Automotive Digital Marketing

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Your Auto Responders Should Leverage Links to Video Assets

I've never worked at a car dealership. But as I assist car dealers across the country, I have seen many different styles of management, structure, and process.

Recently I had the opportunity to conduct a joint 20 Group presentation with Joe Webb and Jared Hamilton and Joe presented the mystery shopping results he did for each dealer in the group. Wow, this was an eye opener from some dealers that had broken processes.

Part of Joe's analysis was to review the auto-responder emails that were generated by the dealer's CRM systems. Some of the emails were poorly formed, had missing images, and others had no call to action.

There are people that are more qualified to discuss the best email template designs but I would like to add an observation. The after hours email templates, from my perspective, assumed that the consumer who submitted the lead was done shopping.

I know from my own research that consumers are just moving on to another dealer to submit a lead to get the best local price. None of the after hours response templates created a call to action to get the consumer to invest a few more minutes to get to know the salesperson who sent the email or to know more about the dealership.

My thoughts were reinforced by a dealer principal who recently said to me "Brian, with all the focus on the Internet, I am afraid that we are forgetting that we still have to sell the consumer on our dealership."

Leverage Video Resumes and Testimonials


My recommendations are not ground breaking ideas, but they service as a reminder since many dealers have not taken action.

All dealership sales professionals should have a positive, energetic, and well made video resume that they can link, not include, in their auto-responder email. Dealers should also create a YouTube channel of customer review videos that they can reference in the email.

Here are some lines that could be added to typical after hours email templates that tell the consumer that they will be contacted the following day:

Dear (customer name),

I know you have many choices where you can purchase a car so I would like to ask you to take one more minute to learn more about me and how I will handle your questions and respond to your online request. I invite you to view my video resume: (link).

I would also encourage you to hear what other local residents have said about buying a car from our dealership. Take a minute to view the (dealership name) Customer Video Channel: (link).

This gives the consumer the option to re-visit your website and let your passion and the passionate testimonials of your clients win their attention.

I would also suggest that your email provide a link to your current specials. You have to be careful on how many links you include in an email for spam filtering, but TEST adding links to important pages on your website.

These links are more important than fancy photos, logos, or other elements that could trigger a spam flag. Also, take time to test all your emails against free spam checkers.

You will be surprised how much you can increase delivery and open rates by eliminating words like "amazing", "awesome","unbelievable" and innocent words like "save", "discounts", and "huge". To test your email template, try this free site: Email Spam Checker

So, use video assets to engage potential customers when they are shopping after hours or during the day where video can tell a more passionate story than any email can hope to convey.

Prestige Volvo YouTube Channel


Keep in mind that video testimonials do not have to be polished. The more raw they are the more believable they will be. Let your customers sell for you. Linking your testimonial channel in your email templates will build brand value after hours!

Here is an example of a free YouTube video channel that can be linked in your email templates.  Let your customers sell for you!




Powerful Video Resumes

Check out this video resume and see the power of engaging your email prospects with video before they go on to the next dealer. Consumers will still shop, but who will they remember?

Views: 121

Tags: email, email templates, testimonials, video


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Comment by Ralph Paglia on March 14, 2011 at 10:27pm

The vast majority of blocked emails from dealers to new lead consumers are blocked by spam filters and it is a smaller percentage that make it through and are then not opened... It all adds up, but by far the spam filters are the biggest road block.  Keep in mind that it is difficult for most emails sent by dealers to pass the spam filter "sniff test" when they are scanned, and until the sender's email is white listed, all the emails being sent by the dealer will be scanned by the ISP and email service provider's spam filtering technology.


Heck, I have seen LEAD MANAGEMENT TOOLS (and you know who you are) block half of all dealer leads from getting to the dealer's lead management tool! If we cannot get our own leads past our own lead management tool's spam filters, how would we ever think we could do it on the consumer side where we have a lot less control?


I am not going to ID the CRM/ILM tool that i discovered blocking thousands of dealership leads from being received by dealers due to their aggressive use of spam filtering, but their employees are members of ADM and they know who I am talking about!


My point is simply this... Do NOT underestimate the impact of spam filters and for the most part, all the suppliers who sell lead management software and leads themselves will politely decline to discuss the pervasive aspect of spam filtering's impact on blocking emails sent by dealers and intended for consumers.


Because of the nature of how spam filters work, it is more likely that a dealer's email will be blocked from reaching a consumer who has submitted a new lead or inquiry to that dealership via a lead form than the risk of spam filters blocking any other type of dealer to consumer communication.


BTW... I wrote the American Honda Motor Company's "White Paper" on dealer email and spam filters which is still available as a download from Honda and Acura's iN.


Lastly... Get the customer to send you an email from their email application of choice to the email address that your lead management tool uses to send emails and you no longer have to worry as much about the spam filters... But, THAT is a big assignment to get done!

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 14, 2011 at 9:54pm

Ah!  I thought you meant they were SPAM filtered away from the Inbox.  Tracking pixels are dependent on getting around the "Do you want to display pictures from this source?" question, so the text may well be read and no one know at the sender.  And many emails are not read--I saw a stat that said emails in general are opened 23% of the time (a testimony to the bulk being SPAM, which it still is). 


