Email — love it or hate it — isn’t going anywhere. The total number of worldwide email accounts is expected to increase from 3.9 billion in 2013 to 4.9 billion by the end of 2017, according to The Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based technology market research firm. Even teenage digital natives, who left email behind long ago and equate the platform with carrier pigeons, still use it for homework and file sharing.
But email, by its very nature, is fraught with communication challenges. Messages are one-dimensional, which means customers often aren’t able to interpret their “tone.” When you’re speaking with someone, the other person may (either knowingly or not) use voice inflection to communicate an emphatic statement, a question or sarcasm. Those cues are eliminated within the confines of an email.
Additionally, because people’s email accounts are inundated with spam on a daily basis, the intended recipients of your message may not receive it because it’s caught in a spam filter. Even if the message does get through, it may not be read, because nothing about it captures the recipient’s attention. This is why you want to tell customers to make sure you’re on their “safe sender” list. It doesn’t hurt to come up with provocative subject lines, either (Well, not too provocative).
At the same time, emails can significantly enhance communication with customers by allowing you to inform, engage and connect with them. You also can customize emails by targeting specific buyer groups.
Every dealership should already have email policies in place regarding employees who send messages to their own customers or use store-owned computers for personal email. But every dealership also should develop email objectives. What do you want to achieve with each email you send? Here are seven types of email a motorcycle dealership should have in its arsenal:
1. Sales email: To promote prices and get buyers through your doors.
Example: The annual “Shift Into Spring” sale.
2. Marketing email: To let customers know about special happenings at your dealership.
Example: Upcoming charity rides, chili cook-offs and unusual promotions.
3. Research email: To share new or existing information that riders can use.
Example: News about researchers in favor of universal helmet laws.
4. Informative email: To share important, non-sales information.
Example: BMW recalls 50,000 motorcycles for potential fuel pump leak.
5. Educational email: To teach your customers useful information.
Example: How to prep your motorcycle for spring riding conditions.
6. Email update: To provide dealership or industry news.
Example: Stop by and check out the new 2015 models.
7. Email inquiry: To serve as a reminder or a call to action.
Example: When was the last time you changed your motorcycle’s engine oil?
Understanding your objectives will help you craft the five key components of a compelling, persuasive email: attention-seeking subject line, effective message, call-to-action, appropriate sign-off and useful signature.
Subject Line Is Your Handshake
Treat the subject line of your email the same way you would an initial handshake; it may be your only chance to make a first impression. And just as a handshake can linger a tad too long, keep the subject line brief, indicating why your message is worth the reader’s time.
There are multiple ways to do this. In his book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, New York Times-bestselling author, Daniel Pink, reports on research from 2011 that determined people open emails based on three factors: utility (opened because the recipient has something to gain or lose), curiosity (opened because the recipient is, well, curious) and specificity (opened because the recipient knows exactly what he or she is getting once the message is opened).
To that end, craft your subject headers to fall into one of the following five categories:
Descriptive: 10% Off Repair Services Through the End of May
Fast Fact: Tire Tread Patterns for Motorcycles and Cars Differ
Provocative: Our Shoei Helmets Can Withstand Bullets
Rhetorical: Are You Tired of Looking at a Beat-Up Wind Deflector?
Nearly Naughty: Let Us Show You How Much We Love You
Also keep in mind to whom you’re sending the email. If it’s an email blast to your entire list of customers, many of whom might never have met you, use a straightforward subject line that gets right to the point:
ABC Motorcycles Customer Appreciation Event This Thursday
If you’re sending out details about a customer appreciation event to your own list of customers who’ve worked with you one-on-one in the past, you can afford to be a little more personable:
I’m Inviting All of My Favorite Customers.
This way, you’re communicating the bottom line of your message before your recipients even open the message.
This requires you to be engaging, clear, concise and persuasive. We all know how easy it is to just hit “delete” without reading more than the first line or two of an email. Why is that? Because we intuitively believe that if nothing interests us in those lines, we don’t need to waste our time reading the rest of the message.
