March 2020 undoubtedly will make future history books as COVID-19 affected every aspect of American life. This virus has indiscriminately impacted everyone and every industry. For those of us in the automotive industry, we already have the historical precedent of wrestling a life-changing event: the Great Recession. Something, however, feels different this time.
Reunion participated in Paul J Daly’s community and thought-leader event, Automotive State of the Union, which asked the following: “What question are you hearing the most from dealers right now?”
The answer from a fellow panelist was, “What the hell do I do?”
It is a daunting but valid and raw question asked by so many business owners today, but proactivity is possible even in times of blurred horizons.
In true Reunion Marketing fashion, we analyzed the data and themes that have come about from industry experts. From that, we identified 3 themes that can keep you ahead of the curve and still in front of the consumer. This is our advice and our glimpse of hope in a time of stress.
Look to the past to help safeguard your reality and future.
Ask for help! Lean on the people and partners you trust.
Keep your customers and community informed and engaged.
Look to the Past to Help Safeguard Your Reality and Future
It’s important to look at how the automotive retail industry fared throughout and after the Great Recession. The sales data of new and used vehicles tells an interesting and hopeful story.
Though new car sales took a hit in 2009, they took on a gradual and consistent rise and hit unprecedented numbers in recent years. It can be expected that we will see similar circumstances coming out of a COVID-19-forced recession. And as more people shop online for cars, it will be important to maintain a digital presence by investing in digital marketing in the coming weeks and months to help fill your dealership’s sales pipeline and showroom floor.
Used cars did not see the dramatic decline. It actually weathered the Great Recession rather well and has continually performed for automotive dealerships throughout the following years. By taking this into account, it’s reasonable to say that continued investment in digital marketing for your used inventory is prudent.
The crux of the story here is that your investment in digital marketing is just as important — if not more important — than ever. So it’s necessary that you review your budget to ensure that you’re using the right channels, as well as ensuring that your digital marketing partner or internal team implements the right strategies to make those channels as efficient and effective as possible. To help with that, we published a free educational, pitch-free webinar that you can view without any subscription or forms to fill right here: Building Your Budget for the COVID-19 Environment and Beyond.
We will also host a Digital Dealer webinar on April 23rd around this exact topic with additional information and your chance to ask questions in the moment for the answers you need the most. You can register to view that webinar here: Digital Dealer Webinar.
Ask for Help! Lean on People and Partners You Trust
You want to find a digital marketing team that understands that your digital marketing isn’t just about new cars. It also isn’t simply about used cars. This rule applies to fixed operations, too. It’s vital that your dealership takes a holistic approach to cover all of the sales and services that you offer.
This means that you’ll leverage different marketing channels to diversify your portfolio: SEO, PPC, and programmatic media, including paid social media platforms like Facebook. These are all applicable to the full operations of your dealership. Though each serves its own purpose, they are synergistic, and that synergy makes it important for these channels to be cohesive and consistent to ensure that they inform each other well.
It’s also necessary that you partner up with an agency that values transparency and compassion. For example, there still exist a number of agencies in the automotive retail space that operate on a commission basis for paid search. Whether we’re in the midst of a pandemic or life operates as usual, each of your vendors should be considerate of what’s most important: you.
Keep Your Customers and Community Informed and Engaged
Automotive dealerships have always been leaders in their communities. A major component of that includes keeping customers and community members apprised of their operations. In the midst of COVID-19, that means having messaging about how you’re staff are keeping vehicles clean and safe, your methods of vehicle delivery and extent of digital retailing, and so much more.
One method is using programmatic media — Pandora, video pre-roll, social media — to communicate these important messages and keep people engaged. These are typically stimulus channels and aspire to create brand awareness, pushing people into the buying cycle or pushing them into a particular direction (yours) early in their path to purchase. These channels also give you an opportunity to safely promote unprecedented offers.
If you’d like to learn more about programmatic media, we actually have an episode of our educational series, the KPI Cafe. You can watch our CEO Dave Spannhake explain the differences between traditional and programmatic channels: Traditional Media Buying vs. Programmatic Advertising.
As important as programmatic media is, the value of your Google My Business listings cannot be understated. If your digital marketing partner has properly set up your GMB accounts, you should have a listing for sales, parts, and service. What that means for your dealership during this current COVID-19 environment is your state may have only deemed service an essential business. Your service hours, then, would be different than sales, which would be closed. And even when we come out on the other side of this issue, your sales, service, and parts will likely still have different hours of operation. And there, of course, are the usual functions of your GMB to showcase address, phone number, reviews, and much more.
Final Thoughts from Your Friends at Reunion Marketing
We may still be living a “new normal,” but the American spirit is hard to tarnish, especially those in an industry as motivated as ours. To make your life just a little bit easier, Reunion Marketing is offering complimentary marketing assessments to help you and your store effectively navigate this time. We feel it is the least we can do to give back to an industry that has treated us so well in our 5 years of operations.
If you are interested in this offer, reach out to us! If you are looking for some more resources to help, we’ve got those too. Have a watch of our aforementioned video series, KPI Cafe, to learn more about some of the best practices you can incorporate into your marketing ideas. We’re all in this together.