Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's a PURL or personalized website?

We've been offering PURL's or Personal Websites for a while now, and I'm finding many dealers don't know what they are, and are having trouble seeing the value in them. This post is going to be just a basic explanation of what these snazzy little websites can do for you and why you might want to give them a shot. I'll do some Frequently Asked Questions early next week, if you have a question please leave it as a comment or shoot me an email with it and I'll be sure it makes the list (sthompson@triauto.com). First off, what's a PURL? These are not the type your wife (or yourself) ask for as Christmsa gifts! PURL stands for "Personal url" a "url" is a Uniform Resource Locator, or in regular person terms, a website. So for our purposes it's a Personal Website, but PURL is shorter so that's what I'm using for the rest of the article :) Who is the personal in PURL? Your future customer. Anyone you send a mailer to will have their own personalized website. On the mailer it may something like "Attention John, check out your website below for additional offers & discounts: www.Reveal.MyNextVehicle.com/JohnSample" Every mailer will have a different website with the person's name included in the URL. What is the experience like for the PURL user? It's simple really. They type the website into the Internet browser and it takes them to a site that is personalized with their name, and has a copy of your mailer & dealership information. It asks them 3 quick questions and gathers a little more contact info (in addition to name and address which are already there). If you really want to know what the experience is like, go to www.Reveal.MyNextVehicle.com/JohnSample, be sure to fill out the contact info with your name & email address. You'll then receive an email from "the dealership" thanking you for your participation. The dealership would then receive and email immediately with your contact info and the answers to your questions. In short, the experience is:
  1. Log on to PURL
  2. Fill out quick questions & info
  3. Receive thank you email from dealership immediately
  4. Receive follow up email correspondence or email from an actual person at the dealership within the next couple of hours

Why would I put a PURL on my direct mailer?

  1. You gain new responders. The people that respond to mail by walking in the door or picking up the phone are different from the people willing to go online to check things out.
  2. PURL responders are much more likely to be in the market than your typical prize seeker. Over 60% of our respondents say they are in the market to buy in the next 6 months.
  3. PURLS drive more traffic to your website. Most dealers I talk to are trying to get more people on their website-at the end of the PURL they can click to "view inventory" which takes them directly to your site.
  4. You get their email addresses and you know how these people like to be marketed to. Building a large & valid email database is becoming more and more important. You can now keep in touch with these people for the long term by adding them to your email list. You also know the best way to reach them is via the Internet since that's how they reached you (see my post on customer follow up for more http://directmaildiva.blogspot.com/2008/12/customer-follow-up-on-automotive.html)
  5. You close more car deals. These leads are real and timely, most are in the market & they are usually on your website looking at inventory when you get the email letting you know they've visited their PURL. What is a hotter lead than that?

That's all for now on PURL's. If you haven't experienced this type of marketing before please take a minute to go to the sample site & follow the steps. The best way to understand this technology is to experience it. I'm excited to answer any additional questions readers have on this one--so please get them over to me this week or weekend.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Let's Connect!

With the weather outside as it is in Indiana, I'm considering this a working snow day (don't tell my boss!). So in lieu of a long post today I just wanted to share additional ways to connect with me & more importantly, your future customers.
If you haven't started looking into the social marketing craze-a slow day like today will have to be in the midwest-might be a good day to do some research online. Using Social Networking is a great way to connect to possible customers in a personal, one one one way. I just found this post that has a lot of great suggestions for how to get started:
If you start joining or updating your profiles on these sites please look me up on the sites below--then if you have any questions, just ask! I'm by no means and expert but have been getting my feet wet! Happy Wednesday!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Opening the Month?

