Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

From the Diva Family to yours, here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

We bought a Truck!

Yes, this isn't extremely noteworthy to most of you, but it is to us. Previous to the recent purchase we were a two small car family. Andy's Altima really could only fit two people, so we were more like a car and a half family. 18 mos ago we bought our dream house on a large lot, at the time it was basically .75 acres of poison ivy, weeds and buried treasure. 18 mos ago Andy was using a cooler with wheels on it to haul dirt and we were calling my parents weekly to make the hour long drive so we could use their truck to haul all the crap away. So to me, buying this truck was a bit of a turning point for us...well the truck and the wheelbarrow! We are becoming grown ups, we're now favoring function over image and common sense over everything that comes before it :) That's not to say my husband didn't end up with a bad ass truck (it even has remote start!), but I did see the 17 year old in him die a little bit that day as he traded in his sporty ride. Ok, now on to the post that actually has some content...how we bought the truck.
What I loved about our experience:
  • Our salesperson was friendly. Even though I work with car dealers every day I'm still a bit nervous walking into a dealership.
  • He assessed quickly and found a specific vehicle for us. He got the basics and then selected the vehicle for us, instead of us meandering around the lot. This is the first time I've had that type of experience and it was quick & easy. Nice.
  • The test drive wasn't scary. He didn't talk the whole time, he didn't say things like "this baby would be great for bringing home a Christmas Tree next weekend," we talked about our dogs and I asked if a car seat would fit in the back (don't get any ideas-I'm just a planner!).
  • When we got back to the lot he stayed in the vehicle with us and pointed out all the features and how they work. I've now purchased 5 vehicles in my life and never has anyone done this. Sounds so simple, but wow, it had me asking what else my car can do that I don't know about!
  • We sat down to talk numbers and it was laid back. We weren't ready that night (we were hungry & it was late), so the saleperson suggested we take the truck home for the weekend to make sure it fit in our garage (a concern we brought up on the test drive). I realize this is a "tactic" in the car industry but it worked well on us. I was concerned it wouldn't fit in our 1950s garage, but it did. And lucky for the dealership, our neighbors had to come by and tell Andy how nice looking his new truck was.
  • We kept our appointment Monday evening and bought the vehicle.
  • Tuesday morning my insurance agent called to let me know our salesperson had already contacted him about our trade ins and the new vehicle. He had already written our new policy. THIS WAS SO HUGE! If dealers aren't doing this they should be. I know it's only one phone call but it's one I would have put off forever and dreaded dealing with.

What could have gone better:

  • Financing. Not the F&I guy, I freaking loved him, just the process. I had offered earlier in the day to get info to them to get everything started and he had me wait until we got there. Customers with good credit would so much prefer to just walk in, sign and drive off. Instead we were there for an hour and a half waiting for our turn...
  • Collecting info for the dealer. Before the demo he got Andy's license and logged us in, didn't ask for email or PHONE! Asked what brought us in, and then said "I'll just click newspaper" you can imagine how that made me feel! We were compeletly willing to go through the steps, if he only would have asked.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Email Marketing & Email Campaigns

As email marketing becomes more and more popular it's becoming clear there is a lot of confusion regarding this medium. Many companies offer email campaigns of one kind or another, here are the breakdown on the most popular - and the two kinds we offer here at Tri Auto. Database Email Marketing I'm calling this part "marketing" because it's not just a single advertising campaign, it should be a long term marketing effort aimed at continuing name recognition & goodwill to your client base.
  • The email list is provided by the dealership, it can be pulled out of your DMS, CRM or from Marketvision data from previous sales.
  • The email comes directly from your dealership.
  • The message of the email can vary based on who the customer is. For example, you could segment your list into recent buyers, buyers 3+ years or older & service customers. The recent buyers could receive new vehicle tips, accessory info & an incentive for the service or detailing department. The buyers from several years ago would likely receive sales info, special incentives on vehicles similar to what they own, or a buyback offer. ...you get the picture.
  • It is also common to keep in touch with all past leads & customers through a monthly newsletter that works in all departments of the dealership along with some warm & fuzzy content like recipes, automotive tips, local news, etc.

Saturation Email Campaigns

  • The email list is provided by us. We let you know how many emails are available & legally opted in around your dealership and you choose what zip codes to email.
  • The email comes from a third party, but has whatever you like in the subject line.
  • The email message has to be the same for all recipients.
  • Typically dealers use this type of campaign in one of two ways: in collaboration with a specific direct mail sale or promotion or monthly as an inexpensive way to keep their name out there.

Email marketing doesn't typically draw huge responses immediately to the dealership. It's just one more tool that can be added to a well rounded marketing campaign.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bulk Mail Delivery Info from Ashley

Ashley Beck is guest blogging today. She's the Diva on our team responsible for chasing down ALL the mail and letting you know when to expect it in homes. Here are just some tips and things she's learned over the past couple of months.
Be in the know, email us to recieve your very own 2010 Postal Holiday Calendar so you're able to plan your mailers around these days.
As the Diva in charge of Mailplus, I could write volumes on what I have learned about mail delivery. Mailplus is a very important system that we have put in place here at Tri-Auto to make sure that your mail is where it should be throughout the delivery process and getting in homes on time for your sale. To give you a better understanding, here is my basic process: First, on the day that the mail is scheduled to reach the SCF, which I have learned to call “the plant,” I have a tracking number that I enter to see when the shipment has been delivered. I then call that central mail hub, ask for the manager on duty, describe to them the mail piece and how it was shipped, and have them confirm for me that our shipment did actually arrive. Two days later, I call the DDUs (or local post offices), which I now refer to as “the delivery units” to make sure that they are receiving the mail from the plant and getting it out in a timely fashion. From new post office lingo to my buddy Pete at the Fox Chase post office, the things I have learned over this last month will help me most in the future when tracking clients’ direct mail investment if dealers can help me by: · Condensing rather than feathering. The more mail pieces I have to call on in each zip code, the better. If there are 3,000 pieces vs. 300 pieces, the carriers are more likely to see them, and more importantly remember seeing it and carrying them out to homes. · Don’t push the timeline. I do everything I can to make sure that mail gets in homes 2 days after it was delivered to the central hub, but please understand that if the plant doesn’t receive the shipment until Tuesday the chances are most the mail won’t be in homes until Thursday. · Previous late mail? Let us know!! Tell Steph when you’re picking sale dates or Katy while you’re picking the mailing list. They will give me the heads-up so we can be even more proactive helping your mail through the system.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2010 Marketing Strategy Planning Part 3

You are not alone when it comes to this! Here are a few areas I can help with as you do your own 2010 Marketing Planning, let me know if you'd like to hear more.

  • Market Analysis-We have a ton of data & market info at our finger tips. Give us a call and we can put together an analysis of your market to arm you as you head into your strategy meeting.
  • Custom Marketing Plan-This starts with a phone call I'll ask you some questions about what you have in mind and the Diva team will come back to you with a customized annual plan. We do all the work and you can pick and choose what you like.
  • Marketvision 2.0-That's right, coming in January 2010 we're rolling out a whole new version of our extremely popular Marketvision software. The kiosk will now be able to sit at your dealership year round and track what marketing messages are being heard/seen, who is coming in, and what zip codes produce your most traffic & sales. On top of that customer contact data is easily uploaded from our system to your CRM for future follow up. Don't miss another lead's contact info again.
  • ROI & Response analysis throughout the year to keep your strategy on track.

