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Email Marketing for Service Companies: The Complete Guide

The ins and outs of using email marketing for service-based businesses. Plus, how to avoid getting into trouble for sending your emails.

Tell me – What’s your typical reaction when yet another marketing email hits your inbox?

Do you become immediately irritated?


Or maybe you just feel resigned? Combatting that endless string of emails that clog your inbox each day does seem impossible to do, after all.

What about your clients, then? Wouldn’t it be fair to assume that they react to your emails in the same way?

But how could you not email them? How could you grow a service business today without engaging in at least some form of email marketing?

Well, I have some good news for you too. You see – You can use email marketing to engage customers, and actually connect with them better.

You just have to know how to do it.

The other good news I have for you is that’s what I’m going to show you in this guide. We’ll cover all ins and outs of using email marketing for service-based businesses. Plus, I’ll also show you how to avoid getting into trouble for sending your emails.

So, let’s do it.

Why email? What’s the benefit of using email marketing for your service business?

The statistics look impressive, don’t they?

According to various studies, email marketing has an incredible ROI. If done correctly, your campaign can generate a staggering return of $36 for every dollar spent.

Another research confirms the vast adoption of email marketing among small businesses (a category that also includes service companies like yours). As of last year, as many as 64% of small businesses used email marketing to reach their customers.

Not to mention that the same number of B2B marketers confirm that their email strategy was effective in helping them reach business goals.

But great as they are, those stats prompt another, hugely important question – Why should you do it?

Why should you invest money, time and effort into developing email marketing strategies for your service company?

Let me show you.

5 advantages of email marketing for service businesses

  • Starting with the obvious, email marketing is a solid, and cost-effective strategy to connect with and engage new customers. First of all, running an email marketing campaign isn’t as expensive as it may seem. Not to mention that you can do it as part of a larger marketing strategy or even hire a digital marketing agency like Envoca to run it all for you.
  • You can also reach people who are already engaged with your business with email and nurture them until they become clients. As I’m sure you know very well, in the services industry, clients’ lead up time can differ significantly. Some clients might sign up with you within just a couple of days, while for others it could take up to 18 months to start using your services.
  • Email can help you keep your company and brand on top of new client minds for an extended period of time.
  • The same is true for current clients. With email marketing, you can keep them engaged with your company throughout the entire service engagement.
  • Email reminders can help you increase the show rate at appointments.
  • Strategies like email audience segmentation help you ensure that your messages reach only the most relevant users.
  • You can build your authority and expert status with email newsletters, and so on.

But to me, the best benefit remains that email marketing is easy to set up, monitor and track performance. And it’s one of those strategies that don’t take long to start generating meaningful results.

What goes into a typical email marketing strategy for a service business?

I agree, at first sight, email marketing seems all about sending messages to customers.

That plays a big part of the process, of course. It’s what you use to connect, engage, pull new clients, reconnect with old customers, and more.

But there is far more to a typical email marketing strategy than hitting the “Send” button. So, let’s go through those elements in detail.

A quick note before we begin – I based the overview below on how my agency runs email marketing campaigns for our clients. In other words, what you’ll read below is our process, and the steps we take to deliver results to service companies like yours. Other agencies might be taking a slightly different approach. That said, those differences are usually minimal.

So, without any further ado, here are all the elements of a typical email marketing strategy for a service business:

#1. Goals

You know – As a strategy, email isn’t that different from any other marketing initiative. You can only succeed with it if you know why you’re using it.

(In other words, sending emails just for the sake of it rarely cuts it. Not to mention that, as you’ll see later in this guide, doing so might actually hurt your company, also financially.)

So, the first thing we do is sit down with clients to work out their goals.

We review the current situation, overall business goals, and the competition. Our aim for inquiring about all this information is to uncover what objectives we could help the company achieve with email marketing at this time.

#2. The audience

Another aspect of email strategy is audience targeting. To enjoy success with email marketing, you absolutely have to target the people who are the most likely to engage with your messages.

And so, after discussing the business, and its current situation, we begin to look at the target audience.

We review the people your company wants to do business with, and look at the characteristics of your best customers too. All this helps us to understand your audience, and develop a plan (as well as email copy) that will engage them in the best possible way.

