3 Easy Steps To Adapt During Uncertain Market Conditions
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3 Easy Steps To Adapt During Uncertain Market Shifts Dealerships are operating without the benefit of knowing the future: Will the “new normal” ever revert to the “old normal”? Will the economic unrest flatten and bounce back? Will the cascading effect of the pandemic right itself, and when?
No one can foretell the future. Today, owners and general managers are guiding their respective dealerships through the uncertainty.
The good news is that many dealerships are finding innovative ways to not just survive, but thrive, in the current business landscape. And these positive changes seem to be here to stay: In a recent survey of marketers, 96% reported that their organization’s marketing and service innovations will continue after the crisis subsides.
Dealers that can effectively strategize, innovate, pivot and execute can more easily position their dealership for success in an ever-changing outlook. Here are three areas of your marketing strategy you can adapt to make the most of turbulent times.   Strategy Thought #1 – Shift or expand your offerings to work with the market
New or different products, services and offerings may be more appealing in the current landscape.  IE. Virtual approvals, trade-in appraisals without vehicle present, video appointments, web sites optimized and updated to reflect the times.
While you may think of marketing as strictly dependent on the product (new and used vehicles) and the service offering, the two are interlaced: the market, buyers and messaging inform and shape the offerings, especially in times of change. While online-only experiences have quickly become the norm, savvy dealership leaders are further reworking, refining or reimagining their dealership and service offers to fully embrace the realities of how the market shifts quickly.
Many dealers have had success by pivoting or extending to a new offering altogether — this isn’t to say they started from scratch, but were able to use the foundations of their existing offerings to build something new and valuable to address new customers or current customers facing new challenges.
For example, a newly launched PAVE the world’s first intelligent vehicle self-inspection app. Simply send a link by text message to your consumer. They will receive the message and open the PAVE Camera, allowing them to take pictures following the PAVE INSPECT process that takes less than 3 minutes to complete. The moment they are finished your dealership will receive a complete overview of the trade-in.
Bad timing.
The absence of large in-person sale events might have been devastating for a dealership’s prime season, but instead, some have been able to quickly pivot to assist with virtual sales events while offering rewards and prizes that help during the stressful times. Plus, when dealers provide concrete, creative reopening plans for more safety, comfort and positivity without getting into the politics of what is weighing down so many they are providing comfort and clarity for potential customers and/or buyers.
Whether it’s a new use for your core capabilities, a changed or added feature that helps support your customer, or a new offering altogether, a dealer that can meet a need now with an eye towards the future has a unique opportunity to position themselves at the core of the new normal.
Keep in mind this direction needs to be carefully thought out — what’s the level of investment to develop something new to address a market need that may not be the same a few years into the future?
Questions to feed strategy thought:
Ask your team:

  • What problems does our target audience (or a new audience) have that our dealership can solve?
  • What technologies, processes, products or skills does our dealership have that could be repurposed to meet a need?
  • What is the level of effort, investment and timing to affect this shift?

Strategy Thought #2 – Reposition your messaging
Changes in messaging can help dealers resonate better with their new or existing target audience.
While many dealerships ran crisis-focused campaigns at the start of the pandemic, successful dealers have been refining or changing their overall messaging strategy more permanently.
In fact, 45% of marketers surveyed report that they have changed their overall messaging to be more customer-centric. This value-based messaging is always best practice, but it is proving to be even more critical right now in the complex, uncertain market.
Dealerships that previously could get away with straightforward “features and benefits” sales and marketing messaging now have little choice but to focus on the dealer’s value of their product(s): How does your offering fill a void that your target audience has right now?  Ie.  Extended first payment, longer service agreement safety, higher values for trade ins, etc.
Going through a messaging exercise helps you nail down who your target audience is, what they want and need to hear, and how your dealer talks about itself to meet that need. This is especially critical if your dealership has already implemented some changes. Most changes or additions to your offering or your target audience will require a shift in messaging, tone and delivery.
Questions to feed strategy thought:
Ask your team:

  • Have we clearly articulated what void our current and prospective customers are facing and how our solutions meet that need?
  • What do our current and prospective customers want to hear from us RIGHT NOW?
  • How can we talk about our dealership in a way that resonates and helps to solve real vehicle issues, given the current climate?

Strategy Thought #3 – Review and select your key marketing channels
New or changed tactics can help build traction in times of uncertainty.
Marketing channels, tactics, and best practices change frequently even in the most stable of situations, so it comes as no surprise that many dealers are trying — and benefitting from — new techniques. What has worked before may not be as effective now, especially if you’re pursuing a new target audience.  Constantly looking at and analyzing the past does not insure nor foster a forward-looking and problem-solving environment.
A great example of this is the shift to digital lead generation for those that previously relied heavily on events and in-person selling. Webinars on many topics are flourishing — one platform recently reported a 330% increase in the number of webinars and double the average number of attendees over 2019 numbers. 
This year we’ve seen in-person national events either canceled or held virtually, and it is possible that events will continue to be virtual in the near future. You DO NOT always have to make a hard sales pitch to attract leads — people are looking for connection right now, and dealer leaders can meet that need with thought leadership, and participatory events like Facebook Live, LinkedIn Live, virtual town hall forums, Twitter Chats, YouTube Live events, and on and on.
Since most people are spending more time on social media and online than they did previously, creating engaging, timeless content and advertising on social media can help you reach your audience quickly and maintain an ongoing following.
Frequent-flyer sales managers are now firmly planted at their desks, so now might be a great time to send a targeted social media campaign to customers or prospects (live, virtual or recorded), or give them a new, innovative way to connect with buyers.  Then stay in front of them regularly as their world returns to normal with these evolved digital techniques.  Innovate or die!
Having your marketing or advertising team refocus digital efforts in some of these ways can help you to capitalize on your customer’s changed behavior. Frame a strategy that works now and sets you up to successfully attract new prospects and keep current customers on board.
Questions to feed strategy thought:
Ask your team:

  • Where is our new or existing target audience getting their information right now?
  • What information can we provide that our audience will find useful?
  • Are there new approaches we have not tried yet?
  • How can we as dealers offer major webinar events that would draw attention and followers?

While no one knows for sure what the dealership business landscape will look like in the future, the importance of strategy is one thing that is not going away. With a focus on innovation and a little creativity, dealerships can create a real opportunity for themselves in the new normal.
Reach out to Big Time Advertising to discuss how we can help drive these discussions and help move your dealership into a thriving market position for today and years to come. 

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