The quickest ways to contact us are direct at 317-644-5729, or by email at divateam@triauto.com.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

2010 Marketing Strategy Planning Part 2

3. Decide how you will track response & ROI. These are two different things. In easy terms-response is the amount of action you see off of a type of marketing, ROI is the actual return on investment. If a piece of advertising brings in 400 people and you sell 0 cars, you have $0 ROI. 4. Draw up a calendar. Get an actual 2010 calendar out and look through the year. Plot tentative dates for your annual events, or for campaigns you tend to have good luck with or want to try. Think about holidays and how they will affect your efforts. 5. Call in the experts. Once you have a general idea of your annual spend & a basic calendar start planning with your consultants now. Giving a heads up to people like me, your TV/Radio rep, agency account exec and anyone else who helps design, place and execute your marketing can only be a good thing. Many of us work under such tight deadlines there is no time for custom creative ideas based on a complete marketing picture. Cluing us in early on will allow thought and planning to go into the ideas we bring you. 6. Finally, set up your plan. This 2010 strategy is flexible. Hold yourself & your team accountable to tracking all your marketing. Set realistic expectations as to what outcomes you are looking for. Be ready to change things that aren't working. Keep notes for next year's planning. There is no better time than December for getting these plans in place.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2010 Marketing Strategy Planning Part 1

Many dealerships, I'm sure not yours, but many never really sit down and strategize regarding their annual marketing. Budgets, ideas, campaigns, medias, markets and everything else change month to month depending on whims, gut feels and how the current month is shaping up. This leads to inconsistent messages to your market and gaping holes in your marketing, along with last minute planning and execution.

WHY!? We're talking about tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of mismanaged funds being spent willy nilly. So how do we change that? Here's a very simple list of getting started-it may seem very basic to the marketing masters out there but it is just a quick plan to get started for those looking to do more strategy based planning this year

1. Set a meeting of the minds date. Put it on your calendar and make it mandatory. Pull in your management team and any other decision makers-it's probably not a bad idea to also invite a person or two outside the inner circle. Maybe the text crazed college student that helps detail cars on the weekend, or the owner's daughter that promotes the local UFC fights. Bringing someone with a fresh perspective in helps to challenge current ideas and bring new ones to the table.

2. Determine an estimated budget for the year. This doesn't have to be exact. Marketing goes in waves, many dealerships slow down in January and February for weather reasons and ramp up in the spring, others have 4-6 large events a year. The monthly budgets don't have to be the same--just get an idea of the annual figure.

Keep tuning into the Diva Blog this week to see the rest of the steps!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from The Divas!

We wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! May today be full of wonderful times with close family and friends as we reflect on the many things to be thankful for!
Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him and bless His name! —Psalm 100:4

Monday, November 16, 2009

2009 Holiday Mail Season Kit

Thanksgiving is next week!? Already! Soon we'll be gathering with our friends and family to celebrate the holiday season--we may be taking a little extra time off work or beginning to think of what we'd like to accomplish in 2010. I know all be doing all of the above. However...2009 isn't over yet!
Many dealers claim December is the best month of the year, and our stats from the last few Nov/Dec time frames prove it. Here's everything you need to know about successful events during this holiday season:
1. Give yourself plenty of time. An advertising investment should be a thought out process, not one that is rushed through in 12 hours. Click here to see the holiday press schedule so you can be ahead of the game!
2. Choose the right message. This time of year you don't have to wait on manufacturer's incentives-you can offer plenty of timely hooks on your own. Click here to see some ideas.
3. Demand a proven product. I can finally say that and know I can offer it. Because of the over 1,000 sales we've logged through Marketvision the past year we know what pieces were the best of '09. We then simply based our Holiday Mailers on those pieces--voila! Proven winners. Email us here to receive our December newsletter with these great products.
4. ...and finally-be Merry!! 2009 has been a volatile year for us all, and now it's nearing it's completion. Be sure to do something nice for your staff and keep people motivated with positivity instead of fear. Happy employees = happy customers.

Friday, November 13, 2009

We're Paying you $1,000!

Did you know we pay for referrals? You refer someone, they do business with me, you get a Visa Card (spends just like cash) with up to $1,000 on it. There is no limit! One client has already received $6,500 from me this year! Look through your rolodex, Facebook friends & people you know from the auction, your 20 group or local dealer association. Determine who you think I might be able to help and contact me with their info--I'll do the rest!
Direct at 317-644-5729

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What can we learn from Hyundai?

Yesterday Advertising Age Magazine announced Hyundai as the Marketer of the Year. The automotive company beat out the likes of Wal-Mart, McDonald's & LEGO for the 2009 award. If you haven't checked out the article on/in Advertising Age (Same article can be found on Automotive News), definitely take the time to read how Hyundai turned the current economic situation into a moment of redefinition and increased market share. This year Hyundai has increased market share from 3.1% to 4.3% while other auto makers have struggled. In 2009 Hyundai has staged a deliberate, edgy marketing coup that has capitalized on the "Big Three" giving up high visibility sponsorships and ad space. Combining these pivotal ad buys with a few key concepts they were able to turn consumer opinion and increase sales. Hyundai used a few key ideas to pull off this marketing campaign-all of which can be used scaled down at your local level.
  1. Know your consumer. During the Superbowl & Oscars Hyundai rolled out their Assurance program. It spoke directly to the fears consumers had right then regarding job security & an unstable economy, and showed them they could help.
  2. Create a plan and stick to it. I'm sure Hyundai didn't see an immediate spike in sales the Monday after the 'big game.' It's also been noted that on their new launch of the Luxury Genesis nothing happened over night-it took months of positioning and reinforcement to move the market.
  3. Blaze your own trail. When everyone else ran out of the market and quit advertising they stepped in to fill the void. In addition to that Hyundai was able to secure long term contracts on high profile events for the future.
  4. Take risks & Be forward thinking. When all the other manufacturers twiddled their thumbs waiting on bureaucratic red tape to clear Hyundai stepped up, backed their dealers, and started accepting Cash for Clunkers deals weeks earlier than everyone else.
  5. Make your message different. Every car company has a website. Hyundai is the only one that also has a website completely devoted to what others are saying about them. What shows more credibility than a marketing campaign revolving around industry expert's opinions of products vs. the marketing department's opinions. Brilliant.

Congratulations to Hyundai and their ad firm Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bulk Mail vs. First Class

Future clients often ask me "do you use bulk mail?" My answer is..."sort of..." Here's the low down on bulk mail and how it can mean very different things to different industries and companies. The best way to describe is - yes we take advantage of bulk postage pricing, however we do what we can to control the delivery window. If you ask the post office they will tell you it takes 12-15 days for bulk mail to be delivered from the day you send it. If you ask me it takes 2-3 days on average from the day we deliver it. We go to great lengths to ensure this time frame and on average 90% of our mail hits within it. Check out some of the things we do and a few you can control to help your mail delivery here in my MailPlus post from this summer. So, to the real match up today-First Class vs. Bulk Mail. Which is it? It does depend on what and who you are mailing. As long as you are doing at least 3,000 pieces in a realistic area around your dealership I'm going to say Bulk Mail all the way. Why?
  1. It's CHEAPER-much cheaper
  2. It's trackable-after we drop First Class mail there is no finding it-it floats around in post office la la land until it reaches its destination.
  3. I trust Bulk Mail through our MailPlus system to be more reliable than First Class.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

