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I recently received an amusing email that contained a personalized service reminder to a Model T owner that dated back to 1928. It made me laugh at first, but then I thought, if personalized communication has been a part of automotive marketing for such a long time, why do we continue to struggle with it to this day?

Well, for starters, there are over 235 million vehicles in operation in the U.S. today. Keeping track of who owns what and where is daunting enough. Establishing a personal relationship with each of those drivers, based on their personal driving habits is infinitely more complex and challenging. That said, the power of a personal relationship is arguably more important than it’s ever been. To prove the point, an OEM using Polk’s Predictive Marketing service reminder program recently ran a test to judge the effectiveness of its communication strategy, which incorporates targeted marketing based on individual driving patterns and other factors. In the test, they withheld 10% of all scheduled mailers that were due to go out during the test period. Using DMS transactional data, Polk then tracked the conversion rates of those customers who received the communication versus the control group. The results were startling. During the test period, 20.3% of customers who were contacted had the recommended service performed (without financial incentive). In contrast only 10.6% of the control cell group acted on the reminder. That represents a 93.5% improvement in overall response rate for the group that received targeted communication!

The program has driven not only a significant increase in parts and labor sales but has improved overall service retention by 4.2% on average across the OEM's brands.

Our forefathers understood the power of personal communication. Our challenge is to improve on the lessons they’ve taught us.

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