Your Message in Stereo

October 29th, 2014 | Written By: admin

yourmessageinstereoI’ve read several articles lately about email being a dinosaur and direct mail actually increasing in effectiveness.  There are also plenty of articles out there on the power of push notifications.

In a time when we are all being asked to do more with less, the question of how to improve ROI becomes that much more important.

So which marketing method should you use?

“All of the above” is the answer in this case because all three channels are important in their own way.   Each has a time when it is the best method, and a time when it is not.

If you use a variety of channels, such as, direct mail, email, mobile app push messages, etc., you can achieve the perfect blend of direct & digital marketing and get your message heard in a way that positively affects your bottom line.

We recommend using multiple channels in an integrated way because email and app notifications support other channels of communication better than they replace them. Consumers respond to a website, for example, better if they receive direct mail first: 16% more site visits; 22% more page views; and 15% more time on site. *

Need another reason to use a mix?  With email you could be missing up to 79% of your customer base.  Cost is always a factor, and emailing can save you money on the front end.  However, if you don’t have email addresses that your customers actually receive and read, you aren’t reaching your intended audience.

On average, our dealership clients have a valid email address for only 21% of their customers.  When tested over time, the core group of loyal “clickers” represented only 1% of all the customers that received the emails.

But emails can fit the needs of a time-sensitive or urgent situation.  If the offer is strong and the sense of urgency high the response to an email campaign can be what helps to save a slow month.

We’ve helped our clients achieve an average increase in repair order dollars of 29% when we’ve added an email component to a direct mail campaign.  Our case studies have determined that the use of email with direct mail is a more profitable tactic than just using mail alone.

Using push notifications is a very effective way to reach your customers that have downloaded your app and opted-in.  Push messaging campaigns can result in open rates averaging 7%.  But again, that’s a targeted segment of your overall client base and leaves many of your customers unreached.

Direct mail, although it has been around a long time, and is sometime thought of as past its prime, has proven staying power. Campaigns can be highly targeted, personalized to the customer and branded to your dealership.  Mail makes it easier to absorb the message and is more likely to grab the reader’s attention and elicit a response.

Very generally, an investment of $1 in direct marketing returns, on average, $12.18 in incremental revenue across all industries. In comparison, non-DM ROI returns, on average $5.26. Overall, direct mail offers response rates of 1.1 to 1.4% versus 0.03% for email and targeted directed mail boasts a 4.4% response rate, compared to email’s rate of 0.12%.

So my advice, integrate your efforts and send your message in stereo to improve ROI and build traffic.

What makes YOU, YOUnique?

August 21st, 2014 | Written By: admin

For the 20 years we have been involved in automotive marketing, we have been lucky enough to work with highly successful dealers. They lead their region and the country in retention, sales numbers, sales growth, and customer service scores.

If I were asked, “What is the common characteristic of these successful dealers?” I would answer, “They know why they are unique in the marketplace and they brand, market and sell their unique strengths. They aren’t satisfied with being average or following manufacturers’ guidelines; instead, they work hard at offering unique value to their customers by embracing their YOUnique visions.”

Yes, I am spelling “unique” as “YOUnique” because I want to emphasize an idea that can help you grow your service center to match the leading dealers in the U.S.

Let’s start with a simple question: Why are you a better choice for your customers than your competitor? I know that I don’t have to tell you that the competition is fierce. There are over 23,000 Fast-Lube or Oil Change-Plus facilities and over 17,000 new car dealerships in the U.S. I’m sure there are several dealerships right around the corner from your location. What separates your service from theirs and persuades customers to choose you? Now, look at your answer. Do you like it? Is it persuasive? Is your answer the same as every other dealer or option in the market?What, then, makes you, YOUnique?

Generally, when I consult with dealers on this subject, the next question I ask is, “How do you brand your dealership so that you are marketing that uniqueness?” Manufacturers do a great job of knowing their customers and creating a brand image that speaks to them, but their message is all about their brand and not necessarily yours. Most dealer principals believe their dealership is so much more than the franchise brand they represent. Many, however, don’t market that way.

Are you family-owned?
Do you have staff members who have worked at your dealership for many years?
Do you offer special benefits such as manicures, massages or car washes?
Do you support your community or charities?
Do you have a rewards program?
Do you have a loaner program, new facility, more service bays, Wi-Fi, kids’ area, coffee bar or theater setting?

The aftermarket doesn’t. We firmly believe that the decision to choose your dealership over the competition is 99 parts why to choose you and only one part when to use you. The decision on where to service is not a simple algorithm based on when the customer’s vehicle is due for service. It is based on the YOUnique advantages you offer over the competition. So what are you doing to sell your very own brand of YOUnique?

Every dealer has a YOUnique story to tell. Let us help you tell yours.

“Smarter” Marketing

July 23rd, 2014 | Written By: admin

ChalkboardSmart is a relative term, isn’t it? As a child, Albert Einstein was considered slow because he could not speak until he was four, and today he is considered one of the most brilliant minds ever. At the same time, this Nobel Peace Prize winner married his first cousin.

Successful service departments are always looking for ways to be smarter with the way they approach all aspects of their business. Technology is affording us the opportunity to do more with less these days, and service marketing is no exception. But there are ways you can overcorrect the direction you take in the name of being “smarter” that end up not being very smart at all. Here are some major mistakes you can avoid so that the choices you make truly are “smarter.”

