Direct marketing to customers


Keeping your dealership top-of-mind with customers is key to retaining their business, and one way is through emails and direct marketing. But it must be done right, or you potentially risk losing your customer’s interest instead of grabbing it.

Your dealership may already be sending emails to remind your customers that their scheduled maintenance is coming up, or that it’s winter tire season. But if they only get a steady diet of service reminders, these recipients may simply hit the “delete” icon or even unsubscribe..

Consider adding a regular email that contains a variety of items to grab attention. Combine F&I and sales marketing messages with snippets of “fast facts,” the type people love to read on social media. These can be potentially effective marketing tools. Here are some tips to get you started.

Know the rules.

The federal government has strict requirements for commercial electronic messages, as laid out in Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). Be sure your messages stick to the legislation.

Personalize the message

Your customer knows the list is computer-generated, but including their name and information (“Please call us with any questions you have about your 2021 vehicle…”) will show you’ve taken the time to enter their information.

Determine the frequency

Your best timeframe is one message a month at minimum, and once a week at maximum, with once every two weeks a likely “sweet spot” for many dealers. If your email is interesting enough, customers will look forward to it. If your service department sends out maintenance reminders, coordinate with them on the timing of your emails.

What should you include?

To keep the email interesting and readable, keep it varied. Each “clip” of information should ideally be no more than three to four sentences long. If one segment goes over that, lead and follow it with a shorter piece. Add season-appropriate material, such as driving tips for foul weather. Some suggestions include…

Upcoming models

Rather than wait for an all-new or updated vehicle’s launch, provide each level of information as you receive it from your OEM. “We’re proud to announce the all-new 2023 model coming later this year…” to “The all-new 2023 model will have these special features…” to “The all-new 2023 model is almost here!” When you have an arrival date, invite customers to set up an appointment for a personalized walk-around in the showroom.

Fun facts and trivia

This could be a regular “did-you-know column” in your email. These could be interesting historical facts about your OEM or vintage models; about your dealership (“Did you know we got our start 40 years ago across town?”); or even about cars and driving in general (“Did you know Prince Edward Island was the first province to put a slogan on its licence plate?”).

Mention your neighbourhood

Include a blurb about what’s coming up in your area, such as museum tours, fall fairs, charity yard sales – “And feel free to stop by, grab a coffee and see what we have to offer.” If road construction is happening in your area, warn your customers and outline alternate routes to take to your store.

Highlight your staff

Include a short bio in each email of someone in the dealership. Even if that person doesn’t interact with the public, it familiarizes customers with the people in your store.

Include vehicles on your lot or coming in

“We’re expecting this low-mileage, well-kept vehicle on our pre-owned lot within the next week. Call and make an appointment for a test-drive.”

Stay on top of what’s happening

Sign up for your OEM’s media website, which sends news releases to auto writers. It can be a great source of items to include in your email, such as when models win crash-test safety awards or “Car of the Year” trophies; articles on history milestones; news on new vehicle plant openings, and more. Subscribe to the automotive feeds at news sources, such as Cision (Canada Newswire), to get press releases from automobile associations or survey companies. These often include driving tips, how many people plan to take fall-colour driving trips, and other items you can use.

Check and double-check again. Have someone proofread the email before it goes out. Don’t depend on spell-check programs. As with their/there/they’re, a word may be spelled correctly but used the wrong way.

Start and finish it correctly

Don’t put symbols in the subject line, such as $$ or !!, or all-caps, which could trigger spam filters. Use a consistent subject line, such as “Here’s your latest update from (dealership name).” At the bottom, include your logo, website URL, phone number and email address, plus any required “Unsubscribe” message. Send it on a weekday before most people go to work; studies show 6:00 a.m. is ideal. And don’t forget to follow up immediately whenever anyone responds to something in your email – because, after all, that’s the whole idea.