Adapting Your Dealership Marketing Strategy During Times of Uncertainty

More About | Dealerships | COVID-19

As the industry navigates through times of growing uncertainty, and we adjust our day-to-day operations to meet the demands of our customers, it is important to remember that this change is not one dimensional. In addition to prioritizing the safety of your staff and making the best possible shopping experience for your customers, there are also several key marketing initiatives that should be considered to ensure the health and longevity of your advertising strategy. This can be achieved by not simply focusing on the present, but the future.

During the movement of social distancing, mandatory work from home polices and delays in travel, we have no choice but to adjust the way we communicate with customers. For example, consider the push to keep people from congregating at sporting events, work or the gym. This, among other things, means people will spend less time in the car and have less exposure to your radio ads. Have you scaled back your radio spend to avoid potential waste in your budget? While radio may exist as a viable media option to get your advertisement across, the current landscape does not lend itself to spend a substantial portion of your budget only to yield a limited return.

Also consider the increase in time spent online. The likelihood of customers to visit your 24/7 showroom or watch auto (and non-auto) related videos will jump substantially over the coming weeks. But what can be done to make sure this shopping experience is meeting the needs of your customers? First and foremost, merchandising – while often left out of the marketing conversation, strong merchandising can engage customers quickly and get them further down the funnel if executed well. Check that your inventory is front line ready with custom photos, comments, price and descriptions.

Another biproduct of increased time online is the necessary adjustments required to your search engine marketing (SEM) or pay-per-click campaigns. Shoppers are likely spending more time online searching for the right vehicle and doing so at times of the day that we have not historically seen. As a result, your SEM budget is more likely to be spent earlier and more often. This can quickly exhaust your ability to be relevant by month-end. To avoid this, reach out to your agency immediately and talk about how to evolve your strategy. Ask questions regarding budget and key word recommendations, implementations and any additional measures being taken to ensure the long-term success of your strategy.

Finally, remember to take a look forward. As previously mentioned, increased time online will also yield an increase in watched videos. Do you have a video pre-roll campaign to accommodate the exposure you may receive from this shift? Exposure to your message is paramount, and video pre-roll is a tremendous way to do so, especially now. But what about the third parties? It is important to know how changes to their business models, dashboards and technology allow you to become better connected to your customers. As an example, Automotive News recently published an article that TrueCar and USAA will end their 13-year relationship at the end of Q3. We have seen substantial benefit to dealers who have used this third-party resource and have a heavy military contingency in their markets; with that dynamic changing in the fall, it would be wise to strategize on where to pivot those marketing dollars come October.

Ultimately, changing times call for adaptation, especially when it comes to your marketing strategy. Avoid allowing times of uncertainty to keep you from capturing the opportunity at hand. Simply put, increased time online means more opportunity for conversion. Adapt with the climate and succeed long-term with a sound, forward-thinking strategy that will continue to deliver the shopping experience your customers deserve.

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DHG Dealerships is one of the largest professional service teams providing assurance, tax and advisory services to dealers across the country. We collaborate with key industry stakeholders to enhance the insights we bring to our clients and provide them access to valuable resources. For more information, visit

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