Keeping Your Automotive Direct Mail Out of the Trash

When you retrieve your mail from your mailbox, what keeps you from throwing it in the trash when you walk inside?  If you’re anything like me, depending on my mood of course, a piece of targeted direct mail (TDM) will find its way to the trashcan unless it immediately grabs my attention.

As an automotive direct marketing professional, how can you keep the interest of the consumer so they do not throw your TDM in the trashcan?  I’ll touch on the following concepts that are key to a successful direct marketing campaign as it relates to mail:

  • Form
  • Theme
  • Message
  • Call to Action
  • Urgency


Letter – Today’s standard mail pieces are typically informal or official.  In all my years of direct mail experience, I’ve noticed that when a mail piece has a lot of writing on the envelope, it is typically a promotional piece.  If it is fancy (i.e., cluttered or decorative), it’s perceived to be a promotion — and it ultimately ends up in the trash.  On the other hand, letters that look more official with little to no marketing on them are perceived as formal and containing relevant information for the addressee.

Having said that, I strongly suggest you keep your TDM letters simple to improve the likelihood that the recipient will open them.

Postcard – Filled with bulleted announcements, the postcard is one of the best ways to say a lot in a small space.   When designed well with a carefully crafted message, the postcard quickly tells a story and does not irritate the recipient.  Here are a few different suggestions on how to use postcards for your automotive direct mail:

  • 5 x 7 Quick Announcements w/coupons
  • 6 x 9 Bulleted Short Stories w/coupons
  • 6 x 11 Artistic Short Stories w/coupons
  • 8.5 x 11 Artistic Stories – “Texas Postcard”

Other forms of direct mail include:

  • Tri-Fold – Used when you have a lot you want to display. Many direct marketers feel this is the best option for informational and descriptive messages.
  • Gimmick – The unique confetti explosion.  Sending a small tube with confetti and a letter rolled up, though a little more expensive, can create traction.


Make sure you have a great graphic artist that understands design. There is nothing worse than a great form that has a really bad artistic composition.  It’s crucial to create an artistic story that the customer can relate to. Your artist should understand the goal of the TDM and what you want the customer to believe or contemplate.

All good TDM pieces must grab the attention of the consumer by making them want your product.


What is the Offer?  What is the consumer’s benefit? Your eye should be able to pick this off the mail piece quickly and easily.  And perhaps more importantly, is the offer believable?  An unbelievable offer loses credibility quickly.  Remember the saying, ““If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” People do not want to be scammed.

Call to Action

What do you want the customer to do?  Remember, the very objective of sending a TDM piece is to generate a response.  You want the customer to call you, visit the dealership, make an appointment or whatever else you may want them to do.

Therefore, within your TDM, clearly and concisely point out what you want the customer to do, when you want them to do it and the benefits of doing so quickly.


A successful TDM leaves the consumer with the feeling that not only do they need it now, but also if they pass up on the opportunity, they will come to regret doing so.

Pick your form, theme, and message.  Then give it a call to action with a lot of urgency to ensure your TDM will avoid hitting the trashcan.

~ Paul Ryan, Field Account Manager @ DMEautomotive


Paul Ryan brings over 25 years of experience in sales, sales management, marketing, and client services. He joined DMEautomotive in February of 2008, as a Regional Territory Manager. With proven success as an inside sales representative selling the FullCircle Solutions’ Bullseye program, he was recognized frequently as Sales Person of the Month and received the highest honor of Sales Person of the Year for 2008. In August of 2009, Paul managed, “Direct-To-Dealer” – Mail Division, responsible for overseeing the sales for the “Direct-To-Dealer” Mail Division. Currently he is traveling in the Midwest as Field Account Manager. Paul graduated with a B.B.A, in Business Administration from Iowa State University in 1982.

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