Best Practices

Long Term Email Follow-up – What are you sending your potential customer?

Engaging your customer with your long term email follow-up

A question (or 2) that I get all the time..

“Jeff, what do you recommend for long term email follow up?”

or, my favorite..

“What email templates do you have for long term email follow-up”.

According to the latest 2008 Automotive eShopper Experience Study by the Cobalt Group.

“The “traditional” dealership sales process assumes the prospect will remain “in market” for approximately 3 days. Studies reflects that a high number of dealerships are pushing prospects through a process built around customer contact for a period of 72 hours with no plan or intention to follow up longer. The dealership assumes that the prospect is out of market and gives up well before the prospect completes their purchase process.”

Three DAYS! That’s it? After 3 days, I guess there’s no need to follow-up with that customer. We’ll assume they’ve bought elsewhere or are no longer in the market and be done with it..NEXT!

I’m all about the low hanging fruit, but come’on.

What is your dealers process for long term email follow-up?

This is going to be a short post because for me there is only 1 effective answer. INVENTORY!

A customer is initially contacting you for 2 reasons, INVENTORY and PRICING. So why would this NOT be part of your dealerships long term email follow up strategy?

Quit sending “Are you still in the market?” emails. Assume they are and start sending your customers new arrival inventory. New and Used, because you never know what what the customer is going to buy. Heck, pick out something that’s been on the lot for a while and was just discounted (you know, that nice none core vehicle your used car manager decided to actually discount after 90 days).

“John, I know it’s been 3 days since I sent you an email, but I was thinking about you when we traded in this beautiful 2005 BMW 335i. It’s showcased in the metallic black over black leather interior. It’s 1 Owner and serviced here at the dealer. I have all the records and have attached the CarFax for you to review.

Would you like me to send you more information on this beautiful BMW??”

Engage your customer with your long term email follow-up and quit sending those canned bull shit template emails.

Oh, and for you Internet sales people that resend the same email template over and over and over because the customer never answered the first one, AND your being too lazy to type out another email, STOP! There’s a reason why the customer didn’t answer you the first time! AND it’s not because they’re no longer in the market.

Engage your customer with your emails. Show the customer that you are eager to serve them while willing to provide information that will help them make the right decision. Let the customer tell you “NO, I don’t want that car!”, it’s OK, you at least got a response and something to work with.

Don’t forget to read Seth Godins “How to send a personal email

What is your dealers process for long term email follow-up?

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
Boy, this seems like lot of work... :) We have all shopped competition... 90% don't even do the first call :(
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    Wendell Dossett
  • January 14, 2009
We must be creative in our responses, and understand that the customer needs a break from the non personal routine interaction. You have got to think that people want a break from the ordinary. I think these days we all crave it. In your Marketing Message, or email response, (I think) you must break away from the ordinary. Throw away the auto responders. Cut the bull crap replies. People don't want to be fed that crap. I don't think they ever did. I guess some are just glad they got a response, who knows. But in these times if we cannot put together a unique targeted response to a vehicle request, we are not trying. Plain and simple we should just do something else. In all respects, we should, to financially survive, because we won't get the business. One great way to get that response and to find out where the heck you stand is to use humor.

Today I asked someone if they might have fallen off a cliff. And made the statement that - "that was hard to do in Indiana but was just making sure". It opened them right up to a response. It was putting a human touch to something instead of a canned one that deserves no response. You should even put this in the subject line to get it opened. Like, "I'm really worried now, are you OK?" This may seem silly to some. But we are all human beings here. People need to relate to someone and not someone's CRM-ILM crap. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for humor and there are definitely not places for it. You should be able to figure this out.

Breaking things down to looking at where their email is being sent from. Work, home, a business you know something about. A name that seems familiar. Google them. Presume, instead of not thinking or caring. Look at your response twice to see how you might be able to make it just a little bit better. Maybe misspell something to not look prefabbed. There are people who must make perfect templates. they don't sell cars, they make or sell templates.

