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Jared Hamilton
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Direct Mail Etiquette During a Crisis

Direct Mail Etiquette During a Crisis

Virtual Customer Engagement is shaping the auto industry for the years ahead, leading many to turn toward rethinking their websites, email marketing, and social media.

Now is not the time to stop communicating with customers and prospects. A virtual customer experience is important, and one form of traditional media should also not be overlooked.

Direct mail.

Target Marketing recently reported that “the WHO (World Health Organization) and CDC (Center for Disease Control) both say no coronavirus transmission has occurred from a newspaper, magazine, letter, or package. Sending your mail pieces to customers and prospects is still considered safe.”

It’s also springtime and many people are getting outside as often as possible to help alleviate some of the stress of “Stay at Home” orders and social distancing. One thing we’re almost all still doing? Getting the mail, especially if it encourages going out for a walk.

But direct mail pieces, like all messaging during this time, cannot be business as usual or tasteless just to bring in sales. There are ethics to be considered and etiquette to follow that can be inoffensive while still effective.

Don’t waste money sending the same generic mailer to everyone in your database.

We know it’s the way you’ve always done things, because more mailers mean more chance for success, right? Not now, when your marketing dollars are more precious than ever.

Individualization is key for better response rates, as well as cost saving if you only send mailers to those likely to convert. Your data is your most valuable resource, and the right tools can use your data to determine who is in market to purchase or service and which channel they are most likely to respond to—including direct mail.

Don’t make the message about you, especially if you reference COVID-19.

Your messaging should be about the customer. What you might have done as a clever marketing ploy before is no longer appropriate—like one dealer learned the hard way after stamping “COVID-19 stimulus assistance” on their mailers.

What is resonating with consumers is genuine empathy. People still need vehicles, and they still need to service the ones they have, so put your specials front and center and show that you are here to help. And consider moving on from COVID-19 as the messaging around it is fatiguing consumers by as much as 50% according to recent studies.

Don’t use humor that might get lost in translation in print.

We could all use more levity right now, and humor doesn’t have to be tasteless even during a pandemic, but what might be funny in a commercial or video can get lost as written words, the same way tone and sarcasm cannot be conveyed well over email.

Make your messaging about the customer – caring and sympathetic while offering specials and drop-off purchase and service options that appeal to everyone’s needs and concerns right now.

Most importantly, pay attention to the little things that we used to take for granted—like using images of people touching or in groups—and make it clear that you are not trying to capitalize on a crisis; you’re informing consumers about the changes you’ve made recently to your dealership and providing offers to make their purchase and service experiences easier and safer.

Like you, Outsell puts our customers first and is working to help our customers during this difficult time. Learn how to effectively utilize your marketing budget by smartly targeting in-market shoppers and servicers with A.I.-driven Direct Mail campaigns.

About Outsell

Outsell offers the only Virtual Customer Engagement platform for the automotive industry, creating an individualized consumer experience through AI-driven marketing automation that drives increased profits across sales and service. Our proprietary technology harnesses massive amounts of data creating accurate and powerful consumer profiles that engage your customers and prospects exactly where they are in their individual lifecycles. That’s why Outsell is the trusted platform for over 1,500 dealers representing all major automotive brands. To learn more, visit or follow us at @Outsell.

Derrick Woolfson

Great article! One wrong mailer - even with the right intentions - can cause a lot of irreversible damage. While I had not personally seen the mailer, I had heard there were mailers circulating regarding using "COVID-19" stimulus money, which is entirely tone deaf. And beyond the current situation, many of the mailers that go out today are less than kosher, especially the ones with "free grand prizes." I cannot tell you how many times I see people getting the scratch off mailer's saying they have won $10k - to find out it is a "chance" to win the $10k which is not outlined at all in their promotion.  Bottom line, integrity always wins. 

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