Before the real ‘new normal’ settles in, it’s important to know where to focus your efforts. Many dealerships are closed, and if you have only so many assets available, you can’t afford to waste your time.
Why does this matter?
- You have a limited budget
It’s no secret. There isn’t as much revenue coming in, and you’ve had to make cuts across the board. While you shouldn’t cut without cause, dealerships do need to be more conscientious – and focus on what works, not just the price tag.
You likely have extra time on your hands, so use some of that time to speak with vendors, check the backend, look at reporting, look at ROI, and ask your vendors how they might help too. If something isn’t pulling its weight and showing results, you know where to cut.
- You have a limited team
Many dealerships have had to make the much harder decision of cutting personnel or at least putting several on furlough. That in turn saves money, but it also leaves you short-handed. The vendors and tools you do choose to keep need to be taking on some of that burden.
The right tools can decide for you which customers are the most valuable and most likely to purchase or service, acting as a virtual BDC or sales team on your behalf, so you’re not left struggling to finalize the deals you are able to bring in.
- Not all services are available
With limited budget and personnel, you can’t offer all the usual services, or how you are offering them may be different (and probably more costly if you’re doing home deliveries and pickups.) What you do offer needs to be targeted to the right customers and prospects to bring back as much ROI as possible in the long term.
Dealerships should always focus on in-market shoppers and servicers first, as well as high-value customers, i.e., the advocates who are most likely to come back and share their positive experiences.
How do you recognize the right customers?
- Data Management
A dealer’s CRM and DMS are notoriously outdated. Use this time to clean your database, especially if your dealership is closed, whether through 3rd party services and data cleansing or your own due diligence.
Clean data means expanded reach and improved deliverability, making it easier to communicate with all your consumers, but especially the ones you most want to get in touch with.
- Artificial Intelligence
Having correct information is a great start, but that’s often focused on demographics and contact information. Even more important is a consumer’s behavior and vehicle status, and the only way to truly dig into that data and populate it accurately is by utilizing artificial intelligence.
Having a system in place to manage your communication structure, such as a marketing automation solution, can aggregate this data and build individualized consumer profiles that engage consumers based on their lifecycle and show you everything you need to know about them.
- Buyer Detection
Artificial intelligence ties directly to buyer detection – which consumers have the most propensity to purchase or service based on their behavior and current equity. Some customers are holding off purchasing right now, while others are still shopping, and even those waiting until quarantine is over and the market breaks are showing signs of being in market and need to be communicated with effectively.
To be able to target those consumers, dealers need buyer detection to know which ones are showing behavior signals and a high propensity score to indicate purchase consideration. Equally, dealers also need equity tools to pinpoint customers in a favorable equity position and who will likely want an upgrade.
How do you talk to these consumers?
- With a softer touch
Most importantly – don’t be creepy. If you have this great data on consumers, you don’t want to start any communication with: Well, I saw you were doing X. Instead, focus the conversation on what you know their interests are without telling them how you know that’s what they want to hear.
Saw them looking at a specific model? Mention specials on it. Saw them clicking about trade-ins? Mention specific trade-in specials. Similarly, with customers in good equity, emphasize current OEM incentives, urging them to consider a purchase now so they don’t miss out on the opportunity.
- Use empathy
Tweak your messaging to come from an emotional connection. Don’t just say the current incentives are amazing; talk about why they’re being offered – because you understand shoppers may have recently lost their job and need to reduce payments, and you are here to help them.
People like to feel heard and understood, especially now when we’re surrounded by negativity. Put upfront that you want to lessen the load, and go the extra mile with specials, financing, and purchase and service options.
If you haven’t been adding different channels to your marketing efforts, website updates, social media, and email are critical when most of the country is at home. Be there. Be everywhere. And be consistent so you’re top of mind when consumers are back in market.
That doesn’t mean you only engage consumers when they’re in market – you should always communicate with them; it is the message that changes. To ensure consistency, marketing automation can help reduce the burden on you, your limited team, and your budget.
It can’t be stressed enough that what will be the ‘new normal’ isn’t that different from what we’re experiencing now. Dealerships aren’t going to be able to take away the innovations they’ve been providing to consumers. Virtual showrooms, certain incentives, and pick-up and drop-off services will persist, and more innovations are likely to come.
Don’t focus on damage control. Focus on how to embrace these changes and adapt. Targeting the right consumers is a good start.