Just like in face to face selling, there are keywords that will get a response after you have busted down the door and let yourself in. Until you do some busting , there will be no chance for a sale.
  • S
    Stan Sher
  • January 15, 2009
I like this topic, it is awesome. I used to work off those templates like , "Are you still in the market?". They worked well but as times got tougher I got in the habit of getting creative. Instead of having an automated follow up system for my emails, I would create templates similar to what would be sent out in an auto follow up process. These emails would be manually sent out by internet reps simply because I would start to teach them to engage in thinking outside the box and trying out new things. I never did it like Jeff mentions, but it seems like I can learn from Jeff because this is very creative. I am also getting in the habit of adding market statistics on my introductory emails to use as a way of complimenting the customer. Now, in terms of using automated emails...I only suggest it if you are working in a small store where you are the only ISM having to deal with leads, calls, delivering the car, and some managerial duty. Even still a process should be fine tuned to work properly. Perhaps a mix of some automated emails like the ones that go out from upper management and a process of newly typed up ones that are really personalized.

Also, a thing I once did was separate my process for new and used. A new car lead I used to work for 73 days and upto 90 days depending on the product, the store, the crm, and internet department setup. A used car lead should not be worked for more than 30 to 40 days. A used car customer is interested in a vehicle which means they are ready to buy that specific vehicle within a few days, they know there are no others like it. If you are still trying to sell that customer the same car after 30 days, chances are they already bought a similar car somewhere else. What if that specific car was sold to someone else or wholesaled? Now you are wasting your own and the customer's time. Be creative, if that car is gone and you have not sold this customer, start to offer alternatives. Do a morning lot walk and keep an inventory list updated every day.
One of the things we offer and recommend is sending similar vehicles to what the customer inquired upon in the emails be sent to them. So 30, 60 days from now when your auto responders go out, the emails will be different every time and show fresh inventory that is similar to what they inquired upon.
I have learned that service sells cars so after 30 days I start integrating service offers as a "secondary" hook. If they had a trdae that I can service - not limited to my client's brand if his fixed operations is on the job - then I introduce an offer to keep their vehicle in shape pending their trade-in when they are ready so they can preserve it's appraised value and stay safe.

I also include a reassurance that if they already purchased elsewhere - no worries! I apologize for losing their "sale" - congratulate the assumed winner and then offer to keep them as a customer with our "Adopt A Customer" program for future service. I usually attach a tacid condition that they allow us to place our license frame or decal on their car to identify them as a "Preferred Customer" with V.I.P. discounts for service and future sales and referrals since I can afford to lose a sale - but not a customer - or a friend!

After all, what are friends for!
Stan- I'm curious how you integrate what you are doing with this with your long term strategy...meaning 90 days or more. Do you use email marketing campaigns after 60 days to take the place of customized responses? What do you think about the effectiveness. We have done them sporadically by not consistent so we haven't gotten that part of it down to a science yet. What does everyone else think about this?
Add a little more to your emails by adding a video link of the vehicle(s) they are interested in.

“John, I know it’s been 3 days since I sent you an email, but I was thinking about you when we traded in this beautiful 2007 Toyota FJ Cruser. It’s showcased in the two tone yellow and white over black leather interior. It’s 1 Owner and serviced here at the dealer. I have all the records and have attached the CarFax for you to review.

You can take a virtual video test drive from home by clicking this link: and see all the details ”
Not bad - only took 6 responses before someone mentioned video...(GJ Terry)

Put your consumer heats on. What would you want - or expect?

Probably an answer(s) to any questions asked. And, probably something that's going to make you say "Holy crap - look what this dealer sent me - I need to go check them out"!

Write something short & sweet.
Scrap the templates.
Spell-check it.
  • S
    Stan Sher
  • January 16, 2009

I think that what you are doing is a great idea. It might trigger a response and help generate more business for other departments in the store. This is very much so GM thinking and I like it.

