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Zip Code Email Marketing To Auto Dealer Case Study Part 1

We are solicited all the time by companies with the following pitch

“We have a huge database of opt-in email data based on zip code and demographics that we can mail your clients offers to.”

A long time ago I actually took a company up on the offer and it did very very poorly.  Recently we were contacted by a company that I kind of knew from the affiliate marketing space with the same kind of product/offer.  I heard them out and decided to give it a try.  I have a Lincoln dealer that’s looking for some more leads to boost up business so we decided to try mailing their offers through this companies system to see if this is a viable option.

The demographics and quantity we chose were as follows.

  • 10 Miles Around The Dealership
  • Household Income of $100K or more.
  • 83,334 Emails Sent (Based on Above Data)

The email creative we used was as follows (certain pieces blocked out for confidentiality)


Then when they click through the email they go to a VERY similar landing page with a contact form:


This setup allowed for complete tracking of the campaign.  The landing page had the ability to track email leads generated back to this campaign only.  The landing page AND the email had tracking phone numbers so that calls generated from the campaign could be tracked back to this campaign only as well.

Before the campaign began I spoke to some of my staff to get estimates of how many leads they thought this campaign would generate.  Granted some are artists or social media specialists so I wouldn’t really expect them to make the best of estimations but here were the estimations nonetheless (I found this interesting so I thought you may as well)

  • Myself: 10
  • Artist: 60
  • Coder: 123
  • Social Media: 1,000 (I laughed too)
  • Other Artist: 80

So, as you can see our estimations were all over the map.

The email went out on Tuesday (as of this writing it’s Thursday morning) and these are the stats on the campaign:


So that’s 83,334 emails sent, 7502 Opens & 1102ish Clicks over to the landing page.  That’s a 9%+ open rate which i’m actually really impressed with and it’s a LOT higher then I expected.  If you would have asked me before the email was sent I would have guessed a 3% open rate.

The unfortunate thing here is that 0 leads were generated.  That’s right ZERO.  Not ONE.  So everyone lost on the estimations (but I was closest even though I still would have lost on The Price is Right).  I’m actually really disappointing with the fact that no leads were generated.  I really would like to use this as a viable method of lead generation but every time i’ve tried it, it never provides a measurable ROI.

Even though i’m disappointed with the results I’m going to reserve judgement.  We have the ability to buy a list of the postal addresses of the openers and clickers (which i’m going to do).  I’m then going to ask the dealership for a list of everyone they sold a car to for the month.  We will then see if we can match any of these Openers/Clickers to a sale that was made at the dealership in the Month of May.  The theory here would be that the email triggered someone to walk in instead of email or call.  If there ARE matches then this could still be considered a success.

Find out what happens in Part 2

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Published inCase StudiesLocal Online Advertising


  1. I know that in a lot of cases a simple creative can return good results, but I don’t think this is one of those cases, especially when you’re trying to target a local dealership. A lot of these dealerships have local brand awareness and your creative is very generic until the footer which is where I’m assuming the dealerships logo and address is, I wouldn’t be surprised the majority of viewers didn’t even make it that far since they saw nothing they recognized.

    Also the lander is almost exactly the same as the creative and unless you put them side by side the average customer probably wouldn’t be able to spot the form on click through, I wouldn’t be surprised if they where confused once they clicked and had to do a double take back and forth before closing it thinking it was broken. Also there isn’t any copy or product information funnel to entice the customer to fork over their personal information, all they get is a photo of a car, the model name and price. I could only see this generating leads by brute force of unlimited cheap traffic.

  2. Ad Hustler Ad Hustler

    This exact same email/landing page was used to their customer database which produced excellent results.

    However, you could be correct and I will not rule out the creative as a problem. It’s something that’s been on my mind. Typically branding towards the manufacturer does A LOT better than branding toward the dealership.

    Even so, it’s weird to not receive 1 call or email. Out of 1,000+ people going to the landing page I’d expect something, especially considering that the page is converting at 5-10% elsewhere.

  3. Have you ruled out creative links, hosting, tracking redirects, form processing, browser compatibility?

  4. Ad Hustler Ad Hustler

    All working properly…

  5. Aaron Aaron

    Thanks for sharing this. It seems like we sometimes get so used to seeing ‘success’ stories that, as strange as it may seem, it’s nice to see a campaign case study that doesn’t go the way you expected. Definitely shows that no matter how much success a previous campaign (or campaign creative) had, it may not work the next time.

  6. Ad Hustler Ad Hustler

    @Aaron – 100% true. The thing that gets frustrating is making a decision whether this type of marketing is worth pursuing or not. The decision is a lot easier when you at least see SOME results that you can optimize.

  7. Sam L Sam L

    Good read. Great idea to try and match the Openers/Clickers. I would even take a look at sales in June as well. Some of these buyers could wait it out. Like you said….SOME results would be nice. Even 1 sale would be nice to see.

  8. Ad Hustler Ad Hustler

    @Sam – A sale would certainly be nice (in fact i’ll need a few to break even) but i’d even settle for leads.

  9. Should have created 2 mail creatives. One like yours and one offering a free XXXXXX that could only be reclaimed by visiting Manager XXXXXX at the location. Maybe a 50 /GC

    That would have at least brought live bodies into the store..


  10. Curious..

    1) Did you supply the creatives and did they send the emails on your behalf… or was this a rented list?

    2) Did you write the subject line?

    3) Was the creative the main content in the email body or was the banner on the side/bottom of the email?

  11. It’s really crazy that no leads were actually made, even with the 9 percent open rate.

  12. This is a great place for Aspiring Affiliate Marketers…

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