I’ve gone on record many times stating that email is still one of the most powerful tools available in your dealership’s toolbox, despite the claim that people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter thanks to the Mobile-Snapchat-Twitterverse we live in. According to Litmus, the average time spent reading an email increased 7% between 2011 and 2016. This is extremely interesting because it turns out people are actually spending MORE time reading their email now than they did six years ago (you know, before our mobile devices were fused to our bodies).

Now as an automotive digital marketer, does that mean you can send any ol’ email through your CRM and expect your recipient to take action? Of course not. While people are still spending quality time in their email inbox, sending a quality email that actually lands in the inbox has become increasingly difficult.

There are a lot of challenges to overcome when it comes to creating a successful email campaign. The reality is that your dealership’s CRM just isn’t equipped to handle the sophisticated nuances that need to be addressed before, during, and after your campaign launches for it to be a success.

 

There’s no ‘E’ in CRM

I want to make something clear here. This isn’t about dismissing your CRM as an important part of your dealership’s infrastructure as a modern dealership can’t operate without one. There is also no shortage of quality CRMs out there that will help you do exactly what they’re built to do – manage the relationships of your customers.

That being said, while all CRMs in the automotive space give you the ability to create email marketing campaigns, they just aren’t built to do it well. So without any further ado, here are 7 reasons why you should consider ditching your CRM to send out email marketing campaigns.

 

1. Mobile Responsiveness

The term mobile responsive isn’t just reserved for web design; those same code concepts can also be applied to email design as well. The email marketing capabilities built into a CRM typically don’t include the ability to create mobile responsive emails.

With more than half of all emails being opened on a mobile device, it’s of the utmost importance that your email scales appropriately to the screen of the user. I don’t know about you, but if I get an email and I have to pinch and zoom and scroll all over the place in order to read the message, I’m probably going to delete it instead of read it.

 

2. Segment, Don’t Blast

One of the first rules that most successful email marketers follow is to never “blast” your entire database of contacts. You’ll get much better results by segmenting your list into groups of people most likely to take action on the info that’s in your email.

For example, let’s say Judy Smith, age 53, bought a compact sedan from your dealership 18 months ago. She’s been to your service department twice since then for an oil change and only has 8,000 miles on her vehicle. Does Judy need to get an email letting her know that it’s Truck Month…again…for the seventh month in a row?

No, that would be silly to send that to her, wouldn’t it?

Yet that’s what happens everyday at dealerships across the country. Entire databases are “blasted” and customers are receiving messages that aren’t relevant to them. At best, your email is ignored. At worst, your email is reported as spam and the customer unsubscribes from your list. Once unsubscribed, you lose the opportunity to ever email them again with a message that might actually be relevant to them.

 

3. A/B Testing

A/B or Split Testing is another concept that we borrow from websites or search engine marketing campaigns. The ability to test at least two versions of copy and content to determine which one receives more engagement is huge. You can do this with email marketing campaigns as well, just not from your CRM.

Let’s say you have 5,000 customers that you want to target an email campaign to. Instead of sending just one version of the email to all 5,000 contacts, you create two (or more) different designs. Then you send Email 1 to 500 people, and Email 2 to another 500 people. After the desired testing period, you check your preferred engagement metric (open rate or click thru rate, we do not recommend testing both at the same time) and see which version was more effective. Once you have your winner, that’s the email copy and design you use to send to the other 4,000 people on your campaign list.

 

4. Designer Emails

Over the years I’ve done a lot (and I mean A LOT) of dealership mystery shopping. There pretty much isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t receive some kind of mass email from one of them. And even though it’s 2017, the emails I’m receiving that were sent out via the CRM look like they were designed in Microsoft Works circa 1997.

Poorly designed automotive CRM email

A real example of a poorly designed and targeted email campaign sent from a dealership’s CRM

Think about the emails you get in your own inbox from the likes of Target, Amazon or even your OEM. Do they look like they were professionally designed? Of course they do. This is another shortcoming in automotive CRMs. You just don’t have the tools available to create well-crafted emails.

#ProTip: If for some reason you are going to continue to use your CRM for email marketing, please (for the love of all things holy) stop using Comic Sans as your font d’jour.

 

5. Campaign Management
Custom Email Campaign by Launch Digital Marketing

Mobile responsive, professionally designed email campaign by LDM

When you sent out your last email blast campaign, can you tell me how many people unsubscribed or marked the email as spam? What about how many emails bounced? And were they hard or soft bounces? If you have no idea, don’t worry, it’s not your fault.

