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 continues its discussion with Denham Rogers, Hutson’s marketing coordinator, who shares more specifics about how they develop the marketing pieces.
Rural Lifestyle Dealer: One challenge that many dealers have is coming up with effective designs and marketing messages for direct mail. You have an-house designer at Hutson. Can you explain some of the best practices you follow?
Rogers: Our direct mail pieces follow our brand guidelines here at Hutson and John Deere, but they are not overly designed. It's made with a static HTML file, so it's pretty simple, but you can get as custom as you want with the design.
The dimensions are usually 6 x 9 inches and around 20 pages. We've grown from about 12 pages to 20 pages, 24 pages even, to just cover more content as we keep growing. It takes us about three weeks to design the mailers, get approval for co-op dollars and to get it printed and mailed. The only part of that we contract out is for the printing.
We schedule mailers to coordinate with Deere’s quarterly marketing programs and around the seasons. In spring, people are starting to gear up and are ready to mow their yards, so we focus on residential mowers and compact tractors. In the fall, we change the direct mailers to focus more on compact tractors and utility vehicles.
We include equipment descriptions, prices and as well as monthly payment programs. We include information about deck sizes, engine specs, like horsepower and whether the engine is a Kawasaki, Kohler or Briggs & Stratton. The goal is to provide just enough information to get them coming in our front door. The mailers are a good research tool for customers to compare tractors and what features they offer.
RLD: Having a good customer database is important for direct mail. Can you explain about the lists you use?
Rogers: We create lists for our own business system and we try to segment customers. For instance, we have about 20 different fields for customer data. And we always make sure to go through and scrub the list to make sure we’re not mailing into other territories.
We also stagger the mailing to hit customers multiple times. That frequency really, really helps. Maybe customers are not ready to but the product your selling them or maybe they’re not as familiar as they would like to be with Hutson before they make their purchasing decision. For instance, we may send our overall catalog out to a wide demographic then come back a month later with a specific offer to a smaller segment of the original larger group.
We also post information on our website and social media that revolves around our promotions.
RLD: Are you doing any newspaper and radio/TV ads?
Rogers: We're still doing radio and TV, but for the most part, we're completely out of the newspaper ads. The only time we might advertise in the newspaper is for occasional sponsorship or community event.
RLD: What changes are you thinking about for your direct mail marketing?
Rogers: We'd like to expand a little bit more on the automated mailer side. As far as timeliness of purchase, there's a break-in period as customers first start using their equipment. We would love for somebody to buy a piece of equipment and then three months later, we send them a mailer with a discount for 10% off their service or on a home maintenance kit.
RLD: Any other advice that you’d like to share with dealers?
Rogers: The biggest advice I would give is segment your customers. Figure out how much acreage and what kind of equipment they have purchased in the past. What are their needs? How old are they? Are they at that phase in life where they're moving from their first home to their second home with a larger property? That's been a real benefit for us in terms of conversion rates.