Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why I do it...better yet, why do you?

Lately when someone asks you what you do--what's the reaction when you mention you're in the automotive industry? People tend to look at me like they would a grieving widow and offer their condolences! Seriously. So I know business isn't what it was 2 years ago, but a lot of us (everyone in or connected to the industry) are still out there working, helping others and bluntly, making money. In the booming times it's easy to be happy about what you do, when times get a little harder is when you really figure out if you're where you are supposed to be. So why do you do it? Why do you stick with it, through the ups and downs? Here's my take on why I'm still here-and enjoying it! Please share your own stories as a comment! I started at Tri-Auto in 2004. I had just graduated from Purdue University and had no earthly idea what to do with my life. You may not believe this, but it's tough to get started in the Direct Mail business. A typically day is making about 100 cold calls to GM's, owners, and sales managers. They have no clue who you are, and it's likely you are not the first or last to call that very day trying to discuss mail with them. After three months I finally had my first client (bless you Mike!), and after a year I was bringing in enough business to reach our internal benchmark when you're considered to have "made it." Now, five years, 32 MILLION pieces of mail, and almost 1000 events later I'm still here. Why? Because I freaking love you guys. I get to work with and talk to car guys (for the most part-I love my girls too!), all day every day. Car people are FUNNY-most of you are laid back and just really smart business people. Every day I learn something new and you definitely keep me on my toes. It's also really fun and good for the soul to help people every day. That's how I look at my career. I get to help dealerships bring in more customers, so their sales people can sell more vehicles and provide for their families, the Sales Managers can be heroes to theGMs and Owners, and now more than ever, so that Dealers can continue to prosper--turn a profit and stay in business.
This job that I love also helps my family and me to dothe things we enjoy--spending time on the water, traveling, going out with friends, and donating to & volunteering for those that need it. So why do you still do it? What keeps you motivated and waking up every morning ready to get back to business? Here's my little piece of motivation--my family out on the lake this winter. Me, Andy & Charley

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Top Ten Reasons to Continue Advertising in 2009

After my last post on how "scary" direct mail can be, I thought it was time for a Top 10 on why now is a better time than ever to continue investing in the branding and marketing of your dealership.
10. There is so much less noise! Be aware of the messages you are receiving. There are fewer ads on TV, Radio, in the paper and in your mailbox. Take advantage of others being too afraid to spend money. Get your message out now and it's much more likely to be heard.
9. Increase your market share. Following off of #10, a lot of dealers in your area are probably not advertising--why not tell their customers what you can offer them if they drive a few extra minutes?
8. It's working. I know with great certainty that direct mail is working, and from what I'm hearing for dealers out there so is Internet and social media marketing. If you aren't sure what I'm talking about, it's time to learn. (email me if you want help with any of the above)
7. Your sales people need it. I know the job market isn't booming right now, but there are other jobs to be had. Invest in your people by bringing leads in the door for them.
6. The dealership's image is depending on it. I watch the Today Show every morning. I don't know why at this point-if I listened & bought in to all the negative crap on there daily I might as well go find the highest cliff in Indiana. But, perception is reality. People are hearing that domestic brands are begging for money and on the brink of BK. If you pull all or most of your advertising-what is that saying to your local community? Common sense tells me the perception might be that ABC Dealer has fallen on hard times and can no longer advertise...which may directly impact your traffic. A lot of people don't want to buy a vehicle somewhere if they don't think they'll be in business in 6 months.
5. You have to market to create sales. I'm in sales too. I mostly market by picking up the phone 10-50 times a day and personally talking to people. What do you do? I'm business to business, you are business to consumer--how are you "talking to people?" And please don't say you have a sign on the building and an ad in Yellow Pages. If you aren't talking to people, why do would you expect them to come in and listen?
4. People are still buying cars. ...why would they come to you if they've heard about a better offer elsewhere? Now, more than ever, people are looking for a deal--show them how you can help.
3. Henry Ford said to. "A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time."
2. You can afford it. It seems many dealers are just sticking to "what they know" right now...print, radio & TV. Is it working? If you cannot put an actual number on the ROI or you know it isn't working--why are you still sticking with it? Shrink what you are doing with the untrackables and reallocate some of it toward something new, something trackable, and something that has been shown to work in the past few months. You can't continue doing what you've done the past five years, and expect to get the same results you got five years ago.
1. Depends on you and your answer to this question: Are you giving in or fighting back? How much good has come from "waiting it out?" some dealers are actually going after the market and prospering in these times. Manufacturers are coming up with great incentives, and used car sales are up! Fighting takes a daily decision to have the attitude and the behaviors of a fighter. People do have money and people are spending it. Be the one in the ring telling them why they should spend it with you--or sit in the crowd and watch the ones in front of you win the fight.
What do you think? Are you investing in advertising? Why or why not? Am I way off here and deserve to be set straight? Leave a comment! I know over 50 computers a day log on to this blog-I'd love to hear from some of you!

