Beyond the 90-Day Mark: Auto Dealers Keep the Personal Connection Alive with Direct Mail
It may (or may not) be scientific, but it’s sort of a marketing mantra in the auto industry: the average customer has the ability to influence the buying decision of 10 other people. Yet most customers don’t remember their salesperson’s name just 90 days after they’ve bought the car.
If that is the case, what’s to keep the customer from going to a different salesperson – or a different dealership altogether – when they’re ready to make another purchase? And while they might tell 10 friends about how much they love (or hate) the make and model of their new car, they can’t remember to tell friends about the salesperson.
Fortunately, there’s a remedy – an easy and cost-effective way to stay top-of-mind with past customers beyond their 90-day memory span. It’s regular direct mail communication. Direct mail can help the auto dealer (and any other business, for that matter) stick in the customer’s memory – so that when a friend asks “So where did you buy the car, and who from?” the salesperson’s name and dealership come easily to mind.
In addition to building relationships between customers and auto dealers (and their sales people), direct mail can also work well in driving service business, and in bringing past customers in when they’re ready to trade in. We’ve listed below four ways an auto dealer or salesperson can use direct mail to stay top-of-mind and influence future buying decisions.
1. Give customers news they can use. It used to be that most people could change their own oil and brakes, even make minor repairs on their own cars. It was simply something people knew how to do. Not so anymore. Perhaps it’s because we’ve all become so much busier, or because cars have become so much more complicated, but today’s consumers need you to help them stay informed about what’s going on with their cars.
With flyer self-mailers, you can easily, quickly, and cost-effectively create a newsletter to send regularly to your customers. Consider including:
A general maintenance schedule – how often to change the oil, rotate the tires, check the brakes
News on recalls, upcoming models, and other up-to-date information
Coupons for service
Some kind of information that is “personalized” for the dealership and sales representative – remember that it’s about the personal relationship
2. Send personalized service reminders. Honestly, who among us would remember to get the oil changed or the brakes checked if it weren’t for the service reminder we get in the mail? Take the opportunity to foster the personal relationship – include the salesperson’s photo with a personal reminder to take care of that [customer's make and model here] – from your database onto your mailer – quick and easy.
3. Promote sales events. A postcard is a great way to send a personalized promotion for your sales event. Segment your list by the type of vehicle the customer has purchased, then send slightly-different postcards to each segment of your mailing list. So those who have purchased minivans, for example, get a postcard with a shot of your latest-and-greatest minivan. Those who have purchased a sports car get a postcard specially designed for them. In an environment when many auto dealers send sales promotion postcards, making it personal is a crucial way to stand out.
A picture postcard is a great way to both promote your sales event and reinforce the personal relationship your customer has with their salesperson and your dealership. Advertise the sales event on the front of the card, then include the salesperson’s photo, name, and contact information on the back.
4. Send a refer-a-friend reply card. If customers are happy with their experience at your dealership, they’ll likely refer you to a friend – if they’re prompted. Make it easy for customers to do by sending a refer-a-friend reply card. Tell the customer that you hope they had a great experience buying from you (and that they’re enjoying their new wheels) and ask them to help spread the joy to their friends and family. If you use a business reply card, all your customer has to do is fill in the referrals’ contact information and drop the card in the mailbox.
Many of the biggest dealerships – including yours, perhaps – can buy into their manufacturers’ direct marketing programs. But they’re notoriously expensive and, worse, they tend to focus on branding the manufacturer (Ford, Toyota, or Volvo, for example) rather than the dealership or the salesperson (and remember, it’s all about the personal connection).