Article

Eight Ways to Make People Want to Read Your Dealership E-mails

June 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Michael Teitelbaum - Also by this author

Keeping in touch with customers has always been an important way for dealerships to boost customer satisfaction, drive service lane traffic and earn repeat business. E-mail marketing can help your dealership do all that while offering an incredible return on investment.

According to a Direct Marketing Association survey, e-mail returns an impressive $57.25 for every dollar spent, far better than traditional advertising or direct mail, while driving $7.7 billion in consumer sales and $8.8 billion in business-to-business sales. E-mail also has a number of advantages over traditional marketing methods. You can precisely target and personalize messages to recipients, as well as track detailed results like how many e-mails were opened and how many recipients click through to your Web site or fill out a form.

The trick, of course, is to create e-mails that not only reach your recipients’ inboxes, but that people actually want to receive and read. Here are eight proven tips and suggestions to help your dealership create an effective e-mail marketing campaign:

1. Personalize and localize it.
The more personal your e-mails, the better. An effective e-mail message will address the recipient by first name, thus maintaining the personalized attention the customer demands. More importantly, make sure your e-mails come from your sales associate (or appear that way). Your dealership likely has sufficient customer data to personalize your e-mails. No one wants to feel like an anonymous e-mail address on a list of thousands receiving your e-mail.

2. Review your opt-in procedures.
Dealerships thrive on local customer relationships, but unsolicited e-mail can break down customer trust and loyalty. First and foremost, make sure you have permission to send the e-mail. An easy way to build an opt-in list is to present buyers with e-mail address collection pads on the showroom floor or offer something of value such as a coupon or discount in exchange for the customer agreeing to read your messages. You can even include details on showroom posters and hang tags on the rearview mirrors of every car serviced.

As part of getting permission, provide registrants with an expectation as to the frequency and content of your e-mails. Make sure your procedures for unsubscribing, changing an e-mail address, and maintaining a user profile are readily accessible and user-friendly.

3. Grab their attention.
The average person decides what to do with an e-mail in just a few seconds. In that time, they’ll choose to open it, read it, delete it, or mark it as spam. To make the most of those precious few seconds, you need to ensure that your subject line delivers the biggest bang it can. Your subject line should always honestly represent the content of your e-mail (not doing so violates the CAN-SPAM Act.) Keep it concise; a good rule of thumb is that a subject line should be no more than about 50 characters long to avoid being truncated by the most popular e-mail clients. In addition, consider a subject line that will stay consistent. Your e-mails will stand a better chance of being opened if recipients can instantly recognize the sender and the content.
 
4. Provide valuable content.
With every e-mail you send, consider what type of useful information will interest car buyers and how you’d like them to associate it with your dealership. Think about using e-mail to deliver information on new or expanded services, new product highlights, financing and special incentives, or even news about the automotive industry. Make sure every message you send includes something valuable; this is a must for keeping recipients engaged in an era of overstuffed inboxes.

5. Don’t forget the fundamentals.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but far too many e-mails are sent with grammatical and/or spelling errors. Typically this happens because dealers and marketing executives are simply in a rush to get something out when they should be more concerned with quality. Remember that every e-mail is a reflection of your dealership’s image; typos and misspellings can send recipients rushing to hit the “unsubscribe” button.

6. Words can be worth a thousand (blocked) pictures.
In today’s online environment, image suppression can be a major stumbling block to creating effective, readable e-mails. Image suppression is a safety net used by e-mail clients to protect recipients from unknown senders. In practical terms, image suppression can render your well-crafted e-mail into nothing but the dreaded big, red X that the reader will quickly pass over. In places where you may traditionally use graphics, like headlines, titles, calls to action, and links, use HTML text instead. In a similar vein, avoid relying on too many sound or video files. Instead, supplement concise, well-written copy with text links to images, video and sound features.

7. It’s all about timing.
Timing is everything when it’s time to send your e-mails—at least, if you want them to be opened! Thinking of getting your dealer’s e-mails to recipients bright and early Monday morning? So is everyone else, which may result in poor open, read and click conversion rates. Industry research indicates that Tuesday and Thursday mornings, roughly between 10 and noon, are the best times to send your e-mails. Your recipients may respond better to other times so experiment with different distribution schedules to find when your audience is most responsive.
 
8. If all else fails, ask!
If you want to know whether customers are finding your content valuable and useful, why not ask them? While this approach might seem far too simple, it actually works. Developing a satisfied clientele that will recommend your dealership’s services to other potential customers is the key to success. You can include one simple survey question at the end of each e-mail or ask customers when they visit your dealership, and let the results dictate your future content decisions.

By following e-mail marketing best practices, dealerships can build and retain a loyal customer base, which in turn, increases the bottom line. E-mail is the most personal adverting medium in history, and dealers who are not fully utilizing it risk losing out to their marketing-savvy competitors.

Vol 5, Issue 4

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