1. Integrated Marketing Best Practices
Avoiding Anti-Spam Filters
The purpose of this newsletter is to supply the knowledge and
understanding of electronic communication strategy, email content,
form and structure needed to increase the percentage of electronic
messages that reach the customer, as intended by the dealer, and not
blocked by Spam Filters.
Growth of Email Marketing by Dealers
Ward’s Dealer Business’ Cliff Banks says email marketing in
dealerships will explode this year and if you ask the top dealers in the
nation, they’ll tell you it’s THE critical communication channel with their
Internet prospects. Whether you’re new to email marketing, or you’re an
expert at segmenting your database and sending targeted messages, the
following presentation will provide a variety of email marketing best
practices to ensure your messages get through to your customers.
Protecting Dealership Communication Channels
In its recent Internet Security Threat Report, Symantec Corporation reported that spam
accounted for over 60% of all email traffic from July – December 2004. The good news
is - a plethora of spam filters that are springing up everywhere, from your ISP to your
desktop, are doing their job. The bad news is – they’re doing it too well.
According to iMedia Connection, as much as 17-19% of legitimate, permission-based
email messages are erroneously blocked by the top ISPs, a number that has been
steadily increasing over the past few years.
Email communication is critical for today’s auto dealer, so anything that disrupts this
channel should be considered a hazard to your business. Anyway you slice it, a
17-19% loss in your business is staggering. In fact, this problem causes American
businesses to lose billions of dollars every year.
Your Internet-related service providers (like lead providers, website developers and CRM technology
providers) should be your first line of defense when it comes to ensuring the integrity of your email
communication channel, so you can focus your attention on the business at hand – selling cars.
Nevertheless, as a dealer, there are things you can do to increase the odds that email communications get
through to your intended recipients.
While the following best practices can’t guarantee that all your messages get through every time; the
key is doing what you can to increase your odds.
2. The Telephone - Still the Killer App
Just Like Donald Trump
Before we get into more detailed talk about email communication, there’s one thing that every
Internet-savvy dealer needs to keep in mind:
The telephone is still the killer sales application, second only to the face-to-face
meeting. I once heard that Donald Trump never uses a computer; he’s always on the
phone. Regardless of what you might think of Mr. Trump, you can’t deny the man’s
Yes, you’re an Internet dealer, and yes, these are Internet prospects who prefer to
interact online. Still, it’s business critical to get on the phone whenever possible, in
addition to emailing your prospects, until they expressly tell you not to.
That being said, the following sections provide some email techniques and best practices that
can help you eliminate the types of red flags that alert spam filters which prevent your
communications from getting through to your prospects and customers…
Anti-spam filters are the mine fields in the war against spam, and they’re a threat to your
innocuous emails. There are spam filters on the mail server, or Internet service provider, side; in
corporate firewalls; and also on the client-side, or your intended recipient’s computer.
Many filters today assign a point system to certain trigger words,
phrases, or punctuations that are commonly seen in spam emails.
If an email surpasses its quota of spam points, it is sent to the junk
email folder or else destroyed before it ever gets to your intended recipient’s inbox.
Spam Filters work like a Missile Defense
system, blowing up email messages before
they hit your customer’s email inbox
The top Internet service providers, like AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and Verizon, all have their own customized
rules for defining and weeding out spam. The big ISPs have routers for their email domains that analyze all
incoming emails. These routers can automatically block emails that come from certain addresses, which the
ISP has “black listed,” because consumers have complained about spam.
Any dealer that has mistakenly been put on an ISP black list knows how burdensome it is to get off. This is
why it is so business critical to have a “good email reputation” with consumers, because one too many
complaints can mean doom for your email marketing program. This goes for both your dealership and your
email marketing tool vendor – both of which have an impact on ISP relations and a hand in staying off the
BDC Managers and ISM’s can inadvertently get dealers “Blacklisted”
Maintain Good Relations with Top ISP’s
3. The most important element to getting your email communications through is maintaining good relations
with Internet Service Providers. In other words, the mail server that sends your emails must remain in good
standing. If a few consumers complain to their ISP about junk mail coming from a particular dealership’s
mail server, the ISP will address the issue by categorically blacklisting, or blocking all mail, coming from
that server. This will affect not just your business, but every other business that sends campaigns from that
server. A quality email service provider will always
work to maintain good relations with the ISP’s.”
