Automotive Digital Marketing

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An alarming trend has arisen on the Internet side of automotive sales and it is called "Email Template Theft" (ETT for short). This may be happening to your Internet sales team right now or your team could even be the guilty party. Have you ever received an internet lead who never responded and just seemed downright suspicious? Could these leads have been submitted by your local competition? 

As an Internet Director, it certainly happened to me (in both Indiana and California). This was confirmed after time had passed when I shopped my competition then noticed startling similarities between their email templates and that of my own. At first I was furious to the point that I wanted to start a blog and call them out online for all the Internet shopping world to see. Furious to the point that I wanted to purchase a ninja suit then sneak on to their lot during the middle of the night and put my dealership's license plate frames on all of their cars. Unfortunately, neither of these options would have helped the situation or my own credibility. It took a while (meaning a few days in the car business) to start asking myself the questions that would help me realize why this happened. Does "ETT" happen to everyone? Are my email templates simply that amazing or is someone out there just that lazy? 

Truth be told, it was most likely the latter. As it is today, the Internet sales side of the car business is evolving at a rapid pace. My best guess was that someone having never sold cars online was put in charge of running an Internet department or BDC in my market and they did what they had to do to get started, fake it until they made it. After serving on the vendor side with a CRM provider it is sad to say the same activity is witnessed. We are routinely asked by dealership prospects to provide "best practices" from our top performing stores. "Can't you just copy the email templates and phone call scripts from [so and so] and put them into our account? We will change the name and everything…" Make no mistake that this is not good for you and it is certainly not helping your customers choose where to purchase a vehicle.

Sales 101 teaches us to set ourselves apart. When an internet shopper submits a lead and the onslaught of emails they receive back are the same or similar enough to be perceived as the same, nobody wins. In fact, more harm is done than good. In the age of price shopping and the demand for quick digital price quotes there are few options to retain anything resembling gross profit on the deal. We must build value, set ourselves apart and earn the gross we desire by allowing the customer to feel special and unique. How do we accomplish this? 

  • First, stop using auto response emails. During the operating hours at the dealership we need to send personalized initial responses, period. These responses should not read "We have received your request and someone will be getting back to you soon." After 15 or 30 minutes with no response, "soon" has lost it's creditability and so has your store. If you were the customer in that situation your next question would  likely be about the price of the vehicle.
  • Second, tell your personal story and that of the dealership through the messaging in your emails. Do not be afraid to get personal. For your customers that eventually do buy, you will likely know much about their personal life so why not break the ice online first? We do it in person and should be able to pull it off digitally with strong personalized emails. If you have a family, talk about your family. "This minivan has enough space in the back that even my 6 kids could fit with all their daily belongings." "Mr. Customer, I understand that you are on a budget and my family is as well. It is important to think about the true cost of ownership over time with the next vehicle you purchase and I am here to help you understand what that entails." The same goes for the dealership. Mention how long you have or have not been in business. Focus the spotlight on your store's distinct advantages and leverage them to earn an appointment.
  • Third, use video of yourself, the dealership and the vehicle. Take the time to record something for each customer since they will appreciate it even if they never tell you. When a shopper sees that you are dedicating your time to them specifically, even before they have entered the store, things will work in your favor. 

So let us all put an end to ETT (Email Template Theft)! Challenge yourself to revisit our email templates. Use every ounce of creativity that you have to rebuild them and don't hesitate to ask for help. Your customers will thank you…. monetarily. 


Views: 325

Tags: bdc, email, internet, process, sales, template


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Comment by Mike Hills on September 21, 2012 at 1:06pm
One of the frequent contributors to this forum copied 100% of our email action plan and templates word for word (with the exception of plugging in his Nissan dealership's name).
Of course, we now encourage our salespersons to interject as much personality into their correspondence as possible and to include video of themselves, the dealership, and the vehicle.
Comment by Gillon S. Johannson on September 21, 2012 at 9:52am

"The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow."

I think what 99.99% of what other dealers are doing with their internet leads is total garbage. I specifically don't do what I see others doing.

Then, let me say this about auto responses...As (perhaps it was Jackie Cooper) once said: "The first ten words out of your mouth mean more than the next ten thousand."  This applies to your primary response to an internet lead. Nobody likes an auto response, it denegrades the value of the customers inquiry. The content of your primary response to a customer is perhaps the most important words that will be uttered during the whole length of your relationship. Don't use auto responders!!!

I'm going to look into this using the customers name in a URL thing.

Nice stuff Jake, I'll have to keep an eye on you.

Comment by delete please on September 21, 2012 at 8:28am

Personal video always works great!  Especially if you add their name into the url like for example: Hi Joe, I made a quick video for you here and "yes" I really did make a video just for you!

No one can resist clicking a link with their name in it!

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