Best PracticesAug 15th, 2023

Direct Mail in 2023: The Foundations

Direct Mail Auto Dealership

What’s old is new again, such is the circle of life within automotive. What could possibly be new again, you ask... direct mail.

I’ve seen a substantial increase in direct mail campaigns over the last several months, many with incredible, record-breaking results. With our focus shifting digital, direct mail dwindled for a time; now it’s back and producing results greater than before.

If you’re jumping into direct mail for the first time or the first time in a long time – there are a few things to consider before pushing the go button. I could write an instruction manual on direct mail and getting results, and we both know there is little time or attention for that, so I will cover the most often overlooked points here.

Get Creative

This is your opportunity to shine, and you should make the most of it. Whether you’re utilizing saturation mail, buybacks, or credit, I encourage you to plan and take the time to craft a mail piece unique to your dealership rather than running with “what’s hot right now.” This past week, I received two mailers from different dealerships that were materially the same. While it is unlikely you will know what other stores around you are doing for direct mail, you can count on likely mailing the same audience – stand out. Who are you as a dealership, what makes you better or different, what do your customers have to say? This is your chance to make a connection and an impression; use humor, customer testimonials, and unique artwork; in other words, not just low payments and hooks.

Set Customer Expectations

Speaking of low payments and hooks, customers read disclosures. That means your $199 monthly payment with $6,000 down on pre-owned cars will not drive much traffic. It will potentially peg you for sneaky, and we’re trying to stay away from that label. Consider using realistic payments, frame your disclosures to set customer expectations, and show how you can help them reach their financial goals rather than just meeting truth-in-lending requirements. This is where compliance comes in; depending on the type of campaign, you will run into a host of compliance requirements which vary from state to state. Your responsibility is to know your state’s requirements; working with a reputable mail source will greatly help you maintain compliance. If you’re not sure, have your mail reviewed by an attorney or compliance reviewer, the return is simply not worth the risk.


Let’s talk lists; when it comes to lists, where you start will be driven by your campaign type. If you’re using your own customer data, ensure it’s clean, without duplicates, and NCOA and CASS certified; your mail partner can help you accomplish this, but it’s best to look at the final mail list before mailing. This will improve accuracy and deliverability and make the most of your budget. When you are using saturation lists, take the time to consider your audience in both your creative and lists. You can filter to increase quality and response by utilizing filters and knowledge of your market area. Are you using home value filters? Are you hitting apartments? Is your dealership easily accessible to the areas you’re mailing? These are all factors that can impact response.

Awareness of Postal Streams

Is my mail going to be delivered late? This is a fear of every dealership and mail agency, late mail happens, and in truth, once your mail is in control of the postal service, you and your agency are at their mercy. You or your agency can call and verify or stop by the local post offices with donuts, but once it is in the hands of the post office they are usually as happy as you to pass it off to mailboxes. No post office likes pallets or trays of mail hanging around. There are steps you can take ahead of time to increase efficiency and achieve greater on- time rates. Knowing how and where your mail enters the postal stream are great questions. Trucking your mail to the closest possible mail stream entry point is an excellent strategy; you receive delivery confirmation and, in many cases, limit the amount of time and distance the postal service is moving your mail.

Contests and Games?

Contest mailers are increasing in popularity and complexity. I cannot encourage you enough to understand how the contest or game works, how it is insured, and make sure your team members are up to speed in this area. None of us like heat in the showroom; often, the heat can be avoided with understanding. Take the time to educate your team on the contest or game process and implement a standard process to manage the traffic so you are not missing opportunities. There is little in this world more awkward than the transition from “Here are the earbuds you won” to “Let’s assess the value of your trade.”

Experience makes the difference here: role play with your team, go through the process with them, and ensure your team is prepared. You will have gift-getters, but often these folks come in hoping you can help them upgrade their vehicles; take the time to talk to everyone. A great solution in this transition is using an onsite check-in tool; this tool guides each customer through confirming the information needed for contest insurance compliance and transitioning from prizes to car buying. A check-in tool slows your customer down, allows your team to start a conversation, and encourages the use of the same process with every customer.

Follow Up to Follow Through

Finally, one of the most important ways to grow your results is to capture and track all your responses and have a plan in place for follow-up. From live call centers with appointment settings to IVR, text, and dedicated landing pages – giving your customers the ability to choose how to respond and then tracking that response is invaluable. When deploying a campaign with a Live Call Center, you can provide your potential customers with 24/7 access to a live person trained to schedule appointments for you.

That means every customer who calls in gets personalized service tailored to your campaign type without the risk of long hold times, multiple transfers, unavailable staff, or voicemail. These tools can also give you complete details of when and where your mail has been delivered, where you get the strongest response, and insights into customers who are in the market to buy. Not only will you be able to measure the success of your campaign, but you also allow your team to follow up and have the reporting and analytics to build a better campaign in the future.

There isn’t a better time to be in your customer’s mailboxes, and while there is so much more I’d love to share, planning and ensuring these components are covered will help you achieve greater results with your direct mail campaigns.

    Aja Goldey is the Director of Marketing and Partner Success at Dealer Apps. Combining her love for the car business, a passion for marketing, and over 20 years of experience in retail automotive, Aja has earned a reputation of success by helping dealerships build solid marketing foundations. 

    Aja develops marketing strategies and creative solutions with customized service offerings to achieve customer loyalty. 

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