Since writing last week’s post about e-newsletters and metrics, I found myself wondering if e-newsletters are still a viable tactic for small manufacturers and job shops. My gut said yes, but what was the data saying?

A quick search using the query “are e-newsletters dead” shows many pundits believe e-newsletters to be dead. And if they’re not dead, they need to die — sooner rather than later.

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Moving beyond clickbait headlines, however, I learned that e-newsletters aren’t dead — they’ve evolved. In this post I cover some of facts and data I picked up regarding e-newsletters and why they’re still a viable marketing tactic for small manufacturers and job shops.

Deliverability down but still relatively high

Return Path’s 2015 Email Deliverability Benchmark Report indicates that deliverability is down across the board, with sharp decreases in North America. Worldwide, one in every five emails never reach the inbox. This decline is due to messages being sent to a spam folder or blocked by filters.

Deliverability rates dropped in the U.S. from 87% in 2014 to 76% in 2015 with Canada doing a little better — dropping from 83% in 2014 to 79% in 2015.

Many industries saw declining or flat deliverability rates, with two industries seeing double-digit growth rates. Software and Internet went from a low of 43% in 2014 to a high of 68% in 2015. Likewise, Manufacturing rose from 74% in 2014 to 85% in 2015.

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Deliverability is also up for industries that rely on customer relationships, including Apparel, Health and Beauty and Retail, with inbox placement rates at 90% or above and no year-to-year drop off.

While the report authors believe that Manufacturing (and Software and Internet) saw an increase because their inbox placement was relatively low in 2014, I’m willing to guess that Manufacturing is seeing better placement because manufacturers place a heavy emphasis on relationships too, and this emphasis may be coming through in the form of revamped newsletters.

Interestingly enough, webmail service providers (e.g. Gmail) look at how many emails are opened and how many are deleted without being opened as a factor in their spam filtering decisions. Low read rates are one reason why emails miss the inbox. Another reason is low mailbox usage — meaning inboxes neglected by owners.

Open rates for Manufacturing remain stable

MailChimp updated its Open and Click Rates in June 2015 and posted engagement rates by industry for small and medium sized businesses. The company sends billions of emails a month for 8 million customers, so the stats it presented may be the largest global sample of email response, says Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights.

Manufacturing was on par with other industries with open rates at 23.4% and click rates at 2.7%.

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Mobile is huge — but you knew that, right?

January 2015 data from Litmus shows that nearly half of email is now opened on a mobile device — with mobile usage increasing 500% over four years (2011 to 2014).

litmus-data

Litmus believes that webmail open rates are up across mobile devices due to the Gmail change of showing images by default — unless you specifically check in Settings that you want images off. This change rolled out in early 2014.

New tools enhance basic email marketing

I first began publishing an e-newsletter in 1999. A basic text-based email, my e-newsletter went to all of 75 people. At the time, I managed the list manually — until one day when one of my articles was picked up by WebPro News or some platform like that and I received hundreds of new subscribers. (Those were the days!) That’s when I moved to an email service provider and its automated list management functions.

Email marketing platforms have changed considerably in response to technology. MailChimp, for example, has a nice feature that lets bloggers set up an RSS email. Instead of having to copy and paste your blog post into an email template, you can set up an RSS template and each time you post something, an email will go out to your subscribers. Nice!

Providers such as MailChimp and ConvertKit also provide “workflows” or marketing automation. With MailChimp for example, you can set up workflows based on subscriber behavior. If a subscriber clicks a link in your e-newsletter and visits a particular page on your website, you can then have the system send a custom email based on that action.

In addition, most email service providers offer mobile-friendly email templates — making it super easy for small business owners and marketers to send out nice looking e-newsletters that render well on all devices.

Is an e-newsletter right for your job shop or manufacturing firm?

As you can see, e-newsletters aren’t dead and in fact, are still quite viable. Many of the “old” best practices still work (namely, create great content that people want to read and segment your audience). And with today’s tools, you can do so much more with your e-newsletter.

But, your success also depends on your audience type! To determine if your particular audience is reading e-newsletters, see if trade publications in your industry have presented research data.

Last week, for example, I posted a link to CFE Media and TREW Marketing’s, Marketing to Engineers report, which contains some pretty excellent data about how engineers view e-newsletters, websites and blogs.

Liz Stott from Penton Media sent me her company’s Know the Engineer 2015 Salary Survey report. I found this report quite interesting as it gives lots of demographic data about this particular target audience, including the challenges they face in their day-to-day jobs. If you’re a manufacturer targeting this group, this report could give you some great ideas on the type of content to present to engineers — the type of content they’ll find useful and thus will want to read.

Respondents to Gardner Research’s 2015 Media Usage in Manufacturing survey indicated that 68% view e-newsletters as an effective method for finding solutions-based information, application stories, and information on new products or processes. In addition, 93% of respondents indicated they click on companies they recognize in search results — making e-newsletters an effective way to reinforce your company’s visibility over time (yes, even if they delete the email after quickly skimming it or don’t read it at all some months).

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The small details make all the difference

Information and inbox overload have made it much harder to gain traction and get attention with regard to any company’s target audience. One thing I’ve learned in the last few weeks is that e-newsletter success is in the details — details that we tend to overlook in the pressure to create content and due to platforms and applications constantly changing things.

These “small” details include creating a good subscription form or call-to-action (something I need to refine on my own website), going beyond a default Welcome message and incorporating a simple workflow that gives people access to other content they may have missed (ditto), and regularly cleaning lists of addresses that soft bounce due to full inboxes.

I hope you found this article informative. I know I’ve learned quite a bit and have come away with a renewed appreciation for email marketing and e-newsletters.

Article Citations

2015 Deliverability Benchmark Report, Return Path

Email Marketing Statistics 2015, by Dave Chaffey, June 29, 2015, Smart Insights

Images Now Showing, by John Rae-Grant, December 12, 2013, Gmail Official Blog

2015 Engineering Compensation Survey, Machine Design (Penton Media)

Media Usage in Manufacturing 2015, Gardner Research

14 Steps to Building a Sign-up Form that Works, by Peep Laja, ConversionXL