Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Automotive Industry Bail Out

As most of you know this is a busy week for me personally, but I ran across this opinions article and liked it, maybe you will too... http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081209/OPINION03/812090399/1148/AUTO01

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Customer Follow Up on Automotive Advertising

We live in an exciting time when it comes to marketing & advertising! There are so many medias and opportunities with which to get out your message, and the end product continues to become more and more creative. I'm the "Diva" when it comes to direct mail, but of course I am a fan of other ways to "touch" people as well. You can't put all your eggs in one basket & the person that responds to a TV ad is not typically the person that also responds to a Direct Mail piece. All that being said today we're not going to talk about your initial piece of marketing, we're going to talk about how you follow up with the people that respond.

Let's pretend you've sent out a mailer (we'll use this media since I know something about it). And here were the results:

312 phone calls 256 registered ups through the door 28 online surveys filled out (w/ contact info, info on trade-in and when they'll be in the market)

This assumes you are giving your market a variety of ways to respond and that you're tracking all the response.

The sale is over and you sold 30 units off the campaign, but what about the other 566 people that responded to your message and didn't buy this weekend? What are you doing with them?

We're finding you should continue to follow up with them using the media they responded to you in.

You got 312 phone calls. By using your call tracking phone numbers you can print off easy reports with the person's name & number. When the sales people have some downtime what not pass out a few pages of calls to all of them and have them do a quick "survey" about their experience when they called in to the dealership. What if you kept a running log from each sale and prior to the next event, your sales department gave them each a call to personally invite them to your special sale? It's extremely personal and you have the knowledge no other dealer in town does--this person prefers to use the phone as a method of contact with your dealership.
Aside from the phone calls you also had a lot of people hitting the floor. True some of them were there for the gifts & others may have just stopped in for a free hot dog, but they probably didn't walk to your dealership. These people are your face to face crowd. They don't mind coming straight into the dealership to check out an offer. Obviously they will probably continue to respond to direct mail, but here something we just found out--they are also likely to be PHONE people. Our kiosks ask for a bit of contact info, email, phone number & a confirmation on the name and address. People walking into dealerships are very likely to add their phone number to their contact info, but very shy about adding an email address. Phone number collection is almost 10 to 1 over email collection from this group. It wouldn't hurt to add the people walking in your door to your "call list" either, that's how they want you to contact them!
Some dealers have a feature on their website that requires visitors to give some info before viewing inventory. We also have begun using personal websites. The person would have a website on their mailer that includes their name. Something like: www.JimSample25.MyNextVehicle.com/test2 so each person's would be unique to them, with their name. They can then fill out basic info for additional offers from the dealership. I'm sure you know where this is going--this group prefers to be communicated to via the Internet. We're finding very few of them are willing to give info on their phone number(s) but are happy to provide you with their emails. The Direct Mail Association just released a surprising statistic--60% of people receiving direct mail prefer to respond online! This is also a different niche of people that are very unlikely to show up to the dealership from your initial message. If you aren't giving them an online option you are likely to miss out on this group altogether.
Now that you have followed up with every lead you received from your last sale, you're probably considering your next campaign. Overall, you now have a list of 596 people in YOUR market, that YOU KNOW respond to direct mail. They may all respond in different ways, but they opened your message, read it and acted. This could be the most valuable list on the planet, and you would be the only one to have it. Start entering every up into your database or keep this info separate in an Excel format. Then be sure to mail to these people exclusively several times a year for "private events." Just consider the possibilities of response on a list like that!
Since it's December it might be a good time to think about how many lead are truly WASTED every year in your dealerships. Perhaps as we enter a new year now is the time to think about a new process that makes sure all the leads you pay for are being worked completely.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!
There have been lots of ups and downs in the market and the Automotive Industry this year. However, I know there is so much for all of us to be Thankful for. I hope you all get to spend some time with your families and those you love being grateful for all of your blessings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Final Post: Automotive Dealer Sales Training Tips Interview with Todd Hudak

After hearing about Todd and checking out his video, some of you might be wondering if he can help you. The final question I asked him was: Q. What type of dealer are you looking to help? A. I've trained in Bentley & Rolls Royce dealerships, all domestics, most imports--basically the product doesn't matter and the size of the dealership doesn't matter. There are some things I look for to be sure I can bring some value to a dealership before wasting their time or money. They have to be willing to learn and willing to make changes. If not, there is no reason to have me in. It's also nice if they have some kind of CRM and a workable BDC set up. Really the best relationships I've formed have been with dealers that are willing to embrace change and understand that change is a long term growth plan and not a quick idea of the month club. If anyone wants to contact me the best way to reach me is typically by email or cell as I travel all over the country. I can do individual dealership consulting, or they could attend my upcoming phone skills training program if they feel that's an area for improvement at their dealerships. The December phone skills session is now fully booked, but we're currently taking reservations for the January session. Contact Info: Todd Hudak Hudak Consulting Cell phone: (859) 992-4166 Email: todd@hudakconsulting.com Website: http://www.hudakconsulting.com/

Automotive Dealer Sales Training Tips #3 Interview with Todd Hudak

Today I wanted to touch on a simple, yet powerful concept that Todd kept bringing up in our conversation. It isn't anything formal, and it's really pretty much common sense. Todd kept saying "there are really only three ways to get someone to do something." Now, of course he was talking about motivating/coaching your sales staff. He talked about this in regards to tracking leads, and the lead source, but it really works across the board. #1 Ask them nicely. Todd has a feeling that this is typically pretty ineffective in dealerships. In my experience if you ask nicely and explain WHY this method can work with the right people. However... I can relate, my only "child" at the moment is Charley. She'll be 5 in May and is a Retriever/Husky mix. I've had her for three years now and she's never been one to get up on the couch or furniture. Lately though, she's getting pretty snooty and feels like she rules the roost and she's constantly on the couch--in my spot at that! I started out by asking nicely, and a few times it's worked...then I had to move on to the next way of getting someone to do something... #2 Threaten them. Threatening seems dangerous. For one thing, people will only take so much of it, and you have to be ready to follow through on the threat. Obviously, it is sometimes hard to communicate effectively with Charley. Although I'm pretty sure she can understand English she has selective hearing. We'll threaten to throw her Kong toy away, or Andy will threaten to "punch her in the dog face" but we never follow through. She knows she's spoiled and we're not going to punish her--besides, what's the worst I could do--yell? I can't fire my dog. #3 Pay them. I'm technically in sales, and so are most of you, even if you aren't involved in it as much daily. Obviously we all understand that commission based income is the most pure form of this last method. Todd argues this is the most effective way to get things done in a dealership, and I would have to agree. He talks about paying receptionists to find out lead sources, hiring someone on minimal hourly rates and paying bonuses for every lead they count, he's even had one of these people watch for people leaving the lot without coming into the show room--then he would fine the sales person that lost them $150--and give it to the counter! Sales contests, spiffs, bonuses, etc. these are all forms of rewarding people for the behavior you are trying to get from them. Start thinking about the things you wish were happening that aren't within your department, company, or dealership. How can you turn each of these things into specific behaviors that can then be broken down and rewarded upon? Charley could care less about a $5 bill, but she loves treats, people food, and one specific toy. If I make it worth her while to stay on the floor she typically stays out of my spot on the couch. This has also been the way we've taught her all of her impressive tricks, like shake, high ten, speak, and lay down. Andy has also figured out a way to get her to bark the O-H-I-O chant with him during football games...now I just have to find the right reward to get her to say "Boiler Up."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Automotive Dealer Sales Training Tips #2 Interview with Todd Hudak

Continuing where we left off last time, more of the interview with Automotive Sales Training Todd Hudak...