Next week when I'm making my calls to check in & start talking about February I'll hear a lot of "call me in a couple of days I'm closing out the month." I know I've mentioned this first week of the month phenomena before--the first week--when nothing can happen, when hours are spent looking backward, and an entire week of the month in front of us is wasted and just allowed to slip by. I'm proposing something new--a new was of thinking. This new way of thinking is to take place on the last week of the month. It's called "opening the month." This will be a week of planning and thinking. A week of taking the time to compile actual data from last month and deciding what worked, and what didn't. Yes, final numbers won't be in, but by the time they are, it no longer matters. After realizing what worked for you--call back your marketing people in those areas and ask them what's working for them now & what they expect to work next month. Just think-when the month starts you already know what type of advertising you'll be doing & you have some ideas on what it will look like! A large majority of our business goes to press the second week of the month. What's that mean? It means a large majority of mail is going out the final week or week and a half of the month because no one takes the time to plan ahead of time. Be one of the "planners" and capitalize on being the first dealership to send out the latest piece. This goes for mail, internet, TV, radio etc. This week, why not start OPENING THE MONTH of February?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Advertising During Tax Season

It's that time of year again, the time of year that my industry colleagues and myself used to get so excited about. TAX TIME! This used to be a great couple of months, we'd start with a mailer in January that looked like a W-2 and work our way toward manila envelopes with a patriotic check peeking out from behind the window for the remainder of the first quarter. It was huge, every Tom, Dick & Sally in the nation were just sure imperative tax info was inside-and WHAM! they walk into dealerships across the country because instead they got an offer they couldn't refuse from ABC Motors. I'm here to tell ya brothers & sisters, the dream is over. And why wouldn't it be? The way we receive info, file our taxes and end up with the refunds in our bank accounts has all changed, it's time we do too! So how do you still capitalize on a time of year when some of the public does have an influx in cash? Stick to what you know. If you have a media, mail piece, email campaign, etc. that is working for you--stay at it, just add a few hooks about tax time. Automotive used to be one of the few industries that saw this time of year as a true opportunity--now a multitude of others have lined up--furniture stores, home builders, even a local grocery store here in Indy got in on the act last year. Just remember your marketing still needs to be about vehicles, not taxes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Guest Blog from Marketing Expert Katy Peat

This is the first installment of guest blogging by Katy Peat. Katy has been with Tri-Auto since early 2006. Many of you know her, and already know in the past three years she's picked up an amazing amount of knowledge on the tacticle side of marketing. Below she shares a few common questions or situations she helps dealers with. Katy Peat, Senior Marketing Coordinator Who is this person & what can she do for ME? You may be asking yourself, why Stephanie isn’t writing today’s blog? You may also think, “Who is this person and what can she do for me?” Well, my name is Katy and I have been working as Stephanie’s Marketing Coordinator since I started at Tri-Auto. I want to give you a snapshot of what I can do for you. Targeting your List I will work with you to narrow down your list to reach the right demographic. We can experiment with different income and home values to narrow a Saturation list to recipients who are more likely to respond. If you’ve been lucky enough to use Marketvision we can use that data to help target the list even more. In addition, it’s my job to pay close attention to how far we are mailing out and be sure to stay close enough to gain a better response. On-Time Mail Delivery One big question I deal with a lot is when to drop mail. There are many items that factor into mail drops; region, quantity of mail, sale start date, sale length, and the always dreaded postal holiday. I will not only assist you in picking out what I consider to be the best drop for your mail, but I will also walk you through reading our MailPlus reports. These reports have extremely valuable information about where you mail is. Our MailPlus team calls the sorting facility and the local post office to track mail from a loading dock all the way into the hands of the postal carrier and in to homes. I will make sure you don’t get lost in all the acronyms – SCF, DDU, IHD – but that you understand where your mail is and what we are doing to get it there on time. If you have any specific questions on the topics above, or would like to run another question by Katy, feel free to email her directly at: kpeat@triauto.com

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reveal the Deal Mailer

I don't do this often, but I'm just too excited not to today. I have to brag on my company for just one post!!
Yesterday we had our big, monthly meeting and a new product was rolled out. I had seen a quick proof of it and had even seen the paper size and the new stickers it uses, but once I saw it all put together I was completely blown away!
Here is the neatest part about this mailer. We know it will work. I know that sounds cocky, and yes I just "knocked on wood" but here's something we can do that no one else can-no one. We can say we know exactly how a certain piece works, thanks to MarketVision. Every thing about this mailer from the color, to the placement of hooks, the personal website, and the size is the best of the best. We've taken everything that we have actual data saying it works and put it on to one hell of a mailer.
After using our MarketVision kiosks for a year we now have enough info to start making our company better for you--and once you use it a couple times we can do the same for your company (see my previous blog this month on using MarketVision to increase results and lower your costs).
That's it--I promise I won't do it again for a long time. Give me a call if you want to actually see the literally BIGGEST mailer possible-with brand new stickers instead of scratch offs. You'll like it.
I'll leave you with this--a quote I just got via email from a client sending this piece out at the end of the month:

"Outstanding! I'm really looking forward to this mailing. Everyone is pretty impressed with Godzilla."

