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CSI Bandit
Apr 11, 2009
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How many emails did you receive today from vendors you may have shown interest in at some point? Add in the crippling number of unsolicited emails, and you can see people read so few emails anymore. While most Americans check their phones an average of 160 times a day, few get through all of the emails clogging their inboxes.

SMS Marketing Automation turns shopper engagement tactics on its heels. Email has a place in your strategy and is great for certain campaigns, such as long-form communication, but it isn’t exactly original, and it’s often associated with spam. Texting prospects, customers, and dealership employees, on the other hand, is not only a more modern way to communicate, but it is proven to be more effective in society.

Gartner says, “No other messaging channel approaches SMS in its reach.” The global research and advisory firm recommend mobile marketers “actively seek opportunities to benefit from SMS as a form of engagement and employ SMS as an easy initial method for customers and prospects to connect to your dealership brand.”

Still, only a few automotive dealerships have caught on, continuing to send doomed emails instead of leveraging SMS marketing automation power. This creates a fantastic opportunity for your dealership to stand out in the competitive marketplace. As everyone else zigs, you zag. And in a world where differentiating your dealership brand is important yet one of the hardest things to accomplish, a marketing technique as simple as texting could be the game-changer for your store.

New Game. New Rules.​

SMS marketing automation isn’t the same as email marketing from your CRM. It’s an entirely different channel that demands attention, and it isn’t free. With email, you can write paragraphs, insert beautiful vehicle graphics, and send as many emails as you want without costs beyond your dealership CRM.

Modern communication on the other hand, marketing texts are short in length, relatively limited graphics capabilities, and almost always point the reader to another location, ask questions, or CTA (call to action). This means you have to be selective of your words wisely to get your point across in just a sentence or two to get your shoppers to click a link to get more information, answer a question, engage in a desired activity, or do something you want them to do. Your conversational messaging must be concise, relevant, engaging, and actionable.

Important note: Texts aren’t a secure form of communication, and we have privacy and TCPA issues to deal with in the current marketplace. Gartner outlines a few possible complications of SMS, saying, “SMS campaigns obviously cost more than email campaigns on a per-message basis. To address TCPA concerns, marketers must follow consumer privacy best practices, including explicit opt-in procedures, easy access to terms and conditions, and simple mechanisms to opt-out.”

These aren’t deal-breakers, however. Dealership SMS Automation providers like 360Converge know full well that they have to build in user preferences to be TCPA compliant. But once you get someone to opt-in, you just identified an in market opportunity or an engaged consumer – the golden ticket for any dealership marketing director.

As far as pricing goes, there are multiple price points and pricing structures from which to choose. You’ll typically pay per message or a monthly fee for a specific number of SMS/MMS messages. Depending on the provider your chose and the number of messages you need in your plan, you may also pay a setup fee to get it running.

Determine your budget and usage requirements, and it’s not difficult to find a plan that works for you. Keep in mind that while you may spend more on texting campaigns than you did on email campaigns, the investment clearly has a higher return based on open at 98% and response rates.

The Many Use Cases for SMS Marketing Automation​

If you’ve never considered SMS marketing for your dealership, it may be because you haven’t had time to consider all you can do with texting and an integrated SMS/Email platform. That means you can text or email directly from your system without having to bounce to multiple applications, keeping all texts centralized and archived in one system.

But that’s only the beginning of what you can do with SMS.

The Business Side of Text​

One key to any automotive marketing campaign is to know if it’s worth doing again. Did your financial investment pay off, or do you need to go in a different direction? Your SMS automation platform should provide detailed analytics to see how well your text messaging campaigns are performing instantly.

You can uncover meaningful analytics:

  • Which texts failed to send (so you can correct insufficient or bad data)
  • Which texts were read and by how many (to compare campaigns)
  • How many people responded to the CTA (to gauge the effectiveness and identify opportunities to improve workflow design or overal strategy)
With success metrics in place, you can visualize each SMS campaign’s effectiveness per dollar spent and compare it with other marketing tactics. You can even combine it with email tactics from the same platform to ensure you are consistently reaching the rigth segmented audience on the right channel at the right time with meaningful messaging. Understanding how your marketing efforts contribute to the conversion process is essential also in prioritizing and justifying dealership marketing spend per vehicle retailed or serviced.

