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How To: Better Email Marketing for Car Dealers

How To Execute Improved Email Marketing Campaigns at Your Dealership

Successful email marketing campaigns are typically defined as such because of their higher open and response rates, and ultimately sales and service revenue generation. Car dealership BDC, Internet, Marketing and Sales Managers busy with everyday tasks often need a little help — a blueprint leading them to results from their email campaigns that they would define as “successful.” 


Listed and outlined below are several suggestions to help automotive marketing professionals responsible for dealership email marketing to craft better email campaigns:

1. The Subject Line is Key
We have all heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Unfortunately, the reason that saying is so commonly used is because it is a natural instinct to make snap judgments.

First impressions are critical in all forms of communication. When people receive an email, the first thing they see is the subject line, which has the potential to either gain or lose their interest. Subject lines that include your dealership’s name as a reference and provide specifics supporting your email topic will typically gain higher open rates.

2. Pay Attention to Who it’s “From”
To understand how important this is, think about your own email inbox. Would you be more likely to open an email sent from “advertising@” or from “”?

People don’t want to feel like they are receiving an automated email. If readers don’t see you putting time into personalizing the “from” address, they won’t spend time considering what you have to say.

3. Email Merge Fields
People love to see their own names. It makes them feel as if the email was written to them personally and not sent to recipient #432. Lead Management Tools, CRM apps and white-listed email service providers have simple options to directly insert specific customer record "merge fields" that pull in customer specific data from your contact database using a template editor.

4. Variety
Sending an email can be one of the most effective ways to grab customers’ attention. However, if you abuse the efficiencies that email marketing provides, your dealership's customers and prospective clients will stop showing interest in your emails. Consistency is essential with any marketing campaign, yet variety is equally important.

How often do you send out dealership newsletters, sales event invites and rebate/incentive updates that aren’t just soliciting a purchase? Are you getting an active response from recipients? If not, try something new.

Be conscious about how many emails you send out each week or month. How are individuals interacting with your emails? Are you following up accordingly? How are you engaging the people that seem uninterested? Many of the popular white-listed email marketing services (ie: ExactTarget, ConstantContact, MailChimp, etc.) include click-through analytics that monitor which email recipients spend time with your dealership's emails or forward them along to family, friends or colleagues.

5. Quality Over Quantity
Especially for car dealerships, it is far more important to send out content-rich emails than it is to send out long-winded or multiple emails. When you provide dealership prospects and customers in your contacts database with quality content, they will be more inclined to read your emails and even forward them to friends. Gain the trust of your customers and prospective clients by emphasizing quality of communication sent out by your dealership over quantity.

One option is providing information that they can use immediately. A dealership with a big truck sales market share might offer a series of summertime trailering and hauling  tips so that when a prospect is in need of planning to tow their boat to the lake for the first time in the Spring, they will be likely to think of the insightful tips that the dealership's email marketer sent out.

6. Content Suggestions
How can you personalize your message content? Listen to your readers.

The people who take the time to contact you are the ones most likely to become better customers. Study their emails, questions, likes and dislikes. Build or improve your dealership's email content with your customers’ input and they will notice that you appreciate them and they will be more likely to remain loyal.

Social media monitoring is one easy way to listen to and engage your dealership's email readers. Pay attention to what customers are saying online about the vehicles you sell, your service department and other dealerships in your area, and use these insights to create valuable email content.

7. Test Everything...
Test the way your email appears, not only through your own email service provider but through several providers. Send a preview test email to your Gmail, Yahoo and mobile device email accounts.  Then, test all links and phone numbers that appear in your message to make sure that they work.

Also test your graphics. Images are a great way to grab someone’s attention, but remember that they don’t always show up in email messages. Test the effectiveness of your emails by viewing them in an email client with images turned off and making sure that your message remains easy to understand and that the call to action is clear.

Finally, test your email with a spam-check tool before sending anything. Spam-check services review email content to see what might get caught in spam filters.

With dealership based email marketing, you never need to settle for one formula because you will often have the flexibility to make improvements as you go. So, make taking advantage of automotive marketing trends and new technology in your automotive digital marketing programs as they will help you achieve more tangible results with your email marketing campaigns.

Adapted from an article written by: Nicole Merrett - vice president of CRM marketing for Sage North America, a supplier of business management software and services for small and mid-sized businesses.  Source:


Want to learn more about Email and Digital Marketing for Car Dealers? Then you should attend the AutoConnections Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas at the Aria Resort and Casino Conference Center from September 5th to the 8th. You can register over the phone by calling Carrie Hemphill at 908-601-6475 or register online at

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Comment by Stephen Murphy on August 7, 2012 at 1:59pm

Anytime Kim, always here to help my fellow marketers!

Comment by Kim Essenmacher on August 7, 2012 at 1:50pm

I want to thank Steve Murphy for taking time out of his busy day to review two of my email campaigns. He provided some wonderful tips!

Comment by Connie Keane on August 6, 2012 at 4:34pm

Hi Kim, Ralph is right -- it's important to send out content rich e-mails. Add relevant, easy to read general-interest consumer car articles alongside your service specials, rebates etc., in order to gently guide your audience to desired click through actions. I'm an automotive articles content provider. For your Chrysler Group agency I'll be happy to provide you at no charge 3 articles of your choice. I can suggest the following, but feel free to contact me at for other material too.

1. Gone Fishing -- Jeep J12 is `Old Man Truck'

2. Why the Dodge Dart Comeback? Because the Name Sticks

3. Chrysler: Minivan King Maker with a Town & Country

Comment by Kim Essenmacher on August 1, 2012 at 10:51am

We have tons of templates in the back for ADP. Anyone have any samples for service and vehicle specials/rebates, etc?

Comment by Ralph Paglia on August 1, 2012 at 10:13am

For those seeking examples of emails, in the ADM Forum is a discussion thread at which has been used by thousands of ADM members to exchange and share the best email templates and phone scripts.

Comment by Kim Essenmacher on August 1, 2012 at 9:09am

Great Steve. I will take you up on that.

Comment by Stephen Murphy on August 1, 2012 at 9:03am

Kim - I'd be happy to brainstorm with you and review specific examples! Feel free to email me at and we can look at some real life email marketing elements and metrics.

Comment by Kim Essenmacher on August 1, 2012 at 8:58am

I agree. But having samples whether informative or promotional and its success rates would still help. So many articles tell you to have compelling titles but never give examples of what that would look like. Many of us aren't copywriters so it takes time to learn.

Comment by Stephen Murphy on August 1, 2012 at 8:56am

Kim + Dave - It's hard to show examples of "successful" emails without knowing what the goal of the email was. I've always seen higher click through rates on informative emails vs. promotional emails, but a promotional email will usually get clicks from prospects deeper in the funnel. Each email I craft tries to solve a different problem, and the components (subject line, call to action, copy) all vary based on the campaign.

A mantra that I stick by for email marketing (and any other content) is "What's in it for me?" Honestly evaluate your your content and ask if it solves a problem or fills a need for the customer. If you can do this, you'll see much better metrics for all different kinds of emails you send out. 

Comment by Kim Essenmacher on August 1, 2012 at 7:30am

I agree! Sample emails with compelling subject lines and content.

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