You’d be forgiven for thinking that, with the continuous march of technology, text messaging – and certainly it’s use in marketing, has become a thing of the past. Forgiven, but in fact wrong. The simplicity of text has made its appeal and relevance an enduring factor in effective marketing. Short Messaging Service – or SMS marketing, has only been forgotten by those who could benefit by its use – which incredibly includes a lot of car dealers. Your customers have continued to text, message, and chat with friends, families, and potentially – your competitors, as you’ve continued to send emails, make phone calls, or post on social media.
This is surprising, as automotive retail is an industry that is practically pre-optimized for making the most of what SMS marketing has to offer. Even now, in the 2020s, sales and service teams are hardwired to get one key piece of information from any customer they come into contact with: their cell number! Dealer databases are stuffed to the brim with mobile phone numbers, which are rarely utilized, and even more rarely actually called. As a channel of communication, SMS is still greatly overlooked by dealerships.
In this article, we’ll be looking at SMS marketing for car dealers, and why it should be a significant part of your campaigning.
Why use SMS marketing at your car dealership?
One of the best reasons to use SMS marketing is also one of the most practical – because you will see higher response rates. Text messaging is five times* more effective than direct mail when it comes to engagement.
At the same time, it’s also much more cost effective. On average, texting your customers is 95%* cheaper than calling them on mobile. Then, you have to consider the cost in time – as well as the amount of time SMS marketing will save you. If a member of your sales or service team sets out to call fifteen customers, it’s estimated they’ll be occupied for 45 minutes* to an hour. Alternatively, texting the same fifteen customers could take just 60 seconds.
You’ll also be increasing your reach. The Mobile Marketing Association estimate that 23% of people will show, or even forward an SMS marketing message to at least one friend. And we’ll close this section with another practical reason – SMS marketing is easy to set up and usually doesn’t require software to be downloaded. And even if you use a dedicated SMS marketing company, most accounts are usually free to set up and will include a number of free text credits.
Should I be worried about data protection?
A reason given by many dealers for avoiding SMS marketing, especially for smaller, independent operations – are worries over data protection. In short, if a customer has given you their contact details whilst purchasing a vehicle, booking a service or required maintenance, or made any kind of enquiry where they have willingly provided their details – then they’re fair game. But there are some things you do need to bear in mind.
First off, and probably the most important – any communication needs to be roughly relevant to your business and their initial enquiry. So, texting them about the products and services you provide – from trying to sell them a car, to special offers on parts, are all appropriate. What you can’t do though, is attempt to sell or promote something else that would be considered outside of your usual remit. It’s unlikely you have a bulk order of laptops, cigars, or shot glasses (you get the picture) to push onto your customers, but if you do, don’t use text to do it.
There are some other best-practice recommendations you can follow to avoid data protection issues. Firstly, either quote your company name prominently in the message, or use a dedicated service that gives you a named caller ID. This will enable your customers to see who is contacting them right away. SnapCell Messenger is a way to chat back and forth with your customers (perhaps after sending them a stunning video) via a fully TCPA-compliant (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) SMS number created especially for your dealership.
Secondly, provide them with a direct telephone contact number, and where possible, a simple, opt-out text number. This gives your customers what they need to take things further, but also enables them to tell you they don’t want to be contacted. And don’t be dismissive of the latter – knowing a customer doesn’t want to be contacted saves you time, money, and improves customer satisfaction by avoiding unnecessary communications.
If you are using a TCPA-compliant service or system, you should be covered against any legislation. GDPR (the UK equivalent) complicates this slightly, but overall, the principles remain the same. If in doubt about TCPA or GDPR, we recommend seeking appropriate advice for your market and region.
Remember it’s a communication channel as well as a sales tool
SMS marketing for car dealerships is without doubt an effective tool for selling new and used cars, getting more services booked, and improving upsell overall. But utilizing it fully as a communication channel will also help you harvest more reviews, grow customer satisfaction, and increase engagement.
The ways you can use SMS marketing to communicate are practically endless. For instance, groups are a popular aspect of social media platforms for discussing mutual topics. The same principle can be adopted for text messaging. You could consider targeting specific groups of customers with SMS communications – a text club that shares driving tips like winter driving advice for instance.
As its abbreviated name implies (Short Messaging Service), text is ideal for quickly communicating brief yet important information. A few examples include:
- Let your customer know their car is ready for collection, or there’s a slight delay in dropping it off
- Deferred sales and opportunities. Maybe it’s time to change those tyres or book a service – prompt your customers to get organised and make an appointment
- Say thank you. A short message thanking a customer for their business, for visiting, leaving a review, or making a referral, goes a long way
- Follow up. From getting a customer satisfaction survey completed to asking if they can make an upcoming appointment, text is a quick and effective way to confirm things
- Service updates. Let your customers know that winter tyres are back in stock, or that your opening hours have changed
It’s good to talk (via text)
As we’ve covered, SMS marketing for car dealers is a really effective way of communicating with your customers. As specialists in email and video marketing, we know that one of the biggest issues any dealership faces is getting noticed. Whereas your email might contain a fantastic, high quality video showcasing the best of what you have to offer – and just what your customer needs, it still needs to be opened and read to have impact.
The increasing digital floods of junk mail are burying relevant messages that might be useful. Open rates for email messages are therefore under fire, but you can use texts to point your customers in the right direction. Let them know to look for an incoming email, and you are bound to see vastly improved open rates.
The reason is simple. SMS open rates have held consistently at 98% for nearly a decade†. This makes sense when you think about it – we’ve all seen email inboxes full of unopened messages, and deleting an email without reading it is commonplace. In fact, only 6% of emails are responded to on average†. But how many texts do you delete without opening or reading? Not many we’d guess.
In fact, the potential for SMS marketing as a channel is huge. There are now over five billion mobile phone users walking the planet – that’s over 63%‡ of the global population. At the same time, over 60% of consumers prefer SMS messages to emails – it’s their channel of choice for all communications. What’s more, a study by FastSMS conducted in the US, revealed that 37% of prospective buyers would like dealers to text them – and 46% want to continue receiving text communications after making a purchase. And according to Digital Marketing Magazine, roughly 75% of any dealer’s existing customer base are open to receiving text messages from the business.
At the same time as considering response rates, you should also consider response times. It takes the average person 90 seconds to respond or reply to a text, whereas an email could take them 90 minutes. 95% of all text messages are opened and read within three minutes of being sent.
Don’t get us wrong, email is still one of the three most effective and most powerful marketing tools you have available to you. But combined with SMS marketing, you can massively compliment and improve your email strategy, and use it to strengthen the inherent weaknesses of email – like open and response rates.
As we pointed out in the last section, using the different tools you have available to you to boost their effectiveness is an important part of optimizing their effectiveness. That’s why SnapCell isn’t just an automotive video tool for mobile and desktop – it’s also been designed to work in unison with SMS marketing campaigns.
From using SnapCell Messenger to keep a conversation going, to simply sending a link of a dedicated video or your YouTube channel to the right customers, we provide everything you need to get the job done. By having the app on your phone, communicating and texting is made easy with just a few clicks, and as simple as copy and paste.
If you’d like to know more how SnapCell can help optimize your dealership’s SMS marketing campaigns, talk to a member of the team today.
*Mobile Marketing Association