Q. Let's get specifically to one of your specialties, phone training. What is the biggest opportunities dealers are missing in regards to incoming calls?

A. Most are missing two very important things, what influenced them to call, and they aren't gathering enough information. NADA says if a dealer gets 100 phone calls they are closing 3-4% of them--and that's if they are doing a "good" job. That's 96 missed opportunities. There are several things dealerships should be focusing on when it comes to incoming calls:

1. Why they called. In a lot of stores I suggest the receptionist handle this. When he/she answers the phone it is simple to as "Is this your first time calling or are you currently working with someone? Fantastic, what influenced you to give us a call today?" Again, give them a spiff on it--$.50 for every lead source they get. Then the person is logged and it's noted what sales person takes the call.

2. Be accountable. If one person is in charge of logging who calls then a dealer can start to get a grasp on how much phone traffic is truly coming in. They can start running numbers on what sales people are turning calls into handshakes and what ones are missing opprortunities and have areas for improvement. This information, along with the marketing info on what brought them in is invaluable. But the most important part is increasing the closing ratio.

3. Set a solid and specific appointment. Many sales people I've talked to bombard with information. The goal is not to sell a vehicle on the phone, the goal is to have a set appointment with specific info so that the dealership can be prepared for the appointment. I say a lot, "chance favors the prepared mind," it's not just chance if someone buys, a lot has to do with being prepared. So many sales people treat an appointment like a walk in! It's crazy! They know the person and why they are coming in, they should be given the red carpet treatment. Several vehicles should have already been picked out and checked up on, they should already know why the person is coming in. The dealership has invited this person to their "party" at this point, be sure they aren't disappointed when they show up.

We'll wrap up this three part series next time. Below is a quick video in which Todd gets into some of these ideas a little more specifically.

Automotive Dealer Sales Training Tips Part #1 Interview with Todd Hudak

I was introduced to Todd Hudak over two years ago by a mutual dealer client. It seemed Todd had been helping this client with sales and phone training for several years and they were very happy with the results he's helped them achieve. Recently, here at Tri-Auto we've been putting tracking tools into dealers hands, it's been a very eye opening experience both for me and the dealers. Many are saying "I didn't know we had that many people coming in, why aren't we closing more?" I've never sold cars, so I don't have the answers, but Todd has so I contacted him for an interview. Hopefully you'll be able to take something away from this three part series that will help increase your closing ratio. First, a little background. Todd was a Mechanical Engineer for years with the Navy, his first experience in sales came as a Navy Recruiter where he signed up 4 times the average amount of young people to serve. After running several local and regional recruiting centers and taking them all to the #1 spot he decided to retire. As he looked in the paper for new opportunities he saw "Day Off, Draw & Demo" he walked into the first dealership and was hired on the spot, after two years he was the number one sales person averaging 100 new units a year and had several 500 unit years. In '99 the dealer asked him to start a BDC, and by the end of the year the new venture had tripled sales from 89-100 vehicles a month to 300! After getting his feet wet with this experience he was hired by the McCluskey group in Ohio and took the Chevrolet store to the #1 volume dealer in the state. He was awarded the Dealer Innovation Award for 2003 for recruiting, retention and training (of sales people), and featured in NADA and USA Today. The retention rate on his sales floor was 85%. In 2006 he went out on his own and founded Hudak Consulting. He's worked with over 500 dealers, including the famed Towbin group featured in A&E's "King of Cars," and in the past year he's trained over 60,000 sales people. In his lengthy career Todd has proved he knows how to make a dealership successful. This week Todd answered a few questions regarding training and phone training. We started off with a few general ideas about what dealers are facing today.

Q. In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing the automotive industry today--and you can't say the economy?

A. The perception is with the poor economy that people are not buying cars. Which is just not the case, yes it is tougher, but people are still spending money. The problem is that dealers are getting sucked into a bad attitude, with the market being tougher they are not performing at the same level as they were when times were good. They are doubling their misery instead of looking for new alternatives. Instead of going back to what made them successful in the past and looking for new ways to be successful in the future they are giving up and playing flag football in the back, or cutting costs by removing the popcorn machine from the showroom. This is not the way to get ahead.

The other major thing they need to be focusing on is maximizing the advertising they are able to put out there. At the very least they should be hitting their database, even if it's stuffing envelopes and sending out letters in house, or picking up the phone and talking to them. If they are able to continue with more advertising they have to get everything they can out of it. TRACK everything. If dealers are not able to track in an electronic way, hire a retiree and pay him hourly to track every lead that comes in, pay him an additional $1 for every lead source he uncovers-I promise he won't miss a person. Once they know what is working it makes sense to put more money there and quit doing the things that aren't. I do like mail, and I'm not just saying that because I'm talking to you, but it's personal and I have TIVO, Sirius and don't subscribe to a newspaper so it's down to email & my mailbox if you want to reach me. If dealers do a mailer, they should request phone numbers, where available, on the list. Then have their salespeople on the phone before, during and after the sale making sure they received the piece and asking if they have questions. Dealers are not maximizing the money they've invested in advertising. They just put it out there and hope, then wait for traffic.

Start now!

The past few days I've been working on a blog series for next week. In the meantime I ran across this quote and found it pretty meaningful for the current situation in the automotive industry. We really have two choices (and when I say "we" I mean it, do you think the market & media affecting dealers doesn't effect us too!?), we either find a way to fight and become stronger, or we give up. What are you doing different today to make yourself stronger tomorrow?

Do not wait; the time will never be "just right." Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.

-Napoleon Hill

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just where is my mail?

The first few years I was helping dealers with mail, I heard this more than I would have liked. The United State Postal Service can be a hard business to hold accountable. Fortunately over the years we've developed a process to track and keep mail hitting homes on time. However, there are still the very occasional phone call...and to any of you that have experienced late mail in general, I'd like to introduce you to Mailman Steve. It's possible stacks of your mailers may have been sitting in his living room since '99! http://www.newsobserver.com/news/crime_safety/story/1301068.html Just thought you'd enjoy this. I'm working on my next post after interviewing Automotive Sales Trainer, Todd Hudak. Expect it later this week!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tracking Incoming Sales Calls

I'm sure many of you spend some time and money annually training your sales staff. You may have even done some phone training...but do you truly know how the calls are being handled? If not-WHY!? There are several companies out there that are dedicated to helping you track phone calls and record them for "training purposes." We provide them on every single mailer and as hard as I try the vast majority of dealers never bother to log in and see A.) Where the phone traffic is coming from, and B.) How the people are being handled on the phone. What can call tracking do for you? -It can give you good, concrete evidence as you coach your sales people. -Good calls can be great examples for you as you train new ones. -Phone calls should be treated as "ups" and "response" to your campaigns. They can and should be followed up with just as much as someone who walks in the door. If you aren't following up, you're missing deals. -It can show you what markets are responding by phone as opposed to thru the door...and what aren't responding either by foot or by phone. -Finally, and maybe most importantly, it's a great way for you to hold everyone in the dealership accountable for the image they portray of your business every time someone calls in. Today I'm writing about this because tomorrow I have the opportunity to interview Mr. Todd Hudak. Todd has been helping dealers across the country with the customer experience. He's a master when it comes to phone techniques, and has a lot of great ideas and opportunities on how to make the most out of every lead that calls in. If you want to do some homework prior to the interview his website is: http://www.hudakconsulting.com/ Before you can work on taking calls with you sales team you need to know where they stand today. If you already have these tools at your disposal take a few minutes today, to log in and listen to some of the recent calls. I think what you hear will surprise you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Automotive Marketing during the Holidays

