MM Podcast Episode 008: Email Marketing For Auto Dealers With Damian Thompson (transcript)

This is a transcript of MM Podcast Episode 008: Email Marketing For Auto Dealers With Damian Thompson.

Welcome to episode 8 of the motorcar marketing podcast.

In this episode’s main segment I’m going to be interviewing Damian Thompson. Damian is an expert in e-mail marketing.

E-mail marketing is something that all car dealerships should be doing but most aren’t doing it correctly. IT’s much more complicated than sending just e-mail and announcing your upcoming sales. Damian has some great tips and advice for car dealers about how they should be using e-mail so stay tuned for that.

If you find this episode valuable please help us out by giving us a review in iTunes or leaving a comment on You Tube or re-tweeting the podcasts on Twitter or liking it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word and the word about the podcast so it’s very much appreciated.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to send us an email at . I want to improve this podcast so some honest constructive feedback is very much appreciated. A couple of quick notes, any website or links that I mentioned in the podcast can be found in the blog in the show notes. I also published a transcript with every episode incase you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.motorcar If you’d like to get our free video selling more cars on Craigslist, go to and put in your name and email address into the form in the side bar.

This guide goes to all the recent Craigslist changes and shows you some actual statistics from dealerships who post heavily on Craigslist, both now and last year before the big changes were rolled out. If you’re wondering if you should still be posting your cars on Craigslist or wondering how to get more value out of Craigslist Ads, definitely check out this free video.

So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I will be talking to e-mail marketing expert, Damian Thompson. Here is the interview;

Ashley: Welcome Damian to the motorcarmarketing podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show.

Damian: No worries, glad to be here Ashley.

Ashley: Great. To start out I wonder if you could give us a quick overview of your career and how you got into e-mail marketing.

Damian: Sure. I’m a salty old sales dog. I started selling newspaper prescriptions 25 years ago and did some time in car sales. So I’ve been in sales and marketing for a long time. Moved in my career, worked for  big, large software companies like Mac and Imtec; running sales for marketing teams, and as I started learning more about the marketing, not just selling, I started focusing on the online marketing and e-mail marketing. And then about 4 years ago I ditched this and decided to go and do my own thing and find a business that I could run online. And I really started focusing on copy writing and e-mail marketing at that time as the way to..; you know they say that copy writing is just salesmanship in print so I kind of took to it really quickly and really focused on a way to create a relationship with a customer and I think that e-mail marketing is the best way to create a long term relationship with the customer.

Ashley: OK. So let’s start out sort of beginning of the sales marketing for car dealerships. How can they co-act with e-mail addresses and then when they co-act with e-mail addresses what should the process be for their touching base with those people?

Damian: Sure. I think all starts with the commitment to actually collect them. I think that one of the biggest mistakes that people make, especially in brick and water business which dealerships are is they don’t think – I’m in a people business, I’m in a face-to-face business. I don’t need e-mail marketing.  I don’t need an e-mail address.

I just disagree. I think that they use it poorly; they think that e-mail marketing is that spammy, newsletter,  stuff that you get from other people – and yes, no one need another newsletter.  No one needs – ‘hey we’re having our 4 of July sales’ e-mail.

But to be able to communicate with your customer when they want to communicate is a very powerful thing so I think that just taking the commitment to collecting them is the first thing. And then, obviously, it’s easy enough when they buy the car; you’re doing all the paperwork anyway, you’re doing all that, but I think most sales professionals  in the car industry, they have a qualification process, right? They take them into their office or pod or whatever, start filling the sheet – what they’re currently driving, how long they’ve owned it, how big is the family, some personal details and I think it would be easy enough to ask for their e-mail address as well, right?

And then that’s the physical world. And then, we live in a dual world today, online as well. I think that one of the big tricks now of online marketing , lead generations now, you know, is you want to go where your customers are. And if you’re just waiting for someone to shop up on your lot, that’s your waiting – you’re being passive. Being passive is no way of building your business. You want to be active. You want to generate your own demands.

And for talking a little bit in the show, you know, Jo Jo Gerard who wrote that book, you know, kind of the great salesman of the 70’s and 80’s and he had this system back then when he was selling up to 6 cars a day. And this was in the ’70 when there were no computers or anything else, because he was out bout, he was picking up the phone and calling people from the phone book. And he had index cards, he was doing database marketing essentially.