Friday, February 20, 2009

5 Reasons Direct Mail is SCARY!

As mentioned in a previous post, below are 5 reasons that seem to be somewhat common among dealers for not doing Direct Mail. I'm a firm believer that Direct Marketing isn't for every dealer, but it can help a lot of them. Below I'll try to shine a night light through the scary truths of Direct Mail. 1. It's trackable-extremely trackable. You know if it works and you know if it doesn't. Which is only scary because you truly know the ROI. In most cases mail is the only marketing that dealers can actually track. Other medias get a large benefit of the doubt-you happen to be busy one weekend and had run a TV ad = TV worked. Although most would have no idea if the people coming in were from the TV or if they are the same people that drive by your lot every day and just happen to be in the market. I'd wager even "bad" direct mail events still create better traffic than "normal media" in a lot of cases.

2. Most mail company's don't work on year long contracts like radio & TV, so it has to be a conscious decision every month to do it.

Radio & TV Stations make it very easy to continue doing what you've been doing. It becomes mindless and easy to just continue with a program you signed up for 6 mos earlier. Set up something with your mail rep or company. Commit to using them as your sole provider and work together to come up with a flexible program. It's just as easy to get on a schedule with a mail professional as any other advertising pro. And you can bet your mail results will be more consistent and it will be a lot easier to set up your regular events.

3. Typically it causes work. More people in the door, gift getters, bad credit, etc etc. Some dealers and sales people just don't like to deal with it.

Like I said in my intro, mail isn't for every dealer. You do need a talented sales team that is hungry to get out there and get to work. There will be bad credit. There will be "gray hairs" coming in for the free gifts. Especially if you're looking for a big event with a lot of traffic. However, there will be buyers that didn't intend to be when they walked in, there will be good credit, there will be OPPORTUNITY. If the sales staff can't see this then mail is probably a drain on your ad budget. If you can't see this then you could be the reason your team has blinders on as well.

4. Dealers see it as a "shot in the arm" and not sustainable traffic.

This can be 100% true...if it's allowed to be. Without a good pulse on how often you are mailing to the same people, what messages are working and what aren't, and some kind of a plan or continuity to your mail these "one and done" deals will likely be your result. If you have a good mail provider STICK WITH THEM! I'm not just talking about me here, there are a lot of good companies out there. If you switch monthly from place to place--looking for a penny off here, or a free gift card to take your wife to dinner you are completely missing the boat with mail. Sticking in one spot allows that professional to develop a plan for where your mail hits, making sure you don't overuse or under utilize messages, and if you do work with Tri-Auto we can start working on zeroing in on the specific zips that work well for you. Loyalty isn't just a warm and fuzzy feeling in this business--it's imperative to your success.

5. You don't usually see the owner or general manager's face on a direct mail piece.

OK most of you read somewhat regularly (yes I can see how many times the same computers are logging on--I just can't see who you are--darn it!), and you know I'm not trying to tick anyone off here. But really...honestly, are the TV commercials we see about selling cars, or iare some of thems--about the Owner/General Manager/Car God getting to be a local celebrity? On mail these guys can't be the center of attention (well I've had some try I guess-but it's harder), the store & the offers to buy take center stage. If you want to be famous, I'm sure Real World is casting go check it out--if you want to sell cars make all your advertising about selling cars.*

*Disclaimer-Having a public face of the company that appears in commercials & advertising is not a bad thing. Having a public face that does it solely to be recognized at the mall is.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Salesperson Quiz

Happy Tuesday! Today I was going to write about the scary things about Direct Mail, but I found this article on one of my favorite websites today and just had to share. I know a lot of my readers are sales people, and a lot are GM's/managment. Regardless, we're all sales people at heart. This is a quick quiz on where you head is. With sales down (and that effects all of us in this business) we can do one of two things: Find a new way to be successful, or, "wait it out" and hope we're still here when things get better. I hope you enjoy- Salesperson Quiz: Score 10 or Find a New Gig How many of the questions do you think this guy got right? :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Automotive Direct Mail-The Afterthought