Let’s break down an effective sample email that could be sent to new customers:
Hope all is well and that you are enjoying the new motorcycle you bought from ABC Motorcycles. We certainly hope so! Have you been able to put many miles on it yet?
“Hope all is well” is a polite opening and invites the recipient to comment (“We’ve been swamped!” “We just got back from vacation!”). Then, by mentioning his new ride, you’ve begun to steer the conversation in the right direction by reinforcing your commitment to a positive customer experience. Asking about miles further invites an exchange (which is what you want). Note the use of “yet” at the end of that statement. I like it, because it makes the question more casual, rather than threatening and interrogational.
The email continues: As you know, it’s a special bike, and you’re now a member of our dealership family. So we wanted you to know the family is having a get-together. ABC Motorcycles is hosting a customer-appreciation event this Thursday beginning at 5 pm inside the dealership and out in the parking lot.
This reaffirms the buyer’s purchase decision and emphasizes that your dealership treats customers like family. The message than segues into the customer-appreciation activities. The use of “your” makes everything a little more personal. If your mail program allows it, highlight the sentence that contains the date and time of the event.
Back to the email: We’ll have special deals on accessories, apparel and service packages, plus food, drinks and sweets for the entire family. We want to hear about your experiences with your new motorcycle and introduce you to fellow riders in the area.
This portion of your message is intended to give your new customer an idea of what to expect. It indicates you’ll be a welcoming host and can dramatically increase event participation.
The emails ends: Please consider joining us — you might even win one of the cool prizes we’re giving away. Will I see you there? Let me know.
This is your “call to action” line. Many blog and social media posts use this technique, and so should your emails. What do you want your recipient to do as a result of reading your message? Email you and confirm that he will attend! That’s why you ask the question directly. When people go “on the record” and make a commitment (especially in writing), they are more likely to keep that commitment. Also note the use of a cliffhanger: “…you might even win one of the cool prizes we’re giving away.” What kind of prizes? How cool are they? Stop by, and you’ll find out.
Because you come across as friendly, enthusiastic and down-to-earth, customers will have a hard time saying “no” to your call to action.
Many people don’t spend much time thinking about their email sign-off, and that’s a mistake. This is one of the last impressions you’ll leave with your message, and you want it to be as effective as possible. “Talk soon” is friendly and familiar, and suggests the relationship between your customer and your dealership is just beginning.
Other commonly used sign-offs: “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” “Warmest regards,” “Best,” Don’t be afraid to get a little more specific: “Ride safe,” “See you on the road,” “See you at the dealership.”
Just because you’ve signed off doesn’t mean your efforts to persuade customers to attend your event are done. Even your email signature can be persuasive. Not only does it reaffirm who you are and your role at the dealership, it reinforces your dealership’s brand and gives customers the ability to quickly and easily contact you.
John W. Lyon, co-owner of Wilkins Harley-Davidson in Barre, Vt., includes this line: “Why Buy From Us? CLICK HERE.” Clicking there takes email recipients to a web page that lists five reasons to buy from “New England’s oldest dealer.” (Reasons include being family-owned, winner of several awards and a firm belief in no surprise fees.)
So put your contact info in the signature: first and last name; store phone number, URL, email address, mailing address and your cell phone number. If your dealership has a cool slogan or tagline, has won awards or been voted “Best” something, add those details, too. That said, be careful with images (the smaller the better) and sounds (we all know what a motorcycle sounds like).
Many smartphones or email programs will convert your phone number and email address to hypertext, which allows recipients to click and call you quickly and hassle-free. Humans follow the path of least resistance: If you make it as easy as possible for people to contact you, the chances they will, go up considerably.
Following these steps to an effective, persuasive email will significantly improve email open and response rates.
An award-winning author, top-rated trainer and founder of Peak Dealership Performance, Mark Rodgers holds a master’s degree in adult education and the National Speakers Association Certified Speaking Professional designation — only 500 people in the world have this coveted recognition.
For more information, contact Mark at: [email protected] to improve your performance.