• J
    Jeff Kershner
  • November 25, 2007
Robert, great question. You would be amazed at how many CRM programs for this industry miss the mark with it comes to their Internet Lead Management features. There are only a small number of CRM/ILM that...

1. Let you know that your customers are indeed receiving your emails.
2. Actually take the extra measures to be sure your emails are being delivered (making sure their emails servers are staying clear of the blacklist).

Many CRM programs do not limit their sending rate. Just because you can send thousands of emails an hour doesn't mean doing so is right. This is a huge problem with most CRM programs for dealers. Most allow dealers to basically SPAM customers with marketing emails. When this happens, the ISP of the CRM program often get blacklisted with Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail and many of the others.

CRM = Customer Relation Management NOT Customer Relation Marketing

I have asked several CRM vendors what they do to ensure that my emails are going to get delivered. I always hear the same thing "Oh, we have a dedicated team that keeps track of this all the time". I can't tell you how many times I have heard this from several of the major CRM vendors out there only to find out they were full of crap. AND if you're using a server based program like AutoBase or Higher Gear then you are usually on your own since these programs use your existing email service.

As for actual content in your emails, if you're using HTML, be sure your coding is clean and always avoid scripting. Most scripts, such as JavaScript and VBScript, are stripped out of messages. Some email systems reject messages outright if scripting is detected. If your email server is being monitored and it's not blacklisted then you should not have a problem with your email delivery, even if you are using "clean" HTML coding.

There are several other factors that come into play with email delivery like; allowing reverse DNS look-up, Authentication Protocols, setting up an SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and Feedback Loops just to name a few. When you are talking with a CRM vendor, throw a few of these phrases at them and see if they know what they are talking about. You'll be surprised how many are totally clueless.

I'm a huge advocate of using your CRM for personal responses ONLY and NOT marketing emails. Use a separate program for marketing to your customer with email.

The answer to your main question; because most of the CRM programs for dealers are inferior and the providers are too damn lazy to integrate tools into their systems that would allow dealers to ensure email delivery.


I wouldn't be particularly surprised if your CRM sent emails were ending up in the trash somewhere. So many dealers use their CRM/ILM systems to send out unsolicited "email blasts" with no unsubscribe links or any other regard to spam law that i'm sure quite a few CRM systems have ended up on blacklists.
I agree with Jeff's remarks regarding email delivery and tracking. There isn't a CRM system in our space that has a best-in-class email delivery system. We decided early on to take the responsibility of quality email delivery into our hands. We use a server -based CRM system (Autobase) so we set up a separate outgoing email server so that blacklisting, etc. wouldn't affect our corporate email setup. All of our images are set up on an FTP site so that our emails aren't "heavy". Then we started working with the ISP's so that our emails wouldn't be sent to SPAM or worse, blacklisting.

We thought that we were in the clear but there was one problem. Our CRM email set-up was incapable of handling the email campaigns. It takes hours to send out our email campaigns. Now, I will admit, we are power users and have a large database of customers and email addresses. Our group sent almost five million emails to customers last year so I am not sure if any system would have been equipped to handle it. What we did learn is that you need to align yourself with a company that specializes in email delivery. Luckily, our CRM company saw this too. We are partnering with a company called Exact Target. Instead of email going out through Autobase and our outgoing email server, the data gets passed through to Exact Target and they send it, report on it, and handle our subscription lists. After testing this for 2 months with random campaigns, we are able to send email in record time, see detail reporting broken out however we want, and still able to keep track of activity through our CRM system.

Don't rely on a vendor to do something that is not in their core competency. Go out and find the best and make your vendors integrate and partner with them. If they don't, switch vendors. I don't agree that you should have a separate system because I believe it is very important to have all of your customer info in one bucket. Just make sure that the one bucket doesn't have holes in it...
Robert - first thing - at least you caught that your emails were not going through to your customers. Every time I mystery shop our competition, I find that many of their emails go into my spam folder, month after month, and I wonder if they are even aware that their emails never come through. We have a great CRM tool provider, however, I still test our emails myself on a continuous basis to ensure that our correspondence is going through, and, if we send any type of marketing emails, they are small, targeted campaigns that focus on prospects we have been working with in the last 90 days. Sending an email blast to your entire database is asking for trouble (and also asking much of the database to mark your emails as spam)...
maybe just select the right tools, some crm products can do both deliver and measurement. it's never better to use a third-party delivery system unless your crm is unable to do the job. i guess that's the problem right there, most crm's in our space don't send email as a core value prop of their service. luckily we don't have that issue like many of the legacy systems (autobase, highergear etc). there is a change happening out there and the old tools just can't keep up....
Exactly the same issue we have been having, David, and we are partnering with Exact Target as well. Some of the best solutions for these challenges can be found in companies that may not necessarily be geared towards the automotive industry.
  • M
  • November 26, 2007
Great input so far, but besides Jeff's comments, most of it has to do with the state of CRM tools... while that's important to discuss for the future of the Robert's dealership, I imagine his dilemma also needs a bit more immediate attention, and switching CRM tools is probably not a solution he can implement within the next few weeks.

1. Make sure you know what you're doing in regards to sending HTML-based email. If someone in your dealership is creating the emails in-house, then you're probably doing it wrong... even if you've employed a young "web guru" to create the emails, they might not know the ropes of html-based email.

