New Discover Boating Center in Miami; Does email marketing still deliver?

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When the Progressive Miami International Boat Show opens on Virginia Key next Thursday, the popular Discover Boating Center will command a new central location. Meanwhile, does all the attention on today’s social media make us ask if email can still be effective?

The Discover Boating Center has been a key educational effort at the MIBS for many years. This year it will be located up front in the grand entrance courtyard where it’s expected to reach out to hundreds of visitors during the show’s six-day run.

The DB Center is a multi-purpose exhibit. Using computers, literature and, most important, face-to-face interactions, those of us manning the DB Center are focused on providing information and first-person boating knowledge to show goers, particularly those considering their first boat purchase.

Now in my seventh year participating in the DB Center, it’s always been exciting to share my boating experiences with so many people who want to know more about our boating lifestyle. Our focus in the DB Center is to answer as many questions as possible, and to make certain visitors know that by going to our industry’s DiscoverBoating.com website, they will access the most comprehensive collection of boating information and helpful hints ever assembled.

Based on good boat show attendance reports from around the country, we’re expecting the DB Center to be a busy place.

Does email still deliver?

With all the articles and talk about the power of social media these days, one might think email must be an old-school technique and question whether it should still be a major piece in a dealer’s marketing plan. The answers are yes and yes.

Yes, email is an old tactic surrounded by the noise of new digital techniques. And, yes, it should still be an anchor in any program because it continues to deliver solid results for marketers year after year, according to Michael Del Gigante, branding strategist and founder of MDG Advertising.

Marketers still rank email as the channel that has the best combination of effectiveness and ease. Certainly the latter is a key consideration for dealers. And it’s reportedly 40 percent more effective than social channels in helping brands acquire new customers.

That said, email is not set in stone. It actually continues to undergo changes going forward. Here, then, are 5 email trends worth consideration this year, advises Del Gigante:

1. Design is more important than ever. Email began as a purely text-based channel. Traditionally, marketers have paid some attention to things like headers and images, but the bulk effort has gone towards just developing good copy. Now, however, marketers are realizing that effective campaigns are as much about the visuals as the words. Design elements such as icons, illustrations and button colors are becoming routine to advance attention and maintain interest.

2. Hail to mobile devices. “What’s behind the increased focus on design?,” asks Del Gigante. “In part, it’s the same thing that’s driving many of the current changes in email marketing: the shift from desktop/laptop computers to mobile devices.” Fifty-five percent of emails are reportedly already opened on mobile devices. That is up from just 29 percent in 2012. So, email should now be mobile-first and every decision i.e. the length of messages, how they are displayed, etc., should take that into account, he advises.

3. Personalization. In the beginning, marketers would “personalize” messages by simply throwing in the recipient’s name — superficial but effective. But with today’s more powerful marketing platforms and richer data collection, targeting highly specific content and offers to individuals based on past and predicted behavior are possible. Now marketers are reporting increased open rates with rich email personalization, and that will likely become even more effective in the year ahead as tools become more sophisticated.

4. Interactive content. Today, it’s possible to add a host of interactive elements to emails, including image carousels, hamburger menus, clickable hotspots and navigational anchor tags. If you want to remain simpler, you can enable audiences to engage with your messages by including a simple “reply to us” option. But at minimum, dealers should consider experimenting with this sort of basic interactivity to boost engagement.

5. Video content will increase. Yes, it’s no longer an “up-and-coming” content strategy. Video is predicted to make up 80 percent of all Internet traffic by the end of this year, predicts Del Gigante. Fifty-four percent of consumers want more video content from marketers, and audiences indicate they are more likely to retain marketing messages delivered via video. Combined with email platforms that now make it easier to deliver visual pieces, could this be the year video makes it into your email marketing?

Good old email . . . still increasing its power to communicate your dealership stories, present your value proposition, provide valuable user information, and build relationships with customers and prospects.

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