2009 Holiday Mail Schedule

Welcome to Holiday Mail Delivery! November & December can be great times to utilize mail. Many dealers have large events in the weeks leading up to Christmas as consumers are already in "shopping mode." Others find the beginning of Winter to be a fantastic opportunity to send out service offers as people look to get their vehicles ready for snow and icy conditions. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your 4th Quarter mail campaigns. With all the interruptions in mail delivery press dates can come much earlier than expected! Upcoming Postal Holidays ("Drop Date" = SCF date, or the day we deliver mail to the regional post office for delivery)
  • Please keep in mind that Nov-Dec are the two busiest months in the Postal Facilities because of Holiday cards & packages. Expect all mail to run slightly slower than usual.
  • Wednesday, Nov 11--Veteran's Day. Post office closed.
  • Wednesday, Nov 25--Day before Thanksgiving. This is not an official postal holiday but over the past couple of years we've noticed individual postal facilities being closed or closing early.
  • Thursday, Nov 26--Thanksgiving. Post office closed.
  • Friday, Nov 27--Day after Thanksgiving. Not an official Postal Holiday. Some mail could move this day if delivered prior to Thanksgiving. Because every other vendor on the planet is closed this day (FedEx, UPS, etc) we will not be able to drop mail for any jobs on this day.
  • Thursday, Dec 24--Christmas Eve. No mail drops. Typically not a whole lot of mail is delivered this day but it varies by area.
  • Friday, Dec 25--Christmas Day. Post offices closed.
  • Thursday Dec 31-New Year's Eve. Mail drops available in some areas, slow mail delivery is typical.
  • Friday Jan 1--New Year's Day. Post offices closed.

Upcoming Press Timelines (Varies based on how many days ship and product, this is a general rule of thumb-call for exact press dates)

11/16-11/21 Sales, to press by 11/5 11/23-11/28 Sales, to press by 11/11 11/30-12/5 Sales, to press by 11/17 12/7-12/12 Sales, to press by 11/23 12/14-12/19 Sale, to press by 12/2 12/21-12/26 week of Christmas, press by 12/9 12/28-1/2 Sale, to press by 12/14.

I know that's a lot of info. The bottom line is, if you're planning to do sales Nov-early January please let us know. We can then let you know what press dates would be applicable for different scenarios. Katy Peat is the Diva that specializes in deadlines and turn times. Feel free to contact her directly to discuss options: kpeat@triauto.com, direct: 317-644-5779.

Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Bulk Mail" confusion

In the last 10 years mail delivery has changed drastically. I started at Tri-Auto in 2004. At that time we were one of the very few automotive mail providers in the country using bulk mail postage. Most of the 'big guys' were still using First Class because bulk was unreliable and required maximum effort to even figure out the system. Fast forward to 2009 and my guesstimate is 90% of anyone using saturation automotive mail is mailing in this way (you can obviously also use it for non saturation mail as well). Among this camp there are two ways of getting the mail into homes. They are most commonly referred to as "SCF Delivery" and "DDU Delivery." So just what do those acronyms mean!?
  • SCF - Sectional Center Facility. Mail comes in to these large postal hubs and is the dispersed to the...
  • DDU - Destination Delivery Unit. ...or your local post office. Postmen and Postwomen deliver the mail from this location.
The difference in the two types of delivery is where the mail is being dropped off. Companies choose which location they "drop" the mail to for different reasons. After numerous conversations with the Post Office we've found dropping at the SCF level to be the most reliable. We were just given stats that 85-90% of DDU's now no longer have the sorting equipment necessary for our type of mail, so if the mail is delivered to them they are just sending it back to the SCF to be sorted anyway. We figure we'll cut out the middle business and just send straight to the SCF where it can be sorted and sent out correctly the first time. On the flip side, I know there are many companies who deliver to the DDU-and all of our systems are different so they may have just discovered another work around. Hopefully this helped to clear up the difference in mail delivery-it's all "bulk" in the end but the additional follow up and attention to detail is what makes all the difference on whether or not your mail is in homes on time. Check here for more info on how we attempt to control our mail AND things YOU can do to ensure your mail is delivering as reliably as possible.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Diva Photo Shoot

Happy Monday! For those of you that aren't Facebook friends with us I just wanted to post a couple of pics of the team so you'll have a face with a name. And if you aren't our Facebook friend--why not!?! Find us here: Stephanie At TriAuto

Ashley, Stephanie & Katy

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tri Auto adds TV & Radio to the Mix!

That's right-we're adding a couple of more products to our marketing arsenol here at Tri Auto. Many of our clients have tried to create syngery with their mailers buy utilizing additional media with the same message. We're just taking a little of the leg work out of it for you by offering TV & Radio spots that match the mailers we provide. Just let us know if you'd like to add one to your next mailer. Check out our You Tube channel for samples of each.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Consumers Willing to Spend More on Autos

Some good news is starting to leak out as we head into the Fall selling season. Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com) released a Market Intelligence Study earlier this month on the automotive market post clunkers. In the study they found the amount consumers are willing to spend on new vehicles actually increased after the national incentive program funded by the government. In August 2009 consumers reported they would spend $25,600 on a new vehicle, a number that has increased $1,671 to $27,271 in late September. The report also noted that customers are saying they are not waiting on incentives to purchase. This may be good news as many dealers feared Clunkers would have a similar consequences to the initial 0% offerings early in the 2000's or Employee Pricing later on. After these programs ended it seemed the public just started waiting until the next big discount from car manufacturers. I can report on the Diva front that new car mailers are up. Currently the best sales results are coming from Buyback letters sent to dealer databases or year/make owner lists we supply. Let us know if you'd like info on these. 317.644.5729, sthompson@triauto.com.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Tune Up for your Service Department Interview with Jim Troiola

After the letters went out early this summer to many GM & Chrysler dealers, and as sales hit their worst slump earlier this year it seems a real emphasis was placed back on the Service Department in many dealerships. Around that time I connected with Jim Troiola of Automotive Training International on LinkedIn. He's shared with me how he's helped many dealers drastically increase their service revenue and agreed to sit down for an interview with me. Hopefully some of the tips he shared with me may help you as you are taking a closer look at your own Service Department.
A Tune Up for your Service Department: Interview with Jim Troiola

Jim, tell us a little about yourself.

I've been in the automotive industry about my entire life, starting as a driver for a parts department in a Chevy dealer long ago. After serving time in the military I became a Parts Manager, 5 years later I was the Parts Director doing over $30M in parts a year. In 1987 Roger Penske took over the dealership and I was fortunate to directly report to him for 9 years as Service Director for the largest Cadillac dealership in the country at the time. In '91 I left there and worked for several smaller dealers and later got back together with Penske and ended up as the Fixed Ops Director for the entire group of 46 stores. Throughout my career I've worked with just about every franchise and have now partnered with Rich to help dealers all over the country with Automotive Training International.

Where did the concept of Automotive Training International come from and how did you form the company?

My partners Rich Gilardi and Tyler Robbins realized we could really make a difference for dealers. We can go into a store with a Service Manager that is so busy he may not have time to really do a lot of teaching. We have a lot of real world, hands on experience and that's how we teach as well. A lot of consultant companies come in, sit behind a desk all week and come up with an action plan. We really are different in that we come in and hold instructional workshops with all the employees--we hear, from them, what needs improvements, how they feel about management and engage with them to discover what could change. We have found if the employee is taking part in the solution there is automatic buy in and the changes are actually implemented.

What are the top two ways you are helping dealers with your training?

#1 Our Reservation System-One of the first things we do is look at how the customer is handled on the phone. Typically, we find, customers don't listen and reservations start to pile up as everyone calling is tells the person on the other end they'll be there around 7:30am to drop off. Dealers need to be the ones in control of the call. Give them a specific time to come in and let them know why--"We want to make sure we have time to take a look at your vehicle and listen to your needs. We'll put aside 10-15 minutes to spend one on one with you and your vehicle." The second part of the reservation system includes putting a "welcome board" on the service drive with easy appointments name and time. This does two things, first, it gives recognition to those you do have coming in and second it's a bit psychological-the guy that shows up whenever he wants, instead of at his appointed time will see there are people there that have an appointment. Hopefully next time he'll be more respectful of the system.

