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Creating An Email List: Lead Nurturing

Creating an opt-in email list is as foreign to the auto industry as driving on the left side of the road but there is a place for it and in this post I'm going to share with you both the why and the how. On your dealer site the end goal is to turn surfers into leads, to get some sort of contact information whether it be an email address, a phone number or both. But, as we all know it's a fairly small percentage of people that do just that and the reason is simple... you. Now, don't take that personally, by you I mean the car business, car salespeople in particular and because of that the general public doesn't have a high level of trust for our kind (yes, I'm one the you). Of course the reasons are much deeper than just the trust level involved... but that's for another post.

There are a number of reasons why you should work to capture email addresses, outside of collecting for leads that is, and while there are more than we are going to talk about here I want to point out a few of the important ones.

It's Pure Permission Marketing

Permission marketing, a term coined by Seth Godin, is when a prospective client has given you permission to market to them. In other words, because they have opted-in to your email list to receive your newsletter or to download a whitepaper or ebook or even an auto responder series (more on all of these later) they have given you permission to send them more information. The undesirable inverse of permission marketing is interruption marketing, marketing in which your prospects are interrupted from what they are already doing to hear your marketing message, just think TV commercials. By giving people valid (and desirable) reasons for them to give you their email address you are better able to nurture your leads, build trust, and convert them into buyers (more on lead nurturing later).

It Builds Familiarity

If done correctly that is. I'm always remind of the scene in the movie Fight Club when I explain familiarity, the part when Edward Nortins character talks about being a single serving friend, yeah don't be one! What I mean by that is it takes more than visiting with somebody once, whether it's in person or on the web, if you plan on creating any semblance of a relationship with them.

By creating a newsletter... you know before I finish that thought I feel that it's important to mention that, just as on social networks, to keep in mind that the less you pitch the more you sell. The reason I say that is because when you are trying to build any kind of email list it's important to keep attrition rate in mind and pay particular attention to how many people are unsubscribing and why their doing it. You will notice that if you spend more time doing email blasts than you do lead (or email) nurturing your attrition rate will increase, and that's a bad thing.

So, by creating a newsletter that engages your readers in such a way that they want to hear more from you, you are better able to build relationships and create influence through increased familiarity. Remember, don't be a single serving friend.

It Builds Authority

Much like blogging creates authority, so does maintaining an email list as long as you're not just maintaining it but actively engaging with your subscribers. In society we hold those that are authoritative in high regard because we perceive those with authority to have high levels of knowledge and wisdom. By showcasing, through well written, helpful articles that you are the authority then when the time comes for your subscribers to make a decision to buy you will be one step closer to earning their business.

It Builds Top of Mind

We all know that if you want to be remembered then you have to stay in front of your prospect until they decide that they want to buy or you convince them too, whichever comes first. By sending out periodic newsletters you position yourself to become top of mind, always remember the less you pitch the more you sell.

Managing an Email List

There are a ton of software-as-service companies available that will help you manage your email list a quick Google search will net you plenty of reviews on any one of them, below find three that I recommend.

  • Mail Chimp - I use Mail Chimp and they are very easy to use, powerful and cost effective. They even have a forever free option where you can have up to 2000 emails addresses and send out 6000 emails per month.
  • Aweber - Aweber has a ton of features but is a little more advanced than MailChimp. That can be good or bad, just depends on your level knowledge of such things.
  • Constant Contact - Constant Contact has been around for a long time, since 1996 and another great option for email list needs.

Any of the above will give you any kind of support you need with training videos and support forums that will be able to answer any of your questions. All three are as easy as naming your list, defining what fields you want in your sign-up form and then embedding (copy and paste) a bit of code where you want it to show up.

Note: Check with your CRM provider, a few of them have this type of functionality already built it.

Growing Your List

Again, there are many ways that you can grow your email list, below are but a few.

Maintaining A Newsletter

There are a few companies out there, dedicated to the auto industry, that will create and send out a monthly newsletter on your behalf, they can be pricey but can all be done in-house if you have the bandwidth to get it done. Maintaining a newsletter can be an attractive reason for people to want to opt-in to receive it.

