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I live on the top floor of a contemporary mid-rise apartment in downtown Austin, Texas. While I take great pride in my horticultural skills on display on the balcony, a need for lawn care services for my 70-square-foot concrete and steel space does not exist.

My living circumstances, however, do not seem to disqualify me from receiving dozens of email newsletters from well-intentioned lawn and landscape companies from around the country (oddly, none in Austin).

Living where I do, I’m a customer of the furniture store two blocks up the street where I’ve purchased a media console and dining room table over the course of the past 16 months.

Because of this, of course, I’m on their email list. On a recent Sunday I received an email promoting their “up to 70% off” sale on select store items. I bit, and spent the next 10 minutes on their website.

Only a day later I received two more emails from store, separated by only a few hours, with these subject lines:

  • Email 1: Saw Something You Loved?
  • Email 2: We Can’t Stop Thinking About It Either...

The second message beckons, “Come back and take another look (we wouldn’t want you to miss out).” It took some serious self-restraint not to click through to that super-cool, navy blue Eve Buttoned Chair. It was “70% off!”

Problems with email marketing.

I understand why so many of you send email newsletters and other email promotions. When executed properly, email can keep you in front of your important contacts and be a highly effective cross-selling tool. I get it. The problem is that, unlike West Elm, you do not employ a professional team of in-house marketers who can drive real results.

Our industry’s copycat approach to marketing is also not helpful, “Look at Joe Blow Landscaping – they’re using Constant Contact to send monthly newsletters. We should do that too!”

While this has worked out great for Constant Contact, for those of us on the receiving end, not so much.

Before hitting send.

Not all companies are in a position to orchestrate compelling, results-driven email marketing campaigns. How do you know if you are? Look in the mirror.

If you answer each of the following five questions in the affirmative, then email should absolutely remain in your marketing arsenal. If you answer “no” to any of these, then you should put your email marketing efforts on hold until you make the necessary changes (and take me off your list please).

1. Are you giving me more than you’re asking for?

If you email your contact database frequently, use the “give, give, ask” approach. Meaning, deliver something of value at least twice as often as you pitch your uber-amazing products and services. I don’t mind being pitched, but provide something useful first.

2. Does your email newsletter help me solve a problem?

I’m an apartment dweller in Austin. I have problems, but lawn care isn’t one of them.

3. Are the right people on your list?

If you are email blasting your customers, prospects, suppliers, networking group, extended family, PTA and some random guy in Austin, then you’re doing it wrong.

4. Do you include a direct call to action?

A single, direct call to action is all you need. More than that and you risk losing your reader’s attention. Ask them to do one thing:

Claim your $25 discount on your first lawn application

Request an instant quote to protect your family from ticks

5. Are you using email marketing software and tracking past performance of campaigns?

I’m truly amazed by how many email blasts I still get from peoples’ personal Outlook accounts. You know, the ones with a thousand other victims cc’d. Please, stop it.

Instead, use professional email marketing software that allows for easy subscriber opt-out as well as performance tracking like click-through-rate and unsubscribe rate.

How did you do? Do you have a happy list of contacts and a go-to source for repeat and new revenue or only wasted effort?

Be purposeful marketing via email, like the furniture store. Stay away from the copycat approach that is so prevalent in our industry. Oh, and remember to remove me from your list.

Chris Heiler is the founder and CEO of Landscape Leadership, a digital marketing serving lawn and landscape companies around the country.