Modern Email Marketing

Plain Text Emails Perfect for Smart Phone Users

According to aol.com, 16% of email-using Americans use mobile devices to check their email.  They also report that within the last year, 55% of these people upgraded their cell phone so they could check their email on the go.  Judging by these stats, the number of people using mobile email is growing, and fast.

Smart phones don’t quite read like a computer screen yet, but they’re always getting better.  It’s still a pain to try and read something graphic-heavy designed for a full size monitor on a 3-inch phone screen.  Giving your leads the option to receive emails in plain text, designed for viewing on a smart phone, is a great way to ensure that they’ll receive your message in the most useful format.

To find out which delivery method your leads prefer, add a field to your lead generation form asking what format they want emails sent in, plain text or HTML.  Or, to phrase it differently, ask them if they typically read their email on a smart phone or on a computer.  If your dealership collects email addresses in the store, train your salespeople and receptionists to ask this question as well.

Make note of their preference in your CRM tool, creating a custom field if necessary.  If this isn’t possible, you’ll just have to check the previous email sent to find the appropriate format, or look at the original lead email.

Create two versions of each email template that you send regularly, one in plain text and one in HTML (if your dealership send messages in this format).  Make sure that the plain text version has a link to the HTML version in case they happen to be reading it on a computer.

This small tweak in the format that you send emails in will increase the chance that your leads are actually reading the ads, newsletters, and email messages you send.  How many times do you open an email on your smart phone, realize it’s full of HTML and graphics, and delete it because it’s just too hard to digest?  Or maybe you just close it, meaning to read it later, but never actually do.  Don’t give your customers another reason to pass over or delete your messages without actually reading them.

By giving your marketing messages to leads in the format that is easiest for them to digest, you’re removing a road block that could prevent them from reading your emails.  This one little adjustment makes it easier for leads to read and understand your emails, and can make your email marketing campaign that much more effective.

Lead Follow Up Times

Connect Almost Instantly to Your Internet Leads

Studies show that Internet leads expect to receive a response from a dealership more quickly than ever.  According to the CapGemini’s Cars Online 07/08 report, 34% of Internet leads want a response within 4 hours, 8% want an instantaneous response, and almost 50% are willing to wait up to 24 hours.

Why not exceed their response time expectations by utilizing an automated instant lead connection system that can put you into phone contact with incoming leads within seconds of generation?  An instant response would surpass what 92% of your leads are expecting.  There are a number of companies (AutoUSA, AutoBytel, Dealix, and DealerOn, to name a few) that offer this type of exciting web tool.

So here’s a brief synopsis of how these systems work:

  • An Internet lead is generated
  • After the data is scrubbed, an automated phone call is placed to a salesperson
  • The salesperson is read the lead’s information, then prompted to press a pre-determined number to be connected with the lead
  • The system automatically dials the lead, connecting them with the salesperson.

The likelihood of being able to get an Internet lead on the phone decreases significantly over time:

Within the first 2 minutes = 51%
Between 3 and 7 minutes = 42%
Between 8 and 12 minutes = 35%

This means that the sooner you call your leads, the more likely you are to get a hold of them, allowing you to achieve that first step down the road to sale.

This is an amazing technology that increases accountability while leaving little room for salesperson error.  Imagine the impact that you will have when, while still sitting at their computer, your dealership is the one to call to find out more about the vehicle your lead is looking for.  The fastest response times are what all dealers are looking for, and nothing is faster than this type of program.

Of course, each version of these programs is a little bit different.  For example, some programs will connect you with any Internet lead, some just to leads that come through their portal.  The delivery message and information given is different, as is the number of options given to the salesperson during the phone message.  Exploring these options, comparing products and finding the program that works best for your dealership is what’s important here.  This is an awesome technology that, when used correctly, should increase your closing rate and sales.
What do you think?  How familiar are you with this technology?  Tell us about the success you’ve had using this type of software, or leave any questions you might have.

Maximizing Service Department Offerings

Promote Your Service Dept. to Increase Revenue

According to the National Auto Dealers Association in 2007, 46% of the total dealership operating profits was brought in by service departments. Successfully plugging your service bay could up this percentage by giving you two sources of additional revenue: an immediate increase from customers spending more of their service dollars with you, and an increase in future sales.  Customers who service their vehicles at your dealership are more likely to buy from you when that time comes.

Here are some ideas to get you started promoting your service department:

  • Advertise—anywhere and everywhere.  Just like branding your dealership is important, so is making sure you include your service department’s contact information wherever it’s appropriate.  Give the department a prominent spot on your website.  Send out service specials via email and direct mail from the service manager.  This should place your dealership at the top of their mind when they have an automotive need (service, purchase, parts, etc.).
  • Make Customers Comfortable—Give them a tour of the dept. (it has to look nice), introduce them to the service manager, and explain what your technicians will be doing to their car.  For those about to purchase a vehicle from you, showing them around before they even enter F & I may make them more likely to buy warranties from your dealership–what a great way to increase your back end gross!  The more comfortable they are leaving their car with you, the more likely they will be to come back.
  • Incentives—just like people need a little push to buy a car, they often need that same push to be inclined to service their vehicle at your dealership.  Try creating a loyalty program that gives money off future purchases, offer gift cards for purchase (great gifts for those on set budgets, college students, and the elderly) or simply send coupons redeemable for repeat visits.
  • Compete—most vehicle owners think that independent shops are less expensive.  If this is the case in your area, you’ll either need to lower your prices to remain competitive, or communicate the value of getting work done at a dealership shop.  Create emails for each past and future customer explaining this, including your technician’s certifications, studies about quality of work, and anything you can find that will show them getting work done with you is worth the extra cost.

