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!

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