DETROIT (May 4, 2001) — A mailing to Ford Explorer prospects wouldn´t ordinarily be news.
But by combining Ford Motor Co.´s different databases, and using that information to craft targeted messages to Explorer owners, Ford believes it has achieved a minor breakthrough.
Ford Division recently sent e-mail or traditional direct mail to a half-million Explorer owners asking them what they want to know about the 2002 model. The division determined that those owners were in the market to buy another Explorer by tapping the company´s "customer knowledge system," a collection of the company´s different databases.
The 2002 Explorer launch is critical to Ford, as it tries to recover from the damage caused by the Firestone tire recall last year and by a liftgate recall this month. Explorer sales are down 24.3 percent for the first three months of this year, compared with the same period last year, due to a slow launch of the model.
The Explorer is the first product to tap the recently combined database, said Doug Scott, Ford Division sport-utility group marketing manager. The combined database allows Ford to develop a more complete customer profile than before and customize its marketing based on that information.
"We can direct the communication to them that focuses on a particular area, whether it´s safety or ride and handling or towing or whatever aspect of the vehicle," Mr. Scott said. "This will allow us to have a deeper relationship with our owners, so that we really do understand what´s important to them."
Use of the combined database is "a linchpin of the launch," Mr. Scott said.
The division will track the strategy´s success by how many responses it gets — anything above 2 percent is considered successful in direct mail. Ford dealers are required to report to the company how many of those people visit their dealerships for a test drive and how many buy the 2002 Explorer in the next 30 days, said Jerry Reynolds, chairman of Ford´s national dealer council.
"This could really change the marketing plans for the future," Mr. Reynolds said. "If you get more people to come in, that´s the key."
Ford Division also will measure the strategy´s success by whether it raises the level of Explorer owner loyalty. Explorer-to-Explorer buying dipped to 40 percent last year after maintaining 44 percent for five years. Ford´s goal is to increase that loyalty to 45 percent and maintain it in the next three years, Mr. Scott said.
Eventually, the database will allow Ford to serve loyal customers more efficiently, he said.
For owners on their third or fourth Explorer, "you might not need to offer them as much of an incentive because of their loyalty to the brand as you would to another group of people that might be new to Ford or new to Explorer," he said. "They don´t have the same demonstrated loyalty over time, so you might need to have a stronger incentive."