Car dealership showrooms across the nation have been instructed to close their doors until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. However, since service departments are deemed an essential business, dealerships must now shift their focus to driving revenue through this avenue.
Of course, with no one walking through the showroom doors, car dealerships will need to rely on online marketing and customer loyalty to generate traffic for their service department.
If your car dealership is experiencing a slowdown due to COVID-19 concerns, use these tips to generate sales for your service department.
Consumers are on edge. The news tells us something different every day, and we don’t know when this will all end. But one thing is certain — our cars still need to work!
Ease consumer fear and tension by adopting a transparent marketing approach. This involves being open and honest about your current business practices and the effects of the pandemic on your dealership and customers alike. Such a marketing strategy can include:
- Explaining and showing consumers how your service department is staying sanitary for consumers and employees.
- Answering customer questions promptly.
- