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Targeting Tactics: Successful Dealership Email Marketing

person looking at an email offer on their phone with a laptop in their lap
Article Highlights:

  • Using outdated or inaccurate data limits your success from the get-go.
  • Shoppers are good at picking out what’s disingenuous.

It would be hard to find someone today who’s never experienced frustration over the marketing emails in their inbox. When customers are receiving unsolicited emails, click-bait promos, or irrelevant messages, it gives email marketing (not to mention whoever is sending them) a bad rap.

An effective email strategy means not only reaching your customers, but reaching them with the message that they’ll be most interested in. And the key to it all? Two words: effective targeting.

It All Starts with Data

You know that saying about how the effort you put into something reflects what you’ll get out of it? That rings true for your email marketing strategy, too.

Consider that roughly 40% of your customers’ emails are wrong or missing entirely from your dealership’s DMS. Now think, how successful is your dealership’s reach with numbers like that?

The data you use in your marketing efforts makes a HUGE difference, and using outdated or inaccurate data limits your success from the get-go. It’s crucial to look at how often your data is being cleansed and updated, and if your marketing isn’t earning results, consider if bad data may be to blame.

Quick tip:

Continuing to send messages to email addresses that have hard bounced will decrease your delivery rate over time, and sending messages to ones that have unsubscribed leaves for some angry customers (not to mention potential compliance issues). Make sure that your email send lists are being updated regularly to remove addresses that fall into these categories.

Then There’s Segmentation

Clean data aside, no one wants to receive an email that has nothing to do with them or their interests. After all—how would you feel if you got an email about renewing your vehicle lease when you haven’t leased in years? 78% of brands said that the most effective strategy for email marketing campaigns was subscriber segmentation. This helps to ensure that your customers are only getting the emails that are relevant to them.

Good segmentation means looking at your customer profiles and linking them based on similar interests, purchase patterns, demographics, and anticipated needs. In more practical words, it means confirming that the customers who bought a pre-owned SUV from you aren’t getting lease notifications and specials for a new model year sedan.

The best segmentation is predictive, and it takes customer life changes into account. Things like moving to a bigger city, graduating from college, buying a house, getting married, having children, or even just getting a bit older can all signal that a consumer may no longer be interested in the same kind of offers from you.

For example, someone who just moved to the city may be more interested in a compact car than a large SUV, whereas a couple who just had a child might be looking to find a safer, family-friendly vehicle than what they have now.

Quick Tip:

Unsubscribes are inevitable, but it helps to know why your customers are opting out of your communications. In many situations, an unsubscribe is nothing personal (maybe the customer moved to a different area or they just don’t remember signing up) but adding a survey or comment box can provide a little insight into how relevant customers find the emails that you’re sending them.

Now, It Just Needs that Personal Touch

So clean data makes your message deliverable, and segmentation dictates who to deliver to, but what about the actual message?

No matter what kind of message you’re looking to send out, it’s important to sound personable, as emails can tend to sound clunky and automated (boring) or like a condensed sales pitch (read: obnoxious).

Most customers appreciate knowing that your dealership is comprised of individuals just like them. Let that personality shine through in how you speak to your customers in your emails. Maybe this means including that clever joke or cheesy pun into an email or two.

Similarly, customers don’t want to feel played—refrain from sending emails that only provide partial information about a particular offer, or that contain subject lines that could come off as click-bait. For example, a subject line that reads ‘Our Best Offer Yet!!’ may get opened, but you lose the trust of your audience if you fail to deliver on that promise by overhyping the situation.

Quick tip:

We all like to be addressed personally. Personalization tokens can be a great way to grab the attention of your customers, but use them sparingly. Shoppers are good at picking out what’s disingenuous. If using a personalization feels like a forced marketing tactic, most will shy away from whatever you have to say.


Effective targeting is the difference between an email that gets marked as spam and one that gets flagged to come back to later. It’s not that customers don’t want to receive emails from you—it’s just that they want those emails to be intentional. With the right tools—clean data, proper segmentation, and a personal message—your dealership will see greater results from your email efforts.

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Mollie Swygart is a marketing communications professional at Reynolds and Reynolds. She is an expert on Reynolds’ suite of cutting-edge marketing products, their functionalities, and how they can be utilized to improve dealership success. Mollie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art and English from Marietta College. She also obtained an Associate’s Degree in Marketing from Rhodes State College.

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