However, I believe your number is correct, now that I understand it.  I have a solution, of sorts, to the "form is not email" whitelist problem...


Thanks Ralph!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on March 14, 2011 at 8:45pm

The last time I was able to check a certain VERY LARGE dealer email provider's records, 54% of all message sent from a popular lead management tool with over 2,000 dealership based users were NOT being opened or loaded by the recipient's email client...


This we knew because of the images and tracking pixels being loaded (or not) from our servers and the much smaller numbers or "rejection notices" (or system challenges) we received added to the first total...


Combine this with a study by American Honda showing that over 42% of all emails sent by dealers to customers were not getting to the customer's inbox and I am comfortable in standing behind my statement that "about half" of alll emails sent by dealers to consumers submitting NEW LEADS from web based forms are not getting opened by those requesting consumers.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 14, 2011 at 7:59pm
Oh, and I have to say I also love Elise's work!
Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 14, 2011 at 7:29pm

Ralph, you definitely understand email!  Well put.  I especially like you explanation of how you get "whitelisted" once they reply to you.  However, the part I liked best was calling forms "a strategically flawed system that results in over half of all messages sent back to consumers from dealers never making it into the consumer's inbox."


I don't know that "half" is still true, but the form-based methodology is completely flawed for a lead from a modern shopper!  Even forms that spoof sourcing emails don't ensure whitelisting, as modern email servers don't whitelist UNLESS there is a FIRST outbound email FROM the email server.  A spoof doesn't provide that.


And how odd is it that I was just considering this today...and thinking of ways to ditch as many forms as possible on the dealer's site (though the OEMs seem dedicated to this process) in favor of a direct email.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on March 14, 2011 at 7:02pm
BTW... I love Elise's work and often wonder if she knows how many suppliers are pimping her effectiveness to try and sell their own wares and services... Just saying!
Comment by Ralph Paglia on March 14, 2011 at 7:00pm

The use of hyperlinks in text based emails is highly unlikely to trip the wrath of most spam filters as long as there are no more than 2 links in the message... You can use more than 2 text based hyperlinks, but some spam filters will block messages with more than 2.  Remember, until such time as the consumer has actually sent an email to your lead management system, any messages you send to that consumer will by definition be "suspect email" and run through the consumer's email service provider's spam filtering and phishing monitor system.


The real key is to get the customer to respond back to your lead management system by sending an email as early in the process as possible... Preferably as a response to the automated reply that your lead management system sends out.  Which is exactly why I prefer my "Information Confirmation Request" autoresponse email template which generates more responses from consumers than any other automated response I have ever personally used.  That template is in the ADM Forum section on email templates and phone scripts.


Once the consumer has sent an email to your dealership's lead management tool email account, then your account is "whitelisted" with that consumer's SMTP/POP servers and you can thereafter send HTML based emails that will most likely make it through the various protection systems in place on most email servers.


Keep in mind that the entire auto industry's web based lead form system was designed before the existence of spam filters... Soliciting leads via a web form instead of the consumer actually sending the dealership an email is a strategically flawed system that results in over half of all messages sent back to consumers from dealers never making it into the consumer's inbox.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 14, 2011 at 5:18pm

@ Joe:  I've been thinking about your point on links.  Essentially, I think your point is that a plain text autoresponder with questions and calls to action is best to get past SPAM filters?  Especially since the great majority of leads are from forms, etc. and aren't emails that you actually reply to?


I like the questions and calls to action, and I adopted those myself from a discussion that you and I had last year.  They work!  I'm just having trouble trading in the power of video for an unknown number of blocked emails without links (to video or whatever).  Video is so commonly exchanged nowadays, that I wonder this:  Would a video in an autoresponder get such a better average of responses (on the majority (?) of the ones that get through) that it gives a clear advantage over text-only autoresponders?

Comment by Joe Webb on March 13, 2011 at 6:46pm

I think you are dead on, Brian, when you say that dealers need to begin leveraging media and content in their emails to consumers.  This is something I personally had in effect in the dealerships I was a part of in retail for years and years.  Video can have a profound effect on building rapport and credibility with customers.

The only caveat I can say, however, is to be wary of putting it in your 1st auto-responder.  Attempt a call to action with questions in your auto-responder emails, but try to avoid any links or anything other than plain text in the 1st auto-responder.  You have plenty of time (90 days federally) to send them value building emails after the initial contact, but even with spamcheckers, it is imperative the first email gets through.

Great post - as you know email templates and lead management is my 1st passion... my forte.  If only dealers would review the correspondence they are sending out to their customers daily and correct the process, we'd be viewed as a much more professional, trusted industry.  

Then again, that's what they hire DealerKnows for :)

It was great speaking at that 20 Group with you and Jared as well.  I still remember that dealer stating that, not only was 2 days not enough, but there was too much information that we gave them to comprehend it all.  I take that as both a compliment and a GIANT divide between what dealers need to focus on and what they are willing to.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 13, 2011 at 2:59pm
I love this point, and agree 100%.  I think your fresh viewpoint--because you've never sold a car--is helping people sell a LOT more cars.  The car business can sometimes be too strongly in-bred, in thinking and in process, and your success and strategies helps us over and around that problem.

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