Targeted Email Marketing: A Fish Tale

Notes From the Kitchen Wait, what’s this email about fish?

Notes From the Kitchen

Wait, what’s this email about fish?

Oh, it’s from Steve at the DNR. He’s letting me know which guppies are teeming off the Maryland shores.

This is helpful, because I’m a chef in Baltimore. I need to plan next week’s specials by noon, which means I need to know the freshest catch available.

Good thing there’s not a lot of fluff to scroll through or graphics cluttering things up. This phone’s screen’s pretty tiny, and I’m scrolling with my thumb because my other hand’s mixing and stirring.

But I do have a question about these rockfish. Let me just ask Steve real quick. Oh, look, there’s his answer. Perfect.

Okay, now that’s set ’til next week.

So, Who Is This Steve Guy?

Steve Vilnit, Fisheries Marketing Director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Service, has a mission: to increase the consumption of fish in local waters.

His method? Email marketing. But he doesn’t attempt to market to anyone and everyone who’ll listen, or even everyone who lives near the Maryland shore.

He focuses his efforts on a specific audience, local chefs. He targets them with his sign up process. He targets them with the kind of content he sends and the format he uses. His campaign is the epitome of “targeted and timely” emails that subscribers really want. They’re crucial to an effective email marketing initiative. Go ahead and take a look.

Who He Sends To

Since he’s peddling fish, most commonly caught for food, he focuses on consumers. But he bypasses individual families, who generally purchase fish in small amounts from their neighborhood store. Instead, he focuses on larger customers: the food service industry.

“More specifically,” he explains, “chefs in the Baltimore and DC metro region.”

How He Attracts Subscribers

“Currently we let AWeber host our web form and I send out interested individuals a link to the form,” Steve says. This way, his subscribers are ones that will truly appreciate his emails.

The department’s site is undergoing maintenance, but when it’s back up, a web form will be available for interested parties to subscribe with.

What He Writes

Steve sends exactly what chefs need to know from the MDNC:

“Information about seasonal openings and closings of the different Maryland fisheries. This helps the chefs better plan their menu and potentially use more local products.”


Click to Enlarge

When Steve puts together his email, he’s aware of the hectic setting where readers will be opening his emails.

“I try to keep my emails very short,” he says, “as my subscribers are typically very busy people that don’t have time to read long emails.”

He adjusts his formatting even further in consideration of their reading conditions.

“I also keep the graphics to a minimum,” Steve says, “as most of them are accessing these emails via smart phones.”

How He Builds Relationships

In response to his emails, Steve usually gets a few specific questions about the species available at the moment.

“I always respond to questions from my subscribers,” he says. “The more information I can pass along the better!”

When wondering how to market your business, it can be frustrating to just hear, “It depends on your audience.” But Steve’s campaign shows that it really does. Your format, your content, where you offer subscriptions – all of it should depend on who you’re trying to attract.

(And since the MDNR list just grew 24% in two months and has an average open rate of 73%, yes, it works.)

Do You Market to a Niche Audience?

It’s posted across the Internet: to make sales, find your niche and market to it. But like most things, that’s easier said than done. We’ve seen how Steve does it for the MDNR, but the more examples we can show, the more we’ll help the AWeber community of marketers.

If you’ve got your niche defined and a campaign in place (even if there are still details you want to tweak), you could be featured on the AWeber blog. If you’re interested, give us a heads up here!

One Comment

  1. Liat Gat

    3/1/2012 1:41 pm

    I love that he knows his readers are busy and reading his emails on a smart phone, and that he’s at the other end of the email ready to answer questions.

    Sounds like a recipe (haha) for very satisfied customers.