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Automotive Dealership Marketing: Email Campaigns Driving Sales

Background
The traditional image of auto-dealerships largely reliant on the same traditional marketing methods that were popular when cars had tail fins is not too far off the mark in today's emphatically electronic world. Many dealerships still rely heavily on newspapers, television and radio advertising, which can be prohibitively expensive and brings in fewer customers every year. In the last four years alone, newspaper ad revenue dropped by 44.24%.1 The savvy automotive dealership manager must question the rationale of continuing to invest heavily in a medium that nearly half of all advertisers have already discarded. Local radio audience numbers have been ravaged by the proliferation of satellite and internet stations, as well as ubiquitous portable music players, to the point where both specific program and Run of Schedule buys are now largely ineffective. According to Arbitron, AQH Share and Cume, numbers are now a shadow of what they were even a decade ago.2 Television advertising is faring much worse than most people assume: Garth Ancier, the head of BBC Worldwide America, states that his studies have shown that 50 percent of his network's watchers are viewing on their DVRs and a staggering 97 percent of them are skipping the advertising content.3

The transition of automotive customers to online communications has been accentuated by the rapidly expanding adoption of mobile web-enabled devices such as smartphones. A Jacobs Media study on the use of smartphones concluded that "most respondents increasingly use their smartphones for an increased array of functions and, as a result, there appears to be a drop-off in the use of other devices" including car radios. 4The study also claimed a "greater degree of responsiveness in the form of returned email messages" among smartphone users, and listed email as the first in a list of the 11 most used functions on the mobile devices.

A market trend as significant as the explosion in smartphone use is the migration of a massive number of online users to social networks. Facebook alone boasts 700 million users, which is double the entire population of the United States. Social media has swiftly grown to become an unparalleled facilitator to any online marketer. According to Gartner Research, up to 74 percent of the population relies on social networks to guide purchase decisions.5 This trend is especially powerful when applied to automobile purchasers, which traditionally are the second-largest purchase any family makes, directly after real estate.

The automotive dealerships that are able to strategically position and execute their email marketing campaigns find that in many cases it can be their most effective advertising or promotional method. These successful dealerships find that email address collection is a priority and they are able to fulfill this requirement through a variety of means:

In the showroom
At the service counter
At the parts counter
At car shows
At racing events
At concert events
Through parades and other municipal & social events
Via their website signup page
As a pre-requisite to test drives
From the franchising manufacturer

Many of the smaller and independent used vehicle sellers that make up the majority of actual automotive dealership businesses do not engage in email marketing at the current time, thus leaving the market to be amply reached by just a minority of dealerships that tend to be larger and are franchised to engage in new car sales.

1 http://www.naa.org/trendsandnumbers/advertising-expenditures.aspx
2 http://www.radio-info.com/markets/all
3 http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/12/dvr-commercial-skipping-50-or-97-depends-on-whom-you-ask.ars
4 http://www.arbitron.com/downloads/Goin_Mobile_Exec_Summ.pdf
5 http://www.gartner.com/DisplayDocument?ref=clientFriendlyUrl&id=1381514