The year was 2006. I was working with dealers to develop and promote e-mail marketing campaigns. At the time, our industry was doing a horrible job of collecting and leveraging customer e-mails to drive sales and service-lane business. Today, the same companies I used to work with on those campaigns are now listed as part of the portfolios of the big powerhouse companies in our industry.  

And let’s face it, automotive retail has never been known as living on the cutting edge. We tend to wait until something’s been proven before incorporating it into our operations. That led me to ask this question: In today’s social media-driven world, where does e-mail fit into a dealer’s marketing strategies? I posed that question and more to two industry experts, my friends Paul Potratz of Potratz Partners Advertising and Peter Martin with Cactus Sky Communications. Here’s what they had to say:

Mosley: A few years ago, e-mail marketing was the “it” thing. What is it today?

Martin: E-mail has changed dramatically. For one, it is much harder to get an e-mail delivered into an inbox. If it is a Gmail or Yahoo! address, it is almost impossible unless you do everything right. Unfortunately, 20 percent of the e-mails in most dealers’ lead and prospect databases are Gmail and Yahoo! accounts.

And if you’re trying to e-mail your customers using a CRM system, a majority of your prospects aren’t going to receive your e-mails. You also run the risk of getting blacklisted if you continue using your CRM system to send out e-mail promotions. See, Internet service providers are looking at the quality of the list. And what we are finding is that 30 percent of our clients’ e-mail lists are invalid, which is a huge problem if you’re using that list to market.

Potratz: It’s a shiny nickel. What I mean by that is, yes, e-mail marketing makes more sense today than it did a year ago. And that’s due to the explosion of smartphones and tablets. Now you can even track a customer’s digital body language and automate e-mail promotions based on his or her behavior, which should make your lead conversion better than ever before.

Mosley: Then what is the best way to utilize e-mail marketing?

Martin: E-mail is still the most cost-effective way to reach customers, but it needs to be done properly. People who are just sending out mass e-mails and not following the rules are going to encounter lower response rates and problems.

Mosley: How does social media factor into the effectiveness of a dealer’s e-mail marketing efforts?

Martin: From what we’ve seen, it has had no impact. However, e-mail can be used very effectively to build social communities.

Mosley: Do you see social media marketing eventually overtaking or phasing out e-mail marketing? 

Martin: No. Social media is great for generating exposure, but using e-mail for marketing is still your best solution for delivering an interactive marketing message to customers.  

I recently attended a conference where a top person from Twitter made a controversial comment about “buying” followers. He said it was good because only a small portion of your followers will ever see something that you post. And that’s why e-mail marketing is still a viable option, because while your Twitter followers may have interest in your dealership, an e-mail campaign reaches your customers and prospects that have shown an interest in your products.

Potratz: Social media has not replaced e-mail marketing, rather,  they simply complement each other. Social media marketing offers targeted opportunities. Combine that with e-mail and you will become top of mind for the majority of customers in your CRM. There’s also Facebook remarketing, which can increase awareness of your brand and lead conversions. Just remember, it is not the quantity of your messages but the quality.

Mosley: Should dealers be focused on being first or perfecting each strategy one by one?

Potratz: Google changes their algorithm every 17.5 hours, so being first would be a little difficult. However, if you have a keen understanding of shopper behavior, being the first will add to your strategy.  

Now, I used the word “strategy,” but, in my experiences, only one out of 125 dealers actually has a strategy in place. It can be a daunting task, but it is a necessary task. Otherwise, you will get pulled into the shiny-nickel buying process.

Cory Mosley is principal of Mosley Automotive Training, a company focused on new-school techniques. E-mail him at [email protected].

About the author
Cory Mosley

Cory Mosley

Dealer Consultant

Cory is a sales training specialist who brings a new-school approach to automotive retailing. Get his monthly take on the opportunities and challenges impacting today’s front-end departments right here at

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