Individual Automotive Dealership Email Marketing Approaches
Automotive dealerships encompass everything between the multiple-brand, multiple-location superdealership and the small storefront motorcycle or scooter shop. Each dealership has its own approach to automotive email marketing
, but it can be considered a unanimous determination that email marketing is the most cost-effective and powerful means to reach out to prospective and existing customers.
Build Dealership Credibility
Scott Elder, owner of Dream Cars Credit in Austin, Texas reports that 79% of all his business originates online. He is aware of the power of social networking and states that his dealership must "move hard into social media and promoting ourselves that way, it's going to make the effects that much greater." Dream Cars Credit has tied its website directly into an emailed contact form to solicit credit applications. Mr. Elder stated that his "goal is, if anybody in Austin, Texas gets on the Internet to start looking for a used car they're not going to be able to avoid running into us at almost every turn. Providing valuable information and content for the customers just builds our credibility and gives people more and more reasons to do business with us."
Advertise Advantageous Offers
Lacking internet expertise did not stop Ted Heater Jr., co-owner of CarSmart in Kansas City, Missouri from embracing the burgeoning social networking market. He commissioned his tech-savvy cousin to create Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube profiles for the dealership and craft an invitation for customers to follow them by "throwing in something advantageous," such as an oil change for customers who follow the dealership's social activities. Mr. Heater justified his shift of focus to online marketing by stating that "there's no one else that we can send direct postal mail to that we haven't barraged. The Internet provides a completely different element of people who shop online."
Encourage Bilateral Communication
Andrew DiFeo, general manager of Hyundai of St. Augustine, Florida, has made some major headway in his market by implementing a smart social media strategy
. "If you do social media and you do it badly, you're actually worse off than if you didn't do it at all," stated Mr. DiFeo, referring to the personal, one-on-one interactivity of social networks. "Social media is really about listening to the customer and just being there for them. It's not about posting my entire inventory to my Twitter feed."
Counter Negative News
When General Motors and Chrysler terminated several dealerships, many were left wondering how to continue businesses that had been solely based on the existence of the franchise. Bo Corwin, a former Chrysler Jeep dealer in Hickory, Pennsylvania, transformed his service department into a Meineke Car Care Center. Mr. Corwin had to confront the unpleasant prospect of all of his customers receiving letters from Chrysler that the dealership had been terminated, leading most to mistakenly believe that the business had actually shuttered its doors. Mr. Corwin needed to inform his clientele quickly and efficiently that he was still open for business. He relied on "email blasts
." He admitted to doing "no television or radio as I could not afford to advertise on the number of different channels and stations I'd have to cover."
Many Dealerships Are Failing to Properly Execute Email Campaigns
Many automotive dealerships are behind the curve in adopting real email marketing presences to appeal to the countless millions of motorists equipped with mobile devices and frequenting social media. According to Kevin Root of Dealer Marketing Magazine, "the average dealership has less than ten percent accurate email addresses for their total customer base." 6
If the numbers are extrapolated to the Gartner Research findings, these dealerships are potentially losing out on over 66.5% of social media's effectiveness in driving the purchase decision to buy a car.
When that staggering statistic is combined with the finding in the Cobalt Group's National Automotive eShopper Experience Study7
(which revealed that dealers do not respond in any way to fully 25% of all email generated leads and of the ones who do, 30% never follow up) it can be concluded that the current state of many dealerships' email marketing leaves much to be desired.
Of the dealers surveyed in the Cobalt study, only 46.2% replied to an email within an hour, with the majority leaving the email reply for much later. A great number of these emails were rather scant in the important details that the consumer seeks. 63.8% did not quote a price of any kind, 56.2% did not address availability of the desired vehicle, and 87% did not provide any information as to the value of the brand or the vehicle they were interested in. 23% of all customers that switched brands claimed poor dealer interaction for their decision, thus it can be concluded that lack of proper and thorough responsiveness to email queries is primarily to blame for this considerable number of lost sales.
Another Cobalt study, this one conducted in conjunction with web giant Yahoo!, found that emails from dealerships and social networking tools
were the primary sources of information to 71% of individuals purchasing a motor vehicle. Local Automotive Dealerships: The Role Of Interactive Media In The Local Car Shopping Process8
also found that 23% of all visits to dealership websites were triggered through an email link. Receiving an email from the dealership was the number one action that convinced prospects to visit the showroom. Fully 59% of all motorists stated that it was the dealer's email that got them to travel to the lot.
It can be concluded from this data that email marketing is an exceptionally powerful and effective means of automotive dealership promotion
, but it is imperative that the entire customer process be streamlined and facilitated to the nth degree in order to translate the greatest possible number of inquiries into sales. Dropping the ball by failing to reply or follow-up is costing a great number of automotive dealerships such a substantial percentage of sales that this factor alone could legitimately make the difference between a successful and a failing business.