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Make Email Newsletters Effective

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There are more than 3.2 billion email accounts today, 95 percent of online consumers use email and 91 percent check their email at least once per day, according to data from research firm ExactTarget.

Those figures are compelling, Frank Terlep says, and they should illuminate the benefits of email newsletters. However, Terlep, founder of eMarketing Sherpas, offers more: Although the typical open rate for email newsletters is 15–20 percent, many of Terlep’s customers have open rates of 40–55 percent. And, according to ExactTarget, for every dollar invested in email marketing, there’s a $44.25 return on investment. “Historically, most collision centers have not looked at emails as being important. Those who have figured it out, they are benefiting from it dramatically,” Terlep says. “In our industry, it’s seven years between accidents. What better way to touch your previous customers than keeping your brand in front of them once a quarter by educating them?”

Newsletters, he says, should do three things: educate customers, brand your business and act as a referral source. Terlep offers his top tips for creating an effective email newsletter that does just that.

First of all, legally you have to include where it’s coming from, and/or if it’s being sent by a third party. There needs to be an outbound mechanism. One easy way to do that: Tell consumers you prefer to communicate electronically and provide them with a form that they sign authorizing your business to send them email or text message communications.

Next, you need to build your customer email database. Collecting email addresses is not hard. You should be able to collect email addresses from 70–85 percent of the consumers that visit your shop. Getting that amount of email addresses is simple: You just have to ask or use a form like the above one I mentioned. Second, mention that by providing you with an email address, they have the opportunity to receive free educational newsletters or special promotions.

After you have your database built up, it should be easy for you to schedule automated newsletters. You’ll want to decide if you want to send the newsletters out yourself or use a company that offers this service. The value of working with a company is that they will automate it for you. You agree on the content and you don’t have to do much more than that.

If you do decide to send them yourself, never ever use your normal email system to do email marketing. It’s not designed for that. Most of the major email providers limit the number of emails you can send at once now. If the business has someone that would like to write the newsletter, there are many email marketing platforms, like Constant Contact, that allow you to produce those newsletters yourself. The problem with the generic email companies is that there’s no integration with our industry databases. What happens is that you have to export the data from their existing systems and that’s why most shops don’t do it.

When it comes to the look of the email newsletter, it should have the company branding and it must be mobile friendly and responsive. Regarding branding, it needs to have the phone number and address easily available at the top, links to social media pages and review pages, business hours, the ability to request an appointment and the ability to forward the email to a friend.

Finally, short is probably better. I hate to say it, but we’re living in the 140-character world. I would keep the newsletters to two to three paragraphs at the most.

If you’re sending an email newsletter to your customers, the content should add value and be educational. Think of the common complaints, questions or misinformation you hear from customers. For example, they need to be aware of the new vehicle designs, they should be aware of what’s going on in the insurance world, how to keep their wheels clean. We recommend you do a holiday-themed one, depending on the time of the year. One that we recommend is safety information for Halloween. We want to position the shops as the local experts.

You could also filter your list by year, make, model, insurer and zip code to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time. For example, the right email system will make it easy for you to locate and then tell all of your Ford customers about your company’s latest aluminum certification.

You can also send email newsletters to insurance agents. With these, I recommend communicating your certifications, cycle time, reviews—anything to make the agent feel more comfortable sending you business. However, you may also want to provide information about CE training, new vehicles and the new ways to fix cars. That’s going to make them look good to the customer, as well.

From a branding and education standpoint, we recommend sending these newsletters once a quarter. Within that once a quarter, you have the opportunity to throw in a special holiday edition. There is opportunity to do it more often, as long as there is value. I can’t stress that enough: When you stop delivering value, you’re going to turn off the consumer and they’re going to opt out.

Determining the success is going to be based on what the goals and objectives are. If the goal is ongoing branding and communication, then the deliverable is the delivery rate, the open rate and the opt-out rate (less than 2 percent is ideal).

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