November 18, 2004, 12:00 AM

How auto dealers can use multi-channel marketing to mix sales and service

Dealers can drive traffic to their service bays and financing centers if they take the time and resources to develop a service-side e-mail marketing program.

E-mail can be a decisive factor in helping auto dealers jump start a stalled multi-channel marketing program-if they take the time and trouble to do it right.

Today, a typical auto dealer will send out about 35,000 e-mails per month, says 365 Marketing Technologies, a Tampa, FL, developer of e-mail marketing programs for the automotive industry.

The vast majority of those e-mails are on the sales side, meaning the outgoing message advertises a sale on new or used vehicles.

But parts sales, vehicle service or maintenance, body repair, detailing and arranging credit and finance are a big part of a typical dealer’s business base, accounting for more than 30% of all revenues.

Dealers can accelerate their web-based marketing efforts-and drive more traffic to their service bays and financing centers-if they take the time and resources to develop a “service-side” e-mail marketing program.

“Most dealers think of the Internet and e-mail as a means to drive sales-related traffic to the showroom,” says Deanie Gregory, founder of 365 Marketing. “By adding a service-side online marketing program they can also use the web to generate business for other departments.”

Rather than ignoring or deleting, customers open and keep e-mail messages with discounts for buying parts, scheduling service or taking advantage of a special finance offer, Gregory says.

At one particular BMW dealership, Gregory says more than 95% of all new and existing customers have supplied the dealer with a viable e-mail address and more than 70% of those customers open their e-mail messages from that store because the correspondence has promotions and coupons that customers can redeem on their next visit.

“Auto dealers think of using their ad budgets and e-mail mostly on the vehicle sales side,” Gregory says. “But they can drive more online and offline traffic to other departments if they consider adding a service-side web and e-mail marketing program.”

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