When it comes to reaching people, there’s a line we often use that expresses the right way to do things as well as the guiding force for our company.
Get the right message in front of the right people at the right time.
It’s not something we made up. The phrase is pretty common. However, it’s such a powerful guiding force that it needs to be highlighted as often as possible as the right way to guide automotive advertising practices. With that said, it’s important to focus on the one component that gets the least attention: timing.
Many dealers are good at getting the right message together. Some are good at getting it in front of the right people. However, very few are truly taking advantage of the benefits that come with getting it out at the right time. This is the missing link that often separates real success from lukewarm success or even failure.
In the automotive industry, we all have common sense and intuition to guide us. In the fall is the right time to start promoting a message about tires, for example. We don’t need a ton of data to guide the timing of that message. When we get more detailed and when the timing of the message is less obvious, that’s where the data comes into play.
Here are some things that we’ve done over the years that dealers should start doing now in order to start building their own proper advertising play.
Keep Intense Records
How did your email campaigns look last year? What were the results? What about the direct mail piece you sent out for brake jobs a couple of years ago – was it successful? When did you send it? What day of the week?
Are your email campaigns going out in one batch or are you staggering them? Morning or night? Were you competing with big news at the time? These are the questions that you should be asking and to find the answers, you need intense record keeping. Pretty much anything you can think of that could influence the success or failure of your outbound advertising should be on record so you can make adjustments or duplicate it in the future.
One example that comes to mind is a dealership that sent out an email campaign on April 15, 2013. They wanted to tie it in to taxes, thinking that people would be very active and were either receiving refunds soon or were finishing their payments and were ready to move on to other things such as buying a car. It was a campaign that they had run in the past effectively but were not going to run it again in 2014 because the previous year wasn’t nearly as successful. Fewer opens, fewer clicks, fewer sales.
It wasn’t until we started looking deeper into the data that we realized something important. The email went out right around the time that the Boston Marathon Bombing was hitting the news. When there are events like these that pull the attention of the general population into a common discussion, both in real life and virtually, the chances of marketing campaigns working are greatly reduced. With this information, we were able to help them run the campaign in 2014. The results were much better.
Let Timing Find Success from Failure
You have a great campaign. It’s a mailer that you worked hard on and it’s certain to work. You’ve done something similar before that worked and this one is even better. You send it out. It flops. What happened? Was the campaign a dud?
With nearly all forms of advertising, timing can have a dramatic effect on results. That’s not to say that you should only be contacting people during peak times, but as long as you understand the basics of how it works, you’ll be able to plan it out better. Maybe the message wasn’t bad but the timing was. Maybe you need to send it out closer to the end of the month. Maybe you should send it on a Tuesday instead of a Thursday. Maybe the message that worked in the Spring won’t work in the Fall.
If you’re pretty sure that you have a great message but the results didn’t match, the most obvious way to try again to find more success is to do it at a different time.
Let the Cycles Guide You
Arguably the most important message I can deliver about timing is to follow the trends within cycles. There are buying cycles, service cycles, and manufactured cycles that can guide you to send the right message to the right people at the right time.
Buying cycles are often the easiest to follow. We hear the data – families are adding or replacing vehicles every 2.1 years, give or take. This means that you should start hitting your past customer database with more aggressive sales material starting around a year and a half after the sale and continuing until they buy.
Service cycles have a wider range. People drive differently. 10,000 miles a year. 10,000 miles a quarter. 10,000 mile a month. There are people that fall into each category. You can extrapolate by their service history how much they’re driving. Those who drive more should be getting frequent VIP messages. They are the golden ticket to being the most profitable customers to your dealership in the long- and short-term, so the timing can be accelerated greatly for them.
Manufactured cycles are the ones that are created by outside forces. These require an understanding of what’s happening in the world, in the local area, and in the OEMs ballpark. For example, sending a powerful conquest message to truck buyers can be triggered by recalls by another manufacturer. Positive local job market reports can prompt a campaign telling people it’s time to upgrade their vehicle. During good news that points to a strong national economy is the right time to post $0 down or 0% interest programs.
Crafting the right campaign is hard, but most dealers can make it happen. Finding the data on your targets is even harder, but there is no shortage of data sources. Getting the message out at the right time is the most challenging and requires thought, research, and understanding. Thankfully for savvy dealers, it also means that you have the ability to more easily get ahead of your competition.