Attention: All you dealers I've talked to this month that have said "we're just doing our usual advertising this month, no room for something special like Direct Mail."
Why is it that radio, TV and print in many cases are the "usual stuff" while Direct Mail is an afterthought? If you can tell me with a straight face that you are truly getting more traffic, more sales and more action off of your big media buys, then by all means-yes that's what the usual stuff should be. I have a feeling it's something else though--the same things that make Direct Mail a great monthly addition to a dealership's advertising plan are the same things that makes it scary.
  1. It's trackable-extremely trackable. You know if it works and you know if it doesn't.
  2. Most mail company's don't work on year long contracts like radio & TV, so it has to be a conscious decision every month to do it.
  3. Typically it causes work. More people in the door, gift getters, bad credit, etc etc. Some dealers and sales people just don't like to deal with it.
  4. Dealers see it as a "shot in the arm" and not sustainable traffic.
  5. You don't usually see the owner or general manager's face on a direct mail piece.

These seem to be the reasons that Mail becomes a luxury reserved for only the best months, or a life saver thrown out to help rescue those that are drowning. But what if mail could become part of your monthly plan? What if you could sit down and plan it out by quarter so you aren't hammering the same people over and over until they stop responding? Just think-it could be a shot in the arm every month!

This week I'll post on tracking all your advertising-and reallocating to what's working, and you may even get a post on debunking the Top 5 above. Stay tuned!

PS: Yes, in regards to #5, I said it! I'm a fan of personalizing your dealership and sales people-however, I don't think personal ego has a place in dealership marketing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Automotive Event Sale Tips #3

After Your Sale
  • Calculate your traffic. This should be true of any advertising. If your ran your process during the sale, you should know what media brought in each person. MarketVision will do this for you on the mail--but if you ran TV or Radio spots, or some print to support the mailer hopefully those ups were tracked via registration forms & you can see what kind of traffic each media produced.
  • Calculate your ROI. If given access to your database, we can take a look at your recent sales and compare them to your sale data quickly to see how many units you sold off the mailer. I can even help you take a look at the other media outlets as well, or it's easy to do this on your own if you've kept good track of the traffic.
  • Do your homework for next time. Now that you have your traffic and ROI calculated, figure out what worked and what didn't. Just imagine if every dealership did this every month for all their advertising. Naturally they'd quit doing what wasn't working, and invest more in what was--and be able to keep improving the ROI of their marketing. Right now, while this sale is fresh in your mind start thinking about what you'd do different next time.
  • Follow up, Follow up, Follow up! You just had a lot of new traffic to your store. Why not add them to your database so they'll receive future emails & mailers from you? Many dealers also put together final lead lists and pass them out to their sales team. Have a contest to see who can close the most residual business off the event. Make the most out of your initial investment--these are YOUR leads--you paid for them!
  • Be on the look out for come backs. The week after every MarketVision sale we send out follow up letters to every person that came in during the event. Be on the look out for these letters to pop up the week after the sale.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Automotive Event Sale Tips #2

During Your Sale
  • Follow your process. Whatever that means to you. Whether it is making sure each customer is registered via MarketVision, or it is having the sales people fill out up forms for every person before taking them to the prize board. Making sure all customers have the same great, uniformed experience is so important--and you are sure you're doing all the tracking needed to have successful future events.
  • Keep up with the leads. With credit websites, personal websites, phone call logs and MarketVision real time reporting there are up to four different ways for you to be collecting and following up on leads. Many dealers print everything off in the evenings and hand them out to the sales people the following day for follow up if there are down times. Be sure to check out the best ways to follow up with people from each lead source.
  • Take the time to train. Heard something you didn't like on the recorded call ins? Notice on your MarketVision report that Sally Saleslady had talked to 24 ups and hasn't moved a unit? Use these concrete examples to help nudge along sales people that have some room to grow.
  • Call if you sense something is wrong. Especially with mail delivery. We're on the phone with your local post offices before and during your event. If you feel one market isn't responding or something is off--call sooner rather than later!
  • Keep stock of your gifts/premiums. If you are giving something away and realize your supply is dwindling, be sure to call by noon the day prior to order additional gifts. If it's too late we can also provide rain checks so customers don't feel let down.
  • Keep the energy UP! Use games, spiffs, and contests to keep the morale up to handle the carnival atmosphere that typically is involved with an event sale.
  • And finally, communicate. If you have questions, are having trouble logging in or working the MarketVision kiosk, or really anything at all please call me or Katy so we can help you through it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Automotive Event Sale Tips #1

