Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Direct Marketing Campaign Abandoned At The Point Of Sale

While doing more research and reading on direct marketing campaigns I was reminded of one that I partook in as a consumer a few years back. It worked out just fine for me, but horribly for the company involved. I received the benefit through my response, but they did not receive the sale. And, they had no one to blame but themselves.

I received a direct marketing piece in the mail from Ford. They were offering a fantastic deal: come in to one of their dealerships and test-drive one of their vehicles, and receive a Visa gift card in the mail in the amount of either $50 or $75 (I can't remember which it was, but either way it's a great deal, right?). I was still under a lease agreement with Toyota at the time and had no plans to buy a new car, but I figured why pass up the deal? I don't have to buy. The only requirement for me was that I come in and test-drive. After that, I can fill out the paperwork (most likely ending up on their mailing list for future correspondence and offers), say 'no thank you' to any offer, and go home to await my gift card.

There happened to be a Ford dealership right down the street from me, so one day when I had some time and made my way over there. I went in and told the salesman that approached about the offer I had received in the mail and presented it to him. I followed him over to a table in the showroom and sat down. He looked it over briefly and then asked me point blank if I had any intention of buying a vehicle. I said 'no'.

"Okay, well let me just sign this paper, and you can be on your way", he said.

He signed the paper and gave it to me. Then he let me leave. No test drive. No sales pitch. Nothing. He didn't even try. As far as he was concerned, every person that came into the showroom with this direct mail piece in hand was going to waste his time. They were not going to buy a car. They just wanted the gift card. And, for him to make money he has to sell cars. So, in his eyes it was better to get rid of us freeloaders up front, and get back to business.

But, in doing this he missed the entire point of the direct marketing campaign. What the campaign did was bring people into the showroom and require them to actually try out a Ford product. Once the consumer was in there, it was the job of the salesperson (and the vehicle) to sell the product. Now, in my case (and perhaps the case of many others) the day would not have resulted in a sale. There was no chance of that. I had an almost brand new car which I was happy with. However, this visit could have potentially done a lot to help change my perception of Ford's products and of Ford as a company. But, instead the ball was dropped in the red zone.

All of the blame does not fall onto the salesman though. In his head, it made sense to not 'waste time' with these non-customers. His manager should have done more to ensure he did his best to educate these consumers and make any kind of connection that he could. Next, those marketers who created the campaign should have thought it out more completely and realized that this offer is going to bring in a lot of false leads to their salespeople who make a living off of commission. It was their responsibility to take their campaign a step further and sell it to the sales teams at the dealership. Tell the salespeople the reasoning behind the campaign and why you think it will work. Educate them on the marketing aspect of driving sales and get everyone on the same side.

The sales teams concerns should have then been addressed. They need qualified leads to have a better chance at making a sale. So, what's another way to offer this deal to consumers? Maybe have a certain day for the offer to be valid, or only during certain non-peak hours. Perhaps they could have designated certain employees to be the ones to handle those responding to the mailing - people whose income is not commission-based. However, because the details clearly were not thought of prior to the execution of this campaign, the direct marketing offer was a failure on the day I went in to the dealership, and more than likely a failure all around for the same reason.

As a final note, one of my associates received the same offer and did the same thing that I did. They never received their gift card in the mail. Follow-through is vital for any campaign if you plan to build a positive brand image in the minds of consumers.