The Creative Side of SMS​

What kinds of campaigns are ideal for SMS marketing? According to Hubspot, dealership marketing goals can fall into five broad categories:

  1. Increase the dealerships brand awareness
  2. Generate high-quality leads
  3. Grow and maintain thought leadership around vehicles
  4. Increase customer value by providing helpful content
  5. Empower colleagues at the dealership
SMS marketing automation is ideal for all five of these dealership objectives.

Brand awareness​

Through creative SMS workflows, you can instantly get in front of your target audience with brand messaging that either introduces them to your dealership’s brand, invites them to explore new vehicles or service offerings, or touts your dealership’s unique value proposition. You can use your unique brand voice to express your dealership’s value proposition, mission, and purpose. Text them links to specific offers, service promotions, discounts, and oil change coupons. Invite them to read your dealership blogs, sign up for curated vehicle content, or check out your dealership website, a video, or a social post.

Lead Generation​

Just think, with every opt-in, you’re building an opportunity pipeline for sales and service for your dealership. If someone says “yes” to your text message or does not opt out, they’re giving you the green light to stay in constant contact. They may not do what you ask them like click on a link or participating somehow, but as long as they’re still willing to get the text, there’s a 98% chance they’re at least reading it.

Product Thought leadership​

If you want to dominate the competition, you have to establish your dealership as the best choice. Part of that means convincing your shoppers that you know more and care more than the competition – all to build trust in your dealership.

The Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust in 2020 found that trust is the second most crucial factor in the decision to buy a new brand (53%) or become a loyal customer (49%). Much goes into brand trust, but SMS marketing automation provides a channel to communicate effectively with prospects and customers to build trust.

Customer value​

A happy customer is a loyal customer. SMS Marketing Automation gives you a great channel to continually engage customers with engaging messaging and opportunities. To keep your customers interested, so to speak, and help them build affinity for your dealership, so they continue to purchase and service vehicles and refer others to you, you need a way to reach them consistently. As with any brand awareness, texting will point people to things you know they enjoy, such as special discounts and promotions, Loyalty/members-only opportunities, polls, and social media contests.

Now is the best time to leverage SMS at your dealership to competitively grow your business by communicating with shoppers on the most effective channel available in marketing today. Let 360Converge show you the power of text automation and how it will impact your dealership’s sales and loyalty.
I'm all for leveraging SMS automation for B2C campaigns as it is far higher in engagement from all I've read. However, there is always the need for the customer to opt-in. Do you have any data regarding expected opt-in rates of automated SMS campaigns, or are organizations purchasing lists of customers already opted into a network?
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Joe, what is up? We need to grab some lunch soon.

So let's break down your question a little bit. You need three different types of permission for messaging. Here are the types of messaging and consent required

Conversational Messaging

Conversational messaging is a back-and-forth conversation that takes place over text. If the consumer texts the dealership first and then the dealership responds quickly with a single message, it is likely conversational. If the consumer initiates the conversation and the dealership simply responds, no additional permission is required since this is considered implied consent.

Informational Messaging

Informational messaging is when a shopper gives a dealership their number and asks to be contacted later. Appointment reminders and leads fall into this category because the first message sent by the dealership fulfills the shopper's request. A shopper should agree to receive texts when they give the dealership their mobile number which is considered expressed consent that can be granted over text, forms, website, or even verbally. Written permission works too.

Promotional Messaging

Promotional messaging, or text marketing, is when an SMS message contains a sales or marketing promotion. Consumers must agree to receive promotional texts in writing before a dealership can send a promotional message via text. Express written consent is needed for this type of SMS message.

Ok, now that we knocked that part out at 360Converge we are focused on governance by ensuring all messages meet the necessary compliance. To give you more insight I also attached an image out of one of our sales decks. You will see that we decided that every outcoming message would contain two key elements to always stay in TCPA compliance. The first is the dealership's name is in the header of every text message to show exactly who the message is from and second, we enable opt-out in each message. We also test every message to ensure deliverability with the carriers before it is sent. We do the same with email since our platform is omnichannel giving you the capacity to send both text campaigns and emails and intermix the channel during campaigns.


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Great post. I've been using SMS Marketing for our Virtual BDC and SMS is super powerful. HOWEVER, this must be laser-targeted. Large blasts are usually bad for ROI, unsubs and complaints. Since we're using our clients' databases, we've been super careful with that. A lot of money sleeping over SMS for most dealers for sure.