David Kain, Kain Automotive

One of the greatest challenges faced by dealerships is discovering the right mix of email communications that will lead a customer to take action. This is always part of a lively discussion among internet managers at workshops, where I often hear: “I wish they would just let me know they are receiving my messages,” or “I would just like them to respond at all – even if it is to tell me no.” To these statements, the best answer is: Try to think like your customer.

Thinking like the customer is easier said than done, but let’s start with your own experience in reviewing your personal email inbox. The typical email inbox consists of a variety of offers from obscure companies enticing you with anything from low-rate mortgages to get-rich-quick schemes. Admittedly, spam filters have improved, but, nevertheless, some get by. Meanwhile, there are some messages from companies that we actually want to hear from, even if we don’t want to act now. We often categorize them as “friend” on our filters. This allows us to scan the email quickly and see if there is an offer that is relevant to our needs.

Relevance is the key to how the email will impact the car buyer. Consider how many advertising impressions the average consumer is exposed to each day alone. In researching for this article, I found opinions ranging from 850 commercial impressions to 3,000 daily advertising messages. To say the least, this is probably overwhelming for the average consumer to absorb, so they adapt by filtering these impressions by relevance. If it is relevant, they will read it; if it is not, they will ignore it.

Timing comes next and is equal to relevance. The filter for relevance may allow the message to get through, but, if the timing is not right, the consumer is not compelled to act. In considering the effect of timing, you may want to review your own experience. You may want an iPod enough to motivate you to do some research through various means – visit the website, visit a store or ask friends to borrow their player. Now that your filter is open to this product, you will likely notice that iPods are everywhere you look – on television, radio, billboards and email — and your desire to purchase one increases each day. However, you are setting aside a few bucks each day to make the purchase, and you don’t yet have the amount needed. Your purchase depends of when you’ve set aside enough disposable income. As a result, the ads you see are relevant, but the timing is not right. The consumer typically responds to advertising best when it is relevant and the timing is right.

This concept applies to a dealership’s internet marketing. When consumers submit a request for information via your website or a lead provider, they seldom communicate what stage they are actually in despite radial buttons and check boxes provided to gather this data. We may wrongly assume if they went to the trouble to submit a request they are almost ready to buy. This may or may not be the case. However, we can safely assume that the information they are requesting is relevant to them even if their timing is not immediate. Passing the relevance test is all you need to know what to do next.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Subject line – Your subject line must survive the delete button. Make sure it is relevant to the car buyer. Your chances of having the email opened go up considerably if the subject is relevant. Even if a prospect doesn’t open the email, you gain an advertising impression if your subject includes the type of vehicle shoppers are considering alongside your dealership name. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint with some customers.
  • Logo – Second to your subject line is your logo when trying to create a lasting impression on your shopper. Consider your dealership stationary or your business cards: Both have your logo on them and afford you the benefit of a quick impression on your customer. I’m certain you would not consider mailing a letter to your customer on plain white paper in a plain white envelope with a business card without a logo. Each email you send should include your logo.
  • Message – Variety and value are important when considering your message. Sending boring and wordy messages likely will not motivate the consumer. Get to the point, use graphics and bullet points, and customize the message as much as possible. By all means, never tell customers that you are putting them in an inactive status or removing them from follow-up or deleting them from your database. This may stimulate a few to respond, but it alienates many who are waiting for the right time to buy. It also makes you out to be a liar if you continue to send them additional emails. Be creative and focus on benefit for the consumer.

Finally, be patient and use a good lead-management tool. When your message is relevant to car buyers and the timing is right, they will buy!

This article reprinted with permission from David Kain.