Who's ready for a big fight!? A lot of you may feel like you've been in a fight...all year long. However, that's not the one I'm talking about. I'm talking about the annual fight with Santa Clause. I started at Tri-Auto on June 1st. Throughout the summer months I got my feet wet and put together a couple of promotions for a few dealers. By October and November I was feeling good, like I was hitting my stride..that is-until HE came to town. Who decided Santa was the Abominable Snowman here to take away Holiday cheer and automotive sales? By mid November, all I heard was "call me after the 1st of the year." Part of it was probably just the newest excuse to get a rookie like me off the phone, but part of it is a real fear many dealers have about the holidays. If you are ready to put on your boxing gloves and go toe-to-toe with the big, bearded guy, read on. If not, go tell the sales department they might as well hibernate for the winter because you're doing the same thing you always do which means you should get the same results--an empty show room. Here's a few quick wins:

  • Send something to your customers! ALL of them. Don't forget about the service customers, or people that have recently bought. It's the holidays and it never hurts to give people that know you some warm fuzzies. A personal greeting card from their sales person is always nice, or a letter from the dealership with a legit incentive for service or their next vehicle will be appreciated by those in the market.
  • Capitalize on the fears of others. This doesn't sound very nice, but take advantage of the fact many dealers pull back during this time of the year. Add or replace a zip with one that your competition typically hits, people in their market will respond to a strong, timely hook...which brings us to...
  • KNOW WHAT PEOPLE WANT. It's the holidays, during an economic landslide, what's more important to most people than cash? Offer them cash for the holidays by giving them the manufacturers rebates in the green stuff, put some envelopes with different denominations of cash in them and let buyers pluck them off the Christmas tree as an added bonus, entice the public to stop by with gift cards to stores like Macy's, Best Buy, Toys R Us, and KB Toys, and most importantly, tell them how you can help (not sell!) them by lowering their monthly automotive payments.
  • Think about your timing--ahead of time. Those of you that do continue advertising right through December and January will probably agree that the "sweet spot" when it comes sale dates is the week between Christmas & New Year's. Lots of people are off work, they are generally pretty jolly, and they've been cooped up eating and sleeping for several days straight. They're ready to get out of the house and may even have some Christmas cash for a down payment. Another good time is the first two weekends in December. Start thinking about it now and map out what weeks are best for your market.

Even if your December marketing plan is getting the sales department together for some pizza and an afternoon of signing Christmas (yes I said Christmas, please no hate mail, I can't handle anymore generic "holiday" terms) cards at least you are not moping off into a cave waiting on the ground hog to appear and tell you when to start advertising. We're halfway through November, it's time to start your December planning!

Monday, November 10, 2008

MarketVision in the news!

We very recently let the press in on our little ROI secret here at Tri Auto. This is the first of several articles to be written on the subject: http://dealerdigestdaily.com/newsletter/dddnada/311.html Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the info! Here's the quick word on MarketVision if you haven't heard about it: http://marketvisionauto.com/ One of the event team owners I work with recently had this to say about the program:
"Steph this program is awesome, it really slows the traffic down as they come in to the sale and allows us to do our job. The dealers love the new real time data reporting, we know exactly where we are throughout the sale, and it helps us choose zips for the next time we're there. You guys are really leading the way with this!"
-Mike Caledonia, MI

Mr. Direct Mail Diva?

Just a quick note to everyone that works with me regularly... December 13th I'm getting married. We honestly planned the wedding date for the slowest time in automotive land so that it wouldn't disrupt any of your plans too much. :) I'll be out of the office Thursday, Dec. 11th-Monday Jan 5th. Please let me know of anything you know is coming up and we can get a jump start on it before I leave. Otherwise, Katy will be here during most of the time I'm out and she's ready to help with whatever you need. I hope you all enjoy the upcoming holiday season with your families & friends! Steph

Friday, November 7, 2008

Should you quit spending money on advertising?

I just got out of a meeting with our VP. She asked how things were going, and I told her I was struggling with really getting into conversations with dealers that are totally shut off to advertising right now. I've heard things like this from several of you lately: "we're just not spending money right now," "there is no reason to throw good money after bad," and "I can't move my market right not." Once you say it that seems to be the end of the conversation. I do have the pleasure of working with a lot of dealers, event teams and ad agencies that know even if they days of the $300,000 gross profit sale are gone for the time being, there can still be a huge value in investing in advertising. They aren't willing to give up and let the market take them on it's roller coaster with it, they are planning strategic moves to keep themselves profitable. These people are not only "weathering the storm" but becoming stronger so that when things start to loosen up they'll be positioned to be the leaders...while everyone else just starts to ramp up their TV, radio and mail presences again. Most of you have probably read this quote before, but when a colleague laid it on my desk last week it couldn't have been more timely.

“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time." -Henry Ford

So, if you're one "pulling in the reins," next time you talk with your marketing consultants--in radio, TV, print, direct mail and Internet--just be OPEN. Ask what others are doing, what's working, what new things have they released to help you get through these times? Some might not have any answers, but some will. An open conversation might lead to a solution you never knew existed... “If I had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” -Henry Ford All "Fordisms" aside, I wish you all crowded showrooms this Saturday and Sunday*! *Good wishes only offered toward dealers that choose to and are allowed to be open on Sundays. Any dealer that does not meet this criteria is only wished crowded showrooms on Saturday. Not valid with any other verbal or written tidings of joy or happiness.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Marketing to a Post Election Nation

It's over! I'm so glad! Regardless of whether you partied in the streets on Tuesday evening or cried in your beer, the election has finally come to an end. At least one of the elements contributing to the uneasiness in consumers has a conclusion. The political season this year seems to have divided the nation in a much different way than those past. This time around instead of us being divided into "blue" and "red" states, we were split into "blue" and "red" sides of the dining room table, office, neighborhood, and church. I was born, raised, and still reside in Indiana, and in my memory we've never had rallies here, or Presidential commercials on TV. It certainly added to the excitement here, but also added fuel to debates between friends and colleagues. Maybe the division just has come home to me more this year, but whatever the case, people have one less thing to worry about now that there is a decision. What does that mean for you? Probably nothing immediately as we all know, but maybe a change in perspective will be the first notable difference. We are heading into a new time for the country, a change in leadership after eight years, people are thinking about the future. The things that are important to people now are different than what was important to them the first time G.W. moved into the White House. How can we, as an automotive industry, help the people in your local communities with what is important to them? Things that seem to be more important now than they were 8 years ago:
    • Going green. - Not always the most popular topic to a car guy or gal, but definitely on the top of mind for many consumers.
    • Conservative buying. - Today being "safe" on major purchases typically rivals one upping the Jones for a status boost.
    • Patriotism & supporting our country. - The level of support for our country and Democratic system is probably always higher during election time, but it seems even higher with the current state of the economy and involvement in a war overseas.
    • Credit worries. - The media is having a heyday telling everyone they can't get financed to buy a home or vehicle. Some consumers truly believe if they don't have a 700 beacon or above they can't buy....anywhere.
    • Forward thinking. - For better or for worst the country is thinking about what's to come. When will things start to get better? How will the new Administration handle everything going on? What does all of this mean for them?

