Whether you’re selling doughnuts, dog houses or all-terrain vehicles, one axiom holds true: making good conversation ultimately leads to making good sales. The key is how to start a dialogue with your customers in a way that not only captures their attention, but also avoids annoying them.

Digital communications have been both a blessing and a curse to the small

businessperson. The burgeoning popularity of communication through web sites and e-mails have given rural lifestyle dealers new tools with which to reach their audience. As an equipment dealer, you know how important it is to employ tools correctly.

If you think every communications challenge looks like a nail, then you’ll always rely on a hammer, and you’ll drive away customers instead of starting conversations. E-mail must be used correctly. Half the battle is collecting the right addresses. The other half is delivering the right content in the right way.

There is one main rule when it comes to e-mail marketing, and you must abide by it. In each e-mail you send, give recipients the chance to “opt out” of receiving further communications. Your job is to make your e-mails interesting and valuable enough to your recipients that they don’t choose to opt out.

Getting Addresses

The most important part of e-mail marketing is acquiring e-mail addresses. Lists are available from third-party vendors that specialize in e-mail capture and list generation. Make sure you work with a reputable vendor to get a list with fresh, local, active addresses that belong to people in your target audience.

Buying a list from an equipment magazine assures addresses are verified and cover people in your target demographic. But as a local dealership, you might get more for your money if you negotiate with national publications for a discounted list of readers in your area.

Dealer Takeaways


  • You must give e-mail recipients the chance to “opt out” of receiving further e-mails from you.
  • The most important part of e-mail marketing is acquiring addresses of prospective customers that fit your demographic.
  • Give your e-mail customers an interesting read — not just advertising.

You might be able to buy a list from your local newspaper. But these addresses aren’t necessarily in your demographic. Filters may capture your e-mail, and if not, it can annoy potential customers who don’t like unsolicited e-mail.

How to Get Addresses

So what’s the best way to collect valid e-mail addresses? Start with everyone who walks into your store. They’re visiting you, so they’re clearly interested in what you have to sell. Collect e-mail addresses as part of any purchase. Also, create a station in your store where customers can sign up for weekly prize drawings for jackets, hats or sweatshirts. Weekly winners would be entered at year’s end to win a grand prize that could be donated from an OEM. These sign-ups would require customers to enter their e-mail addresses, as winners would be notified in that way.

If you have a web site, include a section where visitors can sign up for the drawings as well as for more information about products and information that your dealership offers.

Now What?

So you’re developing a list of e-mail addresses. What do you do with it?

Keep in mind that people are highly sensitive to spam. Even too much e-mail from companies they like can annoy them. So make sure the e-mails you send offer content that your target audience can use. A good way to keep people from clicking on that “opt out” button is to provide more content than just advertising.

Consider creating a newsletter. As a rural lifestyle dealership, you’re catering to people who love the outdoors. Some of them are new to it, but even the old hands love learning new tricks, including tips on maintenance or landscaping. Invite customer submissions to make it interactive. Embed ads amid the articles, so your advertising message comes across at the same time your customers feel you are providing them a service.

Rewarding Conversation

The best conversation builds a relationship, and that’s what good e-mail marketing can do for you. Focus on developing content to make your end of the conversation rewarding for your customers. Approach e-mail marketing in this way, and you’ll develop the dialogue that leads to the sales you want.