The reservation system is in place so that we can help Service Departments give better service to those that are there instead of rushing through each appointment. Using this system they can be ready for each customer and take the time to address questions and any additional service that might need to be performed.

In your opinion where are dealers missing the most amount of revenue in the service department?

Most dealerships are missing out on consistent vehicle walk arounds with the customer and courtesy inspections. The very best opportunities lie in the service drive. Instead of checking in the customer at a desk walk the vehicle with them. The service advisor can then point out anything he or she sees-"hey I could probably fix that dent for $150 or clean that up for $50, your tires are looking a little worn, etc." It's impossible to see these things if you're sitting at a desk. The other thing is doing courtesy inspections--really taking a look at the entire vehicle and itemizing the maintenance and service that needs to be done. There are a lot of tricks to the trade that come with both of these ideas so we work with dealers on the practical application of them.

Walk me through a dealership you’ve helped in the past?

This particular dealership had a lot of great processes put in place, but many they started and never saw to completion. One of the areas we helped to identify and correct was realizing what happened when they had to let go their service "Booker" because of the economy (The service Booker is the person that books the hours of labor per job for the technicians). To replace the Booker the dealership came up with pricing grids and distributed them to the service technicians, but because they were so busy everyone just started using the standard hourly rate instead of the actual price grid rate. This practice really started eating into the labor charges. We installed the pricing grids on the computers and made an instant impact on the bottom line.

Jim Troiola is Co-Partner of Automotive Training International. He can be reached by email Jim@ATi360.com or phone (646) 712-2197.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gaining Exposure for your Service Department

We've all learned a lot the past year or so. As an eternal optimist (and a Recession Virgin so to speak), I've been looking back personally and professionally and determining what can be learned from the recent history. It seems many dealerships are doing the same. Some are finding that somewhere during the era of the fast cash and quick deals the sub prime market granted--some fundamentals were lost. One such fundamental is that of marketing and promoting the Service Department.
  • First off, does your Service Department have an advertising budget? I'm aware there are different ways of book keeping and accountability when it comes to how budgets are dispersed but there should at least be an amount earmarked for every area you want to promote. If not, it's inevitable something will be pushed to the wayside.
  • Secondly, how are you using this budget? In my opinion there should be a part designated for retention and one part set aside for new customers. Either way take a look at what you're current doing and how well it is working.
  • Thirdly, begin thinking more strategically. Who are you hitting with your messages? Who is missing the message? How are you layering the service message throughout all the dealership's marketing? What are you doing to turn your sales customers into service customers?

This week the Diva Blog is all about the Service Department! Stay tuned for some marketing ideas and an interview with a service expert. I'd love to hear from you--what changes have you made to increase revenue on this side of the dealership in the past 18 months!?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Key Giveaway in the News

Many of the mailers doing the best right now feature keys. As most of you know they are for attention getting purposes and don't actually do anything at the sale as the Marketvision kiosk tells customers what they've won. Just wanted to share this story of a man who tried the key in the winning vehicles engine and actually STARTED the car. Check out the story and use it as a reminder to let the kiosk notify the winner, not the KEY :)
PS: Yes, this was a Tri Auto mailer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Schedule This Week

Just wanted to make clients and future clients aware the I'm out of the office this week. We'll be working on events with sale dates the second full week of October early & mid week, and sales the week of the third full week of October late this week. If you need something please contact one of the other two Divas: Katy Peat-Account Exec kpeat@triauto.com 317-644-5779 Ashley Beck-Account Development Spec. abeck@triauto.com 317-644-5771

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Meet me on Facebook

So I've blogged on Facebook for over a year and how dealers should and could be using it for business....and guess what-I just got my own page up and running!? Now that I've taken my own advice, I'm inviting you to connect with me. Shoot me an email or give me a call if you'd like info on how to build your friend list immediately and how to connect with your current & past clients. There are some nifty, easy little tricks on there that don't take long at all. In the meantime-become friends with Stephanie At TriAuto here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Current State of Automotive Direct Mail

We just released our Marketvision stats from the last year, along with updated numbers from the past three months. I just wanted to share some of the data as you plan for your Fall mail campaigns. Top Performers (and this one has recently changed so take note regular clients!)
  • 9.5x14 postcard with key- avg response: 2.12%, highest response: 7.72%
  • 11x17 half fold with key- avg response: 1.67%, highest response: 8.39%
  • 8 page magazine-avg response 2.11%, highest response: 2.94%

Slipping Performers

  • 11x17 tri fold-avg response: .52%
  • 8.5x11 in 9x12 envelope-avg response: .59%
Other items to note
  • 100# high gloss paper out performs any other stock on event mailers 3 to 1
  • Personal websites or PURLS are producing buyers-50% say they are in the market to buy in the next 90 days, 89% are in the market to buy in the next year
New products to watch
  • Personalized Credit Card Mailers
  • Jumbo Dealership Newsletters
  • Text Messaging
  • Saturation Email Campaigns
  • Special Finance Mailers-the new generation
Hope this helps regardless of your mail vendor. The ability to help us and dealers see what's working and what not is only half the power of Marketvision-the other half is realized when we analyze data from your individual sales and put it to work for you as well.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mailing to Credit Score Lists

The credit score list had become a relic around here until about a month ago. As lenders begin to (slightly) loosen up so does the subprime market. However, credit score lists don't have to be the only way to target these people, here are a few other ideas.
Credit Score Lists
Expense: $$$
Pros: targeting specific scores, weeding out too low scores, ability to make a firm offer of credit on the mailer
Cons: expense, reliability of data (lists are always 2-4 wks old by the time mail hits the home), disclaimer hell-legal fine print required with this list can sometimes take up half the mailer
Income Lists
Expense: $$
Pros: ability to target income ranges for credit purposes, more mail for your dollar, fewer legal hoops with disclaimers and piece restrictions
Cons: data is self reported so is not always highly reliable
Saturation List with Average Income
Expense: $
Pros: very inexpensive/a lot more mail for your money, the typical mail responder is in the credit bracket most dealers would target, you could get in the occasional prime customer as well,
can still address most customers by name (instead of "current resident"), no legal restrictions or disclaimers regarding the list needed
Cons: income information is an average by neighborhood (could be large variances)
In most cases I recommend sticking with the targeted saturation lists. The difference in price can be staggering and the traffic that comes in can be "filtered" by the content of the mailer. That being said, list selection is very unique to each campaign, dealership & market. Please discuss what's best for your specific mailer with your mail specialists (...and yes, the Diva is accepting new clients).
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Clunkers Hangover

I'm so tired of blogging on Clunkers! Here's where we are: August is over & hopefully closed out at most dealerships. Many had a heck of a ride full of long nights, lots of deals & tons of traffic. Others didn't participate much in the actual government program but took full advantage of the buzz created throughout the industry the past few weeks. Now, traffic is starting to slow and dealers are "getting back to normal."
Is "normal" still good enough for you?
A dealer told me yesterday he supposed they were "still basking in the glory of last month." I should have told him "snap out of it!" but I didn't :) The bottom line is direct mail is working right now. I don't know if it's because a lot of dealers slowed down on it the past year, or if it's just that the products have changed a lot recently, whatever it is the days of a 1-2% response are very much here again.
Don't let the momentum die in your showroom or with your sales force-it's time to restart our engines and get things going again. Here are just a few of the products that are doing it for us at Tri-Auto right now.
  • USED CAR Clunkers themes (or "cash for Junkers")
  • Jumbo Postcards with keys or credit cards
  • Half Fold 11x17 with keys or credit cards
  • Mini 8 page magazines
  • Buyback letters to year/make/model lists or your database
  • Email blasts
  • Service Mailers (making a comeback!)

