Achieving Success with Email Marketing

For the past eight years I have been very fortunate to provide email marketing solutions for an elite list of automotive dealers, vendors and trainers. If you did not already know, email marketing is the most cost effective vehicle for engaging conquest buyers and staying connected with current customers. It also has the highest Return On Investment compared to all other advertising mediums. If your dealership does not currently have an in-house email program (one that is measurable and effective) you should get started today! If you already have an in-house program and are looking for ways to improve; I think you will find this article beneficial. So let's get started!

"First, understand that email marketing includes four key areas to focus on. Do this and you WILL achieve SUCCESS!" -TK

Content and Subject Lines

There are several types of emails your dealership should be utilizing; today I will be focusing on the two types I feel dealers can capitalize on the most; conquest and newsletter. You might be thinking... "What's it matter, an email is just an email". While this may be a true statement, the type of email dictates the content.

First, let’s cover conquest email. When sending a conquest email your main objective is to drive traffic to your website, service drive and showroom. The best way to achieve this is by having a very vibrant email, one consisting of high quality images with several ‘calls to action’ linked to different key areas of your website and/or coupons (everybody loves coupons). Normally you should be concerned with using more than just a few images, that’s where the beauty of a 100% opt-in database comes in handy and the worry goes away. However the same is not true for newsletter email campaigns.

Newsletter email campaigns can include images, but should primarily consist of text content. Why, you might ask? First off, chances are your email database for newsletters, unlike conquest, is not likely to be 100% opt-in, since most of these addresses are obtained from customers at time of sale, service, or through appending via your CRM. This being the case, there is an extremely high probability that the images will cause your email content to be blocked by spam filters. If the delivery is successful, in most cases, the images will only be viewable after the recipient clicks to confirm its okay. Therefore, if your email consists of mainly images, its not going look very pretty as the recipient is going to see nothing but a bunch of blank boxes with little red x's.  I only point this out because so many times I see dealership newsletters consisting of nothing but images and think to myself, "Who was the person that consulted with them on this setup?”

Staying on the topic of newsletters... You need to understand, your customers are not going to read everything you put it there. Chances are they are only going to look for the "Titles/Headers" that interests them and read those sections. With that being said, keeping your newsletters compact, for lack of a better term, is best. I recommend a setup with four or five good titles and three or four lines of text below each. At the end of the text include a very simple "read more" link. This does two things; One, it keeps your email very clean and professional looking, and two it gives you another way to get the customer to your website to read, as the late Paul Harvey would say "the rest of the story".

As for Subject Lines... Always try to keep them short and relevant. For conquest email (referring to a program with guaranteed delivery) you have a little more wiggle room because you know your message is going to be delivered, therefore its not going to hurt to put "Super Savings" or something along those lines. However for newsletters you want to be much more conservative as you will have to worry about spam filters and they are very sensitive these days. My best advice would be to use something simple along the lines of "ABC Automall-October Newsletter".

The key to a successful email campaign, especially newsletters, is to have engaging content. While a good writer can make reading very engaging, lets face it, most dealership newsletters are not written by a professional copywriter, so chances are the content is not always going to be super engaging material. There is on the other hand a great alternative, that being video.  I'm not talking about a full-blown video production, a simple video, one shot from a web cam works great.  You could also include videos provided by your manufacturer. Any video content you can include is going to make your newsletters that much more engaging.

My little plug...
If you are camera shy, there is another solution, one that we use here at AutoDealerTarget called GoldMail. This program is by far one of the coolest ways we have found to engage with our customers and it is so easy to use. Click here to see one I created in about 3 minutes (take notice of the company branding at the beginning). We handle the automotive vertical for GoldMail; so If you like what you see, give me a call.

Database Maintenance
Okay, database maintenance is not exciting or fun to do, it is however very important, and a key piece to email marketing success. Much like personal hygiene, keeping your database clean and healthy, like your teeth, is paramount. Remember, your database is only as good as the data it contains, so if you have bad addresses, duplicates or incomplete data you will run into delivery issues.

Here are the three things you must do to maintain a healthy database:

1. Make certain there are no duplicate addresses. No one wants to receive the same email multiple times, and when they do, they are more likely to opt-out from receiving future emails.

2. Remove any bad email addresses. A bad email address is any email that is not delivered, also called a ‘Bounced Email’. If you are sending from an internal email system you will get the bounce back in the email account from which you sent the email. If you are using an email service like ConstantContact you will have access to a report showing the email addresses that were not deliverable. It is important to understand, if you fail to remove these addresses you will run into delivery issues for future email campaigns, as mail servers have a very good memory and will assume your message is spam.

3. Always and I do mean always, take care of any ‘Remove Requests’ immediately. If you do not, you are subjecting your dealership to some huge fines. The CAN-SPAM Act states that you have 10 days to honor the request for removal. However I recommend taking care of these requests the same day you receive them.

I cannot stress enough how important limiting the frequency of your email campaigns is to your overall success. If you send emails too often, you run the risk of ‘Email Fatigue’. No person on earth wants to get emails from a business everyday or week for that matter. Sending to often will result in a high number of remove requests and to be honest its just down right rude. The best practice is a maximum of two email campaigns per month for conquest and once for newsletters.

Wrapping this one up... email marketing is an exceptional vehicle for generating more leads and increasing customer retention. If you focus on the four key areas I mentioned, you will be well on your way to achieving success with email marketing.

As always, if you have any questions about conquest email, in-house email solutions, or anything to do with email marketing, please reach out to me. I am always here to help!

Massive Success Always,

Tom Kain
p. 606.657.0277

P.S. Join us this coming Tuesday night, Oct 25th at 10pm Eastern for the AutoDealerTarget Roundtable where our featured guests will be Chris Saraceno and Mike Myers from It's sure to be another great roundtable!

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