As a dealer, the part you play in maintaining that good reputation is building your email list,
controlling email content, and managing how often and to how many people you send campaigns.
This should be a partnership where the technology provider and dealer protect each other’s interests.
Bulk Email and One-to-One Communications
One strategy that experts like Bill Boebel, chief technical officer at Webmail (provider of secure email
hosting services), suggests is sending your bulk, or large list, email messages from a different server than
you use to send your one-to-one correspondences. This helps protect the integrity of your one-to-one
communications in the event a consumer receiving bulk communications from your dealership complains,
and that server is temporarily blacklisted. A good email or CRM tool provider can help you with this
Best Practice Blacklist Defense Tip:
Using a 3rd Party server for bulk emails creates a non-dealer related target for Anti-Spam “Blacklisting”
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003
Otherwise known as “The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act” has
done little to stem the flow of unwanted emails burdening the system. Nevertheless, legislation has set some
standards that dealerships should follow, not just for self-protection, but to differentiate themselves from
spammers. Failure to comply with CAN-SPAM can invite both criminal and civil penalties and allows suits
by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), State Attorneys General, and Internet Service Providers.
With new legislation in place, dealers need to pay attention to employee bulk email practices.
The following section presents an overview of business practices that dealers should follow to be
CAN-SPAM compliant. It’s also a good idea to read up on this Act in more detail, obtain a copy of
NADA’s publication on CAN-SPAM and review all your dealership’s current email practices.
1. Do include an opt-out system making it easy for customers to unsubscribe, or opt-out, from
receiving broadcast emails
2. Do have a functioning reply address and an unsubscribe system that operates for at least 30 days
after your last broadcast emailing
3. Do include your postal mailing, or physical address in the message
4. Don't use fraudulent or deceptive subject lines, headers, "From" names, or return addresses in
5. Don’t allow spammers to market your products and services – you can be liable if they break the
6. Don’t send emails to people whose email addresses have been harvested from websites or
7. Don’t send emails to people who request to be removed from your broadcast list
4. • On February 7, 2005, as directed by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) adopted new rules to protect consumers and businesses from receiving unwanted
electronic mail messages on their wireless devices, such as mobile phones.
• In order for a dealer to send broadcast emails to consumers on their wireless devices, or to specific
wireless domains (click here to see the list) used to transmit wireless electronic messages, it must get
“express prior authorization,” in other words, there is a strict opt-in requirement. In fact, it’s more
stringent than the requirements set forth for regular, non-wireless email addresses.
The following section discusses recommended business practices for dealers to comply
with the new wireless CAN-SPAM rules…
1. Get prior authorization such as the subscriber's signature, including an electronic signature to send
them communications to their wireless devices. This means you not only need to obtain permission
prior to sending a message, you also need to be able to prove you have it.
2. Disclose the following at the time authorization is being collected:
• Customer agrees to receive mobile service commercial messages (should be on R.O.’s)
• The name of the business that will be sending the messages
• They may be charged by their wireless provider for receiving messages
• They may revoke authorization to receive messages at any time when being charged by
their wireless service provider in connection with receipt of such messages
3. If you have any email addresses in your database that you believe are being sent to wireless
devices, it is recommended that you contact these people and ask for another email address.
Even if your database is totally opt-in, it’s still a good idea to double check with those consumers to
get their permission again to send them communications to their wireless devices.
Using a reputable email marketing tool provider is your first line of defense, the next is applying the same
high standards of professionalism that you use in your showroom to your email marketing communications.
Branding and consistency make you look good and will also instill trust with your customers.
