Rocky Balboa is the classic underdog who rose from nobody to champion to seasoned contender through grit, hard work, and perseverance. Like Rocky, direct mail is the seasoned contender in the marketing world. Despite being constantly compared to email – a younger, scrappier opponent – direct mail has stood the test of time as an effective form of direct marketing.
Direct mail is hard to ignore. Consumers physically hold it in their hands. Sort it into piles. Leave it on the table for days at a time – 17 days according to Quick Pivot. As long as your dealership’s brand is well represented, you will stay top of mind with consumers for as long as they have that piece of mail.
“According to the USPS, 98% of people retrieve their mail daily and 77% of people sort it immediately.”
As effective as it is on its own, direct mail also succeeds when used in conjunction with other forms of marketing. When used in conjunction with email marketing, for example, dealers have seen a 46 percent lift in lead conversions (OnlineDrive study).
The Data That Makes Direct Mail Work
Data collected on your car buyers, both current and potential, can help shape your direct mail strategy. Ultimately, the success of your dealership’s direct mail program will depend on the effort your marketing partner puts into the database and how that database is utilized to target and reach consumers.
Identify the five Ws:
- WHO: Take a look at your customer database. How many of your clients are unresponsive to your email campaigns? How many clients are you failing to contact because they have no email address on file? Direct mail bridges the gap to customers with incomplete database records.
- WHAT: Know what you are trying to achieve with your direct mail and what your customers’ goals are.
- Are you looking to move inventory? Design your offer around the popular searches on your site and on Google in your market (Use http://google.com/trends to find out).
- Restock your used lot? Send the customer an instant guaranteed trade-in offer.
- Promote the service drive? Send customers personalized specials based on their vehicle for top vehicle maintenance items: brakes, batteries, tires, or oil changes.
- Looking to conquest new customers? Use a Trade-In Analysis to determine the top trades for conquest customers, and the top pre-owned models consumers are looking for.
The recipient should know what is being offered and what action you wish them to take. Don’t overwhelm prospective car buyers; provide clear images, bold text, and relevant offers. If you want them to call for more information, provide a phone number unique to that mailing so you can track performance. If you want them to visit your website, provide a unique code for them to enter upon opening your website.
- WHERE: Take a look at your Primary Market Area (where 80 percent of your business comes from). Where are your best zip codes to sell and service in? Where are your best zip codes to target conquest customers?
A good piece of direct mail will inspire intrigue from its recipient and provide a pathway to the answers your buyer seeks. The website and contact information provided on the mailing should be the direct answers to those questions.
- WHEN: Once you have your list of “who,” dive deeper into the records to see where people are in the buying cycle. This will allow you to cater each mailing to their most current need. For existing customers, for example, take advantage of the recommended service schedule on a new car and send service offers to keep them loyal.
Match your mailings to a current campaign you are doing through other marketing channels. The message should be the same across all channels; you have to go where customers are, not make them come to you.
- WHY: Direct mail is largely successful due to the data behind it. Tracking consumer behavior and purchasing patterns in your market will allow your dealership to tailor each mailer to the recipient and talk to them rather than at them.
“Direct mail marketing has an average of 3.7% response rate when targeting unresponsive customers, according to the 2015 DMA Response Rate Report.”
Be sure to personalize. You can have the most impressive display of graphics on your mailer, but the moment the recipient realizes it is addressed to “current resident” they will lose interest.
Marketing is a conversation, not a one-way message or even a brand.
In the final installment of the Rocky movie series, Rocky did not set out to win; he set out to prove himself a contender. Direct mail isn’t ready to retire from the fight; it still has a place in the ring. Prove your dealership is a contender by using data to your advantage to attract more consumers to your store and keep them coming back.
Author: Larry Bruce
LARRY BRUCE is a 30-year veteran in retail automotive dealerships and digital marketing. He currently is founder and CEO of OnlineDrive, a digital marketing firm recently acquired by Reynolds and Reynolds. Larry has successfully launched three tech companies, all of which intersect with automotive retailing and digital marketing. He started AIMData, a targeted marketing suite of tools for automotive retailers and ClickBuyDrive, an online vehicle buying application, both of which he sold in 2008.