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Like you, I still go to my home’s mailbox every day to retrieve whatever has been delivered there. Like you, I shuffle through it and end up dropping much of it into the nearest round file. 

What I really want when I go to the mailbox is answers to the question I think we all have: is anyone thinking about me? Now I know such a question can sound selfish, but isn’t it natural? I mean, as we go to the mailbox don’t we hope a friend or family member has dropped us a note or card – or that the I.R.S. has discovered a long-ago error and is making amends by sending a big check today. Sure we do! 

Zip forward this narrative, and isn’t this the same longing that drives us to clutch our smartphones, check our Facebook sites and our Twitter accounts and click on e-mail every other minute? Sure it is. Given this unspoken but certainly powerful motivator to be acknowledged, how more effective might direct mail and email be -- if we could truly answer the thoughts its intended recipients ponder about their current vehicle? 

To some degree, most modern direct marketing strives to do this. It targets specific markets, owners of certain brands and other demographic characteristics and the goal is to make the marketing as meaningful to the consumer as possible. Yet, most vehicle direct marketing simply does not answer the more important questions like: Can I afford a new model? How can I get by with this small car given my new family? How much longer will this vehicle last given its service history?  Am I driving too many miles and thus going to experience mileage penalties in my lease? 

If direct mail addressed these kinds of questions, might recipients of dealership marketing be more responsive to dealership promotions? I agree that no one can read minds. However, when it comes to marketing automobiles to existing customers I think we can put answers to their questions right into their mailbox or inbox. 

To get to these questions, start by analyzing your dealership’s customer database. This data is a rich repository of all kinds of answers that existing customers have on their minds at any one time about the vehicle or vehicles they drive. By analyzing the customer data in the right way, a dealer can identify these customers’ unanswered questions. The next step is to use the right data mining technology to link individual customers’ unique vehicle ownership position to key variables. These variables include current finance and lease options, recent OEM or dealer incentives, and such economic factors as taxes and potential write-offs. 

This analysis results in a highly specific, unanswered-question-based list of existing customers for the dealership’s marketing. 

To make such a focused, customer-specific direct marketing effort practical and affordable, source a custom, low-run digital print provider. The mailing pieces, whether direct or email, need to be customized so they address the questions the recipient might not even know he r she is willing to entertain about moving out of the current vehicle owned and into a newer model for about the same monthly payment.  

This kind of intelligent direct mail does two things very well: 

  1. Analyzes the database and identifies existing customers whose profiles match your desired targeting goals – type of vehicle, contract or lease status, warranty expiration, service history, etc., so the message will impact the mailboxes of individuals for whom it’s intended.
  2. Packaging or presentation that is visually compelling and presents “Why Buy Today” reasons so clearly and intelligently, the recipients have great insight into the offer. 

For example, the printed piece for Mr. Jones will address him by name, and offer a side-by-side comparison of what he now owns and the deal you are offering. Now the offer should clearly present the status of the recipient’s current vehicle information -- year, make and model, remaining loan status and monthly payment. Side by side to this is a new vehicle presentation, including the new model year, same make and model, and new estimated monthly payment, with payments comparable to what the client is paying for their current model. 

Combining such intelligent printing or email capability with the dealership’s precisely targeted list, results in offers with answers to customer’s vehicle-ownership situation questions, dropped right into their mailbox or inbox. 

Dealers all across America using this technique generate huge returns! For example, on average, for every 1,000 pieces of intelligent marketing like this sent, a dealer will sell 10 units, a striking 1% SOLD rate! Compare this to traditional direct mail, which results in a mere .25% to .50% response rate (not necessarily a “sold rate”). 

Here’s why marketing like this is so well received by recipients and so effective at converting recipients to repeat buyers: 

  1. It hits the sweet spots:  This direct marketing strategy identifies customers’ unique, potential ownership situations and presents new-car options in ways that grab their attention. The mailers’ messages answer their questions about mileage-over lease penalties or a soon-to-lapse warranty concerns or whether because of service history a new vehicle is in their near-term future?
  2. It makes it easy to put a new model in their driveway: The mailer clearly shows in dollars and cents how to put a new model in their drive for about the same monthly payment as for their current model.
  3. It eases their shopping experience: This kind of smart marketing positions the dealership to be the first provider to approach customers with the right offer to sell them a new vehicle today.  Save a customer time and effort to shop for a new vehicle and they’ll tell their friends and come back again and again.

Among all the junk mail, make sure the marketing you send to your customers’ mailbox or inbox surprise them with how it answers their questions about their vehicle investment! Do so, and start counting the sales! 

About the author: Jeff Cotton is Vice President and Co-Founder of AutoAlert, Inc., a leading customer database analysis and sales strategies company. He is a former sales professional with Fletcher Jones Motor Cars. Contact him at and visit



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Tags: autoalert, direct, intelligentmail, mail, marketing


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