A lack of reliable e-mail addresses can ruin dealers' attempts to promote car sales over the Internet. But at least one dealer has found a way to clean up the addresses and get through to prospects.
Multifranchise dealer Ernie Boch Jr. held a President's Day sale online in February, but he first sent two teaser e-mails in advance. The mail went to persons who registered their names and e-mail addresses at the Web site for Boch Enterprises of Norwood, Mass.
'We sent out 72-hour (in advance) and 48-hour teasers telling people about the sale,' said Boch, who is vice president of Boch Enterprises. 'Each one that went to a bad e-mail address came back. We washed out the bad e-mail addresses from our database.'
The teasers served a dual purpose - they built interest in the sale and helped clean out Boch's online address list.
Boch sent the first teaser to about 800 addresses; more than 200 of the messages were returned because of invalid addresses. After the second teaser another 20 or 30 messages came back, said Boch.
He was left with 508 good addresses when it came time to send the final mailing for the President's Day sale. The last mailing fetched just under a 2 percent response rate. Ten of the customers who received the e-mail bought a vehicle the day of the sale.
The final e-mail directed prospects to the Boch Web site for deals. Boch shut down its usual Web site by temporarily changing the address. In place of the usual Web site, the company substituted special sale content, listing all the vehicles up for sale with discounted prices; about half of Boch's inventory was discounted.
'The prices were about $300 lower than they were in the paper,' said Boch. 'And our prices in the paper were cheap.'
Not everyone shares Boch's success with e-mail campaigns. Criswell Automotive in Gaithersburg, Md., received little response to a promotion at the end of March.
The company offered special discounts to people who contacted Criswell's Web site or got in touch with Criswell through an online buying service, which matches prospects with dealers for a fee. Half of the addresses were invalid, said Neil Kopit, director of marketing for Criswell.