2. Go sign up for the usual webmail accounts (web-based mail is what most of your prospects will have, and the email providers are strict but also predictable, unlike a corporate email system which could either be totally uncontrolled or controlled so specifically that you don't stand a chance of it getting through). Pick up a Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail account, and mystery shop yourself. See which of your emails get through, which don't, and which get mauled on their way to the inbox. No better way to gauge what your customers are seeing than to actually become one.

3. As mentioned by many, try not to use your CRM tool to blast out mass emails... and if you must, use discretion. $500 coupons to your entire customer base don't do much for your business besides getting you flagged for spam.

Hopefully others can provide some additional advice on an immediate fix... and at the very least, if you take all these preventative steps and your mail still doesn't come through, you've got a much stronger case for switching CRM tools.
Check your computer or CRM provider mail server on RBL blacklists...
Blacklist check can be done at... http://openrbl.org/client/

Need to check the email content for spam... send a sample email to [email protected] then go to http://www.autojini.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/dealer_online_marketing_resource.spamassassin_score_test
enter your from address and it will tell you the SPAM score and spam rules applied.

something of further interest to read... and to ask questions to CRM provider.

Umer Farooq
  • L
  • November 26, 2007
Email deliverability can be affected by all of these factors:

a) Reputation of sending domain

- Sending emails to bad addresses repeatedly - When the emailer sends repeatedly to bad addresses, ISP’s record this and subsequently block the sender. It looks like the sender is trying a dictionary attack. You must clean your email list, taking out email addresses that bounce.

- Sending emails to spamtraps. These are traps set up by blacklists to catch spammers. The addresses are never given out, so sending to them will immediately land you on a blacklist.

- How quickly/slowly emails are sent (throttling). ISP’s frown upon messages sent in large bunches. It’s also better to have spam complaints trickle in rather than come in large bunches.

- Users hitting the spam button. ISP’s take this very seriously. You can usually sign up for a feedback loop that will send you this information so that you can clean those addresses off your list. Failure to do so will rapidly deteriorate your deliverability.

- Sending architecture (SPF records, DKIM, etc.) that identifies sender properly – without this there is no reputation, and no reputation=bad reputation.

- Challenge-response system responses: the ISP sends a response requiring the sender to reply before the email will be sent on to the recipient.

- Communication between servers (Brightmail). Brightmail servers share info about spammers.

b) Content of the email message

- Criteria varies by filter (SpamAssasin is one example), includes things like verbage in subject line, excessive graphics or scripting, large bright colored fonts, certain keywords, cleanliness of code, etc.

c) Blacklists

- Blacklists are lists kept by independent organizations or internally by ISP, that record IP/domains of known spammers. ISP’s often consult the blacklists of independent organizations. There are many of them. Whitelists are the antithesis of blacklists. There are whitelists managed by independent organizations or managed internally by ISP.

Most important of all these, is the reputation of the sending domain. It used to be that ISP's filtered based on the content of the email. But more and more, ISP's are focusing on the reputation of the sending domain (or IP). Given the complexity involved, and the fact that reputation is the most important factor, if you do any sort of decent volume of outbound mail, you probably SHOULD be outsourcing your email delivery.

True, as Laura points out, "email authentication" has become a necessary step for more successful email campaigns these days. There are two main authentication standards to support called Sender ID and DomainKeys. Problem is, not all email servers support this so depending on how your CRM spools email this may or may not be possible for you.

  • L
    Lao Shi
  • November 27, 2007

I agree with what Jeff states. Also you must follow up on a regular basis with a mystery shop, use 3 of the majors, a hotmail, Google and yahoo email address and include these in the mail out. This way you know what is going on. You need to have email addresses anyway to Mystery Shop your competitors...Don’t you?? I also always place the name and phone number in the subject line. The majors like this as most spammers do not know the correct name and number combination of the client. Plus as Jeff points out use the CRM tool for communicating important client/ store information, product updates, newsletters, soft sell news releases, community projects etc. There is an old, wise Chinese saying "don’t cook your food in the bathroom" Use an email campaign program for your hard sell if you need to hard sell.

I do not know many consumers swayed by the $500.00 coupon these days, you may find a few. Most Internet shoppers avoid this "gimmick" and are more intelligent. I know BZ Results thinks the sun rises and sets on the program which is an indication of where their thoughts are.

Umer, these are great sources.

  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • November 27, 2007
Laura, great additional information. Thanks so much for sharing!!

Jeff Kershner
I am new to Dealer Refresh and found the responses to this question to be very useful and well-written. Alex Snyder told me about this site and I'm pretty impressed.

Dave White
DARCARS Automotive Group
Glad to see you made it over here Dave - I think you'll find Dealer Refresh to be an invaluable source!
Welcome aboard Dave,
I am sure you'll enjoy the talent, experience and ideas roaming in these halls. But, I do have a reccomendation.

If ever you see a thread that proposes that "Jeff Kershner is a Booth hottie", consider it SPAM, as Jeff is known to login as an alias and write nice stuff about himself!

  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • March 2, 2008
Joe, you promised me that you were going to keep that little secret between you and I only.
  • R
    rocco D
  • November 6, 2008
It doesnt look like anyone has answerd the question about "opened email" tracking... I am not sure all that have this feature and those that do not... but Imagic and DealerSocket do for sure.
  • J
    John Huff
  • August 30, 2009
I know Im really late to this conversation, but isnt the easiest way to see if your emails are having an impact is if someone replies to them or mentions it when they come into the showroom?