In your newsletter make sure to include employee spotlights that link to both video and images so that your readers get a better feeling for who the people of the dealership really are. Also, include articles for car care and DIY maintenances such as oil changes, air filter installation and wiper blade replacement. You can even include articles on credit repair, the value of service contracts and what the heck gap insurance is. The idea is to become the expert by giving actionable advice that will actually help your subscribers while at the same time letting them to get to know you and other dealership personnel on a more personal basis.

eBook Creation

By creating an eBook you once again have a vessel with which to create authority, but if used correctly it's great bait to capture email addresses as well. I think that by giving you a few title examples you will get a better idea of what I mean:

  • 10 Things You Must Know About Reconditioning Before You Buy Used
  • 5 Ways To Increase The Value Of Your Car At Trade In Time
  • Don't Buy ANY Finance Products Before Reading This
  • 7 Ways NOT To Get Ripped Off When Buying A Vehicle

I know what you're thinking, I can't write and I have no desire to write a 10-15 page eBook! Don't worry, you don't have to, in fact you can do a quick Google search and find ghostwriters at just about any price range, go ahead try it.

Auto Responder Series

Sounds more complicated than it is, but setting up an auto responder series is very easy and once you set it you can forget all about it as it does its thing. Just use one of the eBook title ideas above (or your own) and create an auto responder series out of it, all that means is break it down into 5-10 different email that will be sent out over a predefined period of time.

As an example let's say that you wanted to create a course titled 5 Ways To Increase The Value Of Your Car At Trade In Time, you would set up your email course like this:

  • Email 1 - Goes out immediately after sign up
  • Email 2 - Goes out 1 days after sign up
  • Email 3 - Goes out 2 days after sign up
  • Email 4 - Goes out 3 days after sign up
  • Email 5 - Goes out 4 days after sign up

A series like this is very easy to set up and each of the aforementioned email list companies makes this dead simple to do and once it's done, it's done. Imagine if you put a sign up form for a series like this on your trade in page, what would happen? Also, each of the emails should have a small call to action such as value your trade here (with a link to your trade in form), if you have any questions contact our used-car manager here (again put in a link), or any number of things as long as it's not a hard call to action and it comes after the content, not before. You don't want to people thinking that the only reason you are giving them great info is to get their email address to market to them, even if that is what you are doing!

Put Sign-Up Forms Everywhere

You can put sign-up forms on your website, blog, Facebook Page, Twitter Profile and any other number of places, be creative and get it in front of as many people as possible... without being pushy of course.

Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing, I used the term a few times in this post and I thought it about time I dig into exactly what I mean by it. Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships by creating an informative dialogue that helps prospects that are not yes sales-ready.

I would encourage you to even create your CRM auto responder series in such a way as to nurture your leads instead of just bombarding them with email after email saying that you can't get a hold of them. There is evidence that suggests that prospects who were nurtured buy more, require less discounting and have a much shorter sales cycle than one who was bombarded with call attempts and get a hold of me emails.

Forester Research did a study about lead nurturing and found out that companies that excel in lead nurturing:

  • Decreased the percentage of leads that are ignored by sales from 25-80%
  • Increased win rates on generated leads by 7% points (out of 100 leads, that's 7 more sales!)
  • Increase the number of sales reps that make quota, with a slower ramp up time for new recruits.

I know what you're thinking, why lead nurturing ? What's in it for me? In a study done by Rain Today they found that right off the bat 25% of leads are disqualified for whatever reason, another 25% is ready to buy and a whopping 50% isn't ready to talk to a sales person. In a nutshell lead nurturing is about building relations and creating dialogue with the 50% that aren't ready.

I want you to keep in mind that I don't want you to think of only leads in the general sense but also the email addresses that you collect from other places than just you dealer website. While the study by Rain Today mentioned that 50% of leads that are market-generated aren't ready to buy, closer to 100% of the people that sign up for your newsletter, eBook, or auto responder aren't ready, so take the time to build a dialogue and create relationships, you will reap the benefit sooner than you think.

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