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Direct Response Marketing

CarMD Delivers Home Remedy for Auto Care

5 Mar, 2010 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response

In a new long-form TV ad, the DR-launched diagnostic tool empowers consumers to keep their cars healthy.


In the beginning, Jacobsen knew his best resource would be others who were successfully selling products through DRTV. So, noting the sweeping success of the Little Giant Ladder, Jacobsen called up Little Giant hoping to get some helpful tips and immediately was able to get through to the company’s president, Art Wing. Since their initial 45-minute talk, Wing has been a great guide for Jacobsen in the DRTV world.

Right now, CarMD has put most of its efforts into testing long-form television, but once the brand becomes better known, it plans to introduce some short form (perhaps as early as next year). The same goes for retail. Although CarMD already has the connections and has been approached by retailers to stock its products on the shelves, Jacobsen says he will not bring the device to retail until he can build the market — perhaps for the 2010 holiday season.

Although CarMD is still in phase one of testing for its infomercial and cannot release sales numbers, it is able to boast a media efficiency ratio (MER) of more than 2:1 and, at times, even more than 3:1.

“Our compay is conservative, and we do things slowly,” says Jacobsen. “Test phase round one was 13 weeks and round two will begin late March or early April. Media buys were smaller in round one and will be bigger in round two. Then we will roll out.”

Growing Pains and Successes

CarMD is happy with its success thus far, but it has faced some growing pains along the way. “Going into an infomercial, you can never fully prepare for an endeavor like this,” says Jacobsen. “It’s like re-lauching your company. You have to revisit marketing, messaging, sales, distribution channels, returns, warranties, order fulfillment, shipping.”

The long-form show has a strong call-to-action to order by phone, about 75 percent of sales are made through this channel. However, 25 to 30 percent of those watching it are waiting and ordering online at a later date, so the site is set up to easily funnel those that saw the show to an order form.

CarMD is also starting to market through online social networks and recently sold five or six products through Facebook in one week. The company is also active on YouTube, where it shows clips from the infomercial and features testimonials by used car owners. Jacobsen sees social media as a way to fan the flames of the brand.

Thanks to his engineering mind, Jacobsen believes in measuring everything the marketing team does. One of the tricky aspects to measurement is that the demographics are pretty scattered and range from 30-year-old single mothers to 80-year-old retirees. So the company often segments based on usage. Meaning, they look at how the person uses the product and what the value propositions are.

The segmentation challenge also came into play when the company was constructing the DR campaign. Jacobsen searched a long time for hosts appealing to both men and women of all ages. He commended CarMD’s host Chris Jacobs, also host of “The Insider” and previously of TLC’s “Overhaulin’,” because he tested well with both men and women.

Learning the media buying side of the industry was another big challenge for Jacobsen when putting together the DRTV campaign. Jacobsen refers to media buying as “one equation with five unknowns.” Unknown factors to consider include the lead-in program, the lead-out, the time of day of the airing, the demographic of the network, and the weather outside. Plus, media buying is a neverending cycle of testing and re-testing. “We’ve cracked about two-thirds of the code, but there are just so many things to test,” says Jacobsen.

Down the Road

While the economy has had a negative impact on many products, it’s created an opportunity for CarMD. The average age of a car on the road today is 9.4 years old. People are keeping their cars longer than ever, and the quality of the vehicles on the road are better than ever. “A well maintained, properly taken care of car can last 200,000 miles, which wasn’t true 15 years ago,” says Jacobsen. “So keeping them longer is better for us, and as they [customers] run into problems, we can help them take care of the problems — and more cost effectively.”

Though television has been the mainstay of DR marketing for the company, CarMD is also dabbling in print and radio. Jacobsen’s experience with radio is that it’s either very successful or not at all. “It takes me more than 30 seconds to explain the value proposition of the product,” he says. “But we do hope to do more radio in the future.” In addition, CarMD is focusing largely this year on beefing up its Web site so it will become the portal for automotive. Along with information on the products, the Web site provides warranty information, recall information and technical service bulletins (TSBs). Currently, the company is working on setting up TSB alerts, so that in the near future, those registered with CarMD will be able to get an E-mail alert when a manufacturers’ recall for their car is released. About half of the owners of the 600,000 CarMDs sold have registered accounts on the Web site.

Along with a revamped Web site, more radio spots, a boost in online social media, and a continuation of DRTV, CarMD will take its long-form show international in 2010, starting with Canada — the U.S., Canada and Mexico have the same vehicle regulations.

No matter what the future holds, Jacobsen is confident that he will continue to find CarMD a rewarding company to work for because he gets to help people solve problems. “We’re focused on helping people be smarter about taking care of their cars and being more proactive about caring for something that will be better for them in the long run,” says Jacobsen. n

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About the Author: Jacqueline Renfrow

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