Simple Secrets of Successful Email Marketing for Car Dealerships
By GreenRope Contributor, Julie Bowen
Dealing in cars will always have a strong face-to-face element. You shake hands with your customer and sign the papers on the premises. But getting the customers onto the forecourt has always been a mix of good advertising and making personal contacts with your target customers. Pretty much every car dealer worth their salt has cottoned on to the internet’s ability to help them do both. There are some great guides to email marketing out there which apply in general to selling cars. In this article, we're also going to take a look more specifically at using email marketing in the car dealership sector.
First of all, generic advertising, while useful, doesn't pack the same punch as a personalized email landing in your inbox. That's not to knock adverts - Google ads and similar targeted advertising systems mean we can target people in our area looking for the kind of cars we sell. But it’s not a magic bullet. Adverts still need to be well-designed and customer-focused. Better the customer has no idea you exist than they see a shoddy-looking ad with your company’s name attached to it. First impressions count. And even a nicely put-together ad lacks a certain something: the personal touch. That’s where email comes in. Mass marketing by email has got to be the cheapest and potentially the most effective tool for reaching out to our customer base.
But just as there are rules for good advertising, you need to know what you’re doing with mass emailing too – or you’re going to risk alienating and annoying the exact same people you want to do business with.
So let’s look at the 5 essential keys to making the most of your email marketing operations.
- Courtesy is king. I’m not talking about the tone of your email text here because you already know how dumb it would be to be anything other than friendly and polite. I’m talking about how you use the email contacts you have. How often and for how long are you going to be contacting these people? You wouldn’t phone a customer every week or even every month – so why do it with email? The more you email, the more likely you are to end up in their Spam folder. And when you’re in there, you’re not coming out. So have the common courtesy not to bother your customers. There’s a fine line between keeping in touch and alienating people. Make sure you’re not crossing that line.
- One size does not fit all. How are you storing your email contact list? Who’s on it? Most of your audience are going to be previous customers that you want to see returning. Some will have bought parts or brought their auto in for servicing. Others will have bought a car from you. Then there's the emails you may have harvested of people who’ve made enquiries but haven’t made a purchase as yet. Be smart: these people are not all looking for the same thing. Some will want to know all about a special season of deals on spare parts, others are going to want to know you’re offering new services, and some are going to want to see what cars you’ve got on your forecourt. If your contact database is simply a list of emails, you’re not going to know who’s who. You need a column on your database listing who is likely to be in the market for what, and keep updating it from your sales records. Tailor your message – make it fit each customer as snugly as possible.
- Speak to just one person! Yes, a mass email goes out to hundreds of people at once, but you should see it as you speaking directly to one person. Think about how you’d phrase an email to a single person. You might start by saying ‘hope you’re enjoying the weather. Thought you might be interested in some great new models we’ve just got in.’ Perhaps you’d end with a ‘enjoy your weekend, feel free to drop by if there’s anything I can help you with.’ These personal touches make a huge difference. Few people are immune to a friendly tone, even if they fully realize it’s a bulk email. Keep it personal and you’ll see your response rate jump.
- Use the customer's name. Mail merge has made this so easy, there's really no excuse not to. You know that when dealing face-to-face remembering and using a customer’s name shows them they're important to you. Same goes with email. Put their name in the email subject line and most definitely start your email with ‘dear….’ (or a ‘hi there…..’ if that’s more your style). But however you use their name, make sure you do use it.
- Evaluate your customers’ responses. Are you tracking the volume of calls you’re getting in the days after a mail-out? Are you using Google Analytics to see which of your email links people are clicking on? There are plenty of great packages for understanding your email metrics. When you know what your most effective emails are, you’ll soon spot the patterns and be able to work out why something is working. What’s more, you’ll have learned something more about what interests your customer base and what doesn’t. That’s worth a lot.
Actually, you might have noticed something here. Though email marketing is transformative – or at least potentially transformative – for the way you reach out to your customers, the best approach to using it requires some pretty familiar rules that good salespeople know instinctively:
- Respect your customers and treat them the way you’d want to be treated.
- Recognize different people are looking for different things.
- Communicate with warmth.
- Form a personal connection.
- Listen to what your customers’ responses are telling you.
There are so many people sending out spam and junk mail these days – just because it’s ‘free’. Set yourself apart by using email in a restrained, thoughtful, targeted way. It will give your customers a great impression of what kind of company you represent.
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