If you're unsure of what direction to go in, give me a call and we can talk through some ideas.

PS: In case you actually had to ask...the picture of the cheeseburger is in reference to the title of the post today. In lieu of using Tri Auto direct mail to cure your hangover, head to McDonald's.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tri Auto Tutorials from the Direct Mail Diva

Over the past month or so I've begun posting "tutorials" on all the little extras we include with our marketing. If you have questions over any of the pieces of your campaign, you can find some of the answers here. Of course, call any of us on the Diva Team to get details. Here are links to each post on the different topics, or click on tutorials to view them all at once. Toll Free Tracking Phone Numbers Credit Websites Ultimate Prep Pack (lot outfitting kit) MailPlus Mail Delivery Tri Auto Sweepstakes Marketvision Personal Websites (PURLS)

Monday, August 24, 2009

MarketVision

I reference Marketvision quite a bit but it's been a while since I blogged on it. Here's some quick info-for those of you who haven't experienced this technology yet.
What is it?
Marketvision is a computer kiosk that comes with every mailer we provide. It's delivered a few days before your sale in a black crate, then picked up a couple of days after your sale. Setting it up is as easy as: 1. take it out of the crate, 2. put it on top of the crate, 3. plug it in & turn it on.
What does it do?
Quite a bit actually.
On the front end it:
*Tells customers what they won (replaces the prize banner) *Collects customer data (phone, email, trade in, etc)
*Helps manage traffic *Provides a final closing tool with a voucher with additional trade in money
*Gives salespeople an easy way to collect email addresses
On the back end it:
*Links in real time to our website-you can log in 24 hours a day to view up to date data
*Provides reports on zip code response, lead contact lists, leads by salesperson, and an easy format of all leads to export to your CRM.
*Shows you exactly the response rate you received off the mailer and/or other advertising
*Allows you to capture not only ROI but missed opportunities
Why should I use it?
All the reasons above are many of the reasons our dealers choose Tri Auto. The largest gain we see from clients using Marketvision is our zip code analysis. After 3-4 sales with the technology Katy is able to perform an in depth look at what areas are performing best, we can then narrow in on those zip codes eliminating the ones that don't do well. This has allowed us to double response for the same (or less) budget with several of our clients.
Current clients-why do you use MarketVision? What should other dealers know about this program?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Are You Going Soft?

I'm fortunate enough to work with Bryan Neale at Caskey here in Indy. Caskey is a sales training firm. We were meeting together a couple of weeks ago and he was asking me about business, I was sharing with him the inventory struggles, tight credit and Clunkers ups & downs my clients have been facing as of late. He listened and finally said "are you going soft? It sounds like you've lost your edge Steph." And that got me thinking-was I starting to let everything going on around our industry affect my attitude and determination? Maybe a little--I can see now that I was starting to challenge dealers less on if what they were doing was working, starting to accept the notion that maybe the market couldn't be moved, basically stopped doing my job. What about you? I think we've all gone down that path a little this year. I see it changing in many of you though! Cash for Clunkers has reminded dealers what a full showroom is like-and given them hope that people are in the market to buy, they just have to have the right incentive to do it. So here's the real question-what are you going to do to keep from "going soft" again? ...and here's where I do my job. I can provide you with traffic, brainstorm new incentives to drive even more people in, and perhaps best of all, I can show you REAL DATA from hundreds of sales to help you determine what mailer would get you the results you are looking for.

Friday, August 14, 2009

*New Product Alert* Saturation Emails

Good morning all-just wanted to get the word out about a brand new program we're offering at Tri Auto! As most of my readers know we already offered personalized emails to your database or MarketVision list of emails. We typically send 3-4 different messages depending on the different groups of leads. For example people who purchased recently would get a service offer, while those that haven't bought in a few years would get a more sales focused email. However, now we can also do basically what we sometimes do with mail-saturate your market via email. I'll be honest, we've had the opportunity to get into this market before and have declined-there are a lot of shady ways to send out emails and we wanted to make sure we were keeping our clients compliant with phishing & spamming laws. Through a lot of diligence and searching we've found a way to do this for our dealers. I'll blog later on the best uses for saturation emails-but they are a great way to boost traffic to your next event type sale, database mailer or VIP event. You can saturate your entire market for pennies per email. Let me know if you want to talk in more detail on this new product.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dealer Inventory Shortages

The past couple of weeks I'm hearing about inventory challenges more and more. The Clunkers boom is beginning to start a new car shortage, and prices at the auctions are making pre-owned vehicles hard to come by. Obviously, I don't build cars in my garage so I can't help on the new side but here are a couple of ideas on the used car side:
  • Send out a true "buy back" mailer. We've all used these in the past with the aim to actual sell vehicles off of it-by why not actually try to buy back nice, late model used vehicles from the public? Chances are you'll get the same or better deal than you would at the auction and you've made a new contact--then it's just bonus points if they buy while they 're in! We've created a letter and an event style mailer for just this reason.
  • Ask for help! There are experts out there when it comes to working the auction circuit that can help you make sure your time is well spent. Devin Weisleder at Vuenu Media is one of those guys I happen to know. He helps dealers with knowing exactly what is selling in their market and which vehicles are most profitable, sorting those vehicles by which can gross dealers the most profit, displays which lenders are financing those vehicles AND he knows where and when those vehicles will be running at upcoming auctions. Devin helps a lot of dealers, he might be able to help you too--and their reports start at only $395!
  • Get online. Spread the word that you are paying top dollar for local vehicles on your website, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. If you aren't completely savvy in the social media world try an email campaign. You could saturate your entire market for just a couple thousand dollars!
  • Call me. If you are having trouble with inventory, don't hesitate to call. Our best ideas are spurred by conversations with real dealers about their real issues. We'll talk through it and see if there is anything I can do to help.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What do we do with all this...traffic!?

Love it or hate it the C.A.R.S. program has ignited an interest in car buying again across the country. All week I've been hearing things like:
"Last month was close to, if not our best new car month ever." - Ford Dealer, Troy, OH
"July ended as our best month in a long long time and we're hoping August will be even better." - CJD Dealer, Chickasha, OK
One thing is for sure-traffic is up. New car, Used car, clunker traffic and lookers-with all the media buzz the public's focus has again shifted to vehicles. Now that your showroom is full again--what do you do with all that traffic!? Here are just ten ideas for making the most of the increase in traffic:
1. Get their email addresses! Many of these customers have probably never stepped foot in your store before, make sure the salespeople are going through the process and getting all their info--including emails! This is a great time to build your prospect database for future marketing.
2. Put your best foot forward. This program truly is unique and rare--make sure the dealership staff is making a good impression and building strong relationships that will outlast the current program and hype.
3. Reach out to your current customers. With all the commotion make sure your message is loud and clear to the people you've done business with in the past: "We appreciate you and want you back!"
4. Maintain positive attitudes. Things are crazy, and this is a good thing! Watch out for deteriorating attitudes as tensions rise on busy days.
5. Continue the momentum. With your marketing you always have to be looking ahead. Two weeks from now what will the showroom look like? Now that the first rush of Clunkers customers has come and gone how will you continue the steady flow of traffic? We've already developed some pieces for this time frame so give me a call if you'd like some ideas.
6. Refine your sales process. Over the past few months things may have become a little rusty, utilize your morning or weekly sales meetings to brush up on the basics.
7. Ask for referrals! Print up some fliars with the dealership info on them and info on a bird dog or gift for referring friends and neighbors. Again-basic Sales 101, but are you doing it at your dealership?
Shoot me an email if you'd like the final three ideas on what to do with the increase of traffic at your dealership. If you haven't seen the increase in traffic it might be a good idea to email too-we can help with that.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cash for Clunkers Confusion-What to do about your advertising?

