Case Study: Harley-Davidson Dealers Push to Grow Mobile Database

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Merchant: Calculated Risk Motorcycle Group
Size: 6 dealerships
Location: Texas
Vendor: 7 Media Group
Bottom Line: Customers are more likely to read mobile messages sent via SMS than traditional email newsletters.

When marketers discuss the general effectiveness of email and SMS campaigns, they usually focus on the types of content or messaging being pushed out. In reality, the size of a company’s customer database can play just as significant a role in the success or failure of a given campaign.

That was one of the challenges faced by the team at Calculated Risk Motorcycle Group, a management company for six Harley-Davidson dealerships. As the company moved from Marketron to 7 Media Group, a digital media firm, its marketing team was looking to increase the size of its mobile database. Although Calculated Risk had experience with email—and it had been using Marketron to send text messages to certain subscribers—it couldn’t see customer responses to those texts and it couldn’t upload contacts directly from the DMS. Those issues lead Calculated Risk’s marketing director, Sarah Oakley, to explore what else was possible through mobile marketing channels.

Soon after deciding to work with 7 Media Group, Oakley began importing her company’s database into the mobile platform, while dealers sent invitations via text messages to encourage existing customers to join the company’s “mobile club.” Dealers were also given a short code and online signup widget to place on their websites in an effort to encourage even more people to join the mobile club. Customers who signed up online received mobile responses to confirm their signups via text.

Once customers opt-in to Calculated Risk’s new mobile club, they can communicate with dealers in real-time. They can also receive photos, reminders, and invitations to local rides, and they can participate in contests. Dealers can send personalized responses to the questions submitted by customers through the mobile system, and Oakley is currently putting together a “Text2Win scavenger hunt” to get people excited about participating in the mobile program.

“We throw events weekly and want to give our riders every excuse to come hang out at the shop and get out and ride,” Oakley said. “It’s about making them feel at home and creating a family atmosphere. Once you walk through our doors, we want to make you feel apart of something great.”

With this latest push into mobile marketing, Oakley says she’s learned more about her customers and what they want from the messages that Calculated Risk sends out. For example, service specials tend to get the highest response rates. Although she still uses email marketing heavily within the organization, mobile has become a more flexible alternative.

“We have noticed a much higher percentage of people read the text messages vs our emails,” she said. “It’s quick and to the point with no fluff.”

In the first 30 days of this campaign, Calculated Risk has been able to increase the size of its mobile database by 190%. Oakley keeps a careful watch over the number of new subscribers joining Calculated Risk’s mobile program, and she has internal goals to reach a certain number of subscribers at each dealership. In addition to the size of her database, Oakley also looks at open rates and tries to fine-tune her messaging based on the feedback she receives.

“[It’s] the balance of sending too many vs. too little messages. This number is different for different riders. This is why segmenting the lists is such an amazing feature,” she said. “As a consumer, I feel I am contacted too much if it’s stuff I don’t want. But if I am interested in the offer, I always want more.”

In the coming months, Oakley says she’ll look more closely into how she can effectively segment her mobile groups to make sure the texts being sent are going to the people who actually want to read them.

“We have the ability with 7 Media Group to segment our lists by the bike they ride, what they are shopping for most at our store, and what rides or events they are more interested in attending,” she said.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.