Alex Jefferson,

I have not a done a process for longer then 73 days. The reason why I mention 90 days is because if I was to go into a store (now present day) to setup plans and procedures, it would only make more sense for a few reasons. The customer buying cycle has changed because of the way our economy is, I believe that customer take longer time to make a deal nowadays and want to wait. We do not want to give up an on possible open opportunities. Some people can be waiting on a promotion or a raise while others are afraid they might lose their jobs so they are holding off and some might still be in the same typical pattern. In many cases if a customer has bought or is not interested they will tell you that, ignore your emails, or ask you to opt them out. This is when you know the lead is dead. A 90 day process of 120 process could be setup depending on the CRM/ILM you are using. There are emails that can be created. I think that automated is sometime effective but I think adding personality to them by adding our own creativity as the person doing the follow up will work better. This all depends on your setup, your product, your location, and the kind of dealership you are in. In terms of email marketing campaigns, I use them throughout the follow up process and way after it is finished. A good email for marketing purposes will do one of many things for you, get you a response to the email, the customer will randomly come into your store asking for you to work a deal, or get you a response that says to opt out (which you clear off your list and move on). Be careful with these emails, follow proper procedure to not go against spam laws and also know that a lot of these emails hit spam folders in people's emails. I would send out a broadcast email once every two weeks while some stores do it monthly or weekly. I like every two weeks because you are not bothering the customer too much while hitting them at the appropriate times. It is great to send them out usually on a Thursday morning to gear up for a huge weekend.


I think videos are a pretty cool idea on some of the emails as long as every email offers something different. You bring up a great point and this would be something to use in a follow up plan.
With the number of leads a typical ISM handles each month, considering they don't all need to be contacted daily.....doesn't it make sense to put people on an action plan then contact when prompted regardless of how long they have been in the system? Why not combine some old school "either they buy or die" follow up with the technology available today?
  • S
    Stan Sher
  • January 16, 2009

That is exactly what I am talking about. A process can be set to prompt staff of follow up.
@ Eric and Terry. Good point on adding the video link. I have several dealers incorporating this into their process and being successful with it. No doubt your video can engage the customer that much more and allow you the opportunity stand out and better your chances of receiving a response from the customer.

Short and sweet works!
I understand that process' can and are set up to prompt follow up.....The task becomes treating every call as one of importance and making each call like it's your first attempt. Customers buy at their own pace for some that may be 1 day for others that may be 101 days. My point is salespeople need to stay on top of leads wihout becoming annoying until those people either say "yes I want to buy" or "leave me alone I already bought"
  • S
    Stan Sher
  • January 18, 2009

I completley agree with you. In a process that is longer than 73 days, the follow up times are so spread out that a sales person will not have a chance to get annoyed because the older the lead the less work you need to do. In fact, since we are in the process of sending out personalized emails instead of templates, it might be an idea to template those 100 day leads. It is no different than taking a new sales person and giving them a list of 1000 old customers and have them cold call them to try to sell them a new car except here we are not cold calling, we are just following up because they contacted us first. Your point is a very valid and excellent one. I have always had my set way of running an internet department and setting up processes because they worked for me. However, I try to take those concepts and differentiate every store that I will work at or will consult. I do not want every store doing the same thing. A 100 day follow up might work best in one store while it might really suck at another store that needs only a 70 day. Also, this is a way of branding and individualizing each store to do things their own way.
  • M
    mark noger
  • January 18, 2009
I think it’s important to remember that only 25% to 35% of consumers buy a vehicle during the first 30 day cycle. That leaves roughly 50% of your dealership leads still active and depending on the lead type, the remainder will purchase during that next 30 day cycle. If you are currently receiving 400 leads per month, this means about 100 to 125 of the leads are today or this month buyers. That leaves 200 left that are next month buyers. I threw out 25% of the leads for flakes and whack jobs. If the department closing ratio is 15%, that equals twice as many sales in second 30 day cycle. The biggest challenge is to help salespeople to understand that the main reason a lot of prospects don’t respond is because they aren’t ready to talk to anyone yet and to not yield to temptation and focus solely on the low hanging fruit. In any sales arena, the greatest enemy of a salesperson is Pre-Qualification. Sometimes you have to switch shoes with your customer to really grasp how to effectively create dialog.
One of most valuable tools you have in ecommerce is the ability to track the entire sales process. One statistic most managers fail to monitor is the average sales cycle. What I discovered by tracking sales cycles is the average gross profit on customers that purchased in the second 30 day period averaged $463 dollars more per copy than those people who purchase in the first 30 day cycle.
Being able to determine your customers purchase cycle and building a sales process around this information is critical to success. That brings me to my last point…lead accountability, in this challenged economic climate, maintaining a consistent buy or die process for EVERY LEAD is paramount to success.
  • C
    Chris K
  • January 19, 2009
I think that follow up is where the fortune is... but most emails but I send are all hand written. MOST IMPORTANTLY I ask for THEIR BUSINESS... and also remind the customer to ASK FOR ME, providing my hours, my cell phone, my email, always.
You know, there is nothing wrong with automated follow-up campaigns. It takes on average 7 follow-up emails to instigate a response from people. You should put technology to use by automating this, just be careful of de-personalizing the messages and keep consistent with the reason people might be on a list, which brings up the real dilemma...HOW AND WHY SOMEONE IS ON YOUR LIST.

