When Bad Marketing Happens to Good Customers

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When Bad Marketing Happens to Good Customers

Loyal customers are a marketer’s best source of new sales and referrals. That’s why smart marketers treat their best customers like gold, and why earning customer loyalty is the goal of every smart marketing strategy. Except at Toyota.

Beyond Bad News: Bad Customer Relationship Management

Toyota-Mailing-Mail-PanelAfter a tough few months, Toyota is trying to regain the confidence of car buyers with a massive advertising campaign.  In such a difficult sales environment, you’d think Toyota would see the value of retaining relationships with its most loyal customers.

But the mailing we just received for the 2011 Toyota Avalon is a giant disappointment.

By any measure, we are Toyota loyalists. In the past 25 years, our family has bought five Toyotas, including a 2000 Avalon that we still drive. We are the prime target for a new Avalon.

But instead of treating us like best customers, lavishing us with personal attention and a high-end marketing campaign that acknowledges our special customer status, here’s the cheesy selfmailer we got from Toyota about the 2011 Avalon. It’s a classic example of a poor direct marketing strategy.

Breaking the Rules of Good Direct Mail

Toyota-Mailing-Inside-PanelThis little four-panel selfmailer breaks many of the rules of effective direct mail marketing:

  • Target your best customers with your best promotion. By sending us the same generic mailing it sent every prospect on a rented mailing list, Toyota dismissed the value of our 25-year, multi-buyer relationship.
  • Match the mailing’s quality to the product. The base price for a 2011 Avalon is over $32,000. A 4.25” x 6.5” selfmailer printed on the lightest possible stock falls far short of the direct mail you’d expect for a company’s most expensive vehicle.
  • Select a format that showcases the product. Since the mailing is postcard-sized, the images are small, too. Instead of spotlighting the fabulous details of this new car, the format makes it hard for the driver to see them.
  • Make a compelling offer with a reason to act now. You can “build and price” your car at Toyota’s website and get free maintenance for two years under certain conditions, but the free maintenance offer is not well detailed and the deadline for the offer is buried beside an asterisk in the smallest possible typeface.
  • Personalize the mailing to the recipient. The local dealer’s name is the only personalization on this piece. Our name appears only in the address. There isn’t even a PURL (personalized URL) for a web response.

A Smarter, “Best Customer” Marketing Strategy

Toyota-Mailing-Offer-PanelA smarter marketing strategy for Toyota would be to communicate very personally with current Avalon owners like us.

Imagine if they had sent us a multi-piece, “best customer” direct marketing campaign with very high-end mailings on beautiful stock that showcased the car’s details, so we could picture ourselves behind the wheel. They could even have sent us an invitation for an exclusive first look at the new model, to be sure we were among the first to see it.

Suppose they’d offered us a generous trade-in on our current Avalon and the call to action had been personalized just to us, with the name, photo, and direct phone number of a salesperson at our local dealer.  A special financial incentive could have been included to get us to act now, with a PURL to streamline an online appointment.

And most important, imagine how differently the campaign would have made us feel if Toyota had mined their customer database to identify us as multi-buyers and thank us for 25 years of customer loyalty.

We might have overcome our concerns about their safety record, reminded ourselves of the reasons we bought so many Toyotas in the past, and headed off to our local dealer.

Instead, our relationship with Toyota is probably over. We’re shopping for a Honda.

A final note:

The current advertising campaign for the new Toyota Avalon is a muddled waste of marketing resources. In this spot, the product is nearly lost in a dreamy cloudscape populated by pilots and flight attendants from a bygone era, all set to the tune of Theme from a Summer Place, which won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 1961. You’d have to be at least 60 to remember that song on the radio. Is this the demographic for the new Avalon? Or is Toyota trying to evoke the Mad Men era?

  • Marty Thomas

    I recently had a client that brought in a 35.2% response rate from an PURL email campaign using Purlem. It was very simple and effective. I can forward you some details on the campaign if your interested.

    April 30, 2010 at 11:38 am
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