The New Model
According to Zientarski, relevance isn’t the only thing that’s important to marketing in the automotive industry. There’s also the question of credibility. To address both of these issues, he worked with DME to create a variable content direct marketing program that would demonstrate knowledge and understanding of customers’ needs. The program was launched in May 2004.
It begins with the gathering of transactional data housed in AutoNation’s dealer management system (DMS), the software used by the individual dealerships to manage their businesses. This data is subjected to analytics that prioritize which customers to communicate to, what to communicate and how to communicate it. Using this information, unique impressions of marketing pieces tailored to customers are generated. These efforts are brought to life through cutting-edge technologies in digital print and on the Web.
AutoNation’s current direct mail volume is somewhere between 50 to 60 million pieces a year. The company touches its customers by direct mail approximately eight times a year, and nearly all pieces have some element of personalization or customization.
A variety of formats are used for direct mail, including postcards, letter packages and self-mailers. AutoNation’s luxury brand customers receive DocuCards in their service marketing letter packages. These cards indicate the type of service needed and provide all of the pertinent details, such as the customer’s ID number, so the customer easily can make an appointment with the dealership’s service desk.
Many marketing pieces also incorporate personal URLs, which expand the amount of content the company can include in its communications. “On personal URLs, we’re using that transactional data so we can build a personalized Web site for the cus-tomer,” says DME President Mike Walther. “It would have specific offers about cars that we believe … are in the customer’s consideration set. We can give an enormous amount of detail, allow the customer to shop online and … then set up an appointment at the dealership.”