If someone submits a vehicle inquiry, following up with them automatically with similar vehicles in stock makes sense, as Matt Wilson suggest. Adding them to your newsletter however does not. You can resolve this by including an invitation in your inventory follow-up campaign for the person to opt-in to your newsletter.

With MULTIPLE OPT-IN LISTS, automation is kosher. It's more management and maintenance, but it can also be more fruitful.
People over processes! I live by that logic but all it suggests is an order of priority and they are not mutuially exclusive. The use of new "automated" applications that use "matrix" based emails tied to initial vehicle selection and payment and downpayment objections in the initiating vehicle lead for the term prior to selling the vehicle - or even after losing the sale - coupled with service patterns and projected mileage and age for ongoing follow up for service based on the distance from the store, time between services and the type of service the customer returns for provides a logic in email follow up that replicates professional sales practices and follow up for an auto industry that is sorely in need of professional salespeople!

As an example, there is a vendor that creates an automated follow up with regular emails and or letters that integrates with the CRM and DMS to include real time payments based on suggested downpayment, current rebates and interest rates coupled with suggested INSTOCK vehicles that will lower the customers payments until they buy or die. PLUS, they are able to determine if the customer has purchased a vehicle by cross referencing with third party online resources so they can change the message to a service offer.

The ability to automatically suggest solutions including payments and information custom tailored to the customer based on their original objections is as close to artificial intelligence as I have seen in follow up systems and it is available today!

Oh yeah, it can and sholuld be done by your sales staff but, are they? If so, never mind!
If you reaaly want to add the personaL touch to your followup emails, check out
I have been a reseller for them for a while now and can tell you, it works!
Contact me for any help I can provide.
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    Terri Hall
  • January 24, 2009
I find that it is not only important to send emails for long term follow up but to proceed with a phone call. It may sound very time consuming but the majority of the calls are just leaving messages. Why not let them here your dealerdhip's name so it is fresh in their minds? There is no way better to personalize the emails than to follow up with the sound of your voice.
I have adopted a new philosophy on sending out e-mails. What I had found in the last quarter of 2008 was that the customers I was getting in direct phone contact with were telling me that they were just researching for 3-6 months down the road. It was roughly 1/3 of the people I spoke to. WOW, the rebates and incentives change by then. I signed up with a follow up company and I controll the frequency, and the content of the messages, and when a customer expresses interest it gets forwarded to the top of the que. I also added "Non-Selling" emails to the mix, and have received great responses to them. "That was a great article, thanks for not always trying to sell me something". I usually find a couple articles a month from across the web, and now my 10,000+ database doesnt hate my emails anymore (at least they are opting-out less than before). I am now putting my emails together with video embedded in them - the customers like watching a video instead of having to read it.
  • D
  • September 23, 2013
Got some value out of this, thanks!