-Mark, OH

Ford Dealer

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

7 Easy Steps to Help Sales People Stand Out!

There has been a subtle shift in advertising and marketing, and it's becoming more noticeable. Marketing is going from mass messages blasted for all to hear to more and more personalized one on one type advertising. The average customer is also relying on the Internet and technology to get their information--creating a whole new definition of "word of mouth." One way to immediately increase business is to start encouraging your sales staff to differentiate themselves. Below are 8 easy ways to begin this process: 7 Ways to Stand Out in the Sales Person Crowd 1. Find your Niche. What do you know most about? Who do you enjoy working with? What do you enjoy selling? In what area are you an expert? 2. Use the Internet. Everyone else is! Find a way to market yourself and your knowledge online. Blogging, Podcasting, email newsletters and even networking allow you to share your knowledge and your personality. 3. Social Media. If you are already familiar with Social Networking sites like Facebook & MySpace, why not start using them to your advantage? Also, check out Twitter & LinkedIn. The more people that know you, the more people you can be introduced to. 4. Work yourself into your company's marketing. Many dealerships include their most "well known" sales people in their advertising. Others will include the entire sales staff. If you can brand yourself as the "go to" guy or gal when looking for a car, that is something the entire dealership can market. 5. Keep your heart in the right place. The person I look up to in sales calls this "intent." If your intent is truly on helping people (and not on "closing" or "slamming the deal") that comes through to the customer. This will give them the type of experience they want to tell their friends about. If you'd like the last 2 steps shoot me an email at sthompson@triauto.com. I love brainstorming about things like this, if you or any of your sales guys want to chat please feel free to have them give me a call 317-644-5729!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Using MarketVision to lower your costs & increase response

It's been a while since I've specifically blogged about MarketVision, and I suppose for the past few months I've been sitting back to see what real gains dealers were experiencing by using it with their direct mail campaigns. After several really great conversations this week I decided it's time to at least talk about how some dealers are lowering their costs and increasing their response using this technology. I've been working with a Cincinnati area dealer for several years. They are a large, domestic dealer and have typically blasted their market with 100,000 pieces for several months in a row. The first few sales were always very good, and then results would start to dwindle and they'd take a break for a while. These sales were successful for them and they were always pretty happy until it was time for a break again. Three months ago it was time for them to start doing mail again. This was the first time they used the MarketVision kiosk with their mailer (http://www.marketvisionauto.com/). Three months later they have 3 sales worth of data.
So how does MarketVision help me lower advertising costs & increase results?
I know - sounds like an infomercial - but here's the deal:
  1. Gather data-start using MarketVision on all your mailers. It's cheap and includes free follow-up letters to everyone who comes in.
  2. After several sales do some analytics on the information. This is something I can certainly help with.
  3. Eliminate zip codes you've been mailing to that just don't perform (Savings!)!
  4. Make a list of zip codes that do perform.
  5. Make a list of some areas that could hold opportunities. New markets you've never or rarely hit, your competitors market, new carrier routes, etc.
  6. Divide your high performing zip codes into equal parts. For instance-3 parts so you can hit your entire list once per quarter, 4 parts so you can hit it all every month, etc.
  7. Here's the fun part-this list will not contain the zips that don't perform so you will send out less mail, but you'll be concentrating on the people that are likely to respond so your response will go up. You're also being careful to spread out who you are hitting so the results don't dwindle as you have to move farther away from your store. Sprinkle in a few of those areas you'd like to try each sale, and you can start determining NEW MARKETS to add to your "responders" list.