Like many of you I was glued to my laptop last night from 8pm until close to midnight. It seemed the news changed by the minute on the Cash for Clunkers (CARS) program as I flipped back and forth between CNN & Automotive News. Today, Tri Auto sits with a full press run-90% of which include Cash For Clunkers info, or are completely centered on the program. Here are some ideas I'm sharing with my clients on overcoming this obstacle and turning it into a win for your dealership! 1. Get your mind right. The public wasn't focused on the breaking news for three hours last night, most of them only know what they catch in a headline or on the Today show as they get the kids ready for school. Katy and I both checked out the Today show this morning and neither of us heard any mention of the program's future being up in the air. It's likely most consumers are under the impression it's running as planned. 2. Look at July 1st. For proof on #1 all we have to do is remember back...oh like three weeks ago. This program was announced and the public jumped. How many deals had been done prior to the July 27th when everything was actually put in place? Joe A. Consumer had just heard it was coming and went down to their local dealership to check it out-it's likely the same thing will continue happening after the program is through. 3. Your dealership can still offer Cash For Clunkers even if the government isn't! Many dealers have already used this angle when promoting used cars (essentially a $3500 guaranteed trade). Put a "stamp" on your mailer noting that regardless of what the government does your dealership is "extending" this program. 4. Keep your customers up to date--add a landing page to your mailer/ad/commercial/etc.! These are inexpensive and the content of the website can be changed (daily!) if they need to be. Adding something that cues the customer to "check here for the most up to date information on the clunkers program" will allow you to modify your hooks & keep up with whatever is going on with this program. In closing, this program has had more "free advertising" than any other in the last 10 years (maybe ever!?). It may end Monday or they may sign on for the extra 3.5 Million that's being requested...either way capitalize on the media advertising a program you can offer your market regardless of what Uncle Sam decides to do (just make sure you disclaim right-ask Katy for details!). PS: If you're interested in how we're utilizing these techniques, email or give me a call (317-644-5729) and we can get the mailers to you.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trash Cans & Dog Treats

Last summer Andy and I moved to a new home in Indianapolis. This is the first time I've ever actually lived "in town." We live on a fairly busy road and a phenomena I've been previously unfamiliar with began immediately after we moved in...SALESPEOPLE! ...don't get me wrong, the Kirby guy, neighborhood kids peddling candy bars & wrapping paper, and the home alarm people had all visited our suburban neighborhood...but at the new house it's a whole new variety! Tree trimmers, lawn guys, asphalt dudes, gutter cleaners, etc., etc. all stop by to offer their services. We've never hired one. Today I just wanted to share with you a story of fantastic customer service and making a connection with your customer...a connection that has led us to turn away every lawn "gypsie" at the door.
We do have a lawn guy, and previously did not-so we were on the hunt for one.
We asked our neighbor for a referral and she has been so pleased with his service that she recommended Jerry.
Jerry did all the "right things," returned calls, gave us a fair quote quickly, and followed up--we hired him immediately following Andy's first (and only) 3 hour attempt at mowing the yard with our miniature push mower.
These are honestly things I expect, but consider to be good customer service compared to the different levels of service we all encounter daily. The reasons we pay a little more and are happy to stay with Jerry (amidst all the "stop bys" offering to do the same job much cheaper) are these:
  • He takes pride in our yard. He realizes it is a reflection of his work and therefor cuts most the yards on our road. He blows the grass off our drive, sidewalk and even gets the leaves and debris off the front porch.
  • He knows us. We're typically at work when he comes, and I've probably had 3 conversations ever with him, but he remembers we have one big dog and one puppy...so he leaves big & little treats in the mailbox. He also keeps track of important events we have coming up and comes as close to mow on those days so the yard looks its best.
  • He helps us. When he comes on trash day, which is typical, Jerry pulls the trash cans up our long steep drive to the garage...which Andy particularly appreciates because there is no way I ever do it after work in heels! Jerry also recommends other trusted professionals to help with our other needs.
  • And finally...he's NICE!
The moral of the story is to just remind us all that exceptional customer service & consultation is what brings customers back, and causes them to send their friends to us! I'd love to hear who has provided you superior customer service lately and why they stand out--leave a comment!
Penny loves Jerry too (and his puppy treats)! ...and yes sometimes I just find excuses to put photos of my dogs in the blog!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tri Auto Sweepstakes Programs

A lot of our mailers have prizes on them--things like new cars, $10,000 cash, or even paying someone mortgage for a year. There are two ways to make sure you are covered when it comes to high profile sweepstakes. Group Sweepstakes Your mailer is "grouped" with other mailers until we reach 250,000 pieces. Three winners are then selected randomly from that group and sent out. A winner may be sent out in your mailer, or may not. This is the least expensive way to conduct your sweepstakes and the prize tiers are Grand Prize-$10,000 value, Second Prize-$1,000 value and Third Prize-$500 value. Odds on these prizes are 1 in 250,000. Individual Sweepstakes This is just what it sounds like-an individual sweepstakes policy for your mailer only. This method allows a lot of flexibility. Pricing is based on the value of the prizes and is considerably more than the Group Sweepstakes. You can have up to 6 different prize levels on the mailer and can do higher ticket cars and give aways. The odds will be based on the amount of mailers you send out-if it's 30,000 mailers odd will be 1 in 30,000. Winners will be sent out for all the prizes mentioned on the piece. Which is better? It's pretty subjective really. Whichever makes most sense for you is my answer. If your budget isn't huge, it makes more sense to get more mail out than to individually insure your prizes. You get different answers depending on who you talk to here at Tri Auto, but after 1,000 promotions my opinion is it's better to go with the group sweepstakes. You get more mail, and I have never been able to see a difference in response with one versus the other. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one-have you seen a difference using the different sweepstakes products on the market?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

MailPlus Mail Delivery

Here's the latest in my "tutorial series." These post are meant to be educational for future/new clients and as a reference for those that work with us regularly. What is MailPlus? MailPlus is Tri Auto's own Mail Delivery program. The program follows all mail we produce from the time it is sorted and placed on skids until it is in your customer's homes. I'm unable to disclose the exact process but it begins with specific identifiers on your mail. We then follow up with a series of phone calls to the postal hubs & local post offices until we confirm at least 70% of the mail. Once we have confirmed everything you receive a report that outlines when mail should be in homes in the different markets you mailed to. Since the inception of MailPlus in 2007 we've practically perfected the "three day" mail delivery window. Here are a couple of tips to make this program work for you:
  • Use fewer zip codes. The fewer zip codes you mail to the larger the amount of mail going to each one. This makes the mail easier for the post office to identify (so our callers can determine where it is) and allows you to get a better grasp on how well that market responds to your mail (via MarketVision).
  • Be realistic about your "drop date." Our target in home date is the second day after the mail is delivered to the postal hub or SCF. If your sale starts on a Tuesday, yet you've decided to drop the mail on Monday it is unlikely Tuesday is going to be very strong. If you have questions on when the mail should drop please feel free to discuss that with Katy.
  • Clue us in! If this is your first or second time working with us and you have been plagued by late mail in the past--give us a heads up! This also goes for current clients--please let us know if the delivery has changed at all as we progress. We are happy & able to "red flag" jobs for special attention in areas we know have problems with on time mail delivery.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Guidelines for Marketing Cash for Clunkers (C.A.R.S.)

