Stop Getting Marked as Spam: 7 Email Deliverability Tips for Dealers

Stop Getting Marked as Spam: 7 Email Deliverability Tips for Dealers

So your dealership marketing emails are getting marked as spam.


No marketer wants their content considered spammy. But along with hurting your ego, emails marked as spam also hurt your sender reputation — meaning your future marketing emails may be filtered or even blacklisted.

So how do you avoid that dreaded “report spam” button? And why are your contacts clicking it in the first place?

We’ll tell you how and why — along with our top seven tips for automotive email deliverability.

Jump right to the tips by clicking below:

  1. Email Only the People Who Have Actually Opted In
  2. Clean and Segment Your Email Lists
  3. Use a Familiar From Name and Email Address
  4. Nail Your Subject Line
  5. Write (and Design) a Good Email
  6. Limit Your Sending Frequency
  7. Choose the Right Email Marketing Platform

Why Your Automotive Emails Are Getting Marked as Spam

Raise your hand if you’ve ever put a subject line in ALL CAPS or filled an email with dozens of red exclamation marks.

(It’s okay. This is a judgment-free zone.)

Unfortunately, your recipients — and email service providers (ESPs) — don’t agree. While we may forgive you for sending clickbait-y content, ESPs consider it spam and send it straight to the junk folder (or worse).

How do they even know?” you might ask.

ESPs, like Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook, employ what are called spam filters to ensure their users’ inboxes aren’t filled with junk mail. After scanning incoming emails for various spam signals, these filters then direct emails to either the inbox, the spam folder, or their own trash bin.

Before you bemoan spam filters for affecting your automotive email deliverability, you should actually thank them. With an estimated 180 billion spam messages sent every day, those spam filters are the only thing preventing your own personal inbox from a barrage of ishy content.

“But my content’s not ishy!” you may object.

And you may be right. But quality content is not the only factor in email deliverability.

Even if your contacts aren’t manually marking your email as spam, you may not be making it past the spam filter for a number of other reasons, such as your domain authority, your sender information, or the quality of your contact list itself.

7 Ways to Improve Email Deliverability (AKA Avoid the Spam Filter)

So, what can you do to prevent (or stop) getting marked as spam?

Let’s take a closer look at the factors affecting your car dealer email deliverability — and seven important actions you can take to improve your own.

1. Email Only the People Who Have Actually Opted In

As an auto dealership marketing agency, we can’t stress this enough: you must obtain contacts’ permission before sending them marketing emails. That includes explicit permission from both your own contacts and others’.

Sure, some businesses will tell you it’s okay to send unsolicited automotive emails to third-party lists in the name of “conquesting” car buyers.

Don’t listen to them.

This tactic is doomed to fail, not only from a user experience standpoint — how often have you purchased from a company that contacted you without permission? — but also from technical, legal, and ethical standpoints:

  • Technical: By uploading lists that may contain spam traps (AKA email addresses created for the sole purpose of identifying spammers), you risk getting blacklisted by ESPs (AKA preventing your emails from being delivered). That’s if you aren’t first flagged by your email marketing software for trying to harm its domain reputation, causing you to face deliverability setbacks for months to come.
  • Legal: Under the CAN-SPAM Act in America, CASL in Canada, GDPR in Europe, and a myriad of other data privacy laws, you are not allowed to send marketing emails that are false or misleading. Sending to people who haven’t opted in to your email communication increases your likelihood of landing in legal hot water.
  • Ethical: Think about it. Does sending emails to people who have never heard of you sound like a good way to earn their trust?

Purchasing lists just doesn’t work. In fact, email lists that are built organically have open rates five times higher and spam complaints four times fewer than purchased or scraped lists.

If you need help figuring out whether your email lists are compliant — and how to ensure that they are compliant going forward — check out our article on viable email opt-in methods.

2. Clean and Segment Your Email Lists

Permission is the first step to car dealer email deliverability. Relevance is the second.

Successful email marketing relies on accurate, organized data from your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Without it, your marketing team or agency can’t properly segment your contacts. Without that, someone who purchased a used car last week might get a lease offer promo email today, and promptly unsubscribe or even “report spam.”

When it comes to email targeting, there are three tips we like to recommend:

  1. Help your sales team manage your CRM responsibly. The line between sales and marketing can be tricky, but contact data management is everyone’s job. Learn more about CRM management and lead tracking in our free eBook.
  2. Regularly cleanse your data. By routinely removing email addresses that have bounced or unsubscribed from your list, you’ll maintain a good sender reputation. You may also want to consider sending reengagement emails to ask disengaged contacts to opt back in. Finally, you can sanitize your list using a vendor like NeverBounce. This tool scans your email list and removes any known fake or blacklisted email addresses.
  3. Send to precisely targeted email lists. Say it with us: I will not send another “email blast.” With clean, organized data, you have no reason not to send relevant messages to relevant leads. Your contacts — and your email sender reputation — will reward you for the effort.

3. Use a Familiar From Name and Email Address

First of all, under the CAN-SPAM Act:

Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information — including the originating domain name and email address — must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.

