JM&A Group Blog

6 min read

Marketing Your Dealership During COVID-19

Apr 27, 2020

If we have learned anything in the last month or so, it’s that the game has changed.

Due to the unforeseen challenges COVID-19 has sprung on all of us in the auto industry, we are all adapting and changing the way we conduct business. 

From relying on your virtual storefront to tackling the obstacle of providing service-related offerings while social distancing, and everything in between, nothing is off the table in the current automotive world. 

But adapting to this new norm extends further than the products and services you provide to your customers. Changing the way you market your dealership to your customers or potential customers is what will differentiate you from the competition. 

A common misconception is that marketing is a luxury expense that has no place in your budget during a time of crisis. As a result, many businesses are streamlining and cutting marketing expenses. This may or may not be the right play for your business.

Why?

Now may be the most important time to be there for customers and show them how you are adapting to accommodate them in the best way possible. 

The businesses that can do this will stand out in the mind of the consumer and will resonate with them once this is over. 

If you are able to communicate with your customers and community that you are taking the necessary steps to ensure their safety while also providing them with outstanding service, that will go a long way to build trust now and further down the line.

In other words, making adjustments to your marketing strategy now is a strategy for customer retention and loyalty later. 

Let’s discuss some marketing tips and recommendations that will help position you as the go-to dealership during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Not sure where to start? Check out our COVID-19 Dealer Communications Plans here.


Get a message to your customers and online audience about what you are doing to address COVID-19.

By now you probably have received a few emails from various companies and CEOs that lay out what they are planning to do as a business during COVID-19.

While we recommend reaching out to your contact list to speak on the current state of affairs and how you are responding to it, be sure to make it more about them as a reader instead of you as a company. 

Show them you care by offering them something of value. It doesn’t need to be an expensive giveaway. Something simple like a blog, or a resource that can help them make a decision or identify a problem in their own car buying purchase journey, can make a world of difference. Also, if someone is in the market for a new car or F&I product, now is a perfect time to showcase your digital retail capabilities and prove to your audience just how easy of a process it is. If you’re not equipped to complete online transactions, start looking into a few options that can make a difference for you and your customers. 

It is also vital to keep any new information about your dealership readily available.

Consider the the following: 

  • Update your store hours (if they changed).
  • What social distancing steps is your store taking?
  • What are you doing to sanitize and clean your showroom, service area and vehicles?
  • Are you implementing a vehicle delivery service?
  • As a business owner, you are a leader in your community. Share acts of service, community outreach opportunities and inspire some positive action.
  • Include details about the extra precautions your dealership is taking and what services you’re offering to the community during this time.

The best part is you can take this opportunity to humanize your brand and message while still giving out great information about why your dealership is the one people should do business with. 

One of the best things you can do right now is double down on who you are as an organization, work as hard as you can at getting that message across, and be as helpful and available as possible. 


Drive home the importance of family, unity and empathy during this time.

The story isn’t about just you or your organization. The story is about “us” - you, your customers and your community.

We are all in this together, and we must all overcome it together. 

Maintaining a level of collective awareness and togetherness is very important while marketing during this time.

You have the opportunity now to keep people as informed as possible while positioning yourself as a thought leader. 

Something to consider is having a place on your website where people can keep up to date on the latest industry news, COVID-19 news and any changes in your processes. Your social media accounts, blogs, publications, etc. can be linked back to this page as well.  

This approach can help connect your audiences - your employees, customers and the community at large - so they have one place to go for business updates.


If you have a digital retail solution for your dealership, be sure to add the online car buying service into your marketing plan.

It is critically important to highlight your digital services and products in your marketing efforts right now. 

The simple truth is that many consumers and potential customers still view the car buying process as a traditional in-person, shake hands type of experience.

Showing your customers that you have an easy, seamless online buying process that can save them time could be a huge differentiator for your dealership.  

If you’re already on track with digital retailing - and we hope you are - we can help you unlock potential in the F&I office with our proven Virtual F&I process.


Send an email blast out to your customers letting them know your digital doors are open.

This is another step in the right direction to keep your customers and audience informed. 

Let them know, in detail, what you are currently offering and how it will benefit them. Take away unnecessary pressure and let them know that it’s business as usual but now it’s just on your website.

This is another bridge you are building in a business relationship that can do two things for you. 

First, it keeps you in front of your prospective customers and current customers on another medium. A steady, but not overwhelming, stream of helpful information via your brand will make an impact, and if you pair that with an empathetic, comforting and reliable brand message, there is a good chance you won’t be sent to a spam folder. 

Second, even if your audience decides that now is not the right time to purchase a vehicle or an F&I product, when the time comes for the market to reopen, you will be the brand that got through the pandemic with them and didn’t hit them with the hard sell during an unsure time. They will appreciate your empathetic position and realize that it might be a good idea to buy a car with you instead of the other guy.  

Use something like this, in your own words, and see what you think. 

The world is not ending, it's just changing. It’s important to keep that in mind. 

If you can spread that statement into your marketing materials and help your customers realize that it's business as usual, just online, you will be in good shape.  


Leverage messaging and marketing angles from your vendor partners.

Your partners should be providing resources that aid your dealership and offer insights and advice to help you do better business. Now is a great time to utilize them!

Give consideration to any useful, actionable tips presented to you about how you can boost business right now. There are tons of helpful resources out there that can give you a new perspective or idea. Many people are in the same position as you are, and learning from their successes and mistakes can clear the road ahead for your dealership. After all knowledge is power. 

For example,

Maybe you and your team have been brainstorming some new strategies that you are looking to implement as soon as possible. Do your research, because it’s likely someone had a similar idea that you can learn from or find out how it worked for them. Make life easier by working smarter, not harder.  


If your dealership has utilized digital retail solutions, pull reviews from people who have done transactions online and use them.

Social proof such as testimonials, reviews or videos is an excellent way to portray how great your products, services and processes are. 

Use them on your website, landing pages, social media profiles and emails to show how other people are benefiting from what you provide. It can make a huge impact during the car buying or F&I transaction process. 

If your previous buyers are validating it, in the mind of your prospective customer, it must work and be good for them too. 


Summary

If you want to avoid having your messages from being dismissed, your messaging may need to change. 

If you can understand people’s needs and wants at this time, you can adjust accordingly and come out on top.  

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that people buy with emotion and then justify with logic. If someone who is sitting at home right now remembers the efforts you took during this time to alleviate unneeded stress and confusion for them, in the future, you will have resonated with them and made a lasting connection. 

No matter how virtual or remote we are, people still value relationships above all else. If you keep that in mind and use the tips and tactics we discussed, you will be well on your way down the road to success.   

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Ryan Leschel
Written by Ryan Leschel

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