While economic development professionals wear many hats, one function of the role is to keep the existing business community informed on relevant matters.
Although this task sounds simple in theory, it’s difficult to do well, especially without a plan in place. The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized this difficulty, as information about mandates, grants, business resources and more were thrown together and pushed out to businesses unsystematically. When information is shared reactively and sporadically, organizations run the risk of overwhelming business owners and losing both their subscribers and their credibility.
The Town of Whitby Economic Development was no stranger to this problem. The team wanted to make a shift and begin communicating proactively and consistently. With this in mind, a monthly e-newsletter was identified as an action item in the Town of Whitby’s 2022-2026 Economic Development Strategy. The goal of the newsletter was to create an effective and easy way to communicate to the business community, as well as Council, new potential investors, and partner organizations. To achieve this, a cohesive and concise newsletter template was created. Further, to ensure the mailing list was CASL-complaint, the team scrapped old mailing lists and built a new one from scratch. This also helped reduce the number of email bounces.
First launching in May 2022, the e-newsletter content has included the following key topics:
Each month, the e-newsletter has served its purpose by being thoughtfully developed and consistently shared with Whitby’s small business community.
The e-newsletter has been well received by its 137 subscribers from a CASL-compliant mailing list. The e-newsletter has an average open rate of 63.3% and an average click rate of 9.1%. To compare, the overall average across all industries is an open rate of 30.35% and a click rate of 1.11% (Constant Contact, 2022). Further, the publication is continuing to gain popularity; from May to August, the number of subscribers increased by 27%, the open rate by nearly 15%, and the click rate by just over 58%.
Much like the business community, partner organizations have been very receptive and eager to submit content. In order to maintain the integrity of the layout and keep the publication concise (two to three stories, four events), the Whitby economic development team has had to be selective in deciding what content should be included. This is often a challenge, as we want to be respectful of our partners’ time and effort to submit content. To combat this challenge, our call for content now includes a notice that content may not be included due to capacity limits, as well as an example of the previous month’s newsletter to give our partners a sense of the content that we’re looking for.
The Town of Whitby Economic Development monthly e-newsletter is a sustainable and easily-measurable initiative that allows our team to communicate purposefully on a consistent basis with the business community, Council, new potential investors, and partner organizations. To date, the e-newsletter has more than doubled the open rate and has a click rate seven times higher than the averages across all industries. This publication will remain a key initiative for the team moving forward, with goals in place to continue subscriber growth, open rates, and click rates.