Hey Everyone- Even when I went looking for this info on the C.A.R.S. site I had trouble locating it so just wanted to share the link & info on using the official government logo on your marketing--along with the disclaimer that should be included. Please let me know if you'd like to see any of our Cars for Clunkers Mailers or emails. From www.cars.gov: CARS: Advertising Usage Guidelines Use of the CARS Logo NHTSA will permit the CARS logo to be used in advertisements (print, Web or television), provided: The logo is displayed in immediate proximity to a description of the CARS.gov program — and not so it is associated generally with the contents of the entire advertisement. The user makes no alterations to the CARS logo, which includes the www.cars.gov Internet address. Each advertisement utilizing the CARS logo displays the following required disclaimer (which may appear as a pop-up during mouse-over on the Web): "CARS is a program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.cars.gov)" Advertisements do not include quotes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator or any other federal employee. Additional info at here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ultimate Prep Packs

As you may be able to tell I'm taking the time this week and next to educate on the many different things offered in our mail packages. This is meant to be a refresher course for current clients and an intro to the new people we are working with. Please never hesitate to call the Diva Hotline with any other questions: 317-644-5729 :) What is the Ultimate Prep Pack? Many companies offer some lot outfitting with their promotions. In fact, six years ago we were one of the first to do it. We find it's very important to dress up your lot so that people coming to the sale and those driving by realize something special is going on! The Ultimate Prep Pack is a customized pack of lot outfitting that matches the specific campaign you are running, here is what is included:
  • 2 bags (72 count) of 17" Tuftex Balloons
  • 1 spool of Balloon Ribbon
  • 150 Hang Tags
  • 400 Registration Cards (3 copy forms)
  • 1 2x3 foot Banner
  • 1 3x8 foot Banner
  • 5 2x3 foot Posters

If you want the dress up the lot even more we also carry a full line of lot outfitting products including: Sky Busters, Caution Tape, Pennants, Yard Signs, & Custom Banners.

Here are a few other ideas for dressing up the lot before an event:

Change your front row to match the color of the sale--having a Patriotic event this summer? Line up the vehicles in red, white & blue order.

Give away a "mystery vehicle" and put it front and center on the road with a car cover on it. Let everyone know they could win it with a large poster or sign.

Don't underestimate the atmosphere some free food brings to an event. Put someone outside on grill duty and cook up some hot dogs, throw some chips & pop in and you have a free lunch (and perfect bonding opportunity!) for anyone that stops in.

Be creative! Just about any logo or idea can be made into a car cling-how about a "Kiss your Clunker Goodbye" event that features the best clunker you can find and a pair of lips across the side of it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cash For Clunkers Mailers are Here

I've received more phone calls the past two weeks than ever before...and everyone is talking about Clunkers! There seem to be two ideas when it comes to promoting this program and we've got you covered on both fronts. Shoot me an email or give me a call and we'll get things started. Cash for Clunkers Mailer Philosophy #1 We've heard: "I want to take advantage of the media attention over this program and increase traffic to my store. It's important that people know we are participating in this program. I'm less concerned about actually taking in clunkers, and more concerned about overall traffic increase-but we'll take those deals as easy as the rest!" We're suggesting: One of our tried and true event type mailers that has several strong mentions on the program and how it works--why? We know they work & they are saturation so you're getting the message out to your market. Cash for Clunkers Mailer Philosophy #2 We've heard: "We're really excited about the Clunkers bill and think it will increase sales for us. We want to aggressively target people who qualify for the program and bring them in to make sure we get their Clunkers business over everyone else in the market." We're suggesting: A targeted, personalized letter, complete with a personal website to a highly targeted list of people who own vehicle that qualify and are worth the same or less than the $4,500 credit. Using this approach you are weeding out those that have no interest in the program and shooting where the ducks are flying. If you fall into one of these categories let us know and we can talk about what might make sense for you.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Credit Websites

What is a credit website? At Tri Auto we own several domains that we use on mailers. The purpose of these websites is to collect credit applications for the dealers we work with throughout their sales. Check out one of the sites for yourself: http://www.getfastcredit.com/ How do they work?
  1. The customer will go to the site and fill out their credit information.
  2. When they click "submit" they authorize the dealership to pull their credit record.
  3. The lead is then sent to the specified contact(s) at the dealership.
  4. The dealership contact can then pull a credit report and find an appropriate vehicle before calling them back to follow up.
Why would I use a credit website?
  • We find the simple nature of these sites produce more credit leads than sending people to the dealership's website. It's quick & simple and no one has to search for the credit application page.
  • Many people feel more comfortable filling out credit info in the privacy of their own home, they also know you know their history before calling them--which takes any awkward feelings out of he phone conversation.
  • People want to communicate in the ways they feel most comfortable-some like to come in, others will call, and this gives those that prefer the Internet an option to contact you.
  • Why wouldn't you? It just creates more leads from your marketing!

Example of a credit lead:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Toll Free Tracking Phone Numbers

What does "toll free tracking phone number" mean when you see it on a quote or purchase order from us? Here's the quick story on it:
  • It's an 800 number that is linked to your main line in the dealership
  • Calls still ring in to your store just as they would if the person dialed the local number, except there is a quick "this call could be recorded or monitored for training purposes" before someone picks up.
  • All call ins to this number are then recorded on our call tracking website so you can listen to them later for training or to seek out missed opportunities.
  • Data on the person calling in is also recorded (much like caller ID) on the website so you can contact them back if it makes sense.

For additional info on these magic tracking phone number see the info below:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Reputable Mail Companies-How to Find Them

Many of the dealers I work with have told me lately that they've received more sales calls regarding direct mail lately than ever before. Automotive Direct Marketing providers are directly linked to the Automotive Industry, so we, like you have seen the impact on our businesses.
As much as I would love it if everyone who read this blog contacted me for their mail needs, I also realize some of you are just trying to figure out who is legit in this game and who isn't. Here are just a few red flags and questions to ask to separate the quality from the...not.
How long have they been in business? and How long have they been in business under their current name?
There are a lot of businesses that have "closed" under AG scrutiny & lawsuits and have reopened under new names. The names have changed but the people haven't.
What's the level of professionalism with this company?
If they don't have a website, or any marketing material, or even a solid address--any or all of these could be a red flag. Professional companies have marketing collateral, samples, desks and a website. That's not to say that some professional companies aren't smaller and may have fewer resources than some of the big boys--but taking the time to do a little research in this area is time well spent.
How do they feel about providing you with postal verification?
Some companies try to get around sending postal documentation to their customers. These are your basic documents from the post office that says how much mail was sent and how much money was paid in postage. If they are strange about providing these up front-that's probably not good.
Where do they fall on the price line?
I know you don't want to hear this but cheaper isn't always better. If they are considerably less expensive than anyone else you've spoken to, ask more questions. With the economy like it is some companies are truly just trying to stay in business--for some that could mean selling their product at cost to keep people & machines working, for others that could mean telling you 30,000 pieces of mail are being sent out and sending out 10,000.
Have they challenged any of your ideas?
You know cars. I know mail, and so do some other mail professionals. Those of us that do this to help dealers are not afraid to tell you when we feel something is a bad idea or to suggest something different to help increase your results. We don't do this to be know it alls-we do it to assist you. It's your choice if you want to listen to us :) Beware the mail company that doesn't have any insights to share. They may only be in it for one sale and one pay day.
What does your gut tell you? Intuition is our best friend when it comes to things like this. If you don't trust the person on the other end of the phone (or on the other side of your desk), why would you hand them a check? If something doesn't feel quite right it probably isn't.
There are many, reputable, quality mail providers out there. Go with someone that has a proven track record, industry knowledge and plenty of references for you to contact.
This post is intended to educate. By no means am I implying a company that falls into one or more of these categories is practicing illegal or immoral business. This isn't directed at any particular company-please don't send me hate mail :) Thank you!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

