Reasons You May Be Losing Subscribers to Your Dealership’s Email Newsletters

finger tapping email

As more consumers get their information from mobile devices, and the more they interact on Facebook, Twitter and other newly-minted social media platforms (Pinterest, hopefully included), the more opportunity comes knocking on your dealership doorstep. But while some may try to write off email marketing as a form of influence from a bygone era, the opposite is true. Reaching potential customers and informing current ones in the form of email newsletters is still relevant and will continue to be so. Regardless of how many new media forms crop up, email is still vital for business and personal reasons for everyone.

And as dealerships continue to build banners and other teasers into monthly newsletters, some may be scratching their heads wondering why current subscribers are opting out and new subscriptions are slowing down. The approach of less is more has never been more evident when it comes to the spam folder. And there are many reasons why too much of a good thing can quickly send all your hard-earned efforts of email marketing into that particular bin.

Here are a couple examples of why that could be the case.

The frequency rate

An obvious candidate for losing subscribers to your email efforts can be that you’re pushing every promotion you think of, and more importantly, the number of newsletters delivered in a given month. Customers who’ve had a great experience at your dealership, bought a car or are at least entertaining the notion over others, are appreciative of follow-up information about a certain car. But the minute you begin filling their inbox up with two, three, or more newsletters a week, you risk losing their interest, or worse, they unsubscribe and shop elsewhere.

Solution: Apple is a company that not only builds amazing products, but their shrouded sense of marketing and keeping a fan base in the dark just long enough to build anticipation can be replicated. Test the “less is more” tactic with how much you send off. You don’t have to be 100 percent mysterious, but you don’t want to feel overbearing at the same time. Find the right medium of newsletters (maybe it’s three or four a month) or even send out a short questionnaire to your subscribers, asking how they feel the current rate of incoming newsletters is.

The quality isn’t there

Delivering a picture of the latest model to hit your showroom floor, along with a highly-detailed report on the car’s specifications, history and other superfluous information, can be a bit daunting to read. It’s not that the actual graphics and style of the newsletter seems off (although that’s certainly an important issue as well), it’s that the call-to-action moments are lost amid an endless display of words and numbers.

Solution: Same as the error above, the way in which your newsletters are displayed should be focused on the vital points: a bold title, car models, pricing (including any APR promotions), and a few key phrases from your warranty options, dealership servicing specials and other tidbits that do more to showcase what your dealership brings to the table. There are competitors out there that have the same exact models you have. Instead of cramming everything about what makes a car special onto a newsletter, be succinct and bold with how your dealership’s unique to that model.

Consumer engagement is amiss

This isn’t about customers clicking through your newsletters; it’s about the extent to which you respond to customer inquiries, and also, the degrees of how you approach them. Excessive calling and repeated voicemails, cryptic replies to emails in hopes they respond with further questions…these are but a few examples of ways to mismanage a lead from your email marketing campaigns. Or you don’t respond to off-topic questions or complaints at all, even though one may be asked from a newsletter. As this study from RightNow suggested, over 50 percent of customers give up on a particular brand when they’ve not heard back within one week. 79 percent who voiced their concerns were ignored. I’m surprised the percentage isn’t higher.

Solution: First and foremost, take care of the glaring mistake of insufficient response times and answer any and all questions related to a newsletter or other facet of your dealership. Secondly, dial back how aggressive your sales team is with a customer and try and find a happy medium of when to call, email or send off related newsletters. Encourage feedback not only with the way you present every email, but with how your approach has come off to them. It’s always better to cultivate a potential relationship by engaging when needed, than it is to be desperate and overwhelming.

Not thinking beyond the sale

Why do most people subscribe to your email newsletter, or any newsletter for that matter? Is it because they want to be reminded about future promotions? Are they a generational customer that enjoys working with your dealership, and wants to when their children get older? Maybe they just like to browse pictures and video demos of certain cars?

If you can’t put a concrete answer to these questions and others like it, chances are you may be sending off just for sending off’s sake.

Solution: While the goal’s always going to be to land a sale, it takes time to build a relationship that not just that customer can be proud of, but that they can then run off and tell their friends and family about their experience. And an email newsletter, done the right way, is that gateway. Even then, a faulty email campaign can leave a sour taste with customers, because there isn’t any personalization at the forefront. There’s enough data out there to help you see exactly which customer spent the most time reading and clicking a newsletter. Consumer A may be apt to engage a newsletter that’s chock full of vehicle photos and videos. Consumer B may prefer the opposite and engage primarily with end-of-the-year sales events or holiday APR deals. Consumer C might like a mix of both different newsletters, but only appreciates them because you delivered each to their inbox sparingly after sending a pre-newsletter questionnaire on how frequent they’d prefer a newsletter.

In the end…

There are varying degrees of consumer interest, and with that, varying degrees of email newsletters. Whereas one newsletter promotes a specific model shown in 10 different color types with a few bullet points to match, another newsletter could be simply saying, “It’s Truck Month” with the special APR listing below the fold. It’s not saying, “It’s Truck Month, so please come see how this used Tacoma from 2008 and it’s 500 lb. tongue weight can gracefully haul “x” amount of rocks and wood and other cargo, etc…”. And that customer’s inbox isn’t registering “Truck Month” 10 times in a month, either.

Point is, your customers will always appreciate the right tone, the right feedback and of course, the right product. Subscribers take that same mentality with them, and whether it’s five years or five months down the road, if they want to do business with you, you’d better ensure your email newsletters repay the same attention.

Kyle O’Brien is a frequent contributor and blogger on all things concerning the automotive industry, from ways to execute dealership sales to car reviews and more. He has been a consultant for a local car dealership in his hometown, Jay Wolfe Toyota of Kansas City.

Michael Bowen


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