But now all that is really much easier. You can actually do that online. You can go where your customers are. You know, car wires are passionate fanatics a lot of time, right? So you can go to forums, you can go to places they congregate, you can go to Facebook, have a Facebook page and not a Facebook page for your site but go to, you know, you’re a Chevy dealer, go to ‘I love Chevy’ Facebook page and go there and be helpful and answer questions and then drive them in sort of way to get into your Fan page.

I think that the sales process is fundamentally changed in the last 10 years. 10 years ago, if you were a sales person, your responsibility of how you got people to come talk to you is you were the arbiter of information.  So if people wanted to know something they had to come to your, come to your lot, to take a brochure, right? They want to take a new brochure of new Corvette, they had to come and pick up the brochure.

Well now, all the bases are online. So by the time they come to see you they already answered a lot of questions they used to ask you. So you need to get into the conversation much earlier than that and you need to be helpful or I would say, kind of approach it differently. Create something different, maybe ‘Top 10 questions you’re not getting the answers to online’, ‘5 things you’re not learning from’ or whatever happens to be.

But if you want to get where they are offer value. I think that’s the biggest thing with e-mail; is that the e-mail needs to be about your audience, about the reader, not you, so offer value, have a reason to contact them, don’t make it promotional, don’t make it an electronic megaphone, make it something that people would actually want to read.  That’s the hardest part, but that’s the part that kind of separates you from everybody else.

Ashley: And just to be clear, you’re talking about this piece of free content. Basically, on your landing page you say ‘Get a free guide’, ‘5 things you don’t know – how to buy a car’ and then to opt that you have to e-mail it.

Damian: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

Ashley: OK. Perfect, perfect. OK, so now let’s kind of move along. The car dealers have started to collect a bunch of e-mail addresses for prospects. Then what should that e-mail chain be like?

Damian: Yeah, I think it’s different.  So different car buyers and different car dealers, are you an exotics car dealer, do you sell volume? I think a lot of it depends of the audience, but the better you understand the idea of your client the easier it is to kind of create the e-mail content for them.

So if you’re looking at, if you’re a Mercedes dealership, what you send them is going to be different than if you’re a Ford dealership.

But what you want to do, again, is to have a better view of them as a customer and understanding what are most buyers following, you know, you’ll have natural segments in your business; are they buying a family car, are they buying a work truck, are they buying.., are they single, are they buying a bachelor mobile; if you could start thinking of the nature of buyers in the market place, if you segment in that way it starts to be easier to write content towards that person.

So if I’m a dealership in Florida and I sell truck to people who like to buy; people that primary purposes to trail their boat or jet-skis or whatever, they’re an outdoor enthusiasts, you know, I want to write a content about that, and not a new truck – ‘hey here’s the new Ford 350’, it’s kind of,  people love to see stories about other people.  Here’s Bob who just bought, who is using his F50 to trail his old timing popcorn maker he takes to festivals and shows on the weekends and kind of case studies, and spotlights and kind of show people ‘used cases’, kind of show people getting the value of the vehicle and don’t make it a sales pitch. It’s not an advertisement, it’ a conversation.

Ashley: And so, just roughly speaking, how many of those roughly speaking? So someone opts in, they get the free guide, ‘5 tips to buying a used car’, and how many, sort of these stories, would you recommend? What would the time frame be? One week to four weeks?

Damian: Yeah, I think with frequency, you could be much more frequent up front.  So generally when I talk about b2b place which is obviously a little bit different, a little bit aggressive than that, but I would say weekly, for a couple of weeks, would be good and then maybe go to every 2 weeks, and then maybe you can even go to once a month if you really want to.

But I think you need to have some level of consistency. I think that twice a month is a good frequency for most people to kind of stay in mind frame but not to be obnoxious.

But again, it comes down to quality. I mean if you wrote an awesome e-mail and was forwarded to my interests and my likes I’d be happy to receive one of those a week.

If it was another promotion, I don’t want to get one of those a year.  It really does come down to the quality of it, but I think, if someone was on my list, I would do faster than one week. So I would one per day, 3 or 4 times that first week and then go to once a week ‘cause someone that just enters to your sales funnel they’re much more interested in what you have to say in the very beginning.  And if they haven’t taken action in a couple of weeks than definitely drag it out further and further. But you want to have constant commitment.

So, if in 4 or 5 month you’re only doing 2 e-mails a month, that’s relatively clear, stay forward how to do it.