As you are starting to plan for your Holiday season marketing keep these things in mind. There is, of course a place for free turkeys & Toys R Us gift cards, but really think about tailoring your message to this new post election nation. Be open and aware to what the consumer is feeling in your own market. Once you have a good idea where the greatest uncertainty and pain is, really tailor your message to focus on helping people, not necessarily selling people. If you can help people, sales will come.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How much is too much direct mail?

I know it's shocking, someone in the direct mail business even mentioning there is such a thing as too much direct mail. I'm here to tell you it's true, there is such a thing. With the economy like it is a wider variety of dealers are looking to direct mail as an advertising tool. It is one of the few forms of advertising that is absolutely track-able, and it does a great job of creating some excitement. After a few successful events, it's easy to want to do mail every week or month and hope for the same results. Is that the right plan for you and your dealership? Really, only you and your direct mail consultant can determine that, but here are some general guidelines.
  • Look at your market-Get a list count from your mail company & a map. Map out all the areas you typically hit, and find out how many people are in each area. Think about if there are any other areas you think you could draw from. Today there are many small towns losing franchise dealers--those people will have to go somewhere.
  • Split it up-Our Owner loves analogies. His favorite in this case is to think about your market as a dartboard with the bulls eye being your dealership. Using this "Bulls Eye" marketing method it makes sense that the spots closest to the center are worth more to you and those farther out less. Instead of just going after the low hanging fruit, closest to your store, over and over, think of dividing the market into pie slices instead. This way you should be able to expect similar traffic results on each campaign because you get a good mix of your market with every "slice."
  • Make a Schedule-This seems to be the hardest part. With every type of mailer (database, service, used car events, new car, etc.) you should never hit the same household with the same type of message more than every 3 months in most cases. If you like sending scratch off mailers out 20,000 pieces a month, there should be at least 60,000 people in the market you defined. On the flip side if you only send out 10,000 pieces once a quarter, yet there are 30,000 potential homes in your market you are missing out. The caveat to this is however, is the dealers that see Direct Mail can also be used for name recognition marketing, much like some of your more general TV and Radio spots. If this is the schedule you are putting together than you can certainly hit the same person more than once a quarter.

Once you've looked at your market, split it up into sections and made a schedule choosing zip codes becomes automated. In most cases your mail provider can probably just keep track of it, and you won't have to do anything! The best part is, you can rest easy knowing you've already carefully chosen & strategized about the people you are targeting.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Finding out what the dealership experience is like for the consumer

My colleague, Josh, just sent me this site. It's a place where customers can go and leave a rating & comments about their experiences with a specific dealership. I thought it tied in really nicely with the post from yesterday about creating a total experience for the customer. Some dealerships have lots of feedback on here, others don't, but it's worth taking a look at. We all know more and more consumers are going online for reviews of not only products & features, but also customer service before they start shopping. To all my clients I'm out Friday, but Katy will be here. I hope everyone has big weekends, and also has some time to spend with the family!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Creating the dealership experience for the customer

First off, I don't work in a dealership, and I never have. I'm not going to claim to be the "dealership experience" diva, or expert. I do talk to a lot of dealers on a daily basis and have picked up a few "best practices" over the years that seem to set apart the very successful dealers from the ones that struggle. This is specifically in regards to crowd control & atmosphere at event sales. With the disclaimer portion out of the way--let's get started...
Let's assume you are doing a big weekend event. You've spent lots of money on the marketing, have your sales guys ready and you're just waiting for the traffic to start pouring in! What does the consumer go through visiting your dealership?
Sit back, and pretend for a few minutes that you are the person that got the mailer at home today. Step 1-Getting there. You're ready to go to ABC Motors, you got a special invitation after all. You've never been there before though. Luckily, the dealer had the foresight to put a map on the piece to easily direct you there. You follow the map and pull up at ABC Motors. You know you are there because there are balloons, banners, hang tags, sky busters and a big red blow up ape out front, it's clear something special is going on this weekend at the dealership. You feel even a little proud that you were invited to the party, unlike those that just happen to drive by and see something going on. Step 2-Initial contact. This is where it could get scary for you. You've heard from friends that not all automotive dealers are there to help you, you're nervous one (or more) of those people might attack before you remove your seat belt. Instead you get out safely and head for the front door of the dealership being greeted warmly on your way in. A professionally dressed guy approaches you to ask a few questions and see what brought you in. He is genuinely excited to see you have an invitation and invites you to register for the special event. Step 3-What did I win? The salesperson leads you back to a designated area. It's clean, and there are several tables set up with writing utensils and information about the event. He let's you know before finding out if you've won something you have to register. This happens either on a special form, or on the MarketVision kiosk. Throughout the process he asks you a few questions about your current vehicle. He even mentions he might be able to get you into a newer vehicle for a lower payment. You consider this as your prize is revealed. Step 4-I won! You won a $5 shopping card to Wal-Mart. You shop there regularly so it will be a nice bonus to go toward groceries this week. You thank the salesperson for all his help with your gift. As you are leaving he wants to introduce you to the Sales Manger, the Sales Manager just likes to make sure the experience of everyone in the dealership is a pleasant one. He asks you a few questions and then mentions your trade in...maybe he could appraise it? You think, well out of curiosity, it'd be great to know what it's worth when you are ready to trade. 20 minutes later you are on a test drive with the salesperson while the manager gets your car appraised back at the dealership. Obviously, this is a dream scenario-John Q. Public responds to your mailer for the gift, and walks out with a new vehicle. It's the scenario that plays out all over the country every day though. Not every "gift seeker" turns in a buyer, but some dealers have more success in converting than others. How does the experience at your dealership compare to the one you went through on your pretend "visit" above? How do you control the experience to make sure every person on the lot is treated with respect & taken through the same steps? Send in a "mystery shopper" -your mom, a friend, someone that won't be recognized. Ask for their honest feedback on how their experience was. Find ways to standardize the experience, across events, sales reps and ups. Our MarketVision is helping a lot of dealers standardize the actual registration process, and the Ultimate Prep Packs help get the lot looking good, but these are only a part of the entire dealership experience. The most important part comes from your sales staff and the image your dealership presents.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Selecting zip codes for your automotive direct mail