I'm starting a series today on tips for before, during and after your direct mail campaigns. Some of these will be specific to Tri Auto clients, but for the most part these should be able to translate to any mail campaign from any company. These tips are based on best practices from other automotive clients.
1-2 Days Before your Sale
  • Rearrange the lot. Put your price leaders up front on the road--make sure the showroom is looking good!
  • Double check that you received your Ultimate Prep Pack (if it's missing check the service department-it's a brown box with white and green tape that says "event material enclosed")
  • Balloon & Hang tag your cars. Hang up all the banners, around the lot and balloon up the cars. Get a sky buster or two - make sure everyone that drives by knows something big is going on.
  • Make sure your MarketVision kiosk has arrived. Find a central location in the dealership to get it plugged in and set up.
  • Have a meeting with your sales team & reception desk staff. Let each sales person try out the kiosk with one of the sample mailers provided.
  • Go over basic phone training so that everyone knows what to say regarding the sale and how to answer questions.
  • Test your log in with the Tri Auto website. Make sure you can log in to see the MarketVision data as the sale is happening and to be able to get credit leads over the weekend and after business hours.
  • And finally hire this guy to fly over in his balloon and park it on your roof for a few days :)

What else do all of you do to get your dealership ready for a big event? Comments?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Making All Customers Feel Luxurious

I had lunch today with my new friends Chuck and Jenni, both are also Indianapolis folks. We got to talking about what we all do and after hearing I work with Auto Dealers Chuck tells me this story: My wife and I bought both of our vehicles from the same dealer group (whom I won't name). One from one of their import stores and one from a domestic dealership. We spent about twice as much on the domestic vehicle--but you wouldn't believe how much nicer it is to visit the import store! "When I bring the car in for service I don't event mind." It's so nice-free drinks, free WiFi, and they even have little offices you can use to get things done. The domestic store is a totally different story, it's crowded and loud, and you even have to pay for a pop if you'd like something to drink. Then he asked me "why don't all dealers treat their customers like the import location?" This was followed with a conversation regarding the domestic brands vs. imports. So I ask you guys with the crowded service areas that don't even offer complimentary beverages to your service customers--why? The more comfortable a customer feels in your store, the less they mind waiting for service and the more likely they are to buy their next vehicle from you! Chuck's last question was "Can the courtesy shuttle take me over to the import store until my domestic vehicle is ready?" Has anyone wanted to go to your service waiting area before?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

PURL Frequently Asked Questions

Here are just a few questions I've received regarding PURLS. Please shoot me an email or comment with any additional questions and I'll be sure to post those as well. Q. I'm trying to increase traffic to my dealership website, won't having another website on the piece confuse the customer? A. We've found the most successful PURL campaigns are ones in which they are the only website on the mailer. This does not mean you won't have dealership website traffic off the mailer! After the consumer has answered the 3 questions on the survey they have the opportunity to go to your website straight from the PURL to view inventory and get more information. You get traffic to your website & have qualified information on the lead that is looking! Q. The people in my market are not Internet savvy, they don't use technology. The PURL wouldn't work here. A. I'm not a know it all, and honestly I live here in Indianapolis and know this market. I don't know yours personally. There are Internet Service Providers all across this great country. It could be very true that the people you typically see responding to a Direct Mail campaign are not computer types--why not open up a new way to respond to a new type of person?? I'd be truly be surprised if there aren't some "techy" people in your area-who also happen to be in the market to buy a vehicle! PS: You also don't have to have a technological genius on staff to get and follow up with the leads! Q. I already use a credit website on our mailers-isn't that enough? A. Credit websites are a great tool, they are a quick & easy way for people to log on in privacy and enter their credit information. They are also great for dealers because you have all the info before you ever have an appointment with them-you know what financing you can help them with and probably have vehicle picked out that fits that criteria. They are great. BUT they only appeal to someone that is concerned about their credit. Someone with excellent credit is typically not going to fill out an app prior to coming into the dealership. The PURL appeals to anyone that would like more info on your event but doesn't like to gain it by just showing up or picking up the phone. The PURLS have a link to the credit website, along with your dealership site--so you can still get all the benefits of the credit challenged, while picking up some new leads that have better credit. Q. What's the best way to follow up on a PURL lead? A. Simply put, quickly & in the same manner the responded to you. More and more you've been hearing me say "respond to your leads in the same way they contacted you." In any marketing campaign there are those that will call, email, or come in--soon they may even be text messaging you. This is the way these people feel comfortable gaining more information, and you know it! If someone hits the PURL page a very timely personal email from one of the sales people or managers should be the first step. Most of these people report they are in the market to buy in the next 1-6 mos. Courteous follow up is then obviously a must. Q. Can I get the PURLS from you? A. Of course you can! Mail companies that offer PURLS take care of everything for you- including Tri-Auto. You don't have to go out and secure another new vendor. They are inexpensive and very easy to understand. Most the time they are just a few pennies a piece.