Hold onto your seat belts. According to a Vertis study, 73 percent of adults who plan to buy a new vehicle respond to automotive direct mail. As a result, direct mail remains a key marketing tool for the automotive industry, says a 2006 white paper from Carlson Marketing entitled “New Rules of Engagement: Delivering Results in Automotive Direct Marketing.”
While there is more competition in the automotive marketplace than ever before, the standard rules still apply: Get to know your prospects and segment them by needs to engineer personalized communications. However, relying on the mail alone may be a mistake—the presence of the Web can make or break your communications efforts, since a full two-thirds of adults who plan to buy a vehicle now conduct research online.
So what’s the right media mix for your customer? The Carlson Marketing white paper examined three case studies that demonstrate the best practices in direct marketing. In the first, Saturn was set to launch its Saturn VUE, a new entry in the crowded SUV market. Saturn decided to implement a lengthy dialogue marketing campaign that relied on direct mail and was assisted by e-mail and a dedicated Web site. Using phased communications and avoiding rigid cut-off dates for potential customers, this campaign garnered considerable sales.
The second case study involved International Truck, which aimed to better understand its private carrier owners in order to forge a continuous, personalized communications program with this key audience. The direct mail program consisted of a survey, to be submitted online or by mail, a newsletter, and a test incentive for part of the target audience. It resulted in an almost 6 percent response rate and became the touchstone for the communications efforts with this audience.
Lastly, Subaru sought to unveil its redesigned Outback and Legacy lines to current owners and potential buyers. After carefully segmenting prospects by needs and behaviors, a multiple-version direct mail campaign was engineered to pull interested parties into dealerships. The campaign worked, garnering almost 12,000 owner test drives and more than 3,000 prospect test drives; 12 percent of the owners bought the vehicle, while 5 percent of the prospects made a purchase.