I used to feel under appreciated when my first job out of college working for Martin Advertising landed me in the seat of Direct Marketing Supervisor. I thought, “all these other account executives get to work in TV and Radio with the dealer associations and I have to do mail.” People in Tier 2 advertising didn’t have the greatest opinion of mail, but that quickly changed. The first job that made me think about just how influential mail could be, was for the Carolina Pontiac Dealers. We mailed 4200 Pontiac Grand Prix Owners back in 2002 that were at the right equity positions in their vehicles and tracked 46 Sales back from the piece.
Of course, then we did what any good Tier 2 agency would do: We sent the mailer to every Pontiac LMG meeting for the next 3 months and touted the results. Needless to say we sold a lot of direct mail off that, but more importantly we found a way to sell the Grand Prix, which at that time had enormous rebates that were used to make a very attractive offer to a current owner.
Fast forward to 2009, some dealers are moving ahead and some are falling behind. One thing that every dealer has in common (and it doesn’t matter if you learned it in High School or Harvard):
THE #1 SOURCE OF NEW BUSINESS
IS THE PERSON YOU ARE CURRENTLY DOING BUSINESS WITH!
Mail to an owner body and you will see traffic.
Need trades to stock your used car lot?
Mail an offer that almost is too good to be true and see what it does.
So your ad budget is tight. You can’t pay the amount that it takes to mail 20,000 owners in a month while keeping your other advertising in place. Split your budget between sales and service, take one side of your letter and make nothing but service offers on it while the sales message is on the other side. Create offers that are appealing to service customers, mainly Oil, Tires, Brakes, and a % OFF when you spend a set amount.
Go after your owner body and do it with enough frequency and repetition to create a result. Your return on investment will justify the expense and you will be taking care of your owners, not leaving it to chance that someone else will.
If you don’t see the value in direct mail or why I have chosen to call it the ‘silent killer’, then call me to run a sale for you. Every person has several network TV stations to watch, about 40 Cable networks that are insertable, usually over 25 radio stations per market, a couple of print outlets, billboards, multiple email addresses, plus SPAM. But people only have one mailbox. Use the mailbox to make an impression and create traffic.
John Paul Strong
John Paul Strong combines his two decades of automotive marketing experience with a team of more than 140 professionals as owner and CEO of Strong Automotive.