C.A.R.S. or Clunkers update :)

How disappointing, this idea took off with so much momentum when it was passed into law and now it's come to a screeching halt as the details are ironed out! There is a silver lining though--this minor delay has allowed us the time to put together a fantastic mailing list to promote the C.A.R.S. or Cash for Clunkers program. You can now send a personalized mailer to people that own vehicles that meet the criteria, they are:
  • Vehicles that fall into the correct age category
  • Vehicles that with the correct mpg rating
  • Vehicles that according to Edmond's should be worth $4,500 or less

Variations on the actual data are also available. Let me know if you'd like a list count to see how many people are in your market for a program like this. I hope all your months are closing out well!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Stephanie Thompson Intro

Hey all-so yes I thought I'd do a quick Q & A with myself as I haven't done anything in a long time introducing myself. As you can imagine this was a really fantastic interview!
Stephanie Thompson
Sr. Account Manager
The Direct Mail Diva
Q. Just what makes you the Diva of Direct Mail?
A. I've been consulting dealers here at Tri Auto for the past 5 years. During that time I've literally worked with well over 200 dealers myself. After working on close to 1,000 different direct mail campaigns to date I've learned what works and doesn't work. More important than that, is while experiencing markets all over the country I'm in tune with what is helping dealers TODAY. Not six months ago, or worse, 2 years ago.
Q. Where is your favorite place to be?
A. I'm a pretty simple gal. My husband and I really enjoy traveling, but my favorite place is our backyard with Andy, our two four legged girls (yes they are dogs we haven't procreated mutants), and a glass of white wine at sunset.
Q. How do you see this new dedicated account team making the client's experience even better?
A. I see it helping in so many ways. Now instead of me and Katy part time (in the past she's worked with other reps in addition to me), there are three brains completely devoted to coming up with new ideas and ways to help our dealer partners. On top of that we are all very skilled in different areas so there will always be an expert on hand for whatever the client needs.
Q. How will your role change in the team environment?
A. Honestly not a whole lot. I will continue to consult with clients and dealers who are looking for guidance on direct mail & marketing, along with putting together unique marketing campaigns. Katy will be doing some of the daily communication with clients that I currently handle and Ashley will be helping with our team marketing, and doing initial research for new partners and current clients. Don't worry--I'll still be writing the Diva blog! :)
Q. What was your first job?
A. When I was 13 Mom & Dad informed me if I wanted a car at 16 I'd have to pay for it. That summer I started detasseling corn. I detasseled for close to 10 years-even showing up for a few years during college. A lot of the leadership & sales skills I have now I learned in a corn field "motivating" jr. high kids to put in a full day of work in 100 degree weather.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Katy Peat Intro

Katy and I have been working together since the day she started three years ago. She's always been the go to girl when it comes to zip codes, art changes and all the little details I seem to miss. She's now taking on a new role within our team as she explains below.
Katy Peat
Account Executive
Q. What is your favorite part of working at Tri Auto. I love my co-workers. A. I enjoy the friendships I’ve made as a result of working here as well as the ability to laugh away stress with some extremely funny people. Q. Tell us about your first car? A. My first car was a ‘91 Accord handed down from my mom, to my brother, to me. It was maroon which also happened to be one of my high school’s colors. We’d take “Zippy” to all the football games, decked out with painted windows, window flags, and all my friends in our jerseys. Q. What will your primary new role on our team be – how is it different than what you were doing? A. My primary role now will be account management. I’ll will be keeping in touch with our existing client base and consulting on future promotion ideas. The biggest difference for me will be adding in more consulting from the beginning as opposed to now, where I consult after a majority of the decisions have been made. Q. If you have the day off what are you most likely doing? A. Spending time with family or friends that live out of town or that I don’t see very much. I’m sure some kind of shopping is involved too! Q. What do you consider your areas of expertise when it comes to dealer marketing? A. I stay pretty in tune with what pieces and hooks are working. I will be the first to say, “Don’t take that off” if it’s a hook I feel strongly about. In addition, I understand how important it is to target the right customers in a market, while taking into consideration being able to hit the best zips without constantly hitting the same homes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BEWARE-Cash For Clunker Websites

Immediately following the release that this bill was becoming a law "official websites" have popped up claiming to help consumers get in touch with an "approved dealer" or helping dealers become "approved." I was even duped by one & posted it two days ago (it has since been changed). I've been digging into this for the past 2 days and www.cars.gov seems to be the only official site with government information on it. These other sites are looking to collect dealership & consumer info to then sell to marketing agencies. I'll keep you posted as I find out more on the details behind how to get your dealership on the list. Beware of impostors! :) Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Introducing the Diva Team - Ashley Beck Intro

Happy Monday everyone! I have some very exciting news for all our current & future clients. The past few weeks we've been working on creating an even better customer service experience for YOU. We've now put together dedicated account teams, so there are now three people devoted to making sure you have the best results possible and always have the information you need. This week I'm going to introduce the three of us so you can meet the face behind the voice and see what everyone will be doing to improve your experience with Tri-Auto. Out of lack of creativity I'm referring to us as the Diva Team :) The team consists of me, Katy Peat, and new team member Ashley Beck! Thought we'd start out with the new face on the team Ashley, we had a hard hitting interview late last week.
Ashley Beck
Account Development Specialist
Q. What is your favorite part of working at Tri Auto A. Knowing that I have smart, creative, hardworking people all around me and we are all on the same team. I was an athlete growing up and the general theory of working together towards a common goal has definitely carried over into my career. Q. Share with us a little known fact about you? A. I spent 3 months hiking, sailing, and rock-climbing in the Pacific northwest with Outward Bound. Q. What are you most excited about for your new role on our team? A. Being able to use my talents and creativity for the benefit of my team and our clients. I enjoy learning, and I have acquired an amazing array of new skills required to carry things out on the back end, like running list counts, processing jobs, and making changes to the art work. Who knew a Mac was so easy to navigate once you got the hang of it (Our "Macs" are the computers we have all of our art programs on)?! Q. What will you be doing for our clients in your new role A. Can I say “Anything they need me to do”? :) I will probably be the first person the new clients talk to, and the one who actually gets the information for each sale entered into our system. I will also be putting together the strategic marketing plans that clients have discussed with Steph or Katy. Q. What's your favorite "guilty pleasure?" A. Red wine. Hands down. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just has to be good. Right now I’m hooked on a Yellow Tail Cab-Shiraz blend.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cash for Clunkers Bill set to Pass

Cash for Clunkers is all but passed as it awaits the President's signature. For those of you that aren't aware this will go into effect on any vehicles sold after July 1.
Here's a site that has a lot of questions & answers about the bill on it. It's could be a good idea to drop the website into some of your marketing to help educate your customers & your market.
www.cars.gov
There are a lot of opinions out there concerning the bill, I found this quick blog post an interesting commentary on it.
Regardless of if you love it or hate it--I think you'll be missing out if you don't' take advantage of the marketing gains with something like this.
We already have a piece ready to go, if you're thinking of promoting it with mail shoot me an email. I'd also love to hear from YOU what your thoughts are on the bill in general.