Kurt Moberly, General Manager of Urethane Innovators (or UI for short), doesn’t have a lot of time for marketing, but one thing he does have time for is the company newsletter.
Located in New Bern, North Carolina, UI manufactures custom urethane parts – everything from urethane covered bearings used on conveyor lines to specialty parts that solve unique types of applications.
Kurt’s interest in newsletters was piqued when the company began producing its own monthly newsletter in October 2016; he began reading all the newsletters that hit his inbox versus deleting them unread.
“I wanted to see what other companies were doing,” he said, “to help us make ours better.”
What he learned, however, is that manufacturing newsletters can be downright deadly.
“One newsletter,” he said, “comes out every week from an industry publication. I get they have to point to all the stuff they’ve featured on the website, but I counted the number of links one week – over 40 of them! I no more have time to read all that than I do to take a leisurely stroll around the plant.”
Other newsletters were poorly formatted and unprofessional looking. “Some were just painful to look at,” said Kurt.
The more Kurt and his team looked at other manufacturing newsletters, the more they wanted the UI newsletter to stand apart. To do this, UI focused on three strategies.
Strategy #1: Create Easy-to-Read, Friendly Content
According to Kurt, the manufacturing engineers they work with don’t need to know how to cast a urethane part, they only need to know that UI can help them solve their challenges.
“Technical is my middle name, but I don’t have the time to decipher technical-ese,” he said. “And I know our customers don’t either.”
To help engineers understand how UI could help them, the team created tech tips, FAQs and application notes – all written in a friendly, easy manner (“meaning,” said Kurt, “you don’t need to be an engineer to ‘get’ them”).
Each content piece featured multiple photographs and descriptions to help engineers see exactly the types of projects UI tackles.
Strategy #2: Link Newsletter Content Back to the Website
One goal for the UI team was to get more people to visit the website from the newsletter. To do this, they created brief, engaging blurbs based on the content they were creating, and then linked each one to the corresponding FAQ, tech tip or application note on the website.
In keeping with their self-described brand “quirkiness,” the team had some fun with this content. For example, instead of stating, “Send us your rollers for recovering,” the team used a play on words in the headline and included in the copy a fun emoticon with the words, “hubba hubba.” (Figure 1)
By linking newsletter content to the website, and injecting some fun into it, the UI team began to see traffic to the website increase over time – a 70% increase between 2017 and 2018 – a 93% increase in new users clicking through from the newsletter.
Strategy #3: View Readers as People
As the UI team began to see results from the newsletter in terms of RFQs and customers re-engaging with them, they began to include items that weren’t manufacturing focused, such as including a brief story about Luke, the office dog. (Figure 2)
When UI had a new machine delivered in late November, instead of simply including a photo of it with the standard, “We got a new machine blah, blah, blah,” UI had their designer add an Elf on the Shelf to it, with the headline, “Christmas came early at UI!” (See image at top of page.)
“We got a fair number of replies for that issue,” says Kurt. “Everyone loved it. The more we included fun stuff of this nature the more people began engaging with us, which in turn allowed us to reconnect with inactive customers. Some people want ‘technical’ and some people want a ‘working relationship.’ This approach gives them both.
“Although the newsletter isn’t the main driver of our inquiries, we do get people who email us directly from it asking for a quote – and these quotes have become sales. It has been a win-win-win all around, plus a lot of fun to boot.”