There is an old story about an auto dealer who would stand on the roof of his store with a pair of binoculars. He would watch customers pull onto his competitors’ lots, write down their license plate numbers and find them on a list he procured from the state. He would then grab the phone book and call those customers to let them know that he offers better deals, better vehicles and better financing.

You may no longer be able to get lists of license plate numbers — and you may not have the time to sit on your roof all day — but you can adopt that dealer’s strategy. Trigger leads allow you to capture leads from your competitors, and it’s perfectly legal; in fact, it benefits consumers.

Ready, Aim, Fire

We all know that all dealerships are not created equal when it comes to helping consumers with subprime credit. Most dealers don’t have the lenders, inventory or knowledge to help these people.

We also know that, every day, subprime consumers walk into the wrong dealership and are told they have bad credit and cannot be helped. Many of them are sure they will hear the same thing from every other dealer, so their search for a vehicle ends right then and there.

If you are the one dealer in your market who has the right stuff for these subprime consumers, you’re in luck. Can you imagine knowing when every subprime consumer in your market has their credit bureau report viewed by an auto dealer, bank, lender or credit union for automotive financing purposes? It is possible!

It’s called a “trigger” program because, when the consumer has their credit bureau pulled, that action triggers a notification that this consumer is in the market. Every morning, a fresh list of these shoppers becomes available.

This is the most targeted list of in-market consumers available, and the response rates prove it. As most of you know, you are lucky to get a 1% response rate on a typical direct mail promotion. It’s not unusual to see response rates from a proper trigger program run between 5% and 12%. It takes the right program with the right processes to get response rates like this.

Keys to Success

Many of these consumers also have listed phone numbers that are not on the national “do not call” list. That means they can be called by a professional call center, which means you are communicating with them the day after they shopped. When these consumers receive a call telling them they’ve been prequalified for automotive financing at a dealership near them, they will most likely think, “These idiots don’t know I was just turned down yesterday,” and they will happily listen to your offer.

Another key is that the mail must go out every day. You can’t wait and mail these people weekly. These are valuable prospects so the mail piece should be high quality and high impact, and you had better spring for first-class postage. 

So now that you know that these great programs are available, it’s time for you to pull the trigger and give your subprime sales a boost. Good luck and good selling!

Denny Long is president of Credit Mail Experts and ranks among the industry’s leading experts in direct mail and subprime marketing. [email protected]