On the surface it would appear direct mail, as a staple auto repair advertising strategy, has long since seen its heyday. Twenty or thirty years ago, a shop owner could send out a few letters and actually expect a response. Today, amid the thousands of other advertisers, the return on investments has left many asking if their message was lost in the mail.
During our normal screening process we ask each of our clients: “What response do you typically see from your mailings?” The answers have become highly predictable, as almost 94% say they send out mailers every so often, or not at all, as they see almost no response.
That’s not too surprising. Ask any group of business owners in any industry, and you will probably get roughly the same feedback.
What is surprising is that the remaining 6% report seeing anything from a 9% to a 22% return on their direct mail. What makes those repair facilities so special?
The answer is simple: They didn’t stop at one mailing.
Repair facilities seeing the highest rate of return, in almost every case, use sequential mailings with a clear message and a time sensitive call to action.
Before I continue, I would like to clarify something: the direct mail I am referring to is for new business development. These are the letters shop owners send out to get the car count up. Mailings to existing clients are a completely different animal, and we will cover that category a bit later.
Auto Repair Advertising – 5 Steps To Breathing Life Into Your Direct Mail
1: Use Postcards. Postcards do not require opening. A letter requires time to open, unfold and actually read. Consequently, a letter will, almost 10 times out of 10, end up in the recycle bin. Unopened.
An even better advantage is that postcards cost less to make and mail. In some cases you can save over 75%!
2: Have A Clear Message. Use An Attention Grabbing Headline. With each mailing the message you communicate must be clear.
Remember K.I.S.S.? Keep It Simple, Stupid. Less is more when getting your point across.
Also, your headline should address some sort of concern your prospective customer has. Don’t be afraid to be a bit extreme. People respond to the idea of life or death situations.
Example: “What Happens If Your Brakes Fail? Is Your Family Safe?”
3: Make ’em An Offer They Can’t Refuse. Offer Value. Most people are starving for value. So many companies offer so little in return that when someone actually does, consumers are almost programmed to ask, “What’s the catch?”
Don’t have a catch. Be honest, open, and full of value.
A good idea would be to give them something free with no strings attached. But watch out! Never offer something that will eat up your time and cost more than it’s worth. The trick here is to find that hidden value, that mysterious gem your new customers will flip over. It must also be easy and low cost to produce.
Example: I will never forget Les Schwab, the tire guy from my childhood in Oregon. This man was insane enough to offer “Free Beef With Every New Set Of Tires!” Who in his right mind would do that? To this day, I can’t tell you how beef fits in with new tires. But even though I have not been back to Oregon in 15%2B years, I DO remember Les Schwab and always think of him when I see a set of tires.
4: Have A Call To Action. Make It Time Sensitive By creating a sense of urgency, you create a feeling of scarcity in the recipient’s mind. And by having a call to action, you give them a clear message of what they must do to take advantage of what you offer. Example: “Limited Time Only: Free Brake Inspections For Every Car before (DATE)” Just remember to give your prospective clients enough time to pick up the phone!
5: Don’t Pull The Trigger Once… You Need To Keep Shooting! Much like the scenes on C.O.P.S. where some guy is wigged out on crack and has to be shot 50 times before he goes down, the same can be said for the American consumer. In almost every advertising instance, frequency, clear communication, and repetition are the only 3 elements that will work. But they must be used together. Having a clear message and only sending it once doesn’t cut it. (That’s like a flesh wound to the crack head. He won’t even feel it.) You must have a clear message and send it multiple times to the same people.
Try This Auto Repair Advertising Schedule:
1st Mailing – Have a special time-sensitive offer and an invitation for the person to call/come in (AKA Call To Action)
2nd Mailing – 15 days later. Have a “So sorry we missed you” feel to it, and maybe offer an additional incentive to coax stragglers out of hiding.
3rd Mailing – 15 days later. Be bold. State “Last Chance!” “Offer Will Expire Soon!” Don’t be afraid to be a bit extreme.
4th Mailing – 3 to 5 days after the expiration date. This last mailing will have more of a “Congratulations! You won second prize!” feel to it.
Note: After each mailing you MUST remove those who respond from the list. Sending them advertisements for the same offer after they have already come in is not only annoying, it gets expensive. Why Does This Work? Multiple mailings tend to make people feel your offer is more valuable. A single mailing is easily dismissed as a potential fly by night gimmick, and will more than likely end up in the trash.
By repeating your offer, and adding an increasing, time sensitive pressure, you help emphasize the importance of your message.
Beyond even increasing your overall return, multiple mailings reinforce your facility’s credibility in the eyes of local car owners.
Auto Repair Advertising Final Note: How Many Should I Send? If, for example, you are currently hitting 1000 homes and neither desire nor can afford to send that same number multiple mailings, consider shrinking your list.
You will do better sending 250 homes sequential direct mail rather than sending 1 mailing to 1000.