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Email remains an important tool for dealers

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The once lowly tweet has become the darling of the digital world — thank you Mr. President. And while experts specializing in digital marketing will cover the bases from tagging things on Facebook to posting blogs and creating hashtags, marine dealers who have digital marketing programs rely primarily on email to reach out to prospects and customers.

Like any marketing effort in today’s digital world, the first hurdle is to get the email read. Most of us are now bombarded daily with emails from senders we don’t want to hear from and pitches we never requested, all because we’ve been swept up in a step-by-step mathematical procedure dubbed a computer algorithm.

Accordingly, to avoid a nearly automatic push of the delete button, the recipients must value emails from you because they trust each message will have some serious point. In other words, today it’s all about three things the recipients look for – content, content and more content.

Too many dealer emails I see are just shallow ads. They appear just slapped together and aren’t interesting, informative or convincing. The most common is the “new price for xyz model.” If that’s the subject line, I appreciate knowing that up front so I can hit delete immediately. Sadly, there isn’t any other reason for me to open that email. But the subject line notwithstanding, I am not likely to open any email that doesn’t promise some content of interest instead of the dull sales pitch.

Successful users say making it with email requires a strict focus on the message. Topping that list is being certain the subject line is carefully tailored to the recipients’ interests. Then, of course, the emails must deliver the promised information or, in time, they will no longer be trusted and delete!

Successful email marketers also capitalize on the desire most people have to be part of a special group or “club.” Actually, customers are a special group. Every email should acknowledge them as such. Marketers call this “creating a tribe,” while psychologists dub it “social identity theory.” Whatever it’s called, creating that special group feeling with your content is key. Moreover, creating special groups -- like customers who primarily fish or grouping customers together who have young kids, etc. – and tailoring content to their interest will also set you up to make special offers exclusively to them from time to time.

Further, marketers also recommend being emotional in the content. People are emotionally stimulated by poignancy, positivity, shock and humor. A Wharton School of Business study of most-read and shared content found that it appealed to basic emotions. Telling stories that touch a reader’s emotions and headlines that shock, make people laugh or create a feeling of intrigue will draw them in. They also anticipate learning something new from a good story that is the content of the email.

When the intent is to also make some special offer, steal a page from Amazon’s playbook by subtly adding an urgency to act. They do it by immediately telling us how many of the particular items are left or available. The message they’re sending is the recipient can lose out on the item at that great price.

Another notable psychological aspect of making offers comes from a supermarket study. Shoppers were offered 24 different samples of jams. Some bought but most just tasted. However, when only six samples were offered, 20 percent more tasters bought. The lesson: Too many offerings sets up the “psychology of confusion” in any email so strictly limiting choices -- something easily done by boat dealers -- could get better results.

Finally, even though email may be your only digital marketing program, use it sparingly. Less can be more in today’s digital picture. It’s definitely not about hammering your customers or prospects with messages or pitches, albeit if you looked at my inbox you’d realize a lot of marketers apparently think it is. Moreover, keep the writing simple, today’s writing experts say. When you have a good content subject to share with customers and prospects that align with their known interests, it’s time to email. When you don’t, don’t.

Twitter, Instagram and other social media might be the marketing sweethearts du jour, a well-planned use of email is still considered the best digital method to reach customers and prospects.

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