The service department is already a huge source of revenue for most dealerships.  With car sales slowing down, what types of things, if any, has your dealership done to promote your service department?  Have you built this promotion into your sales pitch?  Any tips?

Automotive Cash Incentive Alternatives

For Dealers Who Can’t Use Cash Incentives (Or Want to Try Something New)

Online incentives are often what convince hesitant website visitors into actual leads.  While most dealerships use cash incentives, some manufacturers or state governments don’t permit this type of Internet offering.  For example, both Honda and Acura have very strict guidelines about what their dealers can offer, and states like Illinois, California and Texas have legal guidelines that businesses must follow.  It’s extremely important that you check and are up to date with both OEM and government guidelines (your State Attorney General’s office is a good place to look).  Both entities are generous with their fines and typically not afraid to hand them out.

If you’re at a dealership that either can’t offer cash incentives, or just want to try something new, what are your options? Thinking outside of the box will help here…what do your customers want?  Take a look at who your customers are.  Consider conducting a market segmentation to find out what is important to them so that you can offer what they want.  If you can find out the types of things that consumers want but aren’t buying, you’ll be better able to offer non-cash incentives that are relevant and motivating for these potential customers.

Of the non-cash incentives that I’ve seen work are lately, the most common seems to be a gas card.  The trick to getting this to work is making it a decent dollar amount.  Those $25 and even $50 cards aren’t going to drive much traffic.  Consider making them available to all who test drive instead of just purchase a car to up your conversion percentage.   Also, service and accessories coupons are often successful, but like gas cards, have to be for a significant amount to really draw traffic in.

There are some dealerships that, for one reason or another, are unable to use anything worth monetary value.  In this instance, wording is extremely important.  Make the customer feel that they will be getting a special price by shopping online by offering them “hassle-free pricing,” or depending on your state/OEM, a “special Internet price.”  Again, it’s necessary to check with the proper “higher-ups” to ensure you’re not breaking any rules here.

No matter what type of incentive you’re using, persuasive keywords will paint a nice picture in the head of your website visitor.  Break out the thesaurus and use those calls-to-action.  Invest in an advertising book specializing in sales words (leave a comment if you’d like me to recommend a few) to really clinch that conversion.  The words and phrases in these specialty books can help you distinguish yourself from other dealerships just by using the right language.

Because incentives have the ability to heavily impact your conversion rates, they need to be effective.  When something (OEM, state government) limits what you can use to draw customers in, it’s time to get creative.  Buyers want more than just money, so appeal to their desire for “things” to help them justify taking the next step in their buying process…whether that means submitting their information, taking a test drive, or buying their new vehicle.

Car Buyer Incentivizing

Get Creative with Your Dealership’s Incentives

I’m sure it’s no surprise that high gas prices are causing most Americans to cut back in other areas of their life, especially in those things considered as luxury items.  Edmunds.com recently conducted a survey showing that 95% of Americans are changing their lifestyle due to the recent increase in gas prices.

Ever wonder exactly what types of things people are cutting back on?  A new study by WebRidesTV.com answers this question.  According to their survey, the top three categories in which people expect to cut back are:

  • Travel (42.35%)
  • Dining Out (40.98%)
  • Consumer Electronics (26.57%)

Incorporate this information into your incentive campaign; use it as a way to reward customers and entice leads.  Use incentives that help satisfy your potential customers desire to fill the categories where they’ve admitted spending is down.

Get creative.  Go beyond the typical $50 gift card for local restaurant favorites.  While this is a great starting point, increase your offer for a raffle or for those that buy new vehicles.  Set up a “Night on the Town,” complete with dinner, movie, and the use of a limousine (or use a luxury vehicle from your dealership for added branding).  While the actual cost behind this is fairly low, the perceived value to your potential customers will be exponentially greater.

A lot of dealerships are offering gas cards as incentives.  How can you raise the perceived value besides simply increasing the denominational value?  Throw in a night’s stay at a hotel a few towns over, or maybe tickets to a sporting event, and you’ve just given your customers an instant vacation.  Again, the extra cost to your dealership is minuscule compared to the added perceived value you’re giving to your consumers.

For electronics, the iPod is a common giveaway item.  Why not offer to pre-load it with bands of your customer’s choice, or a collection of local bands?  Giving away a GPS?  Load their home and work addresses in it before they pick up the car.  These won’t cost your dealership much, or anything at all, but will set you miles above your competition.

Because many people are holding back on car purchases, give them an opportunity to fulfill another area that they’ve cut back on.  Your dealership spends minimal money compared to the perceived value to your customer, and everyone’s a winner.