E-mailed photos win friends, influence people

Joe at the local car dealership just sold Mary a car and snapped a digital photo of her standing next to the new vehicle before she drove off the lot. Why? Because when the link to see the photo is e-mailed to Mary, Joe knows her first move will be to forward it to all her impressionable friends and family so that they too can see Mary's new wheels. And once the link is activated, all Mary's friends

Joe at the local car dealership just sold Mary a car and snapped a digital photo of her standing next to the new vehicle before she drove off the lot. Why?

Because when the link to see the photo is e-mailed to Mary, Joe knows her first move will be to forward it to all her impressionable friends and family so that they too can see Mary's new wheels. And once the link is activated, all Mary's friends are automatically sent to the dealer's main web page where Mary's photo appears in a pop up window.

Mary's happy that her friends can see her new car, and Joe is happy because all Mary's e-mail buddies have been driven to his dealer's web page, and are only a few mouse clicks away from perhaps purchasing a vehicle for themselves.

Welcome to viral marketing in the new millenium, where customers digitally spread the word about their dealership in their zest to share their new car photo with online family and friends.

Bottom line, a dealership selling 200 cars a month who sends each customer the highlighted photo link could end up with 1,000 new prospects on their website, assuming each customer forwards the photo link to an average of five other people on his or her buddy list.

The psychology behind the concept: “Now that you're here, and your friend or relative just bought a car from us, why don't you view our car inventory and purchase one yourself.”

“We like the service because it's the customer, and not us, who forwards the new car photo link to his e-mail friends and family that leads them back to our website,” says Mitchell Brenner, director of Internet sales and marketing at Ray Catena Mercedes-Benz in Edison, NJ.

Here is how the ePhotoLink service works:

A car salesman snaps a digital photo of a customer taking deliver of his or her new car and e-mails it to ePhotoLink.

The company then e-mails a customized thank you letter on behalf of the dealership to the customer. The thank you letter includes a blue hyperlink that the customer is encouraged to click to see his or her new car photo. Once clicked, the link is programmed to open up the dealer's website and automatically display that customer's new car photo in a separate pop up window.

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