Here's a quick story, does it sound familiar? You've been working with your mail consultant for the past week, looking at different themes and pieces. You've finally picked one and gone over changes, proofed it and added your current incentives. You've looked over paperwork and then, Bam!, right before deadline your realized you haven't even looked at the zip code list that was sent over 2 days ago. Quickly you circle a few zips that you know by heart are "your market" and then highlight a few more to get up to the quantity you need. They get faxed back to your mail company and you don't give them a second thought. This happens so much more often tha!n not. Many dealers spend so much more time on the message than who it's being sent to. In my experience, they should be of equal importance. So how do you quickly & effectively pick zip codes?
  1. Get out a map. You may know all the zips in a 30 mile radius, but if you don't use a map as you select zips. Most mail companies have access to zip code maps that can come with your counts, just request one or get out a state map or atlas. Look at where the traffic flows, think about if people would be traveling in your direction commuting to work, or if there is an easy route from their area to your dealership. By just using some common sense it'll help you decide on which zip you should hit out of the two or three that are a certain distance away from the dealership.
  2. Do not automatically "feather." Think about the specific areas you want to hit. Mail is much more easily tracked down if you keep it within several zip codes and not spread out over a 30 mile radius. This also helps you determine what zip codes actually pull traffic for you and which do not. It can make it harder to use more than one mail company or switch companies and not hit the same people you just sent your last mailer to as well.
  3. Know which zips work best for you. Really stay on your team to use the traffic log, or utilize your MarketVision reports to find out what zips work well, and what don't. Next time you mail swap out some that aren't working well for a new market-you won't know for sure if it'll work until you give it a shot.
  4. Come up with a plan-and stick to it. Once you have a good idea of what zips work well for you, come up with a solid plan of how you will break up your market over the course of a quarter or year. Know how many people are in all the zips you like and be sure to spread the mail around. Many dealers treat their marked like a pie and "slice" the zips up, using one slice for each sale. Others will take parts of each zip code for each sale, being sure not to hit the same people in back to back campaigns. Some will even divide the list into distance "zones" hitting the closest first, the next band out second and the furthest away last (while expecting results to be less when further out). Creating your own zip code strategy would be a good project to work with your direct mail consultant on. They will know how the zip code lists work at their respective companies and consult you on what works best for their system as well as yours.

I hope these brief points help. Many of you take the time to really look at your market and list to be sure you're mail is going where it should be. Others don't always see the value in taking the time to do this. If you work with me, Katy and I are always happy to sit down and have a good conversation on where you should be hitting and where we might stay away from.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Art of Layering your Campaign

Sorry for the hiatus the past few days. Things are been extremely busy with the drop in gas prices & the market starting to even out a little. Hopefully these are the first few signs of things starting to level and then improve. Today I just wanted to touch on a new trend in the direct mail world. I'm calling it "Layering." Direct mail is no longer just a sheet of paper with some hooks and the possibility of winning a prize--at least the mail that is working. The industry is growing rapidly trying to keep up with an ever changing consumer. Automotive direct mail has now been a marketing option for so long that many of the same old ideas are getting very worn out. The answer to this lack of results, for us at least, as been layering. So, just how do you layer?
  • First, you need to start with a proven mail concept. A product, piece or theme that is doing well in the market right now. This is really something you should discuss with your direct mail consultant to see what's been doing well in recent weeks.
  • Next, you need to add a way of tracking not only traffic, but also your ROI. Let's be real honest and serious about this, as we all know how up logs & registration cards can sometimes be misleading (at best). We use our MarketVision kiosks to accomplish this at Tri-Auto. They collect the data on every person that comes in with the mailer, you can then take the final MarketVision report and compare it to the cars sold during that time to get a real ROI result.
  • Thirdly, there needs to be a more sophisticated eye catcher. By sophisticated I do not mean a picture of the owner wearing a monocle and smoking jacket...I only mean something more than a loud, screaming title & the promise of the best deals ever. There are several options for this. Keys are doing well right now in this way, as are pieces with the person's name written all over them, you can even look into a different way of showing the "winning number" if you use one. Right now personal websites are also making a big difference in response. Really anything that stands out to make your mailer the one consumer takes a second look at.
  • Finally, attention needs to be paid to the details. Many dealers consider the actual prize on a piece an after thought. This is an integral part of your mailer, and with as much money as you'll be investing in a campaign like this don't skimp out at the end. Think about what will really drive interest & traffic into your store. Consider the price (I'm talking a max of $5 a gift), but also consider that everyone has seen the vacation, umbrella & BBQ set for the past five years. Premiums are always changing, be sure you are aware of what is new to the market so you can use it first!

This is the basic premise of layering. If this was a book I'd also include adding a technological component to the piece, considering lists, dates & timing, and a multitude of other things.

Layering does mean a higher price, but it doesn't mean you have to increase your budget! These new ideas in marketing are increasing the response rates at percentages that mean you may only need 1/2 or 1/3 of the mail you used to. With times like they are, it's important every penny counts, and that's why layering is now the way to go.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Database List Management

I was referred to Dan Kennedy's website by a client yesterday (thanks Steve!). I checked it out and was very intrigued. He has some really great info in an easy to read format. Definitely one to bookmark. One of his articles: http://www.dankennedy.com/index.php/articles/id/141 talks about really taking a good look at the list of who you are sending to before just shooting 50,000 pieces of mail out to them. In previous posts we've talked about segmenting saturation lists into carrier routes for extra detail and some demographic information. The ideas in this article can also carry into your database mailers. If you aren't hitting your database with a special event 4 times a year you are missing the boat. Seriously. Yes your sales guys should definitely drop personal notes to their customers on a somewhat regular basis, but the dealership as a whole should also be taking advantage of the very best list at your disposal. After all these people know you, know where you are located, and have bought something from you before--even if it's service related! Dan mentions a list he saw that was filled with duplicates and incorrect information.
With 30% of the population on the move at any one time, and the ways info is typically entered about 25%-35% of your database is complete GARBAGE.
If you are sending a mailer to it, it is essential to have it "scrubbed." Database scrubbing is a process your mail house should be able to perform. We essentially access your ADP, Reynolds & Reynolds, or whatever system you use to make a copy of your database. It is then run through National Change of Address, and scanned for duplicates. You'd be shocked how many times John Smith might show up as J. Smith, Jon Smith, & Jane Smith (John's wife)! You don't need to be paying for 4 mailers to go to the same freaking guy. The other thing to note is, this process is done on a copy of your database. That means if you did a mailer with someone three months ago the database you still have is not clean. Be sure to either use the same company and request that they use the list from last sale, or have it scrubbed again. Ideally have it scrubbed every 3 months (if it's being used as a mailing list). So check out Dan's site, think back to the last time you sent a mailer out to your database, and plan your next one accordingly.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Marketing to TODAY's customer

Who is today's customer to the automotive market? When I say "today" that's what I mean. Who is shopping for vehicles in October? Obviously the market has been on an extreme landslide since last week, and everyone I talked to assumes that means no one is buying cars. But they are, the only difference is--their reasons have CHANGED. Has your marketing changed to target these "new" buyers? Old buyers There are still people with leases running out, kids turning 16, needing a winter vehicle and having vehicles break down. These are not the people that direct marketing stirs to action. If they get a piece from you during this time that increases the likelihood they'll shop at your dealership instead of others, but it's not going to stimulate them to start the hunt. New buyers So who is the new buyer? People are concerned about their retirements and nest eggs, and just plain how much they are spending these days. Gas seems to have become less of the issue and the general budget at home has taken center stage. So how can the automotive industry help during these struggling times? You can help by getting them into a newer, more efficient vehicle to decrease maintenance. You could hook them up with a more gas friendly car than what they currently have in the driveway.
But really, let's be honest it comes down to a monthly payment. You could help them cut their monthly payments in HALF or more.
Two, three, four years ago for many people a $500-$700 car payment was something that made sense, now all of a sudden it looks crazy. These are the people you can help, and they aren't just the "bottom feeders" these are people with good credit, good jobs, and possibly even some cash down. These are the people that are reasonable & responsible that are realizing a BMW isn't as important as some cash in the bank for security. At Tri-Auto we're very focused on keeping up with the times and marketing to TODAY's customer. We just came out with our "Bail Out" piece that focuses on how you are helping "bail out Main Street while the government bails out Wall Street." If you want to check it out let me know. Otherwise, just be sure you are changing your marketing as quickly as the times are--it IS possible to "stir the market" with the RIGHT message.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Direct Mail Diva has launched!

