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The Cross-Media Approach: Are We Practicing What We Preach?

By Alexia Henson, National Director of Direct Mail with AutoLoop

MailWhen I look at advertising strategies in our industry, one of the most consistently missed opportunities I see is dealerships who are trying to save money by marketing to all their customers through email, and only sending mail to customers without an email address on file.

These dealers often ask me, "Now that I can email my customers, why do I have to send them mail?" My answer is simple: without a cross-media approach, you're making a predetermination about your customers. And isn't that exactly what you tell your staff NOT to do?

Think about it: when you choose to use ONE form of communication and exclude others, you're assuming that every customer will respond to that medium every time—when in reality their lives and needs change on a daily basis.

For years I've heard my dealerships tell their staffs not to cherry-pick or "plate glass" the customer, stressing the inherent risks of making assumptions about customers' apparent ability to buy based on their clothes or current vehicle. Making predeterminations about customers can often backfire and send customers back out the door— and right into the arms of a competitor.

Predeterminations also happen in the service drive. Recently, I had a service advisor actually tell me where I should go to buy tires for less than the ones available at his dealership! 

Did he ask me to buy them there? No. 

Did I say I couldn't afford his prices? No. 

He made an assumption about me—and his dealership lost my money.

Here's the bottom line: Just because you send customers an email does not make them an email responder.  Sending them a piece of mail does not make them a mail opener. Or maybe they feel most comfortable talking on the phone. What a customer responds to today may be opposite of what worked yesterday. Life changes daily and so do their communication needs. 

This is why a cross-media approach is so important and works so well. A mixture of approaches means you increase the opportunities to engage your customers and keep them from falling through the cracks. By targeting all your customers through mail, email and telephone (where applicable), you can increase your response rate for service from an average of 5% to 15 %—or even higher for service.

Why such a big increase? Well, you're no longer making assumptions and predeterminations about your customers. Instead, you're covering your bases and responding to their changing needs. Simply put, the cross-media approach gives you a much better chance of keeping customers happy, informed, and out of your competitors' hands.