Author: Bob Vieraitis
Newsflash: 78 percent of consumers prefer to be contacted by email*. If you need to reach more of your customers for less money, this is good news for your dealership. Email is perfect for customer lifecycle management (CLM) as it lets you cost-effectively deliver personalized communications timed to coincide with key events in the vehicle ownership lifecycle- everything from lease-end and warranty expiration promotions to service reminders, surveys, and seasonal service specials.
But where do you start? Traditionally, effective email communication has required considerable expertise. You may have only a handful of customer email addresses and no systematic way to get more. Or perhaps you're sending out emails but aren't sure if those emails are delivered and read by your customers.
Unless you've been diligently collecting customer email addresses, you'll need to solve this problem first. Look for an email solution vendor that can automatically extract customer records from your DMS and match them against multiple national email databases. The vendor should send an email to each matching address on behalf of your dealership to validate it, and provide the required opportunity for customer opt-out. A vendor that has mastered this process should be able to deliver valid, marketing-ready email addresses for 20 to 30 percent of your customer base within just a few weeks.
You'll want to develop an ongoing in-house program that includes:
* Turning customer interaction points into email acquisition stations
* Training employees on the value of collecting email addresses
* Creating and marketing exclusive email-only offerings
The next step is to ensure that your emails maximize delivery, readership, and response. Your email vendor must comply fully with all spam regulations, but that's just the beginning. For maximum results, the vendor should work with major ISPs to maintain approved status, and carefully design all emails to avoid blocking by spam filters.
Properly designed emails get ten times the response of direct mail in a fraction of the time. Emails should include a known, friendly from address, a high degree of personalization, and timely, relevant content.
Bounced email handling is also important. 30 percent of email addresses change every year, and even emails sent to valid addresses can bounce for various reasons.
Finally, all the email expertise in the world won't help you unless you put it into action. If you've outsourced your traditional customer communications, consider doing the same with email.
Email is ideal for low-cost customer lifecycle management. By partnering with an expert solution vendor and investing in ongoing email address collection, you can quickly realize increased customer satisfaction and revenue lift in all departments.
Bob Vieraitis is the vice president of marketing for OnStation, a leading provider of automatic, email-based, customer lifecycle management solutions for automotive dealerships and service centers. He can be contacted at 866-862-5885 or visit www.onstation.com for more information.
Dealer Marketing Center