#3. The email list

It may sound cliche but it’s true – To run an email marketing campaign, you first need to build a list of people to send those messages to. In practical terms, it means employing various strategies to have people to sign up for your email list:

  • Offering lead magnets and other incentives to website visitors.
  • Driving email signups with PPC and relevant landing pages.
  • Inviting current clients to join the list.
  • Running competitions requiring a sign up to enter,
  • Requiring email sign up in a chatbot or live chat interactions,
  • Running surveys, and so on.

Naturally, the strategies you use should relate to your services, as well as the audience. For example, you should focus on more direct strategies when targeting non-tech savvy customers. But you should focus a lot on social media giveaways and similar strategies when you’re trying to reach young professionals working in the technology industry, and so on.

At Envoca, we typically use a combination of several list building strategies for clients. We create lead magnets that convert website visitors to the list. For some clients, we use pop-up surveys to engage visitors and collect their emails in the process. We also often run ad campaigns focusing on generating leads and signups.

But once again, we base it all on what we know about the client’s target customers.

#4. Targeted messages

Now, this is the part in which you focus on crafting and sending messages to your audience.

But even here there’s more to it than just pushing send.

The process starts with writing email messages that can resonate with your target audience. If you’ve set up the campaign well, then you know how someone joined your email list. You know which keyword displayed the ad they clicked, what ebook they downloaded, etc. With this, you can segment the list, personalize your emails and craft more relevant messages to further increase your campaign’s success.

All those strategies – segmentation, personalization, and email copywriting – can also help you overcome the challenge I mentioned at the very beginning of this guide:

The feeling of resentment towards marketing emails.

With a relevant message, your emails become a helpful resource, rather than a nuisance to a recipient. It’s something they wait for, and happily open to read the content.

#5. A follow-up and nurturing strategy

Not every new client will be ready to hire you right away. Earlier in this guide, I mentioned that for service businesses, the lead up time may be anything from two days to 18 months.

Email nurturing is a strategy you employ to continuously engage with potential clients on your list, and remain top of the mind for them.

Now, you use different nurturing methods depending on the type of a lead, how engaged they are with your company, or even how they’ve signed up to your list.

In general, however, you nurture leads by sending them relevant and helpful content and information to:

  • Build trust,
  • Maintain communication,
  • Learn more about your leads, also by monitoring which content they engage the most, etc.
  • Increase engagement, and
  • Guide the person through the sales process until they are ready to hire your firm.

#6. Analytics

Most email marketing tools provide you with at least some data on the campaign’s performance. At a minimum, these platforms let you monitor email list growth, and how people on your list engage with your content (i.e., open rate and click through rate.)

Some let you also track the performance of various calls to action. Many tools give you access to advanced features like a/b testing too that you can use to find out what aspects of your campaign (i.e., email frequency or subject lines) engage your audience the most.

So, as part of the strategy, you need to also identify the set of metrics or KPIs that you’d like to track, and that can signify that the email campaign is positively affecting your bottom line.

Can you get into trouble for using email marketing to promote a service company?


Yes, you can.

And many companies do.

If your campaign breaks email marketing laws and regulations, and even if it happens unknowingly, your firm can be found liable and subject to severe consequences.

These consequences can range from annoying your potential customers and losing sales in the process, domain blacklisting resulting in poor deliverability of your emails in the future, to significant fines and penalties.

So, what email marketing laws must you (or your agency) observe?

There are several acts that protect email recipients from spam and unscrupulous businesses that might try to exploit the channel to gain more sales.

  • In the US, we have the CAN-SPAM act of 2003.
  • Canadian companies are subject to CASL.
  • Only a few years ago, the European Union parliament passed the GDPR directive.
  • And there is also the SPAM act in Australia.

Although slightly different in their content, all these acts have one thing in common:

They aim to protect citizens’ personal data being used wrongfully, and their inboxes clogged with unsolicited sales messages.

Our CAN-SPAM act specifically requires companies to adhere to seven specific rules. Note that these rules are exactly the opposite of what most companies sending spam do.

