Throughout this process, the real magic happens when a customer’s behavior starts to change, says DME’s Walther. “We mine that transactional data to identify anomalies. Then, we make certain assumptions.”
“If we think you are leaving us as a customer and we’ve identified that you fit into the [profile of] a good customer for us, we’re going to give you specific and relevant reasons … why this is the dealership for your automotive service needs,” he continues.
Measurement of the program’s effectiveness is constant. At the end of 2005, the average response rate was 20.9 percent—that’s double the response generated by the previous program. Zientarski says this number has trended higher since the inception of the program, but he’s modest in discussing the success: “I think it’s a combination of having a very good program, and also being in an industry where not much has worked in the past.”
What’s Under the Hood
In addition to manpower, a number of components contribute to AutoNation’s marketing success. The first is data. “If we have 1 million customers, we might have 70 million transactions and hundreds of fields for each individual,” explains Walther.
As a supplement to the dealerships’ transactional data, AutoNation sometimes also is able to leverage anecdotal information gathered by the dealerships’ employees. For instance, a customer may have his or her car in for service and the service advisor will observe an additional problem that the customer doesn’t get fixed during that visit.
“[Employees] can record that information in the dealer management system,” says Tom Leonard, chief technology officer of DME’s Automotive Division. This is a prime example of how important it is to integrate direct marketing into the operational characteristics of a business, he adds.
Another key factor is testing, something Zientarski believes is exponentially easier—and cheaper—to do using digital print technology as opposed to traditional printing methods. “[Digital print technology] … allows us to test in ways that provide us speed to market, because we can execute highly sophisticated test matrices,” he explains. “Marketers tend to think about using these technologies as something that is expensive, but this is an ideal application for smaller test quantities.”