Direct mail is the only medium that I use. Radio and newspapers can work depending on your area, but in my opinion dealers are really not competitive in those type of ads. Ford and Chev have done a lot at the factory level to make their owners aware that their dealers do repair vehicles, Toyota seems focused on only selling new vehicles and lets the fixed operations fend for themselves .

When you think of it we have most of what we need on our inhouse computer system. We know who our customers are, where they live, what they drive, what we have done to their vehicles and how often they come in. No other source can give you that information, in fact I predict that the factories will start to "buy" our lists in an effort to find more sales customers. They used to be able to go to the Motor Vehicles lists or other sources that have dried up over the last 5 years or so. RL Polk still touts that they have the best customer lists, but where are they getting the new ones unless they are "tapping" into the dealers they service. No one will admit it but I have used, what I call seed names, in my dealers customer files and wait to see if I get on someone's list. You would be surprised when that "name" starts getting junk mail.

My biggest gripe with direct mail is that we have only limited control over the actual mailer or who receives the mailed piece. Normally, we are using some pre-formatted piece that other dealers in your area may also be using. The direct mail companies are profitable only when they mail to large numbers of addresses, so it encourages errors or over counts of your data base names. I recently mailed a Toyota only mailer with a well respected company, I kind of know my market, but they assured me that they have access to addresses and names that I don't. Going with their reputation I was lead down this road to where over 50% of the mailed market was either not a Toyota or so far away that there was no chance of getting them to visit us. Needless to say I got a big credit on the job, but I liked the work so much that I contracted another, this time with some restraints

I long to find a company that can generate an attractive mailer, send them to my desired market and for a fair price. If you are like me you settle for who you can find and feel somewhat comfortable dealing with. That brings me to what our region has for Toyota's version of direct mail. As usual it's decided at the "highest level" of the brain trust in Torrance, but in reality they always go with BIG NAME companies. They feel the bigger the better. History tells us that the biggest normally means the biggest waste of money for our advertising dollar. After 12 years of trying you would think they would have better graphics, better control of our data and with all the business Toyota forces at them better prices. It's like watching our federal government work, just throw money at a project and somehow things will work out and if not who really cares. We have a tough enough job retaining customers and getting new ones in the door without some company who just looks at us as a dollar sign. Toyota must feel strongly about a maintenance mailer since unless we use only one company we loose their full assistance in co-op. It's not because other companies can't do a good or better job, lets just say that's the way it is.

The following are some behind the scenes regarding Toyota Fast Track (aka Premier Solutions) and Direct Impact (aka Customer Connection). SET has their own company and they do things differently and so much better but Gulf States and RL Polk have a wrap on the rest of us who stay in the factory programs.

Monthly Reminders - aka premier solutions 2
Direct Mailers - aka Customer Connections
Toyota is changing its policy on radio and TV use. They are getting farther away from fixed operations. One of the little known facts is that the most profitable division for Toyota is the Parts Division, yet almost no money is spent promoting that market. We need to keep pushing the dealer council to increase the amount of money fixed operations have allocated to advertise in all mediums.
This is a little off of the advertising topic but our region (and others) are great for putting on some seasonal promotion (Street Smart) where the Toyota Parts Division throws low ball parts and service specials at customers. The dealers are expected to drop our gross in labor sales and parts sales on the hope that the customers will flock in for other needed repairs. We are "encouraged" to participate. We need to band together to get Toyota parts to give us an rebate to recover some of the losses. The direct mailing companies and the Toyota Parts division are the only one that make a profit going in to programs like these.
Give me your input and comments.