Email marketing for auto dealerships

People send nearly 300 billion emails every day, but 73% of dealerships don’t use email campaigns as a part of their marketing strategies. That means many car dealers like you are missing out on a powerful opportunity to connect with customers. 

Fortunately, effective email marketing allows dealerships to send personalized offers to open up new possibilities with customers. Not sure how to get started with an email marketing initiative? Here’s how you can use email to establish powerful connections with customers that drive more traffic into your dealership—and more sales too. 


Step 1: Maintain a quality email list

How long has it been since you contacted your customer base? It’s possible some of your leads changed email since your last contact—rendering your new campaigns undeliverable. You may also have added to your email list, but forgotten to add those leads to your CSV on file. Each scenario leads to a missed opportunity to connect with people who have shown interest in your business.

In short, you absolutely need to maintain a quality email list to get the best results. Look at your email data to help reveal red flags. Keep a close eye on the rate of bounced emails in particular. Email services often mark lists with high bounce rates as spam, which severely impacts delivery rate. Always do your best to contact active email addresses to avoid triggering spam filters. Continue to hone your email list by deleting old email addresses and importing fresh leads.


Step 2: Segment your list into customer groups

Personalization does wonders for your ROI. According to research, personalized campaigns tout an ROI of 44:1, compared to an ROI of 36:1 for those that only distribute static campaigns. You can achieve this personalization by segmenting your list into like-minded audiences.

For instance, you can use segmentation to split your list into categories like purchase history, vehicle value, or lifestyle or car preference. You can also divide your audience by engagement history like active leads, lapsed customers, and those who haven’t yet done business with your dealership. By splitting customers into different groups, you can personalize your message to speak to them, their mental state, and needs.

Here are some quick segmented email ideas for your dealership:

  • Have a hot deal on new van models? Use segmentation to easily send a tailored email to customers interested in family-size cars
  • Looking to increase your trade-ins? Create customer segments based on length of ownership so you only contact those most likely ready for a new vehicle. 

Segmentation is a powerful way to create tailored offers that truly speak to the needs of your customers. It also ensures that when you do reach out, you have something relevant and interesting to say to each customer—decreasing your rate of unsubscribes.


Step 3: Create a “Thank You” email that sells

The automatic “thank you for subscribing” or “welcome to our list” email is an incredibly important communication in your email marketing strategy. This email is the first point of digital contact you establish with a new email lead, and a really important place to make a great impression or close a sale. 

You should play around with segmented audiences for your welcome emails. If you have new leads who sign up for email on your website, you may go for a generic welcome offer and message—or an invitation to a dealership event. You can add a lead after they visit your dealership to test drive a specific car. Then, you can use this information to send tailored communication with offers on select vehicles they expressed interest in. Whatever you do, use your thank you email to provide tailored information based on where the customer is on their buying journey. 


Step 4: Set up triggered emails 

Triggered emails, or email drip campaigns, automatically deploy based on a customer’s behavior or a specific set of circumstances. Triggered emails also have a 71% higher open rate than regular e-blasts. So what are some creative ways auto dealerships can use triggered emails?

Set up your email system to automatically contact customers on their birthdays or after a certain length of ownership. For example, you can send triggered email reminders as a customer nears the end of his or her lease term. Drive customers into your dealership by sending automatic maintenance or service suggestions. Send oil change reminders every three months or prompt customers to come in for a discounted tire rotation or transmission check. The best thing about triggered emails is that once you set them up, they run themselves with little oversight. 


Step 5: Be prepared for customer service follow-ups

Customers expect businesses to reply to their emails within one hour. Once you start using emails to increase foot traffic, you’re bound to receive inventory questions and urgent scheduling requests. If you wait too long to reply to these messages, your customer is likely to seek out one of your competitors. Is your customer service team set up to answer emails within an hour? Streamline your internal processes to make sure you’re ready to capture new business by answering questions quickly.

Email is a must-have for your dealership to build relationships with your customer base. Ignoring this marketing channel leaves many new business opportunities on the table. With these five steps, you can cater to the needs of your customers, and bring more foot traffic into your dealership. 

Want to give your customer communication an even more personal touch? Podium Webchat + Messaging gives customers an easy, convenient way to reach you through your website or social media platforms without having to open a new email window. Podium ties every customer question to a phone number, so you can freely exchange text-based communication with ease. 

Plus, Podium offers a centralized, bird’s-eye view of conversations submitted across all of your web platforms on both desktop and mobile. No matter where you are at your dealership, you’ll be able to answer questions at the speed customers expect. 



Source: Benchmark
Source: Litmus
Source: Unbounce
Source: Toister Performance Solutions

Max Steckler
Max Steckler Head of Strategic Automotive Partnerships

Max Steckler, is an auto professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects auto dealerships and businesses with their customers.

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