1. Set clear expectations and define value. If you’re asking for your customers’ email addresses, set
clear expectations with them on what they’ll get, such as monthly coupons for oil changes, special
promotions, and data on new inventory. In your first communication to them, remind them of the
email address they gave to you and why they’ve subscribed.
2. Ask your customers to add your “From” address to their email address book or “safe list” to ensure
they receive your valuable offers. You can put a short statement at the top of your outgoing email
communications that says something along the lines of:
• “Make sure you don't miss out on our emails, add Joe@JoeSmithHonda.com to your address
• “To ensure that filter controls used by your ISP do not interrupt the delivery of our
communications and special offers, please add Linda.Jones@LindaJonesHonda.com to your
address book, or click here and send an empty email to this address.”
(This option takes advantage of the fact that many email systems, like AOL, add the people to
whom consumers have sent an email automatically to their “Safe Senders List.”)
• “You have requested information from Maurice’s AutoWorld. Please add this email address
to your address book and our domain name, <@Maurice.com> to your email client “Safe
5. List.” This will ensure that you receive our special discount service offers and new model
notices, and that they do not accidentally end up in your junk mail folder.”
• “Due to the more restrictive nature of several large email hosts like AOL, MSN,
Roadrunner, Prodigy and others, our messages may be filtered out. We will reply to your
requests as soon as possible. If you do not get a follow-up message from us within an hour,
please contact us by phone so we can ensure that we satisfy your requests.”
It's also helpful to provide subscribers with a link to a page where they can find further instructions
on how to add your email address to their address book. These instructions vary from one email
provider to another.
3. Maintain a consistent Digital Signature, or Footer in all your communications.
All of your dealership’s personnel who interact with customers should have a consistent digital
signature. If you think about it, this marketing tool is one that is used as often, and probably seen by
as many consumers, as any other medium. So make it consistent and make it look good. Include
uniform font sizes, layout, etc.
As you build your email database, it will become one of your dealership’s most valuable assets. Here
are some ways to build and maintain a database that is the envy of your competition:
1. “Double Opt-In” Activated by Your Customers
If possible, use a confirmed or double opt-in system. It’s the best way to prove that your subscribers
gave express consent to receive your emails. This is something your email service provider can help
you set up. This could be something as simple as having your customer check a box on an
application they’re filling out at the dealership. These records can protect you in the event a
consumer complains about the emails they receive and you get blacklisted by an ISP.
2. Allow recipients to unsubscribe in one step, automatically. Then be sure they’re removed and
your system marks them as opted out.
Many ISPs, like AOL, make hitting the ‘This is spam button’ as easy as hanging up the telephone.
Consumers will do that as a way of opting-out, which only puts you and your email service provider
at risk of being blacklisted. Making it easier for your recipients to unsubscribe than to hit the spam
button protects you, your dealership’s reputation, and your email service provider. Not to mention, it
saves you time, because those are the kinds of customers you don’t want to waste your resources on
anyway – they become more of a liability than anything.
3. Do not purchase or rent lists. This is part of CAN SPAM compliance, and you want consumers to
be in your database by choice not trickery
4. Secure your customer data and don't sell or rent out your lists
5. Analyze bounced and undelivered emails. Look for trends that you can correct. Also, some
emails bounce due to simple typos and misspellings, which can be fixed
6. Always remove undeliverable emails and bounces. Your email tool provider should have an
automated system for deleting emails after a certain number of failed attempts. Repeatedly sending
too many emails that bounce can alert the spam filters
6. Especially Watch the Words Used in Your Emails
Part and parcel with maintaining good relations with ISPs is the content and format of your email
communications. Certain words, phrases, punctuation and HTML coding commonly used by spammers will
raise red flags and trigger the spam filters. It is important to be aware of what they are and avoid them when
you can. It’s a list that changes on a regular basis, so be sure to keep abreast of ongoing updates.
