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By Ben Sandman and Jamie Millar

In a research report summarised recently on the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) website, it was stated: “… 71 per cent of Australian consumers check email at the beginning of the day while only 17 per cent will check Facebook…” and “… 47 per cent of Australian consumers will check email as the last thing they do online each day while 27 per cent will check Facebook.”

The point here is, in the face of repeated articles on social media (and we’ve written quite a few), it’s vital to remember the majority of the connected world communicates primarily by email. Think about how much time you spend reading, writing and responding to emails each week.

This essentially means the majority of your customers, whether trade or consumer, are doing the same thing and are communicating via email.

Deal Direct

Email newsletters are known as electronic direct mail (EDM). An EDM is simply direct mail sent in digital format by email.

EDMs allow businesses and other organisations to communicate with targeted lists of interested people that have chosen to receive that communication.

An effective system will also allow the sender to get some data on what interaction the content generates. Data that can usually be retrieved from an EDM (depending on the system) includes open rate, click response, un-open, unsubscribe, unique opens/clicks, bounces, which email systems subscribers use and more.

Importantly, you can see who the individual person is that clicks a particular story more than most. That person might be a lead.

This is significant data. If used correctly, it could lead to a sale or some other positive outcome for your business.

An EDM will also tell you which content was the most popular and which content wasn’t clicked at all. This allows you to improve your content each time and deliver more of what your subscribers want to read. The better your content, the more likely they are to visit your website or, better yet, refer someone else.

As with all digital marketing, the numbers can be quite confusing. Some general statistics on newsletter open and click rates are that 30 to 40 per cent open rate is pretty good (above 40 per cent is verging on rock star status) while a four to five per cent click rate is considered around average. If you’re content is good, you should be able to get between six and eight per cent clicks and higher.

Statistics have to be taken with a grain of salt, though, as it depends heavily on the quality of the mailing list, the demographic of subscribers and variables like which industry you’re in. That said, if you’re getting numbers such as above, you’re not in bad shape.

An e-newsletter is not rocket science; there are some pretty clear objectives that can be reached with a little thought.

The main objective is to drive traffic to your website. The idea here is that you have a great website that will help you convert viewers into leads and then into sales. So you have to make sure the content in the newsletter is compelling and makes a reader want to click to ‘read more’.

Quality Content Creates Clicks

As with all promotional communications, content is king. If you send out rubbish, you’ll get rubbish back.
Too many newsletters are all about sales or overt promotion instead of engaging the audience with something interesting. How many times have you received an e-newsletter telling you about the latest price reduction on a boat? While this is a valid message, it will switch-off readers if it’s the only one you ever send.
If you really know your customers then you’ll have an idea of what kind of content they might like. In the marine industry we’ve found that personal interest stories about the marine lifestyle are good; ‘how-to’ articles and ‘tips and tricks’ generally catch people’s attention. There are loads of angles from which to approach the content, just sit down with your team and get creative.

Permission Granted

Many marine businesses have a “newsletter sign-up” form on their websites. In principle, this is a good thing. But how many of those businesses actually send a newsletter? Not many.

The point about having a newsletter sign-up form is that in order to send an EDM you have to have the recipient’s permission. In this day and age of constant digital bombardment, it’s quite a big ask to get someone’s permission to send them a promotional email. Which is why when you do get permission – when someone has actually said “yes please, send me your news” – it’s absolutely vital to treat that action with respect and send something of value reasonably regularly.

The other thing about getting permission to send an EDM… it’s the law. If you send an unsolicited promotional email, you can be considered a spammer who’s breaking the law.

Just because people fill-in a lead form at a boat show doesn’t mean they gave you permission to send an EDM. You have to include a voluntary tick-box on your lead form where the customer can physically opt-in to your emails.

It’s also known that some businesses engage in what’s called email harvesting (or “email scraping”). This is a process of obtaining email lists by either paying for a list or using tools or services that “harvest” or ‘scrape’ email addresses from the internet to add to their lists. This is illegal. If you do it, you’re sending spam.

The simplest way to look at this is that if someone has opted-in, they are more likely to pay attention to what you send them (assuming it’s quality content). This is a situation where quality beats quantity – every time.

If you want to know more about Australian spam law go to the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s website.

Messages With Benefits

A great benefit of the content you create for the newsletter is that it has more than one use. This is instant social media content or possibly blog content designed to encourage readers to comment and get involved. There could also be stories that you can refer back to when you need some supporting material to send to a prospect (ie. a ‘how-to’ article on boat sales or boat use).

Quality content adds value to your business by being valuable to your customers. They will come to recognise you as a business that is engaged in its community and associated activities, and a trusted source of information. If you can build that kind of trust then you will convert more sales.

Who’d have thought all that could come from asimple newsletter? 

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