Over the past eight-years I have read tens of thousands of emails.  I have written and setup over a thousand emails for clients in the auto industry.  When it comes to email marketing, I am very proud to be consider by most, an expert in the field.  My expert knowledge of email marketing did not come from books or online tutorials, it comes from first-hand experience facilitating the best companies and individuals in the auto industry achieve success with email.  With that being said, I still understand there is always room for improvement and knowledge to be learned, so I make a conscious effort to learn everything I can about my profession.

Which brings me to this... About two months ago I got a call from a friend of mine, who works for a dealer group, asking me about email newsletters.  He asked which company I would recommend to handle this for his stores.  While I knew there were companies who provided this service to dealers, I could not recommend any one of them as I did not know the quality of service they were capable of providing.  You see, I will never recommend a company unless I know for certain they are capable of providing a superior level of service.  So, I told my friend I would do some research and get back to him with my recommendations.

Eye-Opening Research
Eager to help and admittedly curious, I began my research right away.  Holy headlights Batman, what an eye-opener.  I was absolutely astonished by the poor quality of setup and content being provided to dealers.  Most of the newsletters I found were of such poor quality, I did not know whether to laugh or feel sorry for the dealers who were roped into thinking these companies were giving them a quality service.  What I did realize was an immediate need for a competent email newsletter provider, one that could provide relevant content and proper setup with the ability to increase delivery, SEO and ROI.

The Right Content & Setup
Now, I am not going to start blasting specific companies, that is not my style.  What I will do however is explain exactly how an email newsletter should be designed, the content it should contain and some other important things you should have done that are (so obvious to me) not being done by the ‘so called’ top providers I researched.

Lets start with content.  First, the content must be focused and relevant, which was one of the first things I noticed missing from the email newsletters I reviewed during my research.  Travel gadgets and sinus infections are hardly relevant content for a dealership newsletter.  With that being said, content should be focused on three areas; the dealership, the brand and the region.  You will find when focusing on just these three areas, there is never a shortage of great content to provide to your readers.

Here are just a few examples for each of the three areas:

  • The Dealership
    • Tell a story about your dealerships history.  People love to read stories and most dealerships have great stories about their beginnings.
    • Employee Spotlight.  Pick a new employee to feature each month in your newsletter.  Let them write their own story to tell your customers.  This will do two things.  First it will give your customers a way to learn more about the personal side of your dealership and get to know your employees better.  Second it will make the employee feel special and boost morale.
    • Customer testimonials with pictures.
  • The Brand
    • Highlight popular new vehicles.
    • Exciting industry news.
    • Videos focused on top selling vehicles.
  • The Region
    • Events going on in and around your city or town.
    • Seasonal Service reminders (ex. winterizing your vehicle).
    • Events being held at your dealership.

Equally important is the setup and design of your email template.  While I believe images are a key element to making the newsletter look nice and professional, its important to make sure your email is setup in a way that images do not always have to be viewable to have a presentable look, and here is why... The majority of email clients today will almost always ask the user if they would like to “Show remote content?”  If the design is not setup with proper image placement, your email could easily look like it was designed by a group of first graders, throwing the all important ‘Professional Appearance’ out the window.

However before we get into image placement, I would like to cover some of the content basics.

1. For a professional look, the email body should be no larger than 650 mega pixels in width.
2. Limit the content to a maximum of five header sections.
3. Longer content should always be truncated with a ‘read more’ link located at the end.
4. Keep the length of your email short enough to be entirely viewable in most email clients.
5. Always include text hyperlinks to your dealership website (home, new, used, trade-value, testimonials, etc).

While its not rocket science, I felt it would be a good idea to let you know what the proper setup flow should look like, all the while keeping in mind the placement of images.

Images in a newsletter or any email for that matter should be used in moderation and never be located in the middle of the email body (this is a very common mistake).  I recommend using five or six images max and limiting the size of the images to 150 mega pixels or less, for the exception of the header.  The largest image in your email will always be the header.  The header should have the same look and feel as your website and always include your dealership name & branding.  All other images should be located at or near the footer of your email.  These images will many times be links to videos, dealership photos and current events going on in your region.  Alternate placement for images would be in the lower content header sections and be of thumbnail size.  By ensuring the proper placement of images, you can guarantee a layout that is easily read by all recipients whether the images are viewable or not.

Click here to see an example of a proper setup: http://bit.ly/skxmWq

Click here to see the same example without images: http://bit.ly/tni9wO

Newsletter Content Hosting
Why would you host your newsletter anywhere other than your dealership website?  Email newsletters are an SEO Powerhouse.  Full of rich-text content being updated every month, the only place your newsletter content should be living is on your website.

Very Important Information...
If your newsletter is hosted anywhere other than your dealership website, you are throwing away the most powerful SEO generator you have available.  If a newsletter provider says they cannot or will not do it, then you need to switch immediately.

Wrapping this one up... A dealerships email newsletter is a direct extension to its customers and prospects.  When properly setup and managed, newsletters can effectively develop your customer relationships, increase customer loyalty and generate referrals month after month.  If you have any questions or need an effective newsletter solution, please reach out to me anytime.

Tom Kain
p. 606.657.0277

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