Best Practices

12 Ways to Get More Connected to Customers in 2012

image email inbox

According to Google Trends, email is more popular than beer, Lady Gaga, McDonald’s and American Idol… but not sex.

Email continues to be one of the most cost-effective ways of staying connected with your customers, but it only works if you have your customers’ active email addresses (and their consent).

Here are 12 ways you can invite your customers to share their email with you.

1. Have you spiffed your advisors lately?
Run a promotion with your advisors and pay them $1 for each email address collected. Whatever percentage of emails that are collected during the promotion should be a good benchmark for the percentage that can be collected after the promotion.

If a $1/email sounds too expensive keep in mind that you’ll spend anywhere from $.68 to $1.25 in costs to mail a letter once you factor in time, paper, envelope, toner, and postage.

2. How about spiffing your customers?
Offer your customers an incentive to join such as a special service discount or enter them into a drawing for an iPad. If your emails and newsletters offer helpful, valuable content then your customers will stay with you once the incentive is over. Note: the best way to make sure you are getting the customer’s active email address is to email them the incentive or the registration confirmation rather than just handing them a coupon.

3. Facebook Sign-ups
Do something with all that traffic you’re sending to your Facebook page and invite people to sign-up for your newsletter by including a sign-up form on your page. Use your wall posts and updates to reference upcoming newsletters and link to your subscription center.

4. Get more mileage from your website
Add a sign-up form to your most popular webpages. Make the signup easy to find and easy to complete. One dealer website required customers to create an account and then log in through that account in order to join their list… way too much effort for most customers. You might consider adding customer testimonials on your signup page to let new subscribers know what your current subscribers think of your emails and newsletters.

5. Make every form a sign-up form
You have forms on your website to request test drives, request details on a vehicle, contact you, etc. These forms are already asking for the customer’s name and email. See if you can add a checkbox and an invitation to join your email list as well.

6. Make the love last after dealership events
If you’re hosting new owner clinics, chamber mixers, and other community events at your dealership where people are registering their attendance, include a sign-up option with the registration. Let them know by joining your email list you’ll be able to keep them informed of other upcoming events.

7. Put the post office to work for you
Send a postcard (cheaper and more effective than a letter and envelope) to customers inviting them to go green and join your email list.

Make sure you highlight what’s in it for them for joining. Caution: don’t let an email preference eliminate postal mailings. One dealer I know setup their CRM so when a customer opted to receive the dealer’s information by email, it marked the customer as Do Not Mail. Almost overnight they lost the permission to send postal mailings to a big chunk of their database. By the time the mistake was caught months later, they couldn’t separate which customers specifically didn’t want mailers from those that just preferred email.

8. Would you like fries with that?
Your F&I people, BDC callers, the cashiers, as well as your service advisors all have your customer’s attention either in-person or when they are on the phone with the customer and usually while the customer’s account information is open on the computer. Use this opportunity to ask the add-on question “Would you like to receive (insert manufacturer) updates and service coupons by email?” That approach usually gets a much more favorable response than the typical “Can I have your email address?”

9. At your service…
How many people do you have sitting in your service lounge right now? How many people go through there each day? Give them something to do rather than just watch old episodes of People’s Court on TV. Add a computer station with some nice signage inviting people to register. By using a computer terminal or an iPad, you don’t have to worry about typos or the data entry challenges that come from illegible writing on sign-up forms. Plus, you avoid this conversation: “What are those slips of paper in that box in the corner?” “Oh, those are our email signups from last month/year that I haven’t had time to enter yet.”

10. As long as you’re going to kill a tree:
How many pieces of paper go into the hands of your customers each day? Repair estimates, service receipts, finance contracts, business cards and service reminder mailers are probably just a few. Why not add a line to the bottom of your printed materials inviting people to join your list and the online address they can sign-up at?

Remember to tell them what the benefits are so they want to sign-up.

11. What’s black, white and read all over?
How about using a QR code that takes a visitor directly to your email signup page? These can be printed on everything from business cards to window stickers. Then, it is as easy as: point, shoot and sign-up… just make sure your webpage is optimized for mobile viewing. And while I don’t have any scientific evidence to support this, I do think it makes you look a whole lot cooler than a signup form on a clipboard.

12. Avoid taking one step forward and two steps back.
OK, this tip is less about getting subscribers and more about not losing the ones you have. Make sure the content you are sending is of value to your customers. For example, if you bought a house last year, do you want your real estate agent to email you new listings each month? Give people content that educates and entertains and you’ll keep them coming back for more, as well as sharing with their social network… which can lead to more sign-ups.

What process have you implemented to acquire more email addresses at your dealership?

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...
  • D
  • January 23, 2012
Another great one Malinda. We always look forward to your monthly article here on DealerRefresh.

Curious what kind of return / capture rate to you see when a dealer has a "newsletter" sign up form on their dealership website?

Also - do you provide a sign-up widget or code for dealers to drop on their facebook pages?
  • J
  • January 23, 2012
QR Codes are a great ideal however it needs to be more insensitive. Example scan a QR Code to enter a weekly $50 gas give away. The customer would simply enter their email information or whatever else the dealership wanted to collect.
  • J
    John Quinn
  • January 23, 2012
"From time to time we send-out special offers, coupons, incentives, and information exclusively via emai, and we'd be happy to add yours to our distribution list..." Great for BDC or Salesperson after Sales/Service follow-up. Nice article Malinda!
Thanks for the comments.

Jeff, yes, we can give you the signup code to add a newsletter subscription form to your Facebook page. As for capture rate, that I don't have since we aren't privy to / don't monitor the dealer's website traffic.
  • J
  • January 24, 2012
Good stuff Malinda! One thing I would like to comment on, "“Can I have your email address?” That is a yes or no question. I prefer asking questions that are more leading and assumptive. If you want something from somebody, you need to give them a what's in it for them statement. Once a month we send out our specials and promotions via e-mail, should we send those to your work or home email address? This is asking in a more confident assumptive manner..
  • D
  • January 24, 2012
@JerryThibeau the words you use and the way you ask makes all the difference. Great advice Jerry!
Really good ideas here for building an effective email list. Who wouldn't want mft updates, coupons or discounts? The other part of the equation is having an effective <a href="" / rel="nofollow">email marketing letter</a>.