Best PracticesDealership Communication ToolsDealership Operations & Processes

Can You Find the Terrible Template?

If you had a salesperson who was going through a sales presentation and constantly choking on step four of that presentation process, you’d find a way to fix the issue in step four…

Better presentations lead to more sales, right?

Guess what? There is a point in your automated follow-up process that is choking and affecting not only the remainder of your follow-up campaigns, but possibly your deliverability to your other customers.

Here’s what I mean…

Let’s say your initial email autoresponder rate generates a 40-50% open rate. Then time passes and by day 90 in the follow-up process, your open rates might be down to 18%.

While declining open rates in prospect follow-up campaigns are completely normal, here are two abnormalities you should look for, plus an easy test you should try.

With most CRMs, buried at the bottom of the reports list, is usually an open rate report for your follow-up campaigns. You’ll want to have this information handy and then look at the following:

Scenario #1

Your overall open rates decline from beginning to end, but some emails towards the middle or end, have much higher open rates than earlier emails. Maybe the open rate for email #4 is 21% and the open rate for email #12 is 27%.

The good news: you have emails later in the campaign that are still getting high open rates which means you are still getting good inbox placement with the campaign.

What to fix: This is just like the sales person who is struggling with a step in the sales process, you want to keep trying to improve your weakest link in the sales process. Test changing the subject line on your lower performing emails or see if that email can be eliminated or possibly replaced with a phone call.

Scenario #2

You begin with high open rates but somewhere towards the middle of the campaign, there’s an email with a sharp drop in the open rate and the open rates continue to drop for those emails that follow.

This is kind of like the salesperson who keeps talking in the sales presentation and talks the customer out of sale.

What might be happening in this scenario is that you have too many emails in your follow-up campaign or your subject lines aren’t very engaging. In email terms, there is a point in your campaign when you are losing most of your prospects and as a result, you may have trained the email providers to start sending those remaining emails to the spam can.

Here’s an example:

  • Your prospects are opening emails #1 through #12.
  • By email #13, many stopped reading or started marking your emails as spam.
  • This trained the email providers such as Yahoo and Hotmail that when email #13 arrived, to start sending that email to the spam folder so even those prospects who may have been interested, now don’t know that they have your email which causes a further decline in your open rates.

What to fix: Start with the email in your process where the drop in the open rates begin. In the example above, it is email #13. Consider testing a different email and see if your open rates improve – maybe one with a subject line that asks: Are You Still Interested?

Other options you can do to improve declining open rates:

  • Reduce the number of emails in the campaign – especially the type that don’t provide the prospect with any new information such as those with a subject line: Just Checking In.
  • Add personalization fields to your subject lines: Pricing Update on [Year] [Make] [Model]
  • Check the email in the campaign right before the open rates drop. Make sure there isn’t anything in that email that sends the message: Don’t bother reading any of my future emails.
  • Check your email reputation for free at To do this, you’ll need the ip address that is used to send your prospecting email. (For help finding the ip, here’s a how to article that covers most email providers. Having a sender score below the 90’s will impact your inbox deliverability and this can only be improved by better email behavior (sending relevant emails to those people who want them.) The exception to this is if you have a good sending reputation but are on a shared ip with others who do not. In that case you may want to talk to your CRM provider.

And a final, unscientific test, here’s something you can do: set-up an account with Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail. Next, send in a lead to get those new email addresses added to your prospecting follow-up campaign. Log in to those accounts but don’t click on any of the emails that your campaign has sent. Check in after 30, 60 or 90 days and see at what point those emails start getting routed to the spam folder rather than your inbox.

There’s nothing particularly fun about testing and tweaking your follow-up campaigns. But if you consider how many prospects these campaigns touch, improving their effectiveness by just 10% can have a multiplier effect on your sales.


Take one part geek, add a healthy dose of creativity, top it off with an obsession for marketing and you have… Malinda Terreri. Her marketing talent...