Hutson Inc. is a 13-store John Deere dealership based out of Murray, Ky. They have a 3-person marketing team that is proficient in digital tactics, but is finding solid success with the traditional tactic of direct mail.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer talked with Denham Rogers, Hutson’s marketing coordinator, about their direct mail program and the vendors they use.

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Rural Lifestyle Dealer: We met at the Dealership Minds Summit hosted by our sister magazine, Farm Equipment, where there was a lot of discussion about digital tactics. You mentioned that direct mail is working for your dealership. Can you share more?

Denham Rogers: A lot of people are saying that print's bad, but it’s not. It’s just changing. You have to become more highly targeted with your audience and the content you put in front of them. For instance, we try to segment our audience, but 2 or 3 times a year, we put out a catalog of all our products and do a wide sweep. I think our last catalog was mailed to about 250,000 people.       

One thing that our sales team really loves about direct mailers is that customers will come into the store and have it in their hands. They already know what they want and they don't even negotiate price. It's right there in front of them and it makes the sales process go more quickly.

We've also moved to some automated mailers, which is new for us this year.

RLD: Can you provide some more details about your catalog mailing. How do you develop this large piece? Does it contain much of the same information from year-to-year with pricing updates?

Rogers: We start off by meeting with the managers for our small ag products, our parts department manager and with the program managers at John Deere. We’ve done the catalog for 4 years now and the first one took a few weeks to develop. Now, we're able to turn it out in a week, especially with having a designer as part of our in-house marketing team. He’s a good designer and able to turn jobs around pretty quickly based on our needs.

Our Spring Mailer can be any where from 16 to 24 pages depending on what promotions we must work with and available resources. We’ve started including more lifestyle images, even full spreads, to help customers really connect with specific unit. One example is of the new HVAC John Deere XUV 835R. Instead of showing them just the product, we showed them the comfort it would bring during uncomfortable weather.

RLD: How do you track whether your direct mail is successful in getting customers interested in your equipment?

Rogers: We do use a call tracking software. We can see an increase in calls after the catalog is mailed and we can also track the results by seeing people bring it into our stores. And, our sales guys also tell us that it’s working. They come to us and say, "Please, whatever you do, do not take this out of the budget next year." This builds trust between our sales department and our marketing team.

RLD: You mentioned that you also send out automated mailers. Can you explain more about that?

Rogers: We use an iPaaS software solution that helps make automated tasks easier and that software integrates with software from our automated mail service. I investigated our automated mail service and found that the costs were similar to what we were spending with traditional printers and you don't need a lot of technical background to set up the basic system.

One of the automated mailers we do is warranty expiration cards. We did develop the scrapping system, so it would be 100% automated. Non-technical marketers may use integration like google sheets to pass data along to Lob.  We have a code that scrapes data from the warranty expiration information from Deere. We import that data into a Google spreadsheet and then send that to our automated mail service about once a month. The automated mail service then prints and mails an expiration reminder card that we developed. The card is mailed 60 days in advance of the expiration. The card also includes their serial number so they know exactly what warranty is expiring.

RLD: How do you manage and track what happens next?

Rogers: Our automated mail service has a dashboard that reports how many of cards were sent, notes the bad addresses, the cost of the mailing and other things. We also include special call tracking numbers on the card. This helps us listen in to what our customers ask for when they call. For instance, if people are asking, "Can I extend my warranty?" we might add that as an option on the postcard. And, the serial numbers help us correlate any warranty service.

The cards generated a long of phone calls. We have a support team at our Mayfield location that handles a lot of our calls and online chat. The staff talks to them about what it means when the warranty and what they can do about it. We're also not just driving warranty work. We're also driving people to bring in their equipment to get checked and serviced while it's still under warranty.

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RLD: It sounds like the program is helping you be more of a partner with your customers. Is that what you’re hearing from customers?

Rogers: When we first started this initiative, it was more for customer service, just to give them a heads-up about their warranty. It's actually turned out to be a good revenue-driver, especially giving customers the option of extending their warranty and bring in their equipment for service.

Read Part 2 for more details about Hutson’s direct mail program.