Best Practices for SMS Marketing in Used Car Dealerships

May 24, 2024| Zach Klempf

One of the most persistent challenges faced by used car dealerships is maintaining consistent and meaningful engagement with potential customers. Traditional marketing methods, such as emails and phone calls, often fall short, with emails suffering from a dismal open rate of just around 20%. This lack of engagement can lead to missed opportunities and stagnant sales. However, there is a solution that has proven to be remarkably effective: SMS marketing. Research shows that SMS marketing boasts an impressive 98% open rate, and 90% of messages are read within three minutes of receipt. This immediacy and high engagement rate make SMS marketing a powerful tool for used car dealerships looking to connect with potential buyers quickly and effectively. To harness the full potential of SMS marketing, it is essential to follow best practices that ensure your messages are both impactful and well-received.

The cornerstone of a successful SMS marketing campaign is building a quality subscriber list. Ensuring that subscribers have opted-in to receive messages from your dealership not only complies with legal requirements, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), but also guarantees that your audience is genuinely interested in your offerings. Collecting phone numbers through various channels, such as website sign-ups, in-store promotions, and social media campaigns, can help create a robust list of engaged customers.

Once you have a quality list, personalization plays a crucial role in the effectiveness of SMS marketing. Studies indicate that personalized messages deliver six times higher engagement rates compared to generic ones. Incorporating the customer’s name and referencing their previous interactions or preferences can significantly enhance engagement. For example, if a customer has shown interest in SUVs, tailoring messages to highlight new arrivals or special promotions on SUVs can capture their attention more effectively.

Conciseness is another critical factor to consider. Given that SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, it is important to keep your messages short and to the point. Focus on delivering a clear and compelling call-to-action (CTA). For instance, a message like "Hi John, a 2020 Ford Mustang GT is now in stock. Visit us today for a test drive. Reply YES to schedule an appointment." is straightforward and prompts immediate action.

Timing is also essential in SMS marketing. Sending messages at times when recipients are most likely to read and respond to them can significantly increase engagement rates. Research suggests that the best times to send promotional texts are between 10 AM and 8 PM. Avoid sending messages too early in the morning or too late at night to prevent annoying your customers and potentially increasing opt-out rates. In addition to timing, the frequency of your messages can impact customer engagement. Bombarding customers with too many messages can lead to annoyance and an increase in opt-out rates. On the other hand, too few messages might cause your audience to forget about your dealership. Striking the right balance is key. Typically, sending one to two messages per week is a good starting point, but this can be adjusted based on customer feedback and engagement metrics. Another best practice is to provide exclusive offers and timely updates through SMS. Informing customers about limited-time service promotions, VIP events, or new arrivals creates a sense of urgency and encourages immediate action. For example, a message stating, "Exclusive VIP offer: Get $100 off oil changes this weekend only!" can motivate customers to visit your dealership sooner rather than later. Exclusive offers make customers feel valued and special, fostering loyalty and repeat business.

It's also crucial to ensure your messages are clear and compliant with all relevant regulations. Including an easy opt-out option, such as "Reply STOP to unsubscribe," is not only a legal requirement but also helps maintain trust with your audience. Clear messaging and compliance with regulations protect your dealership from potential legal issues and enhance your credibility with customers. Monitoring and analyzing the performance of your SMS marketing campaigns is essential to refine your strategies and improve results. By tracking metrics such as delivery rates, open rates, and conversion rates, you can gain valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t. For example, if you notice that messages sent on certain days or times have higher engagement rates, you can adjust your scheduling accordingly. Similarly, analyzing which types of messages generate the most responses can help you tailor your content to better meet customer preferences.

Integrating SMS marketing with other marketing channels can further enhance its effectiveness. For instance, using SMS to follow up on leads generated through email campaigns or social media can create a cohesive and multi-faceted marketing strategy. Cross-channel integration ensures that your messaging is consistent and that customers receive reminders through their preferred communication channels, increasing the likelihood of engagement. Additionally, leveraging automation tools can streamline your SMS marketing efforts and ensure timely and relevant communication. Automated messages for appointment reminders, follow-ups, and post-purchase thank you notes can save time and provide a personalized touch without manual intervention. Automation can also help segment your audience based on behavior and preferences, allowing for more targeted and effective messaging.

Customer feedback is another valuable resource for optimizing your SMS marketing campaigns. Encouraging customers to provide feedback on their experience with your dealership and your SMS communications can provide insights into areas for improvement. For example, a quick survey sent via SMS after a test drive or purchase can help you understand customer satisfaction and identify any issues that need addressing. SMS marketing offers a highly effective solution for used car dealerships struggling to maintain customer engagement through traditional methods. With its high open rates and immediacy, SMS marketing can drive significant results when executed correctly. 

With SMS marketing having unbeatable open rates and quick engagement, it's the key to connecting with your customers. By building a quality subscriber list, personalizing messages, and keeping communications concise and timely, you can transform your dealership's outreach and boost sales. Want to learn more and get started? Visit to download your free guide and unlock the power of SMS marketing for your dealership.ship.

Tags: text messaging used car dealers automotive industry auto industry dealership texting texting automation dealership SMS used car dealer license text blast sms marketing auto industry trends used car market independent dealership

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