Because we are all in this together.
It is safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic took the automotive industry by surprise. Everyone knew that this was and is a serious illness, but no one saw the ripple effect that would take place once American life went from ‘business as usual’ to ‘essential businesses only.’ Enter the need for crisis response for car dealers. It’s tough – we aren’t going to sugarcoat it. Some dealerships in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and California, have completely shut their doors without even the option to conduct online sales at some locations. For those dealerships that remain open and are conducting online sales, you have a unique opportunity to showcase how your dealership can pivot to a new sales process under pressure and how you can meet the needs of your community remotely.
Changing the Process
Dealer Authority itself has had to pivot in the wake of COVID-19; however, this shift only highlighted just how amazing our remote workforce is! I am about to toot our digital horn right now. The Dealer Authority digital team is phenomenal (and I’m not just saying this because I work here). When faced with a challenge our team always rises to the occasion in order to put our clients’ needs first. We talk about it all the time but this really is what makes our digital agency so different from competitors in our space – we take the time to really know our clients. Our success is directly linked to our dealers’ successes and we all take that very seriously.
When it was obvious that the effect of COVID-19 for car dealers was only going to get worse before it got better, we made sure that each of our clients had options available to them so that their surrounding communities would know the services that the dealership would still offer. We weren’t going to wait for our clients to ask for help. There was an immediate need to share this information and we needed to make sure that our clients knew that we were on their side, and we would help them prepare and educate their customers.
On A Positive Note
Though none of us would like to remain in quarantine, there are some positives that have come out of the situation we are all currently in. The pandemic has brought together communities because as terrible as this illness is – it is also an equalizer. We are all unsure of what comes next, we are all craving human connection beyond our front doors, and we are all trying to continue business as usual as best we can. Our team wants to make sure that your dealership can do all of that: connect, educate, and continue to do business.
Social Media = Connectivity
Car dealers have been using tools like Facebook and Twitter for years, but the automotive industry is notorious for being slow to change when it comes to new tools. Let’s just say, we are an industry of skeptics. That won’t work! What I’m doing now works just fine. Well, does it?
Facebook has made what seems like a zillion changes to its advertising platform. The biggest changes that have taken place in recent years are Facebook’s data usage and the special ad audience category. These shifts in data usage on the platform, along with categorizing dealership advertising reinforces the fact that working with an agency that is well-versed in how to truly use Facebook advertising to convert sales is essential. There are still some in our industry that think to stick with Facebook data is just fine and it might be if you were looking to simply brand your dealership, but right now the main focus is sales. Facebook data does not allow you to target audiences in the market for specific makes and models, and it doesn’t allow you to target your ads based on credit score, but third-party data does.
Dealers can’t continue to sell cars with leads that are subpar, especially now. Consumers aren’t sure if they should be heading to the showroom and may be unaware of a dealer’s online car-buying options. Working with a digital marketing provider that has access to third-party data isn’t a choice – it’s essential to make sure that your ads are landing on the feeds of consumers that are actually in the market to purchase a new vehicle or seeking our maintenance services. This not only increases the likelihood of a sale but conserves your marketing budget for leads that will actually convert.
Social media also gives the dealership the opportunity to create a sense of awareness within their local communities. The term “tone deaf” has been floating around digital marketing blogs and forums. There is nothing worse than seeing marketing for a product or solution that completely ignores current events. On the flip side of that, no one wants to be completely bogged down by sadness from reading a post from a brand. Just be a human. Talk to your audience like they are friends. Customers remember the way in which brands respond to a crisis, so make their memories positive. Share some good news from your local community! Let them know about the restaurants that are still doing curbside pick-up. Maybe even grab lunch from there for your staff that is still on-site and give the restaurant a plug on your social. Sing the praises of your town’s hospital in response to COVID-19. Show them that you care about your community and your how your business contributes to it. We really are all in this together so make sure that your message is useful and real.
What are your options?
If your dealership has been able to implement an online car-buying program, making this process easy and painless is going to be key. If you’ve just created this program for your dealership, you may still be ironing out some kinks, but that’s okay – again, we are all in this together. Do you have a desking tool available to customers? Maybe you use a tool like illumiQuote from our friends at FRIKINtech? Create a screen record video of going through the online process from start to finish, then post it on your social media and website so your customers can follow along if they are unsure. If you need help creating one, just ask us. There are tons of free tools and apps out there that can help you do this.
We are here to help.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to what is happening in our country right now and there certainly isn’t one solution for every dealership. Each market and each dealers’ needs are going to be unique. The key is to make sure that the presentation of your inventory and the messaging of your services is solving the problems of your customers. Can you pick-up and deliver? Yes! Will you make sure my car is fully sanitized before bringing back to my driveway? Absolutely. Can you help me make my purchase online? Heck yeah, and I’ll even set up a video call with you so I’ll be with you every step of the way.
We are all in unknown waters and the key to surviving them is how we work together to help each other make the best of it.