By Daryl Sanders, Internet Dealer Solutions 

There is mounting pressure in the internet automotive sales channel to embrace and rely on email high technology. With this growing trend and influx to utilize videos, jpg pictures, dealer banners, logos of cars and stores, there is also increased and regulated spam control. Therefore, this greatest and latest email strategy hardly ever gets through to potential buyers, and if it does, it quickly lands in a spam folder that most people ignore.  Opening up a spam folder requires downloading pictures and content, so unless there is a trusted relationship established, most email recipients would always be leery of opening any unsolicited email.

Nevertheless, there is a way to make email connections highly effective and more profitable. Take into consideration the following 10 “rules” to help advance car sales via the internet.           

The first rule is to develop improved ways for your email to successfully pass through to the inbox.  For good reason, people delete entire spam folders without perusal.  To avoid getting stopped by spam control, plain text messages are most effective, written with a normal 10-point font size because most spam control software will reject large font sizes, especially if the font sizes vary in the same email.  Same with exclamations marks – so quit using them!  Avoid subject lines using conspicuous spam words such as: big savings, great deals, free anything, wow, wait till you see this, dollar signs and all the glaring gimmick words that only grab the attention of spam control. 

Secondly, emails should serve as a communication and cultivation tool to create interest.  It’s best to start off with an auto response that contains a greeting, a friendly salesperson introduction and a prospect overview of what can be expected from you and when customers can expect it are of paramount importance. However, make sure you follow through and do what you promise or change your commitment.  Recently, I shopped a prospective dealership, and the internet salesperson responded to my request for a specific car.  Five days ago, he promised, “to get back to me shortly,” but I am still waiting. 

 A third important strategic email rule should be that our emails are written to provoke a response.  The chief purpose of email writing is to get the prospect to engage via email response, taking a phone call or returning a follow-up call.  I have discovered that short surveys, with three or four questions, are something prospects will respond to.  This often opens a door to a long-term relationship.   Another suggestion is asking questions that catch them off guard.  For instance, “Can we buy your trade?”  Ask even though you may not know if they even have a trade-in.  My training encourages five emails the first week followed up by at least three or four phone calls to reach prospects in the first seven days. This maximizes a golden opportunity to engage the ready-to-buy prospect in the first two weeks. Statistics have proven that “ready buyers” are approximately 6 percent to 8 percent of the potential leads. 

The fourth rule of email strategy should offer additional choices to consider.  The longer a new-car prospect takes to respond, he or she is more likely a candidate for a used vehicle.  On our quote email, which should go within the first hour, I recommend three quotes to get the prospect thinking about alternatives – which they are probably considering anyway. 

The fifth rule is that your emails should deliver content to every shopper.  Unfortunately, most emails are nothing more than a nuisance. Those types of unproductive emails usually nag me to call, nag me to come in, nag me to buy.  Emails are a great venue to send content on product safety, product information and product comparison.  It is most beneficial to send helpful hints on how to improve gas mileage, how to get more for your trade and the importance of following maintenance schedules. Why should we bother to do this?  It is generally accepted in the industry that the average buy cycle is still approximately 60 days for the internet new-car shopper. Consider the theory that if I am not quite ready to buy, then please support me with information that will lead me back to you when I am ready.  The best way to do this is giving out beneficial information. 

The sixth rule is to cultivate an ongoing relationship over a longer period of time with this helpful content.  Consider working an overall 100-day effort of all new-car leads every seven or eight days after the first two weeks of more intensive emails.   After that, you keep in touch monthly with specials, new interest rates, inventory links and the like.  Let’s face it; even the lead that is in bankruptcy will buy a car eventually.  Email contact is the cheapest, least manpower intensive and can reach 10,000 just as easy as 10 prospects. 

The seventh rule is to consider content based on product differentiation that impacts the type of email to send.  For example, the typical Acura buyer usually requests more technical information, so this prospect will read a longer email with product specs than someone seeking a Honda Civic.  It is a good idea to define the demographics of your vehicles and allow this research to better target your market with your content. 

The eighth rule to keep in mind is that via email you can differentiate your dealership.  In other words, the unique features that set you apart from competition should be communicated early in the cultivation process.  I recommend sending this information out the day after the quote email.  For example, send content that conveys who you are and why it’s beneficial to do business with you.  Such things should include the history of the store, amenities, benefits for buying there and service coupons. These are the kind of helpful things to bring out early in the mix and take some pressure off the price focus. 

The ninth rule is to keep the automated email strategy personal.   Throughout my client stores I have created four “mini mails.”  Two are emails that go to prospects not yet spoken to, and two emails go to prospects spoken to but not yet converted into appointments. Basically, these emails are just “two liners” touching base and offering a link to our inventory with a prod for a call.  So far, there has been tremendous response to these shorter emails.  All the while we keep our more detailed automated emails on schedule. 

The last but perhaps most important rule of my email strategy is to create a lasting impression that we are sincere, trustworthy, caring, concerned and helpful. A successful salesperson demonstrates these valuable characteristics by helping every prospect navigate their way through the highly emotional purchase process.  Buying a new car is a major purchase, and it is always a big deal for the average buyer.  Recently this was brought home again when a friend asked me to guide him online to buy a new car from a client dealership.  He called me back to thank me because the entire family was so delighted that his daughter was ecstatic after getting her dream minivan at a great price. 

Never forget we are in a very rewarding and somewhat magical business. Even in these tough economic times, people still need and desire new vehicles. Let’s remain committed to the unique process and patiently show our customers how to make a dream come true. 

This article reprinted with permission from Daryl Sanders.