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The Power of Direct Mail

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Ben Thorington, owner of a Tuffy Tire & Auto Service Center in St. Johns Fla. and another in Grand Haven. Mich., first turned to UpSwell Marketing fairly early in his career as a shop owner. He read a few articles about the company and began to notice that some of the more successful owners in the industry were customers. After doing research of his own, he took what he calls a leap of faith and began to create a direct mail campaign with UpSwell.

Like he does with all new business ventures, Thorington gave UpSwell six months to see if the partnership was worth the investment. Those six months have turned into six years, and he is now currently mailing around 12,000 direct mail pieces a month—helping to grow his 8-bay shop in Florida to an impressive $3.5 million in annual revenue.

Thorington now sees UpSwell as a close business partner, expanding his shop by attracting more loyal customers with higher repair orders, as well as aiding in him successfully navigating the uncertain times of the pandemic.


Attract Loyal Customers and Higher AROs

When Thorington first began working with UpSwell, he started off by sending around 1,000 direct mail pieces a month. In just 12 weeks, he immediately started seeing growing results, and amped up his campaign by doubling the amount of mailers. At the six-month mark, the direct mail pieces were performing so well that he completely halted every other marketing avenue, and began to rely solely on UpSwell.

“As we got into the campaign, I discovered exactly what others were saying, and we began to see far more loyal customers,” Thorington says.

Direct mail helps to separate Tuffy Tire & Auto Service Center from its direct competitors and pulls in individuals looking for more than just a cheap oil change.

“I started getting customers who were not just searching for the best coupon they could find,” he explains. “The ticket average became three times that of the other marketing I was using, and proved to me that I was getting better, more loyal shoppers.”


Utilize Data to Market Effectively

For each individual piece of mail to be as effective as possible, Thorington leans on the UpSwell team to dig into surrounding data for him by facilitating and providing penetration reports.

“The reports drill into every single road that I’m mailing on,” he explains. “The UpSwell team will then crossreference that information with my point of sale system, and really dive into the data.”

By looking at the penetration reports provided by UpSwell, Thorington is able to decide where to best invest his direct mail marketing dollars. Utilizing the report data, he has pulled back sending out pieces to areas where his shop already owns the market—as to not flood the mail boxes of already loyal customers—and then used those dollars to invest greater in areas with less current customers.

“Great data allows you to make good decisions,” he says. “UpSwell has really become what I see as a true business partner.”


Lean on UpSwell’s Industry Expertise

Thorington not only looks to UpSwell for assistance on his direct mail content and design, but also for budgeting and marketing direction. And there hasn’t been a time more prone to needing direction and advice than the past 14 months. Thorington says he went from talking to his UpSwell sales representative a few times a year, to almost daily when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.

“You can go pick up the phone whenever and talk to someone at UpSwell, they’re always there to help,” he says. “UpSwell was one of my first calls when the pandemic hit.”

Contrary to what other businesses were doing, Thorington decided to actually increase his marketing budget during the first few months of the pandemic. He says he made this decision with the help of the UpSwell team, mainly because he trusts their insight as a marketing company with specific auto repair knowledge.

“They’re not necessarily going to be shy to tell me if I’m about to do something that they think may not help my business, and I think that’s because of their automotive background,” he explains. “They can understand emotionally how owners are feeling, but have the data to prove that something may not be the best decision.”

Turns out, the decision to increase his direct mail pieces during the beginning of the pandemic proved to pay off for Thorington and his shop. He was able to work closely with the UpSwell team to set up a cohesive campaign and create proofs quickly. The direct mail marketing helped Tuffy Tire & Auto Service Center to stay afloat and bring in new customers during the difficult year. Thorington has now sent out over 495,000 cards since he’s started working with UpSwell.

“Doing business with UpSwell has been, and will continue to be, a huge part of my success,” he says.


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