Dealers of all sizes have increasingly switched on to the value of the web as a marketing medium, others have been able to take this a stage further by embracing e-marketing through e-mail and SMS activities. The benefits are clear, low cost, potentially enhanced accountability and a saving on traditional print media. All valid points, but to be effective e-marketing requires good marketing processes to be in place, because ‘spamming’ customers could have the opposite impact to that desired and really alienate customers.

1. High Quality Copy

Good copy requires all the same processes as any other marketing medium; planning, skill, imagination, an appreciation of the brand and above all, a focus on the customer and the desired impact and action. Invest in a good copywriter and test different approaches measuring the results.

2. Build a Database to be Proud of & Use it

The vast majority of people in the UK have an e-mail address; do you have an e-mail address for the vast majority of your customers?

For every customer it is important to capture e-mail and mobile telephone details and then to keep this on a central database. Naturally data protection regulations must be adhered to, with customers having the choice of opting into direct marketing – do get legal advice on this important subject as a starting point.

Data capture points are everywhere; on line, during a sale, at the service desk, at off site events. Whilst it is possible to buy in additional data, it will never be as good as the data built within the business.

Also don’t forget to add your own e-mail address to every campaign to check its arrival and any spam filter impacts.

3. Resist the temptation to over communicate.

Quality not quantity is key – research shows that consumers prefer to get e-mail marketing messages weekly, or even monthly as long as the communication is useful. Always ask yourself when putting a campaign together, ‘What would make me call in and ask about that offer?’

4. Spam Filters

Spam filters can be very effective at undermining your campaign. Words such as ‘free’ or ‘offer’, symbols such as ‘£’ of ‘%’ or the use of capitals can all ensure your well intended email goes straight to the junk file, or be deleted before it ever arrives. E-mails containing large images and attachments can also be blocked by firewalls and filters. There are spam testers available on-line (naturally these are not guaranteed). Success relies upon the use of softer copy, so it’s back to testing and the use of well considered copy.

Before sending out a large quantity of marketing e-mails, check your mail server provider settings. Most e-mail server providers prevent spam by blocking users from sending too many e-mails, during a short period of time.

5. Mobile E-mail

Your carefully crafted multimedia content or images are not going to be readable by most people. According to SurveySampling (2007), about 65% of decision makers are viewing your marketing e-mail on their text-only mobile devices (smart phones, PDAs and tablets). The growth of these devices is exponential - so how does your e-mail look on a screen only a few inches wide?

6. Mix it Up

Don’t use e-mail solely for sales campaigns. Customers will soon get tired of this approach and you risk them simply hitting the delete button without ever opening it or adding your mail address to their junk file. Instead mix things up. Create “how to guides” or “tips and tricks”, information on your business, or research questionnaires. These will help to mark you out as someone to be trusted and involved with.

7. HTML versus Plain Text

HTML is the version that uses colour and images in case you were unsure. One thing that's important to know about HTML format used in email, is that not all email programs know how to interpret it. Most do, but some do not so what you send may not be what the customer receives. According to Jupiter Research, 54 percent of consumers clicked links in e-mail promotions because they featured products or services that interested them. But that’s not the end of the story.

Forty percent of e-mail subscribers said they clicked through e-mail offers because written copy captured their interest. Even though HTML is widespread, compelling written copy remains hugely influential in driving ‘click-throughs’. In all events the focus should be on the message, not how "pretty" it looks. Plain text e-mail is smaller, delivers and downloads quicker, and is also much less likely to be erroneously marked as spam.

8. Personalise Things

Inserting a person's name into an email increases open rates by as much as 10%. - Jupiter Research (2006).

Use mail merge marketing software to generate personalised mass emails that can include person's name or any personalised information that should be relevant to your prospect. Your message should "say": "I am not computer-generated spam, I got to you because I know you and I think this specific offer meets your needs".

Always include an opt-out (unsubscribe) function in your e-mail, even if that is just an e-mail address where people can send a message to unsubscribe and naturally act upon the request. Always measure the level of opt outs, it is a handy guide that your e-mail is not valued and that content/frequency should be reviewed.

9. Marketing E-mails Must Have a Familiar Preview

Most people using a PC decide if an e-mail is interesting by previewing it, without opening it. They take this decision based on the sender's email address and email subject line.

To increase the success rate of your marketing e-mails, make sure your sender name is visible, trustworthy and easily recognised. Do not send marketing e-mails from robot-looking e-mail addresses. Send your marketing e-mails from an e-mail address that triggers the feeling "I know who sent this e-mail". Knowing and trusting the sender is the primary reason for opening an e-mail.

Use the subject line to summarize the e-mail content. The subject line should tell the e-mail content, not sell the e-mail content. Keep your subject line to 50 characters or less.

10. Test Test Test

There is no consistent reason why a campaign works, or not – so test and measure everything by using references on every e-mail to assess the results and use a known mailing as a benchmark to see if it outperforms the known results.

And finally, - it’s easy!! Capture the mobile and e-mail addresses of your customers, - not just the ones who buy but perhaps even more importantly those who don’t. Maintain that simple database and regularly put together simple and well thought out offers and hit ‘Send’. The process is very cost effective to manage and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when the phone rings more and more!

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