive into their customer list sending direct mail and making phone calls to encourage former clients to schedule preventative maintenance. These strategies are tedious, time-consuming and expensive. Email marketing can be an effective addition to the program. It won't eliminate the need for phone calls or direct mail, but it will reduce dependence on those tools.
Here's how an effective service contractor email marketing program can work:
With email marketing, a service contractor can send one email to thousands of consumers at once, or stagger the campaign over a series of weeks to manage the call volume. Once the email has been designed, it can be used every year with little or no modification.
Another benefit of sending an email to promote the service before starting a phone or direct mail campaigns is it provides an opportunity to segment the list.
While this will probably be a relatively small group, they are very valuable. They will read the email, click the link and schedule an appointment. Your scheduler may have to follow up, but if your web contact form allows them to give you two or three choices of convenient times, you can often schedule the call without ever talking to the customer. For busy, hard to reach customers this is a huge time saving for everyone.
These customers are also ideal prospects for annual maintenance agreements because they clearly understand the value of the service call. Add them to another list to follow up with a supplemental email after the service call.
These are people who read the email and click the link but don't schedule an appointment. Often it is because the form didn't load quickly or they were on their phone and it was hard to fill out the form, or maybe they just got distracted. Whatever the reason, these should be the first people you call because they were already in consideration mode.
A quick conversation may be all that is needed to complete the sale. Those you can't reach by phone should receive a shorter, reminder email.
These are people who opened the email, but then didn't do anything else. This group was not motivated by your message. They may need a more informative communication which explains the value of the semi-annual maintenance visit.
These are people who didn't open the email at all. Before you do anything else, resend the same email about one week later. Typically you will get another 10 - 15% of your audience to open the exact same email. When they do, segment them into the three groups above and follow up with a phone call or even direct mail.
Now you have a much smaller list to attack with phone calls and direct mail. But you won't need to go after these people until you exhaust your efforts on the first three groups.
People move or they change email addresses so every time you send an email campaign, you should look at your bounces. Delete emails which have been suspended, check non-existent addresses. A typo when you entered an email into the system is often at fault.
Email marketing won't eliminate the need for phone calls or some direct mail, but the more consistent you are with your campaigns the less you will have to rely on expensive and time-consuming methods.