Once again, because your CRM wasn’t designed to be the ultimate email marketing platform, you don’t always have the necessary information you need to make necessary adjustments to your email campaigns.

For example, a hard bounce means that your email couldn’t be delivered to an individual because for some reason that email address is no longer valid. If you keep on trying to send emails to that nonexistent address, the destination email server can eventually decide to not deal with you anymore and block any incoming emails that originate from you. Effectively preventing you from reaching any of your customers who happen to have an email address of that particular domain.

When you use an email marketing platform instead of your CRM, hard bounces are automatically purged from your list, thus eliminating the risk of being identified as a poor quality email sender.

 

6. Deliverability

In order for someone to read your email, it actually has to land in their inbox. One of the many factors that go in determining whether or not your email will successfully arrive is the reputation of your mail server. Also known as your Sender Score, your email server is given a score between 1 and 100 to identify the trustworthiness of the email being sent from it.

CRMs have gotten much better in maintaining healthy and reputable Sender Scores over the past few years. However, there is a downside when using your CRM for mass emails.

A CRM company doesn’t maintain individual mail servers for each of their clients. Typically they have a pool of email servers that all of their clients share. That means even if you are meticulous about segmenting and managing your list, other dealerships who may be more spammy cavalier in their email marketing efforts can negatively affect you.

That’s right, the dealer down the street who uses the same CRM as you, who repeatedly blasts their email list, can cause YOUR emails to not reach their intended recipients because you share the same mail server.


 

7. List Verification

I learned the importance of list verification the hard way. A few years ago when I was still working in the dealership, a new salesperson came onboard and proudly stated that he had his own personal email list of 10,000 “double opted-in and verified” subscribers.

He asked us in the marketing department to send out an email to his list letting him know about his new place of employment. While I was skeptical of how he obtained his list, we ultimately decided to create an email and send it out on his behalf.

Luckily (for me), we had just started using a third party email service for our marketing campaigns. When we uploaded his email list to the system, all kinds of sirens and flashing lights started going off and we were redirected to a web page telling us that our account was being suspended….immediately!

After calling for help (and begging for forgiveness), I managed to convince the person on the phone that we weren’t spammers and we were simply trying to upload a list of contacts provided by one of our employees. When I asked what the problem was that shut down our account, the support person let me know that the email list we uploaded contained numerous spamtraps, which of course led me to ask…what the heck is a spamtrap?!

If you don’t know, a spamtrap is an email address created for the sole purpose of identifying spammers. That email address is planted in a way where spambot harvesters can find it, but it’s never seen by human eyes. Then when that email address begins to receive unsolicited email, the owner of the email address (typically an email service provider) knows without a doubt that the senders of those emails are simply spammers. Then the email service provider can block the related IP addresses to ensure that the spammers will never reach their customers.

Once again, CRMs do not include any kind of list verification. In my case, it was good fortune that I happened to upload this list to an actual email service, and not directly to my CRM. If I had, who knows what kind of damage I could have caused.

 

Do You Need a Third Party Email Marketing Partner?
LDM vs. CRM Email Marketing Infographic

(Click/Tap for Larger Image) The benefits of using LDM for your email marketing campaigns compared to your CRM.

The short answer, in my professional opinion, yes – absolutely.

I understand the appeal of managing your email campaigns in house. Basic email capability is built into your CRM, so it’s one less area you have to allocate marketing dollars towards.

On top of that, email in-and-of itself is a basic communication tool. Why should you have to pay someone else to create marketing emails for you when your Internet or BDC Manager can handle that?

It’s the same reason as why you wouldn’t hire an individual to build your dealership’s website. While that person may be qualified to build a decent looking website, there are too many different moving parts, too many nuances – and quite frankly – too much at stake for a project of that size to be undertaken by a freelance designer or in house marketing employee.

In that same vein, email addresses are too valuable to put at risk by using a CRM system that wasn’t built with full email marketing platform capabilities.

At Launch Digital Marketing, we can help you upgrade your email marketing capabilities today. Each campaign we execute is meticulously managed by our team of email marketing specialists who will create beautifully designed, responsive and targeted emails on your behalf. If you’d like more details on our email marketing services, fill out the form below and we’ll get in touch!

 

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Meet Jason Stum

Jason is the Director of Strategy at Launch Digital Marketing, resident blogger and host of the Think Bigger Podcast. Having previously held dealership roles in Sales, Internet Management, Business Development and Digital Marketing, Jason uses his dealership experience to help clients develop, implement and maintain effective digital marketing strategies.

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