Email Remains a Vital Marketing Tool for Dealers

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I’m on a lot of email lists. I subscribe to many marine-related and general business websites and newsletters. But when I see each day’s incoming email list, the real question is how many will I open?

I admit — around 75 percent go unread each day. Despite email's reputation for overuse and abuse, email marketing remains a very usable tool for marine dealers, so it’s reasonable to consider what those 25 percent of senders do right to get me to open their email.

First, there’s no doubt using email successfully is all about content. That’s why experts call it the staple of content marketing. To that point, when I see emails from certain senders, I immediately anticipate it will have good content because that’s what I always receive from that sender. Moreover, I don’t expect it will contain direct product pitches as its main theme. Rather, interesting, useable information.

In a nutshell, content marketing creates and distributes valuable, relevant and consistent information to attract and keep a clearly identified audience, primarily existing customers with the ultimate objective to drive some profitable customer action. But that comes from cementing an enduring relationship.

Instead of pitching products or services, deliver information that makes the recipient more intelligent and successful at using the boat. How-to and where-to subjects are known to be most popular.

Second, less is more! Email marketing is not about hammering your list with messages. I have subscribed to many newsletters that appeared to promise good educational or entertaining information. But I after being shelled almost daily with content that didn’t live up to the promise, I unsubscribed. And if you promised limited frequency when the recipients signed up, stick to the promise. Abuse that trust and it will likely get you dumped.

Next, recognize the people who sign up for your emails are doing so voluntarily. Motivate them to stay and even refer other friends and boaters. You can have them anticipate your future emails by periodically including a special offer. It called random rewarding and it’s used to keep players pulling the levers on the slot machines in Vegas. A reward that’s simple and free will always go over well.

Always tailor content to the appropriate audience. Segmentation and it’s more critical today than ever before. Groupon is a great example of how to connect users with localized deals based on their local work and play habits.

For a boat dealership’s purposes, if you sell, say, fishing boats, family cruisers and ski boats, keep the customer (and prospects) email lists segmented by obvious interest. The ski boat customers likely won’t appreciate getting info on netting a walleye, so don’t bug them with it.

However, all that segmentation won’t help you get read if you don’t win at the point of attack — the critical inbox. Mix things up to insure a good open rate. Choose those words carefully. Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Say something unexpected. Even a straight line, like: “Absolutely no offers, just news,” can secure the click.

While social media and content marketing come in many flavors today, the facts still show email — especially with good segmentation — remains a powerful tool in a dealer’s marketing kit. The essence of a content marketing strategy is the belief that if we, as dealers, deliver consistent, ongoing, valuable information to customers (and prospects) they’ll ultimately reward us again with their business and loyalty.


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