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 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 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 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 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 (" 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: 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!