Is Your Car Dealership Using Email Marketing as a Technology or as an Art Form?
If I say “Email Marketing” are you thinking about technology, or are you thinking more of it as an art form for communications? Should I dare say, like a musical instrument…
Now don’t worry; this is not another boring blog about email open rates, click-through, personalisation, segmentation, and the oh-so-scary compliance. There are already plenty of great content on the subject, including some quality pieces we have curated through our social media channels.
No, this blog is more my effort to help you “stand on your desk” so you can look at email marketing from a different perspective, and with a fresh set of eyes.
Why Should You Look At Email Marketing From A Different Angle?
If you’re an automotive marketing professional, you would be crazy to dismiss email as a communication tool for your dealership. It is still, in 2018, in the top 3 most effective channel to drive visits to your dealership website, and the most effective digital technique to generate sales; so keeping informed about the latest trends in the industry is paramount.
But while having a good understanding of email techniques and best practices is critical, failing to understand that email marketing is an art form that requires practice and finesse will be detrimental to any email strategy and will prevent you from achieving your communications goals.
For this reason, I would like you to imagine, for an instant, email marketing as a piano or a guitar. You probably know many people who own one of these instruments, but I’m sure that not all of them are great pianist or guitarist. I cringe at the idea of visiting a few of my relatives who always seem to find a way to force me to listen to them play, while I try to hide the grimaces on my face every time they hit a wrong note. You probably have a few acquaintances of your own that like to trap you in the same way, right?
So we both agree: owning a musical instrument doesn’t necessarily make you a great musician, able to move people and evoke strong emotions while playing. Same goes for email marketing; it’s not because you own an email marketing software or solution that it makes you a great email marketer!
Stop Thinking About Email Marketing as an “Email Blast”
When we start working with a new dealer, their marketing team usually sees email marketing as a powerful technology to push specials and promotions. The first symptom that points to the faulty mindset is when we hear a dealer talk about doing an email “blast”. The expression encapsulates much of the behaviors and “false notes” that will follow.
Most of the time, these dealers will start their email marketing campaign strategy with an offer they want to communicate. The offer is their starting point. They then craft a message around the offer, embellish the offer with some cool graphics, and finally write a subject line and email copy that will reinforce the offer.
There are no surprises for the prospect throughout the campaign. From the subject line, the email, the graphics and the landing page, everything says the same thing. In many cases, the prospect can literally figure out the whole campaign from the initial subject line.
In addition, the verbiage is usually very corporate, and other than a few personalized merge-fields here and there, the tone of the message speaks to their entire database as a whole; like if all their customers were sitting in an auditorium while the message was read out loud.
It might go something like this: “Hi first name, our dealership would like to invite you to take advantage of this incredible service offer we have on this widget for you this month at an unbeatable price of…” and come with a fancy creative that immediately tells the recipient that every other customer from the dealership received a similar offer because, let’s face it, who in their right mind would take the time to create some graphics when sending an email to a friend or a colleague?
Don’t take me wrong, the emails look great! But they convey a corporate message shared from a corporate soapbox. No wonder the results are often minimal after execution.
Try This Instead: Start With The End in Mind
Next time your car dealership needs to send an email, try instead to be clear about the action you want your prospect or customer to take. Then reverse engineer the process to build your email strategy. In other words, don’t think about the offer; think about your goal for the prospect.
Now I know what you’re thinking: your goal is to sell a car, sell some parts or tires, or sell some service. I get it. But you’re putting too much pressure on the email. You want the email to do all the work for you and send you pre-qualified, excited customers, ready to buy at full price and take action now without voicing any objections. That’s not going to happen.
Do you want your customers to call a specific phone number so your sales team can do the heavy lifting? That’s your goal; that will works! Do you want prospects to visit a specific landing page so they can complete a form to access a voucher so your sales team can call them and provide the required salesmanship to get the deal done? That’s your goal; that can works! Do you want people to visit your dealership in person so your people can make a presentation a sell a car? That’s your goal; that can work!
Now with your goal in mind, craft your email copy to get the reader to take that action. Drop the fluff. Every word should get the prospect to answer your call for action. Add just enough information to qualify the prospect and make sure your message creates enough curiosity, so they want to take the desired action.
Don’t Be Scared, Get Personal
When crafting your message, try to have one specific customer in mind, not your whole database. Write your email to that person as if you were writing to a friend. Leave out the graphics, and dealership logos, or the fancy headers and footers provided with most email templates. Go raw and make your HTML email messages to look like plain text, just like the dozen emails you send every day from your computer or phone.
With this new approach, your email copy would now sound more like this: “Hi first name, this morning when I came in, I saw Jack, our service manager, and he told me that he found a few extra boxes of widgets that we forgot about. I thought you might be excited by the possibility to get one of these at half price. Could you give me a quick call and let me know either way if you’re interested or not so I can offer it to someone else…” Your subject line could simply be: “We found a box for you…”