These rules are:

#1. Don’t use misleading information in the emails’ headers. An email header contains information that defines who sent the email, to whom it was sent, etc. And so, the information about the sender (the “From” of your email,) recipient (“To”,) reply address (“Reply”,) and other routing information must be accurate and not misleading the recipient.

Many email spam messages try to present itself as if coming from a genuine company. They use real or real sounding sender names, etc. But a quick look at the sender’s email often reveals that it’s coming from an untrustworthy resource.

#2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines and only use those that accurately reflect the message of your email.

Again, this is the opposite of what you find in spam messages that use various tactics to trick you into opening the message.

#3. Identify if the message is an advertisement. If you’re sending a promotional message, you must clearly disclose it as such. You cannot send advertisements pretending to be genuine emails.

#4. Message must reveal where you are located. This is a hugely important part of the email strategy. Your emails – be it a newsletter or a sales offer – must include your company’s address.

In fact, most email marketing software won’t allow you to send any campaigns unless you include such information in your email templates.

#5. Message must include an opt-out option. In other words, recipients should be able to remove their names from your email list without any problems. They also shouldn’t have to look for that option in the message. The unsubscribe call to action should be clearly visible.

#6. The email marketing system must honor the opt-out request immediately and with no delay.

#7. Finally, it is your responsibility to monitor what others – i.e. marketing agencies and other 3rd parties you hired to manage your email campaign – are doing on your behalf. What’s more, in the case of an issue, you are both accountable.

How to ensure that you’re always adhering to these rules?

At Envoca, we recommend (and implement) these steps to clients:

Always have permission to email someone. This immediately gets you off the hook with many of the email marketing laws.

There are two types of permissions you can get – express and implied.

  • An implied permission relates to people you have an existing relationship with. These could be your existing clients, past clients, vendors and suppliers, etc.
  • People grant you express permission, however, when they specifically permit you to send them email campaigns. This can happen by ticking a relevant box when signing up for your newsletter, downloading a lead magnet, or inquiring with your company.
    TIP: We recommend that you use a double opt-in in this case to absolutely ensure that the person signing up is fully aware that they grant you an express permission to email them.

Never make your messages sound misleading. And that’s even if you have to sacrifice creativity to do so.

In case of a multi-step or long-running email nurturing campaign, include information that reminds recipients why they’re getting the email from you. It can be as simple as a one liner stating something like: “You’re receiving this message because you signed up for our mailing list when downloading such and such ebook.”

Always include your business email in the message body. You don’t have to make it prominent. It’s perfectly fine to feature it in the email’s footer. But the person receiving the email should be able to quickly find your company information, if they needed to.

Add an opt-out button to the email. Again, this is something required by the CAN-SPAM act. Also make sure that opt-out requests are processed immediately.

Several other things that we do to ensure our clients’ compliance

I’ve shared some elements of our process with you throughout this article. And to close it off, let me show you some of our advanced strategies. These are the things we do to ensure that our clients’ email marketing campaigns not only always move the needle but also, ensure full compliance with email marketing laws.

For one, we always set up a system to track subscriptions. This way, we can monitor the campaign’s performance, and subscriber engagement. We know who joined the list, what emails they opened, who opted-out, which message prompted them to do so, etc. All this information lets us continuously monitor user engagement, and improve the campaign with every new message.

We also schedule messages carefully. Why? Because you shouldn’t be sending customers emails at 2am. Sure, they might be more likely to notice it. But it’s not going to be in a way you’d like it to be.

Finally, we help clients create engaging and relevant messages. To do that, we focus on:

  • Crafting messages that establish rapport
  • Building character profile groups and creating email segments based on shared concerns, etc. We then send relevant messages to those segments, rather than emailing the same content to everyone on your list.
  • Incorporating video within the email
  • Linking people to your other social channels.
  • Pacing followup emails/text intentionally.

And that’s it…

Now you know what goes into a typical email marketing strategy for a service-based company. You also know what to do to deliver it, and how to avoid breaking any email marketing laws.

What’s left to do is to start building the email list and launch the campaign.

Need help with email marketing for your service business? Schedule a free consultation with us. We’d be delighted to discuss your plans and see how we could help.