Ashley: Yeah. So do you think it’s every appropriate for a car dealer after they’ve build maybe some trust with the customer to send them an e-mail like what you initially said – ‘hey, we’re having our 4 of July sale’;

Damian: Absolutely, absolutely. So there’s nothing wrong with promoting once in a while, it’s just the balance.  So, you know, I would say this comes down to, I think you want to promote your dealership, it’s your business, not of your friends. We’re not cultivating relationships just to be nice guys. We want to sell more cars. So, absolutely you want to promote your stuff. It’s actually when you do it and how often you do it, so if you’re doing e-mail a week, I would say one e-mail a month for promotion would be OK.

If you’re doing e-mail per month than every other month a promotion would be OK.  Promoting what you actually have to promote – a 4 of July sale or..; it’s actually how you do it; don’t send an ad that you’re putting in the newspaper that weekend. Actually make it look more personal, make it look like..; the trick to e-mail is whether you’re sending it to one person od 10 000 people it should really look like you’re sending it to a person that’s reading it. It should look like that; e-mail is a personal communication medium.  So it shouldn’t look like this is a big blast of 10 000 e-mails.  It shouldn’t look like an advertisement.

It shouldn’t look like an advertisement. It should look like, “Hey, Ashley, I remember we first talked a couple of months ago, you were interested in this.” Or, during our Fourth of July sale this weekend, “Here are three cars that would match exactly what you were talking about six months ago when we first started talking.”

Ashley:                 Yes.

Damian: That’s powerful. If you say, “Here is our ad. It’s going on the paper this weekend.” That’s not very powerful.

Ashley: One other question I have, and I’d be curious to hear your answer, kind of get more into some of the tools and how you can actually facilitate all these stuff that you’re talking about but, in terms of collecting email addresses, do you recommend those Lightbox popup windows that people use on their blogs? Would you recommend that for a car dealership?

Damian:I don’t recommend those. This is one of those eternal on-line debates in who’s right, who’s wrong, I don’t know. Here’s my thought process. My thought process is a couple of things. I believe in this. I believe that you don’t want to force people onto your list. I believe you want people to get onto your list than wanting them on your list. I think that the people that really get caught up in the whole Lightbox, the popups, the welcome gates and all these kinds of  tools that kind of force people to get on as if like they can read anything. If they love to throw out numbers like, “Oh, I got a 25 increase in opt-ins.” Okay. But are they good opt-ins, if there’s someone who’s going to opt-in anyway? It’s not measuring who left because you annoyed them. I know that I’ve left websites because they annoyed me. It’s not measuring that. Also, I think that if you offer value, someone’s going to want to go on the list and that’s a more qualified buyer. It comes down to, what do you really want? Do you want a large list for ego’s sake or do you want a smaller list of more qualified people? I would always opt to, in a sales environment where you’re going to follow-up, where you’re going to call people and you’re going to do, there’s some manual labor involved, I would rather a smaller tighter, more qualified, lead list than a big number.

Ashley: Yes, sure. That’s a good answer. We covered the front end. Let’s talk about after the sale. The person is coming in. They bought a car, and hopefully car dealerships are collecting email addresses from the people who are actually buying cars. They go in to a different sequence. Can you give us some tips about why you think that sequence would be bought?

Damian:I think this is the most powerful when it comes to car dealerships, specifically. I think that what you want to do is, I would model this lot on one of the most successful software companies that are doing these days. In software terms, they call this an “on boarding,” but it would be similar to a car dealership. You want someone I’d say 30 days to wow, right? When someone buys from you, if you want to leave a really good impression and you don’t have to have a long time to do that. So, if you could leave a great impression in that first month on that customer of yours, they’ll forgive a lot of things after that. Six months later when the service department doesn’t have the part they need or whatever their problem is, they’ll still have this really positive feeling about you because you’re initial impression after they bought was so powerful.

