Published in Dealer Marketing Magazine, February 2016
The U.S. auto market continues to enjoy strong sales, and OEMs remain very sophisticated in their media approach to marketing new vehicles and promoting key sales events.
But with the constant pressure for a strong media performance with measurable results, automotive marketers are more emphatic than ever that new customer acquisition programs—“conquesting” in the automotive parlance—must meet the following criteria:
- Precision/efficiency, to ensure that the marketing message is reaching exactly the right individuals—and only those individuals.
- Testability, offering the opportunity to test the tactic without committing huge sums of money.
- Scalability, so that if it is working, the tactic can be scaled up sufficiently to truly move the needle for a big brand while garnering price efficiencies at higher volumes.
- Measurability, so that the marketer can objectively measure the results without being held hostage to a mind-numbingly complex attribution model.
One method that earns consistently high scores on all these criteria is the use of third-party audiences reachable by email to acquire new customers.
Yet too few marketers take advantage of this effective tactic, often because of a fundamental misunderstanding of how the process actually works.
Some marketers mistakenly believe that it is not legally possible to contact consumers using email if a consumer hasn’t already opted in to receive messages from them.
The direct marketing industry, however, has perfected a way to legitimately solve these important privacy issues, while giving marketers some very sophisticated, high-impact options for email-based acquisition activities.
U.S. audience data market
To give some perspective: In the U.S., there are about 10,000 audience sources available to reach U.S.-based consumers via email, and approximately 25 to 30 of them are especially effective for reaching in-market auto shoppers—individuals who are actively shopping for a new vehicle.
Each source is broadly defined as a list of individuals and their contact information that share a specific set of attributes or activities.
Each of these individuals has given the audience data collector proper consent to allow selected third parties to market to them.
This is incredibly fertile ground for auto marketers because they can reach consumers at the time when they are most likely to be responsive—when they are actively researching vehicles.
Marketers can send a customized email directly to the consumer’s inbox, and ensure that it is in context and highly relevant to the specific interests of that consumer.
These consumers’ email addresses are never sent to the advertiser. Instead, the advertiser’s message is sent to the selected consumers via the audience data collector, with whom the consumer has a permissioned relationship.
A dedicated email reaches only those consumers who meet the advertiser’s criteria, and lets advertisers reach out to these email audiences with full, legal permission.
Getting it done
Executing a third-party email campaign is fairly simple. The marketer and/or its agency develops the HTML email, including numerous links back to the marketer’s digital real estate.
The creative is distributed to the chosen audience data sources and thoroughly tested in less than a day. The dedicated email is then deployed to the selected recipients on a schedule that meets the advertiser’s needs.
The creative includes a “friendly from” in the email header, which is the domain of the audience data source. The consumer’s email client sees and accepts this white-listed domain, and, when using high-quality sources, the email is delivered with greater than 95% in-box placement rate.
All opens and clicks are tracked, and within 48 to 72 hours, a performance report is generated and delivered to the marketer, detailing these specifics.
Why it works
This type of email campaign works because:
- The marketer reaches highly qualified, completely new prospects with each campaign. The marketer can “suppress” existing customers from the recipient list to ensure that the message is reaching only new prospective customers.
- All complexities related to opt out, unsubscribe requirements, and spam complaints are managed by the audience data owner, not the advertiser.
- The performance of the campaign is quickly and unambiguously knowable. The advertiser can test several subject lines and versions of their creative, and almost immediately see which are performing best.
- Marketers can design a variable approach to recontacting these same consumers after that first email is delivered. Some marketers will send a direct mail piece to those consumers who open an email. Others will follow up with those who click on a link using social or mobile. Still others will add in digital touches after the initial email contact.
In the automotive category, some OEMs target only consumers who live within a specific distance of their dealerships locally, regionally, or nationally.
Others customize the message with things like the name of the closest dealership, their hours of operation, the address and phone, and the name of the general manager, increasing response rates dramatically.
Other players look to push out mobile, in-app ads whenever one of the targeted consumers drives within a certain distance from one of their dealerships.
All of these tactics create meaningful increases in response rates and valuable synergies in the media mix, worthy of testing for any auto marketer.