Best PracticesDealership Communication Tools

Are You A Victim of ETT (Email Template Theft)?

Are you stealing email templates?

An alarming trend has arisen on the Internet side of automotive sales and it is called “Email Template Theft” (ETT for short). This may be happening to your dealerships Internet sales team right now or your team could even be the guilty party.

Have you ever received an Internet lead who never responded and just seemed downright suspicious?

Could these leads have been submitted by your local competition?

As an Internet Director, it certainly happened to me. This was confirmed after time had passed when I shopped my competition then noticed startling similarities between their email templates and that of my own.

At first I was furious to the point that I wanted to start a blog and call them out online for all the Internet shopping world to see. Furious to the point that I wanted to purchase a ninja suit then sneak on to their lot during the middle of the night and put my dealership’s license plate frames on all of their cars.

Unfortunately, neither of these options would have helped the situation or my own credibility. It took a while (meaning a few days in the car business) to start asking myself the questions that would help me realize why this happened. Does “ETT” happen to everyone? Are my email templates simply that amazing or is someone out there just that lazy?

Truth be told, it was most likely the latter.

As it is today, the Internet sales side of the car business is evolving at a rapid pace. My best guess was that someone having never sold cars online was put in charge of running an Internet department or BDC in my market and they did what they had to do to get started, fake it until they made it.

After serving on the vendor side with a CRM provider it is sad to say the same activity is witnessed. We are routinely asked by dealership prospects to provide “best practices” from our top performing stores.

“Can’t you just copy the email templates and phone call scripts from [so and so] and put them into our account? We will change the name and everything…”

Make no mistake that this is not good for you and it is certainly not helping your customers choose where to purchase a vehicle.

Sales 101 teaches us to set ourselves apart. When an Internet shopper submits a lead and the onslaught of emails they receive back are the same or similar enough to be perceived as the same, nobody wins. In fact, more harm is done than good.

In the age of price shopping and the demand for quick digital price quotes there are few options to retain anything resembling gross profit on the deal. We must build value, set ourselves apart and earn the gross we desire by allowing the customer to feel special and unique. How do we accomplish this?

First, stop using auto response emails. During the operating hours at the dealership we need to send personalized initial responses, period. These responses should not read “We have received your request and someone will be getting back to you soon.” After 15 or 30 minutes with no response, “soon” has lost it’s creditability and so has your store. If you were the customer in that situation your next question would  likely be about the price of the vehicle.

Second, tell your personal story and that of the dealership through the messaging in your emails. Do not be afraid to get personal. For your customers that eventually do buy, you will likely know much about their personal life so why not break the ice online first? We do it in person and should be able to pull it off digitally with strong personalized emails.

If you have a family, talk about your family. “This minivan has enough space in the back that even my 6 kids could fit with all their daily belongings.” “Mr. Customer, I understand that you are on a budget and my family is as well. It is important to think about the true cost of ownership over time with the next vehicle you purchase and I am here to help you understand what that entails.”

The same goes for the dealership. Mention how long you have or have not been in business. Focus the spotlight on your store’s distinct advantages and leverage them to earn an appointment.

Third, use video of yourself, the dealership and the vehicle. Take the time to record something for each customer since they will appreciate it even if they never tell you. When a shopper sees that you are dedicating your time to them specifically, even before they have entered the store, things will work in your favor.

So let us all put an end to ETT (Email Template Theft)!

Challenge yourself to revisit your email templates. Use every ounce of creativity that you have to rebuild them and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Your customers will thank you… monetarily.


Have you had your email templates stolen?

What Email Templates do you see dealers using over and over – and find annoying?

Do you believe in using email templates?

Jake has been helping dealerships revitalize revenues since 2004. He graduated from floor sales by launching an internet department then later moved f...
  • K
  • October 1, 2012
Great article Jake - and oh how I could have written them myself, lol. Yes, I have been the victim of "ETT" multiple tmes over the years. While imitation is the greatest flattery, this can be incredibly annoying when you are trying to set yourself apart, and some of your competition chooses to directly copy you instead. A great online reputation, personalized calls and emails, superior service and much more will still consistently beat someone who thinks they can copy you by using your templates...
  • D
  • October 2, 2012
Jake, great article and a fun read. I was thinking this would bring about more comments though plenty of social action. I believe at one point most of us have been guilty of this in the past to some degree. Hence the reason for staying quiet. :)
I hear you, I get emails quite often from the DealerRefresh contact us form; dealers asking for email templates. Some even organically find their way to DealerRefresh through a search phrase around 'email templates". 
My favorite email (and believe it or not I just had this one sent my way after mystery shopping a dealer a few weeks ago), "A Penny For Your Thoughts" with the dancing penny. Really? 
I remember way back when Volkswagen (through Cobalt) would try to mandate templates for dealers to use. Long winded irrelevant communications that resulted in no response. Of course that was that same time services were training dealers to NEVER call a customer that communicated to your dealership through an online form or website. To this day I still see these emails or some form of being used my dealers. 
As any regular DealerRefresher would know, I always teach and advocate dealers use A-I-U-A to help formulate their emails to customers. A dealers inventory is their best assest, however of the hundreds of mystery shops I've seen, it's RARE for a dealer to ever send inventory selection in their to their prospect. A topic of conversation I'll be speaking on at the next DSES; along with Malinda Terreri.
  • M
    Michal Lusk
  • October 3, 2012
Excellent advice, Jake! Unfortunately, templates probably won't go away for two reasons: the time required to write each customer a "custom" response, and the general lack of competence in writing at most dealerships. But at least writing custom templates, and then personalizing them a bit for each customer, would help. I find the templates available from CRMs to be generally poor (yes, I am REALLY picky about writing). I preferred to write my own templates, then further personalize them for each customer.
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  • October 3, 2012
@dealerrefresh @jakewirth2 Forget about email templates and truly customize with @WalkaroundVideo. Fast, easy and personal. cc: @Be_Authntk