Hello everyone- Today Tri-Auto sent out an email promoting the blog. This is the first time it's really been out there for the world to see. I'd love to hear your comments and responses on the past entries and also what challenges you are having with your direct mail programs. Here's your chance for some free consulting and ideas! I really appreciate you stopping by. I update 3-4 times a week so please come back often as the topics are typically very timely to what's going on in the market. Have a great day!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Resources, resources, everywhere!

Happy Monday! Now that the government has decided to move forward with the bailout, there seems to be less unrest among the general public. Dealers I've been talking to seem to be happy there is some kind of conclusion to the nightmare that began a couple of weeks ago, and regardless of how they feel about it politically, they're just hoping this is the move needed to get the credit situation under control. Obviously, things won't change overnight, but it seems to be a step in the right direction. Lately due to the economic situation and the effect it's had on me personally, and also the automotive industry I've become a nut for information. I'm on and off of CNN, MSN and the Drudge Report all day, along with the Automotive News website. I want to know what's going on and how it's going to change tomorrow. I've also found lots of industry experts use the Internet in different ways to share FREE knowledge! Here are just a few I've found helpful, and just by using search engines you can find so much more! If you're planning a new marketing campaign, sales training technique, looking for more creative lenders, looking to kick start customer relations, etc. etc....why not check hear what the experts have to say before jumping right in. The best part is, you can do some research without spending a dime! Direct Mail Expert podcast (one of my colleagues): http://web.me.com/larryacraig/Marketvision/Podcast/Podcast.html Sales & sales training podcast & blog by Caskey One: http://caskeyone.com/blog/category/the-advanced-selling-podcast/ Automotive Marketing Advice - I love this one: http://www.automarketingadvice.com/blog These are just a few I check out frequently. If there are others you like, please leave them as a comment, I'd love to check them out.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How much are ups costing you?

A colleague got an email today from a competitor. This competitor was touting 11x17 tri-fold self mailers for "cheap." The price really wasn't all that cheap but you do get something free with purchase! Boy does that sound familiar :) With the market as it is it's important that the money you are spending on marketing is actually bringing in results. Some dealers are religious about collecting data about what brought people into the dealership, others go by a gut feel. The gut can be a dangerous thing. Through our recent MarketVision data we can prove that the 11x17 tri-fold is, simply, the worst direct mail product on the market (an average sale yields a .046% response)...yet so many dealers call asking for it because it's cheap. But is it? How do you find out?
  • First, you have to know the true traffic count of the sale. Many dealers use the registration cards that most companies send out to do this, make sure you note if they came in from the mailer on the card though. Not every up through the door is from the mailer. If you or the sales guys struggle doing this with every person that comes in you can also utilize MarketVision to get a precise count.
  • Second, do some basic math. If you need help with this--do not call me. Even with a calculator I still manage to mess up the most simple math problem! Figure out how much each up cost you on the sale. (Total sale price divided by number of ups). Once you have that number you'll know how much the mailer actually cost you.
In some markets the 11x17 tri-folds can still be effective. These are typically very rural markets with little to no aggressive direct mail marketing. In these markets the tri-fold is still a great value! In markets that have seen this product since Pat Gunning was a child, it may be time to start looking at the more sophisticated products. You'll only know what's best for you when you do the math for your store. Happy calculating!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Month-Fresh Start

After getting the Automotive News email yesterday, as I'm sure many of you did too, I was disheartened to hear that September looks to be the worst month in 10 years for the automotive industry. It got me down, especially with thoughts of the winter months looming in the near future. I went home, after closing out the month and belabored the point with Andy (my husband to be) for 20 minutes before he told me he was done listening. But today is October 1. It's no longer September and it is no longer one of the worst months in years. It's a fresh start and hopefully a fresh outlook. Here's some surprising news, last week when the country was in turmoil, with the news anchors squawking about failing banks and possibly $700 billion bail out plans...dealers were selling cars. Monday morning I got four or five emails from colleagues about GREAT sales! I'm not talking about 1% traffic and a 5% closing ratio, I'm talking about close to 3% foot traffic and two sales over $200,000 gross profit in a weekend. This makes me so excited about October! This week, try to make that month end process at short as possible and start looking into what you're doing next. There are some very neat, new products out in the direct mail world right now. New premiums, pieces, and themes. Think about adding/replacing an extra zip code in your list this month--maybe your competitor down the road is "pulling in his reigns" making it a perfect opportunity for you to snatch up some extra business. Get in contact with your media consultants and start brainstorming for the future! Now is the time to differentiate yourselves from the rest of your market. It's true, the gut reaction in times like these is to just stop spending...but that may just be what everyone else is doing. Kids are still turning 16, "old reliables" are still breaking down, and the "Jones's" are still driving nicer cars than the neighbors--people still need cars. Make sure your dealership is the one they go to first. So there's my "rah-rah" for the month. A little positive thinking and a good attitude goes a long way, I know I'm not the first to say it, but we all forget it from time to time. PS: To get your brain going, here are the top 5 direct mail ideas from Tri Auto right now (as reported by our MarketVision sales data): http://www.triauto.com/products/index.php

Monday, September 29, 2008

Enough with the vacations!

In honor of Monday, this will be a short post, it's just something I was thinking about this morning. If you are currently struggling with traffic at your direct mail events, one thing to evaluate is your give away. Many of us (myself included) get into ruts with premiums. One works well, or it's inexpensive, and it ends up on every mailer you do. This can create problems for two reasons:
  1. Your customers, and legitimate buyers have seen the same prizes on your pieces for the last 3 months. Now that they are actually in the market to buy a car the prizes no longer have any merit because they've been your advertising week after week.
  2. Premiums get stale. If you're using the hot item from two years ago it isn't going to perform like the hot item of now!

So, shelf the 3 day 2 night vacations, cruises and the airfares. They've been done...and not just by you guys (in the automotive industry)! As a bride to be I've been offered more vacations at bridal shows than I could use in a lifetime. What should you try then?

Think about the person you are targeting, right now what are they concerned about? Gas prices (obviously), increases in grocery prices, and now being able to provide a great Christmas for their families. What can you do to help them?

  • Gas cards, gas rebates, gas for life with purchase, etc.
  • Gifts that can be wrapped and put under the tree: audio players, shop vacs, pots & pans, luggage, etc.
  • FOOD that can be on the table: turkey & ham certificates/rebates
  • Gift cards that help them purchase groceries: $25 rebates at Wal-Mart & Target, grocery store gift cards, or why not set up a trade with your local grocer--he gets "free" publicity, you get some gift cards?

There are always new ideas coming out, they may not be as cheap as the vacations are, but they should really increase your outcome.

...so this wasn't as short as I intended...but many of you know I'm never at a loss for words :) Have a great week!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just what are you doing at the end of the month?

