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. 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 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'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: 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. And just for fun if you don't love The Office as much as I do, here's the reference:

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 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 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.