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Chris Costner

Chris Costner Account Executive

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How Broad Is Your Brush

I think we can all begin here with an agreement that stalking someone is bad. Personally, I find it very strange. Why is it then that some of our industry dealers use it as a viable digital marketing strategy, more specifically, email marketing? Now for some, it may be because they don’t realize what they are doing and may need some help with their strategies. Sadly, there are others that are too lazy to approach their digital marketing properly. I am writing this to help bring both sides of the spectrum more towards the center because from each side as they stand, it is hurting the automotive industry and beginning to give our digital marketing efforts a bad name.

Now please understand I am not talking about the nefarious forms of cyberstalking but rather those dealers who generate a list of names email addresses from the CRM and constantly bombard the customer with the same "beginning of the month" or "end of month" email offer. Dealers should strive to become better technicians with their strategies and stop playing the numbers game while chasing that "open rate" or "click through" rate. Is that small percentage so important that you are willing to follow up with something of the same just a few weeks later? It is pushing customers away and creating more work down the road.

If someone walks into your dealership, you would welcome them, offer assistance, hopefully create some dialogue and continue from there. If you followed them around making suggestions on vehicles they have zero interest in or offering unwanted service work, I'm willing to say they would quickly become uncomfortable and leave your store.

From that point, two things are likely to happen:

They probably will never come back into your dealership for one. Then they will take ownership of your brand and begin to tell other people about their bad experience in person and in the social platforms.

This exact same thing happens online. If you bombard them with the same "expected" email campaigns, they soon stop opening and get a negative feel for your brand, which again, they will share with others.

The trap many dealerships fall into is that they think just because a customer has done business, joined your rewards program or registered to win that gift card that they have given you the right to blast them with irrelevant messages each week or month. Of course "opt in" helps you stay clear of anti-spam legislation but it does not diminish your responsibility as professional marketers and businesses.

It is important to remember that your digital marketing efforts are about matching buyers to your vehicles and service. It isn't about throwing stuff at enough of your customer base or potential buyers hoping that some will be silly enough to convert. This matching means understanding who the customer or prospect really is and working out what they need and when they need it. In our automotive world, there are plenty of tools available to present us with the information needed to help us know more about our prospects and customer base. We are dealing with real human beings with real feelings on the other end. Take it serious and deliver relevant offers to the right prospects or customer base at the right time.

Customers have caught on to the auto industry's "broad brush" digital marketing efforts. Dealers are spending more time and money than necessary with this approach. Email is a great communication channel, move away from the loose usage and approach with proper strategy.

Cassie Allinger
Very nicely said Chris. Love this in particular: "This matching means understanding who the customer or prospect really is and working out what they need and when they need it." So very very true.
Grant Gooley
Great post Chris. I totally agree that a "broad brush" approach can hurt the industry as a whole. We should be engaging in a valuable, considerate way through our email campaigns. I think this goes for all digital channels. Value is the key!
Rob Leslie
Good post. If someone on your email list doesn't appreciate what you're sending them, it's very easy to click "unsubscribe" or, worse yet, mark your email as spam. The latter can have a detrimental effect on your ability to deliver emails at all, as email providers crack down on spammy senders. This is why it's important that your emails consistently provide value to and engage the recipient. Earning their trust and attention in this way will lead to significant returns down the road.
Bryan Armstrong
Ironically, many Dealers turn this valuable communication channel over to a Vendor that does nothing but blast the OEM's current Special at your customer by pulling from your DMS records. Integration of all data to the CRM is a key first step to applying the proper filters to your list. Bulk distribution is not bad as long as the Relevancy is there. This does require more work than 1 message with many "hooks" hoping to appeal to all but many small lists actually helps keep you under the Spam filters radar and increases engagement.
Chris Costner
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject everyone. I certainly see this as a time that processes can be fine tuned even more as we progress. The tools available don't make the dealership successful, it's time that little extra effort is applied for smarter results.

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