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Targeting Tactics: Successful Dealership Direct Mail

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Article Highlights:

  • Check your records to see if addresses match formats recommended by USPS.
  • Consider uniquely shaped mailers, as these tend to have high success rates.

It’s common to hear direct mail marketing surrounded by terms like “outdated” or “junk.” It may be easy to dismiss direct mail in today’s digital-focused world, but here are some stats you might find interesting:

  • Direct mail has an open rate of over 90%. (For comparison, the average email open rate is around 20%.)
  • 57% of customers said that direct mail made them feel more valued as a customer.
  • Mail-driven customers spend 28% more than those who did not receive a mail piece.
  • 59% of marketers expect an increase in the use of direct mail over the next five years.

Are you seeing a trend here? Direct mail marketing can (and should) be incredibly rewarding for your dealership! We thought we’d share a few targeting tactics that you can use to boost success:

Where It All Begins

Why spend more than you have to when it comes to advertising efforts? The simple act of ensuring that your customer records are clean, accurate, and updated can save your dealership TONS. Mistakes happen at any business—maybe a customer provides their old address instead of the new one, or maybe they didn’t specify whether they lived on Maple Street or Maple Lane. Catching these discrepancies before sending out a mailer prevents that ‘Return to Sender’ from showing up at your doorstep.

Similarly, clean, updated data saves you from sending duplicate mailers to the same household address. Imagine finding three of the same postcard in your mailbox—it feels spam-y right? And wasteful. It’s important to have the ability to clean and sort your customer profiles into households based on address. This will give you the chance to choose which person to address your mailer to, or you can opt to send one piece addressed to multiple individuals.

Quick Tip: it’s a good idea to see if your customer records are standardized to match the address formats recommended by the USPS. This makes it easier for your mailers to be delivered correctly, on time, and without additional hassles or fees.

Next Steps

Let’s say your direct mail can now be successfully delivered (thanks to squeaky clean data). The next step in direct mail success is making sure that you’re only sending content that people are going to find relevant. That’s right, we’re talking about segmentation.

Think of it this way, would you read a mailer about servicing a car that you don’t even own? (Yeah, we wouldn’t either.)

To keep your message interesting, engaging, and only going to the customers that are likely to take action, consider segmenting your customer database by:

  • Service-only customers—share service related info with customers who have already visited your service drive.
  • Sales customers—you have record of what your customers purchased from you—let them know when they’re in a good position for a trade-in. This also works for lease customers and can be a great way to keep them informed about renewal dates or upgrade options.
  • Demographic info—recommending a big truck to an inner city dweller doesn’t make much sense. Neither does recommending a compact car to a large family that travels frequently. Demographic data can give you an indication of your customers’ interests and needs, then you can adjust your message accordingly.

Quick Tip: about 30% of your customers no longer own the car that your records say they do. Checking your database with things like VIN Title Transfers can eliminate the likelihood that you’ll send an irrelevant mailer about a car your customer doesn’t even own.

Securing Success

So you’re sending the right message to the right customers—but how can you get them to take action?

Creating an engaging call-to-action is much easier said than it is done, especially when it comes to direct mail. After all, this isn’t email, where customers can simply click a button to take action. Your message needs to provide enough incentive that customers will at least want to scan a QR code—if not call to book an appointment or stop in at your dealership, mailer in hand.

Take a look at your direct mail’s call-to-action (CTA). If there’s room for improvement, follow these suggestions:

  • Use color—your CTA should stand out, but it shouldn’t be distracting or an eye-sore. Before sending your mailer, ask someone to scrutinize it from multiple lenses and tell you what elements are the most noticeable. A good CTA won’t be the first thing someone sees, but it will be clear to the customer the next steps they should take.
  • Use clear verbs—customers like specificity. They also like active language. For this reason, a CTA that reads “Schedule your appointment online by 12/31, and save 10%,” will be more successful than one that reads “Save if you can schedule online.”
  • Add a deadline—establishing a sense of urgency to your CTAs is a well-known (and effective) trick. Like we already mentioned, customers like specificity, so noting that something is only available for a limited time isn’t always enough. Eliminate the ambiguity and establish a clear deadline.

Quick Tip: CTA’s are also medium-dependent—a classic postcard is good for promotions sent to the masses, but some smaller targeting efforts might require something more personal, like a letter or signed greeting card. Additionally, consider uniquely shaped mailers—these tend to have higher success rates as they show more effort by the dealership (and more noticeable amongst the other standard-shaped mail).


All in all, direct mail is classic targeting tactic for a reason—it can be extremely rewarding (especially when you use clean data, precise targeting, and actionable messages). If you think your dealership’s direct mail strategy could use a refresh, consider implementing some of these tips, or consult with marketing experts to develop a custom strategy.

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Mollie Swygart is a marketing communications professional at Reynolds and Reynolds. She is an expert on Reynolds’ suite of cutting-edge marketing products, their functionalities, and how they can be utilized to improve dealership success. Mollie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art and English from Marietta College. She also obtained an Associate’s Degree in Marketing from Rhodes State College.

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