I'll even do your first MarketVision analysis for you-free! Give me a call if you want to talk about the data we've already collected, or if you want to start measuring what your mail is doing for you in 2009.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thinking "Off the Lot" -Creating new automotive advertising ideas

It's begun. Finally, we've been able to put 2008 to bed, and although 2009 isn't expected to save us all in its first few weeks--there are signs of better times. Edmunds is reporting a huge gain in online traffic the last week of December & our local paper here in Indy just ran a great article on a possible upcoming boom after the bailout (http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009901040321). If the media is starting to actually be positive, that has to be a good sign! Have you already sat down to lay-out your 2009 advertising plan? The dealers that have the most successful marketing & branding are those that strategize and think of their year as a whole--instead of week to week and month to month. Consistent presence in your market & within your messages is key. This year, as you meet with the experts that help you with all your advertising, why not try to come up with some new ideas? With all the price cutting & incentives out there how is your dealership going to stand out above the rest? Here are some ideas I've heard and thought about, maybe it'll spark a new event or offer at your dealership.
  • Buy one get one free-This has been done - and the media loves it! If you go this route be sure to advertise it in all your marketing and call the news and the paper to let them know-this promotion has been gaining a lot of attention. Just make sure you are doing it the right way.
  • "Closing" the dealership-I had a client run newspaper story ads in the paper saying that the dealership was 'closing' in the title. In the fine print it went on to say it was just for a day to prepare for their sale. The day the dealership "closed" he hired a security guard to walk the lot telling them they couldn't look at vehicles, they roped off the lot with police fencing, and made a big spectacle of it. It took a little planning & some creativity but they had a FANTASTIC event and you know the whole town was talking about that dealership.
  • Personalize your staff-We know for years that personal contact from your salesperson after the sale is always a great way to stay in touch with your customers. How can you use that to your advantage with new customers? Personal branding. I'll probably do an entry on this alone, but think about taking advantage of the slow talking cowboy customers seem to love, or the kind mother of 2 that people just gravitate toward. Towbin Dodge is a perfect example of this with their infomercials--who wouldn't want to work with the "Blue Genie" or "Chilly Willy?" Below is a commercial from one of my clients, Dan Porter Motors. All their TV always features the staff & are very entertaining. It seems like Dan Porter is a place you'd want to hang out. Is it possible purchasing a vehicle could be...ahem...FUN!?

video

  • Make your next event entertainment-I'm not talking about the Slasher showing up or Repo Joe (although those do quite well for the right market & dealer), I'm just suggesting making your events stand out. As your drive down auto row everyone is having an event. They are ballooned & bannered up with some catchy slogan. How can you stand out? In a recent brainstorming here at Tri-Auto I threw out a theme of "Kiss Your Clunker Goodbye" and said we could put huge Fathead stickers of lips on two clunkers out front. Maybe lipstick isn't your thing--but there has to be a new way of getting attention as people drive by.
  • Be Timely-All the Time!-You have to think about what is important to the public today. So many GM's and Sales Managers fall into the trap of doing what has worked in the past--gas incentives are not going to do today what they did this summer when prices are double what they are now--and what worked in February '07 is likely to not in February '09. Try to think from the consumers point of view & rely on your advertising experts for what they've seen working.

We've been working hard on getting ready for what's to come with the new President and beyond for 2009. I love brainstorming based on a specific market-please give me a call if you'd just like to talk through some ideas...direct mail or not!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gearing Up For 2009

I'm back, and ready to go! I tried to figure out how to schedule some posts while I was gone, and I apologize that apparently I'm just not as techy as I had hoped.
Andy and I got married on December 13th in downtown Indianapolis--and it was just beautiful. After the wedding, 10 days in the French Polynesian and holidays with family and friends, I'm feeling more refreshed than ever and prepared to take on 2009! My sincere wish for all of you is that you are feeling the same.
Just getting back, things have been a little busy today so I'll keep this one brief. I ran across this quote today and it really resonated with me today. So many dealers are "sitting on their hands" or "waiting it out," and really it isn't just dealers-it's a lot of the American public. This quote just makes a great point-there has to be action somewhere to create a stir. As you are planning your goals for 2009 both personally and professionally, maybe this will help.
"Success seems to be connected with action. Successful peoplekeep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit." -Conrad Hilton