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How Auto Dealers Can Control Their Narrative During COVID-19

If your local grocery store is anything like mine, you’re seeing an eclectic mix of customer face coverings.  Some wear medical-grade masks, reinforced with disposable gloves on both hands.  Others have homemade cloth masks.  And then there’s a portion of the customer base that does not wear any face coverings at all.  Somehow, somewhere, each customer was influenced on the “facts” of the pandemic and each came to their own conclusions on what they needed to do while shopping for groceries.  Some customers made major changes to their routine while others treated it like just another Wednesday at Costco.

This serves as a prime example for why your business needs to proactively influence customers in your market.  You need to drive as many people as possible to your preferred conclusion rather than waiting for your customers to come to a conclusion on their own.  Proactive communication measures are especially valuable right now as many businesses have pulled back on advertising, leaving fewer businesses to compete with your message.

In the wake of COVID-19, some dealerships are operating in radically different ways: signs that require all people – employees and customers – to wear face coverings, no handshakes, plexiglass barriers between customers and employees, online purchasing and home delivery, etc.  Other dealers are operating close to “business as usual” with only minor adjustments.  Whatever your situation is, you must control the narrative around what you’re doing, and why, rather than leaving it to the consumer to figure out on their own.  Major reasons include:

  • Don’t take for granted that people know you’re open for sales and service.
    • A pop up or a homepage banner is not enough. You need to have a messaging strategy that hits a broad network of potential customers, not just the small percentage of people who will look at all of your homepage banners or will allow a pop up to appear without closing it immediately.
    • Ensure that your hours are up to date on Google My Business, Facebook and your website, and that posts are pinned in appropriate places that put the most important information from your store front-and-center for your customers.
  • You need to set customer expectations.
    • If your dealership has undergone major transformations, then get out and talk about them. Educate customers on your value propositions and what you’re doing for their benefit.  If you’ve made major changes, but haven’t told customers, you’re concealing profound efforts that could drive additional traffic today.
    • If your dealership is conducting business as usual, then own that position in your market. Talk to your customers about value, price, speed and ease of doing business so they’re in and out of the store as quickly as possible.  Many people are craving something that resembles “normal life.”  If you can provide that then you need to talk about it.
  • Customers need to hear a message several times before it starts to sink in.
    • How many times have you heard a customer tell you, “I saw your billboard” or, “I see you all the time in the newspaper” when you haven’t spent dollars in those media in years (if ever)? This is caused from customers remembering past activity or from confusing you for a competitor.  Consistency is critical.  Just think of how many times you’ve had to tell your children to do something before you saw the desired action.

COVID-19 is a temporary situation, but the impacts to your business have the potential to linger far longer than the time the virus will be active.  The best approach you can take is to leave nothing to chance and own your position within the market.  Believe in your convictions, project confidence, and attract people to your showroom who will appreciate what you’re doing.

This is not the time to leave the health of your business to the whims of the market.  Tell your customers about your value proposition, process and products.  Otherwise, once all of this is finally over and done, your aisle 19 cleanup could be far longer than you would like.

When the time is right to discuss setting expectations or anything else regarding your marketing plan, let’s have a conversation.

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