Email Strategy

Authored by Linnea Vogelzang-Brown, Content Services Manager

As HubSpot tells us, there are 3.9 billion email users daily, almost half of which are on mobile, and while there are staggering statistics covering the importance of email communications, perhaps the most important is ROI, since “email generates $38 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 3,800% ROI, making it one of the most effective options available.”

In the automotive space, email is an important tool to utilize to stay in touch with your consumers during their lifecycle and as they move from one vehicle to the next.

Email enhances your overall marketing strategy.

This email strategy chapter will cover the following:

  1. Graymail vs. Smart Email
  2. Integration with other mediums
  3. Images, animated gifs, and video
  4. Mobile email strategy

Graymail vs Smart Email

Dealers are historically known for marketing to everyone in their database—the idea being that the more consumers you market to, the more likely you are to get conversions. This has never been true, and dealers need to be smarter about their marketing efforts.

So, what is Graymail? As HubSpot explained:

“Graymail is email that contacts have opted in to receive, but never open or click. Spam filters can identify and filter out emails that your recipients aren’t opening or clicking. This increases the likelihood that future emails will end up in the junk folder or spam filter. By continuing to send email to contacts who don’t open or click, you’re lowering your sender score overall.”

Similarly, if you have a Gmail address, you may have noticed that every so often a message pops up asking if you want to unsubscribe from something because you haven’t opened or clicked on anything from that sender in a long time.

One solution for avoiding these deliverability traps is to create a sunset policy specific to your business to determine who should be removed from communications and when—i.e., after a certain number of nonresponses. While this is a great idea in principle and necessary in today’s landscape, it can also be cumbersome to undertake on your own, especially with limited staff.

What you need is a tool that can predict a consumer’s propensity to engage and prevent you from overcommunicating and creating even more graymail.

This is done by utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine how frequently to send communications to each consumer. Excluding certain consumers does not mean permanently excluding them or removing any valid consumer records from your database. Those customers and prospects are simply being “rested.”

Data across industries has shown this to be the best answer to reduce spam complaints and increase Inbox Placement Rate (IPR) by upwards of 90%, thwarting deliverability issues and keeping currently unengaged consumers from becoming unreachable in the future.

Integration with Other Mediums

Creating a good customer journey between different mediums is crucial to ensure you are reaching your prospects and customers wherever they are.

“Creating a good customer journey between different mediums is crucial to ensure you are reaching your prospects and customers wherever they are.”

You know you need email, but you can’t rely on email alone, and the integration allows you to reach consumers through their preferred channel.

If they aren’t responding through email, you should be able to track that automatically and send them something over social or even as a direct mail piece instead.

Other reasons integration is so important:

  • Inboxes can get busy – the average person can receive over a hundred email promotions in any given day. That doesn’t mean email marketing isn’t efficient but that you need to reach consumers in multiple locations.
  • Meet them where they are – this can’t be stated enough. Your prospects and consumers are all over the place, but an omnichannel marketing strategy ensures you reach them where they are most likely to respond.
  • Multiple touch points – even if a consumer is responsive over email, they might miss or forget about a specific message. People’s attention spans only give you about 8 seconds to capture their attention, so when they see your presence in email, social, and in their home mailbox, you’re more likely to recapture unsold leads.
  • Repetition counts – think about products and companies that almost everyone knows. Their names get embedded in our brains because we hear about them over and over and see them everywhere. Repetition of presence – not message – is critical.

When you think of marketing channels, don’t think of any of it as a one or the other. You should be touching all your prospects and customers in each channel when it’s appropriate.

Images, Animated Gifs, and Video

Visual components are very important in email marketing. However, there are certain best practices to keep in mind.

When it comes to images, be careful not to send image-only emails. If your consumer has images turned off, they will miss your message completely and the email may find itself in the trash without ever being seen. When you are thinking about adding images into your emails, think of it as supportive creative to the message. The text should still say everything that’s important, and when the consumer sees the email, they can choose to download images at that time. Don’t load up all your text within the image, or at least be sure to repeat the text from the image in the text-only portion of the email.

Animated images are a useful resource when used smartly, but don’t overload your emails with animated images, because too much going on can be distracting and cause added load time. One thing to also keep in mind is that animated images will not display in all email clients, like Outlook where only the first frame of the animated image will appear, so make sure that your design and content does not rely on this component.

When working with and considering if an animated image is best for your email, you want to make sure that it can also stand alone as a static image with the first frame. Another thing is file size. As mentioned, you have 8 secs before losing the attention of your consumer; you don’t want to waste any of that precious time waiting for an image to load.

“You have eight seconds before losing the attention of your consumer; don’t waste any precious time.”

Videos can be a powerful tool, but like everything, they shouldn’t be used just for the sake of adding video. Ask yourself if its inclusion adds value. One of the most exciting things about email is that it’s constantly evolving, and we now have ways to embed video into emails easily, but there are many things to consider before doing so.

Video will not play for all email clients (i.e., Outlook) so you should review your database and see if the majority of your prospects and customers use one of the email clients that supports video. There are lots of ways to work around the clients that do not support video, such as making them animated images instead, or placing a static image with a play button that drives the consumer to a landing page.

Another reason to use one of these recommended routes over embedded video is that video in email can be very large. You also never want to have a video automatically play due to a lot of people using their cellular data when viewing emails. Let them choose when and how they want to use their data.


According to Campaign Monitor’s 2019 annual report, 65% of emails are being opened on a mobile device. This is why mobile first design has become a big push in the industry. If your content does not display nicely for your consumers on mobile, they may not return to the email later on their computer and may even unsubscribe.

What does it mean to design for mobile first? A mobile first approach is to design for your smallest screen first, ensuring your content is responsive and seamless throughout the experience going from desktop to mobile views. This also helps cut out any bulky code, creating a cleaner and simpler backend.

Readability is the biggest concern when thinking about mobile devices. Here are some things you want to consider:

  • Text size – you want to make sure your text is at an easily readable size, especially on smaller screens,
  • Images – have limited text on images for an easier read and so no information would be lost if the consumer does not have images turned on, and
  • CTA (call-to-action) sizes – on smaller screens it can be harder for people with larger size fingers to navigate content, so you want to make sure there is no mis-selections and keep your CTA sizes to a healthy area.


Email remains one of the strongest tools in your marketing arsenal if used effectively, especially when you integrate automated targeted lifecycle sends and use email enhancements, such as video and animated images, with care.

Make sure you adhere to these best practices to see the highest potential ROI on your email marketing.

About the Author

Linnea Vogelzang-Brown, Content Services Manager at Outsell

Linnea has managed creative work alongside front-end development teams to ensure products match the standards that she has put into place.

It has provided her with project management experience while driving content and working with a team of freelancers.

In the world of design Linnea’s specialty is UI (User Interface), email & digital design which I have over 7 years.

Linnea Vogelzang-Brown
Content Services Manager
Mobile: +1 651.328.1202