When I first started in this business I hated the week(s) that contained the last two days of the month and the first two days of the next month. All I heard was "I'm too busy closing out the month." It seems like some dealers spend an entire week doing nothing but closing out the month before. If you devote this much time to working on getting the past lined up, how much time do you spend working on the future each month? In all forms of advertising there is a lead time that must be taken into consideration. With direct mail it's typically 1.5-2 weeks before the sale takes place. Which means, if you'd like to have a sale during the first half of the month it needs to be planned the month prior. I know you'll all be shocked to hear our busiest week is typically the first week of the month. It really comes on strong during the last half of it. It's as if everyone just realizes on the 5th they haven't planned anything for the month yet. These jobs are then rushed through to get out by the third week of the month. These quick turn arounds cause anxiety and hurried decisions just to make sale dates before we're back in "close out" time. Today is Thursday the 25th, why not take some time today or tomorrow to really think about what you need for next month. Get a couple of calls into your consultants with your different media and get them working now (instead of this time next week) on some new campaigns for October. You'll be happier with the quality of the ideas, and the amount of time you have to get it wrapped up.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September Quick Stats

We just released our stats for September and I just wanted to share what's working...and what's not. Based on over 300 sales...here we go! Do's
  • Add a key to anything! It increases your response to an average of 1.07%
  • Check out the new "over sized" products that are out and about. The Jumbo 9x14 inch postcards are averaging 1.64% response! With one sale topping 2.56%.
  • Give some thought to some new premiums. Many of these sales used our new "audio player" this FM scanner radio looks like it's momma was an Apple I-Pod and it comes in three fabulous colors--Black, white, and (my personal favorite) pink! Lots of dealers are also giving scratch off lotto tickets a shot, either from your state lotto, or from us-we have some scratchers with million dollar winners!


  • 11x17 tri fold self mailer. For the time being this old favorite has slowly made its way to the bottom of the heap. With .46% being the average response, even the best sale was only a .67% response. It had a great run, this product is the cheapest piece of direct mail to ever hit the market, which is probably why it's been completely over saturated the past 2 years.
  • Stick with the status quo. Our #1 seller is a theme by the name of "Emergency Sell Off" you may have seen this red, white and black wonder from about 185 other companies. It's been ripped off and duplicated so many times that no one even tries to claim the rights to it. It's still our top selling piece, dealers love it....however, it doesn't even make the Top 5 on our list of most successful themes. Don't be afraid to try something different...what is it mom always said "the definition of insanity is..." you know the rest.

Those are the highlights. Basically the key is BACK, and overzised mailers is where it's at. You may be thinking where do I get these numbers? Well no, they aren't from your dealer friends' accounts of the sales, they are actually documented through our new MarketVision technology. See my post from last week on this little gem we've developed over at Tri-Auto.

Good luck gearing up for your October promotions!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

To Give or not to Give Part 2

Yesterday we started on the topic of using premiums on your mail piece. This type of marketing isn't for everyone, however it could help a lot of dealers that refuse to use them. We'll address some of the common reasons I hear thrown around for not using premiums. Which are legit? That's what we'll find out! So why wouldn't you give gifts on a mailer? #1. Your dealership's image doesn't support that type of marketing What is it about gifts that doesn't support your image? A lot of dealers say they are 'straight forward, don't use gimmicks, rely on repeat and referral business...' they tell me this is the image they've created over many years and using gifts on a mailer will discredit this image and turn off their current customers. Fair enough. For certain brands this is definitely the case (more on that later), however, if you're trying to move pre-owned vehicles on any lot you are going after a different customer than you are with new car. The image of your dealership depends on how your salespeople treat their customers, how active you are in the community, if people feel they get a fair price, and if you don't use deceptive marketing. Putting a gift on a mailer is not deceptive. Save the brand awareness marketing for your current customers and general advertising. For a big weekend event there is nothing wrong with throwing a gift on a piece. #2. It costs more. ...than what? If you spend $8000 on a mailer that flops and $9000 on a mailer that brings in a showroom full of traffic which costs you more money? #3. The sales team has to deal with "gift getters" Yes they do, and for managers, owners and GM this might mean more work for you. If you haven't done a give away type mailer in the past the sales team will need some additional training. If you have a sales consultant consider this new type of 'selling' as their next topic. Think about using a (highly recommended) "Sales Team" for the first few events, the good ones include training as part of their package. Practice makes perfect so the first few sales may not go exactly as planned, but once the sales team realizes some of these "gift getters" can become buyers they'll jump on board. One last thought, a manager I had once used to say "Speed of the leader, speed of the team" ...the leader sets the tone. If a sales manager keeps talking about the "dirtbags" the mailer is bringing in, what kind of expectation does that set for the sales team? #4.It doesn't work for your brand or line. This can definitely be the case. If you are a high line dealer, or a higher priced import dealership these are most certainly not for your new car buyer, and in many cases not for your pre-owned prospects as well. If you're one of the big 3, or an import like Mitsubishi, KIA, Suzuki, etc. this type of marketing will likely work well for you. Regardless of the brand if you have a pre-owned inventory with a variety of low priced, quality vehicles it could still be a good move. One of my clients is a Mercedes dealer that uses give away direct mailers for his pre-owned events. #5. Your sales team is not effective at turning gift getters into buyers. Refer to #3. Has your sales team had training on turning the gift seekers into actual prospects, if not it's not their fault they struggle in this atmosphere. Many dealers turn to "Sales Teams" for this reason, others look to hire a few superstars that really excel at closing this type of prospect. #6. The legal issues are frightening! Yes they are! Especially if you are in one of the crazier states (New York, Georgia, etc). Make sure you are well informed on the laws in your state and that your direct mail consultant is also up to date. If you're really concerned have your legal counsel give the ad a good once over before sending it to press. As long as you do your due diligence on the legal side you should be in good shape, just be aware of the risks. That's more than enough for today! These are just things to consider if you're a dealer that hasn't used give aways with direct mail in the past.

Monday, September 22, 2008

To give or not to give?? Part I

Welcome to a new week and a fresh start! Don't worry I'm not going to get on you today about your charitable contributions, no today we're going to talk about premiums! To some the idea of giving out gifts just for coming in turns their stomach. They imagine a showroom full of people just showing up to pick up their trinket with no thought of ever buying a car. Others, though, love the idea of a full showroom, regardless of their intent for coming in, they are still THERE in your dealership--not the one down the street. So how do you view these people? Are they opportunities just waiting to be taken, or a waste of your time? A few years ago when mail was the new media and was driving in droves of people it wasn't necessary to have a gift on a piece to get a good amount of traffic. Times have changed though, automotive mail is now a very common piece of "John Doe's" stack of envelopes in the mailbox. It's been seen and done before and the results are starting to diminish, or in some cases disappear! That and, as much as I hate to bring it up, the market isn't what it was a couple of years ago either. It used to be an option whether or not to add a scratch off, peek-a-boo, or matching number to a piece. You know the deal-one large grand prize, a couple of other smaller prizes, and the prize that everyone wins (with the exception of the three winners sent out). If you aren't offering prizes on your mailers, look around and see who is. If you had two pieces of mail in your box and were actually in the market are you more likely to go to the dealership that is offering a chance at $10,000 and you've definitely won something, or the one that isn't? But let's not forget this isn't about you or me, or 90% of Americans, this is about the 1-3% of the population that responds to direct mail. The demographics are there, the direct mail responder WOULD choose the dealership offering a gift for coming in, if you want stats email me, I'll fill your inbox. So why wouldn't you give gifts on a mailer? -Your dealership's image doesn't support that type of marketing -It costs more -The sales team has to deal with "gift getters" -It doesn't work for your brand or line -Your sales team is not effective at turning gift getters into buyers -The possible legal issues are frightening! Am I missing anything? For some dealerships premiums are truly, not a good option. For many they are a fantastic opportunity to increase traffic and business, we'll figure out who is who tomorrow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Did you know you can target a saturation list?