To me, what I would do is, you know, you just bought a car from me, I would have a campaign set-up, it will be all automated but I’ll have a campaign set-up. It was, you get email 24 hours after you bought your car. And it will be like, “How was the first day of ownership of a new Ashley Myers Ford?” That sort of thing, right? But then, you know, “Here are the numbers you need if you ever get in trouble, call this, call that.” And so on. And then I will send an email a week later and it will be like, “How was your first week as an Ashley Ford?” “What we found is in the first week, you still had that great new car smell.” Be very experiential with that and kind of remind him of why they bought, kind of make them feel positive, and say, “Just a quick reminder, you want to get your oil changed every 3,000 miles.” And so on. And I’ll send an email out probably 21 days after they bought the car. It will be along the lines of, “You probably don’t see a lot of us advertising on TV because we think the best way to be on our dealership is through word of mouth. In that way, it would be awesome for us if you would let us know maybe one or two people that you think we get value out of.” Ask for a testimonial. Say, “Did you enjoy your experience? If you’ve enjoyed your experience?” I’d asked them four or five questions. “What made you choose us over someone else?” I’d ask them these five questions and then based on that I would then turn that into a testimonial. I’d email them back and say, “Hey, this is what you said, would you be happy if we can use your testimony in our website?”

I would start this relationship. You want to make them feel like they are a part of your process. They are a part of your team. And then that’s a very powerful kind of first month on-boarding. And then after that, I think what you want to do is you want to make sure that the other data points you’ve collected, you’ve actually followed up on. I like doing the weird things like a Thanksgiving Day email, or a Thanksgiving day card—really, a solid, post-sale marketing progam is going to be physical and virtual. Don’t send them a Christmas card, send them a Thanksgiving card. Send them a card when their daughter graduates high school. That’s a powerful thing. That’s something that you might want to be doing. Sending in an imaginary birthday card– everyone does that. I think tying all that together and having a better overall view of your customer is what you want in any foray and I think email is a piece of that, for sure.

Ashley: Perfect. Yes, I think that’s some good tips. Let’s talk a bit about the actual software that you can possibly use. I use AWeber. I think you are an expert on Infusionsoft, there’s MailChimp, there’s a bunch of these programs out there. Can you give us a run-down, maybe from soup to nuts? I mean, some of these car dealerships, as I’ve said, they probably are doing nothing with email marketing so I think Infusionsoft is more high end and probably might not be right for them. Can you just give us some overview of what these different software applications can do and what you recommend for the different levels of email marketing?

Damian:Sure. I think you are right. I think there are a couple of things. I think a lot of dealerships also have proprietary stuff, right? They use some kind of proprietary sale software, something like that. At entry level, you look at things what you call an ESP, which is an email service provider. That would be your AWeber, your MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, things like that. And those are actually getting great pretty advanced these days so I think that’s a great place to start. Basically everything we’ve talked about from automating the email can be done from that. Now, what they’re not going to do is they’re not going to do things like, you know, they’re not going to have complete contact. They’re not going to have CRM. They’re not going to know when you’re daughter is graduating college or anything like that. It’s not going to be a full view of the contact. It’s more about lists. But you can do all that. You can have a new car buyer list. You can have a Mustang interest list and whatever. You can actually do all that with a traditional MailChimp or AWeber. I suggest you use a MailChimp at the start because it’s free. I could use that for 3,000 contacts. You can kind of figure it out a little bit, but it really comes down to personal choice. They’re all pretty twenty bucks a month, fifty bucks a month or whatever.

Ashley: Yes.

Damian                : What matters more is the content that you put into the email and actually doing it like starting to collect email and starting to consistently put things out there. Then the next level up would be like Infusionsoft or using a SalesForcePlus or MailChimp or something but more about going from list where you’re saying, “OK, here is an interest, here is the type of buyer,” and manage it manually by list to an automation tool that says, “OK, we’re going to look at individual contacts and individual people and then start treating them differently based on behaviours they’ve taken.” And so they’ve taken the the next level up. And then you go higher than that and be part of eloquent Marketo, which now we’re talking of thousands of dollars a month and there’s some really high sophistication of what you can do. I think what would be very valuable for dealerships at a time but start small. Go get MailChimp, go get AWeber.

Start there and start to build your list. Start getting used to writing emails to them. A couple of key tips on my emails are three tips. One is brevity is your friend– short, short, short, short. Keep it short, right? People’s attention spans are very small. You want to keep your emails short and punchy. Soon, it’s all about them, right? Don’t write about you. It’s not, “Hey, we’re the best dealership in the world. We ended up one of the Ford dealer in the southeast,” — whatever. No one cares about that. What they care about, “Hey, I know how difficult it is. Buying a car is generally the second and third largest purchase you make after your home.” Talk to them as they are human beings. And third is have a call of action on some site. You want them to take action in the end. Now that can be something as simple as, “Go check out our Facebook page.” It can be something as simple as, “Go read our ‘New Five Tips to Buying a Used Car.’ It can be whatever it is but you want to start training them to… I tell them something to give them value like connect. I ask them to do something. It’s one of those three things. You can do all that in a MailChimp or AWeber and that’s where I would start.