Federal Trade Commission

Legalese aside, your users simply expect to recognize the name and address of the person (or dealership) emailing them. If they don’t, their finger is likely headed for the spam or delete button.

That’s if they open the email in the first place.

Seven out of 10 Americans decide whether to open an email based on the From line alone. Since open rate is a huge factor in email deliverability, you’d better hope your From line is optimized!

Another factor in email deliverability? Response rate. When people reply to your marketing emails, ESPs are assured you’re legitimate.

For that reason — and because people simply want to be able to easily contact a real person — you should avoid using an email address like as your Reply-To.

We’ve done some internal A/B testing on the email From line at our auto dealership marketing agency. Our tests have confirmed that when it comes to open and click rates, specificity rules.

4. Nail Your Subject Line

Aside from From name and email, the other key element affecting an open rate is the subject line.

You probably already know the importance of email subject lines in getting contacts to click, but did you know that 69% of email recipients mark an email as spam based solely on the subject line?

Here are a few tips for optimizing your email subject line to avoid spam filters:

  • Don’t use ALL CAPS.
  • Don’t use multiple exclamation marks!!
  • Don’t make false promises or try tricky tactics.
  • Avoid excessive use of spam trigger words or symbols, such as:
    • $$$
    • Click
    • Discount
    • Giveaway
    • Open
    • Now
    • Win

Don’t forget the preview text, either (a.k.a. the line that comes after the subject line).

5. Write (and Design) a Good Email

Duh, right?

The problem is that quality car dealer emails are harder to create than they seem. Even if you think what you’re doing now is fine, spam filters might not agree.

To keep the body of your email looking good and reading well, be sure to employ these email marketing best practices:

  • Maintain an equal balance of images and text (if using images).
  • Proofread to avoid any spelling and grammar mistakes (a big spam trigger!).
  • Don’t include attachments (another spam trigger).
  • Make the opt-out link easy to access.
  • Include your dealership’s physical address in the footer.

Learn more about quality email design in our article below.

6. Limit Your Sending Frequency

When polled, half of consumers said the most annoying action taken by marketers is emailing them too often.


We marketers need to get our messages out, but we don’t want to be annoying. After all, an annoyed contact is a “likely to unsubscribe” contact.

A few unsubscribes per email isn’t bad. In fact, contact churn is a natural part of the email marketing life. But if your unsubscribe rate is higher than normal, ESPs see that as a bad sign.

(Not sure what’s “normal”? Our Performance Benchmarks Report shows you the automotive industry standard for unsubscribe rate and other email metrics!)

So don’t give users any more reason to unsubscribe than necessary. We recommend limiting emails to once a week — but you need to find the frequency that’s right for your dealership.

To do so, consider asking contacts to select their preferred frequency right when they sign up for email communication. An automated welcome email is the perfect way to set expectations (and avoid unsubscribes).

7. Choose the Right Email Marketing Platform

We know it’s easy to send emails straight from your CRM, but there are significant downsides. One of the worst? Poor email deliverability.

Remember, a key factor in deliverability is the reputation of your mail server. Because CRMs don’t have individual mail servers for each of their clients, all their clients have to share. That means even if you’re responsible with your email sends, another dealership using the same CRM that isn’t responsible could ruin the sender reputation for all of you.

This isn’t to say all CRMs aren’t right for email marketing. It’s just that your CRM needs to be up to date on not just contact data management, but also lead tracking that allows you to see how your contacts are interacting with your online presence and allows you to segment your email lists based on their behavior. On top of that, your CRM needs an email builder that’s sophisticated enough to turn out high-conversion emails.

Many CRMs simply don’t meet this standard. However, depending on your budget, your marketing needs, and your overall business goals, sending email from your CRM may be the right choice for your dealership.

Our own experience with CRM email marketing has taught us that it is actually a viable option for some dealerships.

If you’re curious about whether yours is — or are looking for a good recommendation — 9 Clouds can help. We’ve seen our share of automotive CRMs and are able to point you in the direction of good lead tracking and other technology solutions.

Instead of sending emails from your CRM, you may want to invest in a third-party email marketing platform with a quality sender reputation. Here’s a list of email marketing software we like, starting with the best (and most expensive) picks:

Along with the technical who of who’s sending your email, there’s also the literal who — the humans behind the screen who are actually drafting and sending your campaigns.

Whether those humans are your in-house marketing team or an auto dealership marketing agency, be sure they are people you trust to handle your email sender reputation.

“This All Sounds Really Technical and Hard.”

Yes, it can be, unfortunately.

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure all this out by yourself.

As long as you have an email marketing platform and digital marketing partner you trust — and you’re managing your own data responsibly — you can pretty much wash your hands of this spam filter stuff.

If your digital agency is handling your email marketing well, it will make sure your dealership sends quality, targeted emails from a trusted platform (or at least let you know if there’s a concern before risking your sender status).

And yes, we do email marketing at our agency. We’re here to help support your marketing team, dealership, or small business with email and other digital marketing services.

You can see how we approach email marketing (and keep you out of the spam filter) by checking out our email service page.

If you’re tired of slogging through the world of email marketing, data privacy and deliverability on your own, we can help. Let us know that you’re ready for your custom digital marketing proposal.

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