Nearly everyone gets them — email newsletters offering a quick, convenient way to stay on top of news and information. But have you ever considered publishing one or more email newsletters for your fleet? If not, you may be ignoring a highly effective, yet low-cost channel for building stronger relationships with shippers, internal corporate customers and even employees.
An email newsletter can be as simple as a short periodic update on industry or business conditions sent to a few dozen people or as complex as a professionally designed and managed daily summary of important news distributed to thousands of current and potential customers.
What all have in common is timely distribution of information to audiences that are important to the success of your fleet.
For example, a for-hire fleet might send a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly newsletter to shippers with general information about transportation trends, technologies and other news interspersed with announcement of new fleet services or accomplishments.
A private fleet might send similar information to managers and others with a vested interest in distribution. And any type of operation could use its internal email network to keep even widely dispersed employees up to date on everything from company performance to promotions.
Wheels Inc., a fleet management company that handles everything from acquisition to disposal of cars and commercial vehicles, currently distributes a weekly newsletter to a list of nearly 1,000 current and potential customers.
“It includes any kind of information that might help them do their jobs, usually four to five news stories, mixed in with a bit of company information,” says Joe Gnorski, Wheels' marketing analyst. “We also keep a separate list for an “E Bulletin” for major news blasts.”
“Fleet Week” actually started as a fax newsletter, but converting it to email not only streamlined production and distribution, but also allowed it to attract new readers. “Anyone can sign up through our web site,” says Gnorski. “We've seen readers actually signing up other people in their organizations.”
“List management (of email recipients) is probably the biggest issue in email newsletters,” according to Sandi Brown, who, as online operations liaison for Primedia Business Magazines & Media, is responsible for 86 email newsletters, including the daily “Fleet Owner Newsline.”
Even if you routinely communicate with customers via email, federal law requires that mass emailings can only be sent to those that specifically “opt in,” or give you permission to send them your newsletter. “You can't just use a list of customers or buy a list and send them a newsletter,” says Brown. “You may have collected their email address for business, but you have to have explicit permission to use it for any other purpose.”
Her suggestion is to consider a third-party service that will obtain opt-in permission from potential readers and keep your distribution list up to date. Such services can also provide templates that let you simply “cut and paste” text to create each newsletter and then handle the mass emailing, all for a nominal cost, she says. Format compatibility, too, can be eased by third-party services if you don't have access to support staff with email expertise.
Third-party services, however, would probably be overkill for a newsletter with a small distribution list that could easily be handled by most email applications. Also, internal newsletters can usually sidestep the opt-in issue, although corporate policies might dictate who can send or receive such mass emailings.
No matter how you decide to manage distribution lists and create, remember that content will determine the ultimate success of your newsletter. Use your industry knowledge to focus on information that your readers will perceive as useful news and avoid blatant advertisements that will quickly drive them to automatically hit delete every time your newsletter arrives in their inbox.