Ashley: Yes. Just sum up those three things again just really quick.

Damian: Be brief. Make it all about them not about you. Have a compelling call of action.

Ashley: I want to take one step back really quick back to the email clients. One concern that I would have, I have not used MailChimp so I don’t know exactly how that works, but with AWeber, they’re very strict with double opt-ins and that basically means that if someone buys a car from you and then you go and put them on to that list, it’s going to send them an email that says, “Do you actually want to be on this list” and they got a click a link that says, “Yes, I want to be in this list.” I would be a little worried that a lot of people might just not do that. I think constant contact is a little more liberal on that and you can import contacts and not have to double opt-in. Is there anything you could speak to that with MailChimp?

Damian:I hear you that’s why I use Campaign Monitor for a long time for that same reason. There are some hacks for that, though. If you upload the list to Wufoo or to a third party act to MailChimp, you could turn off the double opt-in. I am not sure about AWeber. Yes, you’re right. You want to upload a list is what you’re doing actually, right?

Ashley: Yes.

Damian: No matter how technical they are, they do have MailChimp. Mostly tools now have kind of like an iPod opt-in, which is like a single opt-in kind of thing, which is like a point of sales type of opt-in device. You could possibly ask that in. When you go into your forms, it depends on, I guess, what your sales flow is at the dealership. But if it’s all pencil and papers, it’s going to be harder. But if you’re actually doing is entering this into a laptop or onto a computer, it would relatively easy having them opt-in right there.

Ashley: Yes, perfect. Let’s talk a minute about your company. Can you give us a two minute elevator pitch for what you do?

Damian: Sure. I’m the founder and Chief Revenue Officer for a company called Linchpin and we help customers gain new clients faster and retains customers longer, attain market leadership through sales and marketing automation. Essentially, creating sales and marketing funnels that are repeatable and scalable using softwares like MailChimp and Infusionsoft. It’s more about the “software is not a strategy.” It’s helping them understand what they needed to do in order to create these sales to marketing funnels and then to help them implement them over time.

Ashley: Yes, perfect, OK. What is the best way for people to follow you in what you do and perhaps even contact you?

Damian: I respond to all tweets on Twitter. I love Twitter. It’s @damianthompson and then the website is

Ashley: Okay, perfect. I will link to that stuff in the show so if anybody doesn’t have a pen while they’re listening to it, just go to “Share Now” so they can click straight over to that stuff. Damian, you’ve been very generous with your time. I really appreciate you coming on the show.

Damian: No worries, Ashley. It’s a lot of fun.

Ashley: If you’re currently looking for a high quality auto dealer website, check out our sister site We offer high quality auto dealer websites at a very affordable price. Viewers can typically save between $50 and $150 per month by using our service. You can upload as many cars as you’d like at no additional cost. We automatically can expert your cars through all the major platforms like and auto trader so you don’t have to manage your inventory in multiple locations. We can have your new website up and running usually in less than 24 hours. Set-up is free and easy and there are no long-term contracts so you can cancel at any time. Check out to learn more.

Just a couple of quick comments on today’s interview with Damian. I think Damian’s got the right idea with just signing up with something like MailChimp and using that service while you get your email system figured out. Pretty much every time you interact with a customer or potential customer, you should be getting their email address and adding them to one of your lists. These various tools like MailChimp will allow you to automate a lot of this. So, for instance, you’ll be able to create a list called “Prospects” and then write a four or five emails that would get drift out to them according to how this is set up. Or you can create a list called “Past customers” and then you could automatically set it up to send them an email a week after they’ve bought a car, two weeks, thirty days, et cetera so that you have these touch points which can really help with customer engagement. I would have suggested before with the few of the other marketing types I’ve talked about on the show, like Pay-Per-Click and Facebook Ads, the key is to just get in there and start messing around with the various system. That’s how you’re going to learn. And it’s going to seem a lot less complicated once you’ve gotten in there and actually done it for a little while.

That’s our show. I hope you got some value out of it and it can help you grow your business. Thanks for listening.


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