• Effective Strategies for Email Newsletters

    For many tea companies, the email newsletter has been a critical tool for communicating with and maintaining a relationship with customers. These documents promote products, share information about the company and its people, and more than anything, attempt to grab attention in a sea of inbox clutter.

    Electronic newsletters have, in many cases, replaced print mailers for a number of reasons. The first is cost. Electronic newsletters are significantly less expensive to produce than print and they can be sent to an unlimited number of customers. They are fast – instantly communicating time-sensitive information. They also provide you with a better way to track response. Analytical tools allow senders to see who is opening the document, how long he is reading for, and whether or not he clicked a link that resulted in a later sale.

    Remember, getting customers to read isn’t your real goal. You want them to read so that they can eventually be converted to customers. You should be thinking about how to use your newsletter to encourage people to share their information with you (name, address, email), to sign up to receive regular communications, to request information, and to share your information with others. You want to provide information that creates more educated customers. Share information about your products that encourages them to explore your product line and try something new. Get them to spend time on your website. Link! Link! Link!

    But how do you make sure that your email newsletter stands out from the crowd?

    • CONTENT IS KING. No matter what, you must focus on content. You need to prove that you are excited about what you do and that you are knowledgeable about tea.
    • Look at the newsletters you read. Why do you open them? Which ones do you like? Are you scanning for certain information when you look at them? What do you see in the subject line that makes you click in the first place.
    • Keep the subject line short, but with enough to make it something customers want to open.
    • Send it from an actual person who writes an introductory note, rather than a generic corporate email address.
    • The tone should be accessible and conversational. No lectures here and PLEASE check spelling and grammar. Use bullets and make it easy to skim.
    • Use images but keep them small and do not embed them. They should sit on your server and be linked to the newsletter with code. Otherwise the file will be too large for your readers.
    • Consider adding “extras” like video which helps your company feel accessible and personal
    • Establish an editorial calendar that plans out the information you will provide in a way that supports your business’s sales strategies.
    • Whenever possible, include a call to action.
    • Always end with an “About Us” so customers are sure they know who you are.

    In the future we’ll talk more about the actual content — what works and what doesn’t.

    What do you find brings the best response to your electronic newsletters?

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    Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision making. Tea Biz reports what matters along the entire supply chain, emphasizing trustworthy sources and sound market research while discarding fluff and ignoring puffery.

    Need help making your electronic newsletters shine? Tea Biz can provide new content or make recommendations on your existing publications. Click here for details or email [email protected].

  • Service and Innovation

    Service and innovation differentiate tea retailers. At its core, specialty tea is a commodity since most blends use similarly sourced mid-grade green or black tea enhanced with ingredients and flavor.

    The lowest tier in the sector consists of tea-only blends that are bagged and retail for less than $300 a kilo. The entry point is $5 for 200 grams (equivalent to a 100 ct. box of 2-gram teabags) or $25 per kilo with many supermarket teas selling for $7 to $8 per box ($35-$40 per kilo). This tea costs $2 per kilo at origin and is blended with similarly priced teas for consistency. It costs $1 to ship a kilo to the U.S. and less than $1 to fill, tag and box 100 tea bags. Marketing established blends is a rising cost. Store-brand competitors pressure national brands but there will always be a place for bottom-shelf tagless tea bags selling around a nickel to a dime.

    The upper tier is loose leaf with fruit, spice and floral inclusions, pyramid bagged, gift boxed or in tins. A 25-gram pouch of specialty blend sells for $15, earning retailers $300 per kilo. Retailers get only 5-cents a tea bag selling Lipton but they sell a lot of Lipton. Nearly every home in the country has a nationally branded tea in the pantry. Fewer than one in ten are willing to pay $1 a tea bag for a foil-wrapped Tea Forté pyramid (with 4 to 6 grams of tea) but grocers selling Adagio, Rishi, Numi and Republic of Tea are getting $250 a kilo a ten-fold premium.

    The core component of these teas arrives in shipping containers warehoused and blended by a few gateway importers with entrenched (often family) supply chains originating in China, Taiwan, Japan, Sri Lanka, Kenya and India. Raw materials for blending are very similarly sourced and priced with tea often the least expensive component. There are an infinite number of blends and taste sensations but remarkably little variance in a warehouse stacked to the ceiling with four million pounds of tea.

    This is why service and innovation are critical to retail success. Service is the key point of differentiation. It begins with that first impression, the cold-call presentation that gives buyers a reason to believe that working with you as a wholesaler will benefit their business. There are often two or three wholesalers with identical price points pitching a retailer whose first concern must be to meet the needs (within limitations) of his or her customers. The fact that sales of these similar teas are growing is due to the nearly continuous introduction of new formulations and experimental blends and the presence of color, texture (chunks and leaves, not dust) and intense flavor (often added).

    This suggests the path forward is to innovate with taste and convenience foremost. Cultivate in those who show interest a more sophisticated appreciation of the profitable, highest quality teas. Tell the story, let them taste the tea. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Retailer and customer advance in step with sellers bringing ever-larger numbers of specialty tea drinkers into the tent where a growing percentage of newly-converted tea lovers share and spread the joy of discovery after readily paying the always-reasonable price for the pleasure of a fine cup of tea.

    LinkedIN: Share you thoughts on the importance of service and innovation.

    —- Dan Bolton

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