Make your email work for you

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Every day I go to my email and I realize I’m on a lot of lists. I admit I subscribe to many marine-related and general-business websites and newsletters. A lot from dealers. But when I see each day’s incoming email list, the real question is: How many will I open versus those sent unread to the trash?

The answer: somewhere around 75 percent go unread each day. But despite email's reputation for spam and abuse, email marketing remains a very usable tool for marine dealers. So it’s worth thinking about what the senders have done that get me to open their email.

First, it’s all about content. That’s why experts call it content marketing. When I see emails from certain senders, for example, I immediately anticipate it will have good content because that’s what I always receive from that sender. On the other hand, I don’t want or expect any direct product pitch as the main point.

Put another way, content marketing creates and distributes valuable, relevant and consistent information to attract and keep a clearly identified audience such as existing customers. Sure, the ultimate objective is to drive some profitable customer action. But it’s by cementing a long-term relationship. In short, instead of pitching products or services, deliver information that makes the recipient more intelligent.

Second, less is more. Email marketing is not about hammering your list with messages. If you promised something about limited frequency when the recipients signed up, stick to the promise. Abuse the recipient’s trust and it will likely have them unsubscribing.

Next, recognize the people who sign up for your emails are doing so voluntarily. Motivate them to stay and refer other friends and boaters and have them anticipate future emails by periodically including a special offer. Something simple and free always goes over well.

Keep focused. Always tailor content to the appropriate audience. It technically called segmentation. Groupon is a master at it by connecting users with localized deals based on their local work and play habits. So, for a boat dealership’s purposes, if you sell, say, fishing boats, family cruisers and ski boats, keep the customer and prospect email lists segmented by obvious interest. The ski-boat customers likely won’t appreciate getting fishing content, so don’t bug them with it.

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

Overall, then, while social media in many forms may be the blue-plate special of the day, the facts still show email to be the most powerful tool in a marketing plan. After all, 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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