Both Individual and Broadcast Email “To” and “From” Fields:
1. Watch what you put in the “To” and “From” fields in your emails. Try to avoid the following:
2. Also avoid in these fields:
Excess spaces, empty field, strange names or unreal name in the From field
Subject Line Content:
• In your message subject line, be as specific as possible, with as many relevant details as you can fit.
Spam filters are more inclined to let specific messages through than generic ones. Example: when
your dealership sends a newsletter, say it’s a newsletter and include the month of the newsletter in
the subject line
• Avoid using punctuation symbols – like “ ” quotation marks, $$$ dollar signs, and !!!! exclamation
• Avoid using all CAPITAL letters, in other words, no need to SHOUT – you’ll wake up the spam
• Avoid putting a toll-free (800) number in the subject line (local area code numbers are good)
The following words, in both your email subject headlines and in the body of the email are known to
trigger multiple types of Spam filters:
• Free - alone or in combinations, for example:
“free dinner with test drive”
• FREE – in all caps
• Guarantee, GUARANTEED
• money back
• Call now
7. • what are you waiting for
• while supplies last
• click here, click below
• million dollars
• Don’t miss this
• 50% off!
• You're a Winner!
• cash bonus
• Act Now!
• All New
• Buy direct
• Special Promotion
• easy terms
• great offer
• No cost, No fees
• One time
• Please read
• Don't delete
• Save up to
• Time limited
• Visit our website
• While supplies last
• Why pay more?
• You've been selected
• give it away, giving it away
The following words, in both your email Message Body of the email are known to trigger filters:
• Large block of hexadecimal (16 units) code
• One or more lines of large fonts or all caps – YELLING at the recipient
• At least 70 percent blank lines
• Header contains numbers mixed in with letters
• Message body claims not to be spam
• Body contains "removal instructions"
• Body contains "Dear friend"
• Excessive use of “click here”
8. In addition to language, graphics, images and certain HTML coding can alert spam filters. Now, AOL, one
of the most popular ISPs, and Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, the most popular email clients, will
no longer automatically load HTML graphics, which means your artistic HTML emails may look terrible in
your recipients’ preview screens. In addition, AOL may deactivate links in your emails before your
prospects receive them.
HTML emails tend to get deleted more frequently than plain text emails. And, many consumer
actually prefer plain text emails. One reason is that plain text emails load faster, which is especially
important for AOL users who are still on dialup.
The next section provides techniques in using HTML emails that are more likely to
arrive as the sender intended…
If you want to use HTML emails, consider the following to avoid spam filters:
1. Use all-white backgrounds instead of colors.
2. Use style sheets in your HTML code if possible.
3. Use links to Web pages with robust content instead of including all content in your email.
4. Use tables to organize information and separate numbers from text.
5. Send HTML messages with a text alternative for the customer to use if needed.
6. Don’t use oversized fonts.
7. Don’t use a lot of different colored fonts.
8. Don’t include “.exe” files or attachments with your message unless requested by recipient.
9. Don’t use BCC distribution methods with over 10 names per email.
Build, Test, Use, Monitor and Re-Test Email Templates
• The email marketing universe is changing rapidly, with new technologies and new tricks by
spammers, so it’s important to continuously monitor, test, and make adjustments to ensure the
integrity of this critical communication channel for your dealership.
• It’s a good idea to open email accounts with all the main service providers, including AOL, Yahoo,
MSN, Hotmail, Gmail, and others, so you can see what your customers see. Check your CRM tool
using search functions to see what email domains are commonly used among your customers.
Develop Email Standards and Policies for the Dealership
• Email marketing is one of the most cost-efficient tools at any dealership’s disposal. This doesn’t
mean you should simply accept it as a cost of doing business that a percentage of your emails are
not going to get through. This is unacceptable and, in a way, let’s the spammers win. A good
email tool provider is your first line of defense. Setting email marketing standards for your
dealership is your second. Make your email marketing program is top notch, just like your
showroom, your service department, and your website, and you can reap huge rewards from this
vital communication channel.
Reference Links and Information Sources
CAN SPAM Act of 2003