Mistake #1: “Let’s replace mail with email because it’s cheaper.”

Remember: Let’s be smarter. ROI needs to be a major part of any marketing decision, not just cost. When operating a multimillion-dollar business within your service department, what you have to lose or gain in profit is a much higher value than what you can save in cost. Overall, an average of 27% of service emails sent out are opened by the recipients and only 6% have a unique click-through. Of the 6% that do click through, almost 2% are clicking to unsubscribe. If you ran a direct mail campaign and 73% of your mailers were thrown away, you would never do business with that company again. Yet some dealers are moving more of their marketing campaigns to email, even though they know emails are not getting opened. Emails can serve a great purpose in the correct setting, but too many dealers live in hope that they will work for service marketing, even when the numbers say otherwise.

Mistake #2: “I can do more by communicating less.”

How many of your customers service their vehicles with you on time? Our REV reporting suggests it is about 21%. Some customers delay, while others don’t service with you or go to another dealer, altogether. It would be great if marketing success was just a simple algorithm, but it’s not. Success in service marketing is about WHY a consumer should choose you, and not just WHEN they need to use you. If it were only about when, your entire budget would be spent on the sticker in the corner of the windshield. Being in front of the customer, selling your message, is vital. If you aren’t, it will only be beneficial for your competitors.

Mistake #3: “I want to put something into place and never touch it again.”

Most service managers are not classically trained in advertising and marketing. Automation can be as bad for your store as it is good. First and foremost, you need to be sure that if something isn’t working, it can be stopped. Most dealers we work with do not have high levels of success with canned products that do not adapt to their market.

Mistake #4: “Customer prospecting is the same as customer processing.”

There are many new software options for service departments these days that can really help business. They are valuable because they save time, offer your customers more benefits, and decrease your costs, among other things. Dealers make the mistake of investing money normally spent on driving in traffic on software tools that have nothing to do with marketing. If you choose to spend money on software instead of marketing, that is one thing. Many dealers, however, are doing less to market their store without realizing it. They see less traffic and realize, after the fact, that they have not been reaching out to their customers nearly enough.

Set your objectives effectively with this test: Is it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely? Focusing on the traditional formula for SMARTer marketing, instead of changing direction based on trends, really is a smarter way to go. We’d love to talk with you about smarter marketing for your service marketing.

What is smarter frequency in automotive service marketing?

January 17th, 2013 | Written By: admin

I have two quick questions for you, three really, and then I want to share an “ah ha moment” I had recently.  “Ah ha moments” are exciting to me because they give me mental clarification that provides important direction for the vision I have for our programs and our customers.

The first question is, “How many loyal customers do you have?”  When we consult with dealers about how they should market, many dealers hesitate to spend money on customers that “are already going to come in anyway.”  But my question is, “do you really know how many of “your” customers are completely loyal to you and who they are?”

The second question is, “How many of your customers service their vehicles exactly when the vehicle is due for service?”

This is all leading to an insight that I had about the necessity of frequent communications that is very different than what you might be looking at when you put your marketing plan together.  I don’t want to just offer you my opinion… let me back it up.

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What communication type does your customer prefer?

June 6th, 2012 | Written By: admin

I ran accross this article talking about Direct mail vs. e-mail.  Please don’t mistake this article as an argument for not utilizing e-mail in your marketing at all.  I think it just helps to put things into perspective so dealers don’t invest incorrectly for a result that is unlikely to happen.

Tricia Patton

Outside the Box: Which Channel Are You On?

Every good marketer knows that the most effective way to communicate with your customers is the way that they want to be communicated with. Building trust with customers is difficult if your messaging is an annoyance to them, rather than a benefit.

The explosion of media channels has only complicated the issue. With more channels to communicate, which is the right channel at any given time?

A recent Consumer Channel Preference Study by Epsilon Targeting found that 60 percent of U.S. consumers “enjoy checking the mailbox for Postal mail” and, compared with e-mail, direct mail is their preferred channel to receive financial service information (36 percent for mail vs. 8 percent for e-mail).

Epsilon’s conclusion is that “direct mail continues to serve as the channel of choice and most trusted for recipients of marketing information in many categories.” In fact, mail topped e-mail in 14 categories measured by the study.

Trust is a big reason. Consumers still struggle with the credibility of information they receive through social media channels.

Now, no one is arguing that marketers should abandon their digital communication strategies. Clearly, the best course of action is a smartly devised multichannel communication plan that surrounds your customers with your brand messages.

But as you consider how to spend your increasingly limited marketing dollars, be careful about pulling money from traditional media to fund emerging digital channels. It might be a move that your customers will not appreciate.

The smart advertiser knows the consumer is the center of the marketing strategy, so listen to the voice of the consumer. If their preference is mail, why not include it in your overall strategy or test the addition of a direct mail component to your next campaign?

To help, the United States Postal Service® has assembled a new Advertising Agency and Association Team as a resource. This consultative group is designed to interact with advertising agencies and marketing firms to help determine how a direct mail component might add fuel to their campaigns.

The team can also assist with identifying other strategic partners necessary to create, produce and distribute a direct mail component as part of any integrated marketing and communications strategy.

Ad agencies and marketing companies can take advantage of this resource team by e-mailing Janine Konieczny at

Cliff Rucker is Vice President of Sales for the U.S. Postal Service.