Car Dealership Almost Gets 1:1 Right

By | August 9, 2014

One of the only places from which I get personalized direct mail is the auto dealership that occasionally services our SUV. I received another personalized piece this past week, and while I think they continue to do a better-than-static job of things, I continue to see omissions that could make the difference between us buying something and not.

In this most recent mailing, the dealership offered to buy our SUV. I assume they know that around this age of vehicle (nine years old), auto owners start looking to get out of something with higher mileage and into something new. We are, in fact, starting to actively look.

We want to acquire several 2005 Chevrolet Equinoxes this year to meet increasing market demand. There is value in your vehicle! Let’s discuss this.

It’s a good start. They know my name, the make, model, and year of my vehicle, and offered to buy it at around the right time. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it went.

Here’s where they missed the big opportunity and where you, as a service provider, can be looking to add value.

You don’t generally sell a vehicle without purchasing something else. The dealership missed the opportunity to layer on readily available demographic data that could have made a huge difference. By knowing my husband’s age and mine, and by knowing that we still have several children under the age of 18 in the home, they would have learned that we fit squarely into a key demographic group of consumers who are likely looking to trade the smaller compact SUV for something larger and more utilitarian. Knowing this, the dealership might have suggested that we trade in our vehicle for [make, model] of larger, specific, currently available SUVs and minivans they have on the lot right now.

The opportunity whoever handles the print work for this dealership is twofold:

  • creation of basic customer personas (young, unmarrieds; older marrieds without children; young marrieds with children; older marrieds with children; empty-nesters; retirees); and
  • data appends could help determine which persona our family (and other customers for whom they have a service history) fits into.

Gathering this information is not expensive. It just takes the time, commitment, and marketing savvy to do it. Are you helping your customers move into more relevant personalization?

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9 thoughts on “Car Dealership Almost Gets 1:1 Right

  1. Jackie Bland

    The car dealers are far from having it right! They have so much data on us it’s crazy, one important item they have is the VIN#, right? Well, they apparently don’t do any data cleansing before contacting previous buyers about bringing in that car for a trade-in and/or to purchase it from you because their ‘used car inventory is low.’ I get offers from Ford for a pickup that was totaled 10 years ago! And a Honda Pilot that we traded in 8 years ago. They need some help from an astute printer who can assure they are accurately targeting their mailing as they did with you, sort of. Variable data printing is great when done right, but unfortunately most of the time it is not because the data is inaccurate or inadequate.

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    My guess is one of the challenges is that these programs are not being handled at the dealership level but at a higher level so that the dealers opt into the programs but don’t have much control over them. Anyone have any insight into the vertical market dynamics here?

  3. John Zarwan

    You’ll have to wait until the PRIMIR retail advertising report is published! It’ll answer all your questions.

  4. Patrick Whelan

    My neighbor is a dealership manager. I asked him about this. Yes, they use outside companies that specialize in working with car dealers and they upload data to these companies. They typically work with the data they have. Purchasing additional data such as you mention (a car dealer doesn’t keep records of how many kids you have or their ages) can get very expensive. He also claims that with the offer you mention, it’s more effective to not mention the new cars available. They purposefully position it to not come across as a sales piece. Although I think one would have to be pretty clueless to not see it that way.

  5. zcg

    I’ve gotten similar letters from my dealer as have my coworkers. It seems to me that these types of letters try to conjure up a fabricated scenario and make it seem like the dealership is looking to buy vehicles just like yours. They’re not nterested in selling anything – it’s all about buying. I think that the messenger might feel like the jig would be up if they coupled their desire to sell you a car along with this made-up scenario of trying to buy your vehicle. Just my guess!

  6. Heidi Tolliver-Walker

    @ Patrick. Just goes to show why it takes such creativity to sell 1:1 printing. “Too expensive” isn’t being seen in light of potential return. It’s just cost out. The whole thing about the sales piece is very odd, too. It’s a car dealership. Everyone knows their reason d’etre is to sell cars!

    @ zcg: I get what you are saying, but more people sell cars in order to buy new ones than simply sell them without replacing. As a buyer, I wouldn’t want to be “forced” into trading in my vehicle, but there is a certain lure to the trade in / purchase at the same location for simplicity. That this isn’t even suggested as an option seems to me, from a buyer’s perspective, very odd. Especially when coming from a location that sells cars — lots of them — all different types.

  7. Shelley Sweeney

    You are absolutely right, Heidi! Having the appropriate customer data is a critical component to getting the most value out of your direct marketing campaign. Direct mail pieces are a great way to add personalization and in order to be successful, printed marketing must tailor each message to the consumer to gain their interest. It’s also important to give the audience a call to action –a twitter handle, website URL and a QR code are all great examples. Adding digital components to what has been deemed old-school marketing proves print and digital can coexist in ways that are interactive and engaging. –Shelley Sweeney, VP/GM Service Bureau/Direct Mail Sectors, Xerox

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