I'm still surprised about how many people don't know about the new possibilities with your good old fashioned saturation/current res list. Early this year several new functions were made available and they are really increasing the response on these mailers, and can also affect the quality of traffic coming in if they are used correctly. The first new addition is a "names where available" feature. This does cost a fraction of a penny more to use, but I just throw it in on all mailers-it's worth it for the increased results. Basically an average of 80% of the list will have the person's name instead of just "current resident" or "future satisfied customer," etc. We can pull a list count ahead of time so you'll know the exact amount of names available in your market. It's typically pretty close to 80% though. So what does that mean for you!? For one thing it's more personal to the person getting the mailer, which gains their attention and makes them more likely to respond. Secondly, if you like to do the flashy mailers with the person's name all over it (aka Variable Data) this makes that such a more affordable option! You no longer have to pay the postage hike and additional charge for a names list. Brilliant! Finally the other fantastic new option on the saturation lists are...average demographics! We all know there are certain areas in every market that aren't worth your marketing dollar when it comes to different media. This list now allows you to target parts of zip codes and decide whether or not to use them. Each zip is broken into carrier routes (for example your mail carrier delivers to your neighborhood, the one across the street and the one down the road), we can then look at the average age, income and home value for each route. It's a great way to really target your market without paying for the pricey lists and postage. To my knowledge this should be available to all list providers. If you haven't heard about it from your direct mail consultant, it's definitely worth a quick conversation. If you're look for a new consultant feel free to contact me. Happy Friday, have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

So excited about MarketVision!

I'm so excited today that I just had to share! I'm not sure how many have you have heard about MarketVision, either from me or your friends in the industry. BUT, it's doing much more than I ever expected. The quick story on MarketVision is...it's a technology Tri-Auto Enterprises has developed over the past two years. A kiosk is shipped to the dealership a few days before the sale starts. It's a touch screen computer terminal. Instead of the ups checking a prize banner to see what they've won they scan a bar code on their mailer at the kiosk. It captures their name, address, phone number and email address along with trade in information. Then a receipt is printed for them telling them not only what prize they won, but also offering them an extra amount on their trade in. MarketVision then compiles the data for you! There are real time reports that show how many ups have come in, plot them on a map, tell you what salesperson worked with them and also shows you the percentage of return from each zip code. Finally we know what zips are worth hitting, and what aren't! This "real time" feature just went live last week. It was especially exciting for me as one of my event teams had a sale going in Lancaster, Ohio that was really kicking butt. It became addicting as I logged on every 30 seconds to see how many ups they had that day. By the end of the week they had 909 people in off of 30,000 mailers! It was so exciting to be able to see the success as it happened. In addition to that, all 909 of those people will receive an additional, First Class, follow up letter the week after the sale inviting them back in. They're free to the dealer as a part of the MarketVision program. Finally, there is something new in the direct mail marketplace! Tri-Auto offers this program along with many of the mail houses and event teams that partner with us. Ask your direct mail consultant if it's something they offer--if you like being able to track your ROI, the success of your sales people, and what areas are truly your market--I have a feeling you'll geek out like I have been too! If you're curious, here's a quick video showing how it works: http://triauto.com/marketvision.php And, here's the daily up totals from that sale I mentioned: Daily Analysis Date # of Ups 9-13-2008 246 9-12-2008 197 9-11-2008 248 9-10-2008 168 9-9-2008 41 9-8-2008 9 Total Ups: 909

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Elections Slow Mail Delivery--ATTN Swing States!

I don't have long today just wanted to get this information out. We've identified three states where election mail seems to be having an impact on automotive mail being delivered. The states are: Ohio, Florida & Pennsylvania. They have been designated as "swing states" by the candidates so political mail is, and has been increasing. Please discuss this with your Direct Mail Consultant if you're considering doing a campaign.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Television Commercials

It's Friday and I'm eating lunch at the desk...again. But LOVED this, thought ya'll might get a kick out of it. As it started I was instantly reminded of the Dunder Mifflin jingle from The Office, but then it actually turns out kinda nice. Get that guy a record deal. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prFmJjhIHDQ And just for fun if you don't love The Office as much as I do, here's the reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nschiTZvJ1g

Credit Amnesty Events

The past few weeks the elusive "Credit Amnesty Events" have been popping up again. In a lot of states these are not considered illegal, and quite effective, however there has been some nasty backlash recently. An Illinois dealer is facing the possibility of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines over this theme, click on the title of this post for the whole story. All dealers need to be aware of the laws in their state. Reading through the guidelines that are spewed from the AG's offices can be mind numbing and confusing...and on top of that contradictory and vague. Direct mail seems to be the area targeted the hardest when it comes to these books of laws and "suggestions." Be sure your printer, mail house or marketing firm is also up to date on the legalities in your state. They should be able to red flag certain hooks and offers for you, and at the very least be sure you are covered in your disclaimers. Back to the "Credit Amnesty Events" if you conduct business in any of the states below...run...quickly away from this title or offer. If you aren't on the list it doesn't deem you "safe" it just means there haven't been any recent fines handed down in your area for using it. And while we're talking about disclaimers, here's mine: I'm not a lawyer, and am not able to give "legal advice" I'm just well informed so that dealers I consult avoid fines as much as possible. Happy Friday! Alaska Arizona Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Idaho Illinois Iowa Kansas Louisiana Maine Montana New Jersey New York North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Vermont Washington Wisconsin

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Advertising in a Slow Economy

There seem to be only two schools of thought when it comes to the debate on what to do in a down market with your advertising dollars. To spend or not to spend. These aren't the only options, and smart dealers know it. So what do you do in times with the economy isn't the "high tide rising all boats?" Do you create a tide of your own to boost your own business or sit and wait until...the election is over, or gas prices drop, or the stock market rebounds or the first of the year....you get where I'm going with this. In times like these you have to keep your name out in front of your market, and you have to start thinking creatively. Here are three simple steps to getting started: 1. Take stock of your market. What are other dealers doing? What aren't they doing? Don't be afraid to look at other industries. Search out the other highly successful businesses in your area and talk to the other owners, managers and advertising execs. What can you incorporate into your business model that works for them? 2. Spend. Spend smart. It's essential to keep your name in front of your market. Taking a month or two off completely could lull someone into false security. There is such a thing as residual advertising...but it will run out. If what you are doing isn't working try something new, just be sure to research the new product, the new company and the new professional that should be consulting you every step of the way. 3. Track your results and ROI. This seems like a no brainer right? Do you do it though? Do you know how much money you actually made off the last TV campaign you ran? Do you know how many sales on your last super sale actually came from the direct mail and newspaper ads? How many were just walk ins? Find a company that is sophisticated enough to offer tracking tools, and use them! How else are you going to know when to stay and when to walk away? This is a time for everyone to take a really good look at where the money is going. As business owners, and personally, we all have areas we can reasonably cut back just as we can all find areas for growth.