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Dealer sees 600 percent increase in email open rate

By Dave McMahon

Noble shares Harley dealership’s tactics

Neil Noble, general manager of Biker Bob’s Harley-Davidson in Taylor, Mich., provided fellow dealers at Profit Xcelerator in Las Vegas with about 6,000 reasons why an effective email campaign can develop customer loyalty.

Speaking as part of the Dealer Solutions Panel, Noble had an attentive audience when he discussed the dealership’s email efforts.

The store’s database now has about 6,000 names. But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, last fall, the list included less than 4,000 names.

The dealership implemented a contest in which email recipients were rewarded for forwarding the newsletter to friends. That tactic brought a tremendous growth spike.

“We did a little promotion with prizes. We would input the data of everyone who forwarded the message to a friend. We can see who those people are with the email provider we use,” Noble said. “We put those names into a drawing and announced the winner in the following newsletter. We did that for 90 days, and it really gave us a huge boost.”

Depending on the size of the dealership, the prizes offered can run the gamut from a patch or T-shirt to dealership gift cards.

Of course not all 6,000 names on the list open the email. But the dealership does have an impressive open rate.

“The last email we sent out, 3,250 opened and read the email, which was pretty amazing,” Noble said. “We used to struggle to get 400-500 people to read the email.”

(Left to right) Neil Noble; Mark Niforopulos, owner of St. Boni Motorsports in St. Bonifacious, Minn.; and Rich Worley, owner of American Biker in Charleston, S.C., sat on the Dealer Solutions Panel at the 2011 ProfitX.

Noble admits that hiring someone with marketing knowledge has proven beneficial. Interesting subject lines are just the first step in getting recipients to open the email. And, content is king.

“We have pictures and stories about our customers and their bikes. We have a bike night every week, and there are always photos from the bike night in the newsletter, in addition to product info, sales info, promotions.

“The customers look forward to seeing the newsletter because they see their friends — and themselves — and their bikes. They’re sharing it.”

Rich Worley, owner of American Biker near Charleston, S.C., also sat on the panel. He cautioned dealers to keep their sales staff focused on the task at hand during events — selling product.

“I do two big events per year to get people excited about my dealership, to throw some hype toward my shop compared to a couple of other shops in town,” Worley said. “But I made the mistake of focusing on throwing a big party and having bands. I was throwing a great party, but I wasn’t selling anything. There’s a fine line between having a good event and keeping the sales staff focused. Now I have the guys meet the customers when they get off the bikes from a test ride, bring them back into the dealership personally and try to close on a bike sale.”

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