Many dealerships have a complicated relationship with email marketing. On the one hand, when done right, it can be one of the most efficient and effective marketing channels your dealership can pursue. After all, you can reach hundreds of customers without very little money put down– the ROI has the potential of being through the roof. On the other hand, email campaigns can produce some pretty frustrating results, and it can take months (or even years) to perfect. Seeing low open and click-through rates month after month can make any dealer think that email just isn’t worth it.

Email campaigns have been used for digital marketing since the beginning. Before Facebook, PPC, micro-targeting, and AI-powered platforms, there was email. Dealers, like most marketers, have changed the way they use email in the past few years: in the beginning, “email blasts” were sent to all of a business’s contacts, with the same content. As time and technology progressed, more targeted lists and emails were utilized– service customers didn’t receive the same message as a potential car buyer. Now, with the emergence of even more advanced tools, an email recipient gets the feeling that a message was written just for them.

Even when it comes to a tried and true tool like email, it’s always good to take a step back and make sure that you are getting the absolute most from it. This is especially true when you think about how quickly technology develops– you simply can’t set it and forget it anymore.

With all that in mind, we put together 5 ways that your dealership can improve its email game, and get the most of this powerful tool.

1- Segment your lists

When you think about email marketing as just another way of speaking to customers, it becomes pretty obvious that lists need to be super targeted and specific. You don’t want to send the same message to every person who has ever interacted with your dealership. On the most basic level, think about where each person is in the funnel, and speak to them accordingly. You should offer opportunities based on what the person might actually want– a service appointment to someone who bought a car a few months ago, a new price on a vehicle for someone in the research stage, etc. Once you identify the major groups of people that you’d like to engage with, craft the message accordingly. The more specific the message and group, the more likely it is that the person will open and act based on the email.

The first step in segmenting targeted lists is to know where each lead is in the funnel. When someone actually calls your dealership with a question, the process is simple: the phone call will be logged in the CRM, and the follow-up will relate to that person’s request. It gets a bit more complicated when it comes to online leads– sometimes you have very little information about a person with which to decide what emails they should be receiving. With advances in tracking, it doesn’t have to be so hard. Tools on your site, including those powered by AI, will provide you with lots of information on each lead, including how many times they’ve visited your site, what pages they’ve looked at, for how long, and more. With all of this data, your dealership can effectively tailor emails that will speak to each customer. You can thus have one sequence for people who are interested in SUVs and one for those interested in sedans, without ever asking those people what they’re in the market for. But don’t stop there…

2- Automate everything

You can get even more out of today’s technology. By automating emails, people are added to certain sequences based off of actions taken, without any work on the part of the staff. As an example: perhaps you want to send an email to your customers one month before their lease ends, with new offers. It would be quite tedious and time-consuming to manually send each person their own email, even if it is not being re-written for each person, when their lease comes to an end. Instead, you can create an automation that flags people in your CRM when their lease is close to ending, and adds them to a sequence. Thus, they receive emails without any work on your part. Automations can be created with all types of triggers. Perhaps you want to send follow-up to all shoppers who have visited your site more than 5 times in a certain time-span: utilizing AI tools and automation, this can be done with very little time or resources spent.

3- Include your existing customers

It’s tempting to focus all of your efforts on potential customers and prospects– after all, you’re looking for new car buyers! The problem with this type of strategy is that you’re forgetting about your most receptive audience: your existing customers. These people have already converted in the biggest way. Just because the sale has been completed doesn’t mean that you should ignore them, though. You can send emails after a set amount of time passes, so that your customers don’t forget about you and their relationship with you. Sending these types of emails accomplishes a few things: first, it simply keeps you on their mind so that they can recommend their family and friends, should the opportunity arise. Further, even previous customers have needs– you can offer them specials on service appointments or follow-up lessons about the technology in their vehicles. Finally, previous car buyers can become repeat car buyers. They will appreciate the relationship they have with you, and will be compelled to return to your store.

4- Give them content

Whether you’re contacting existing customers or new prospects, the biggest mistake you can make is sending only sales-centric emails. Especially because people receive so many promotional emails every day, it becomes very easy to simply delete any email that comes from a business or company. By providing helpful content in your emails, people will want to read them. They will feel that they actually gain something by opening them, instead of being sold something. Content like this can include articles on safety, neighborhood updates, and recall information. If a person begins to associate your dealership with helpful content, they won’t mind the few times you send them promotional materials, and they are that much more likely to actually open the email.

5- Track, track, track

Speaking of open rates, no list would be complete without highlighting the importance of tracking everything. Your dealership should conduct market research to determine the best times and days to send emails. Read about the most opened subject lines and email structures. But, don’t just rely on others. Your dealership and your shoppers are unique. Track every single email to determine what works best for you, and try to replicate it. Utilize A/B tests to truly assess what works best– think about how long you will run a test for, what the next test will be, and what factors you are trying to optimize. It might take some time and trial and error, but it is worthwhile. Constantly think about how you can further target your emails, and see what works best.

Like most marketing channels, email campaigns have great potential. A well-executed email campaign can reach hundreds of customers with the click of one button. Be on the lookout for new tools and technology to help you improve and innovate. Think creatively and critically about how other tools and systems can help. For example, advanced AI-powered tools that can hyper-segment groups would certainly impact your emails, and the way you interact with your customers. Don’t think about tools independently– always consider how they interact with one another, and other aspects of your marketing strategy. This type of approach helps you get the most from each of your tools, and helps them combine to form an unstoppable marketing strategy.

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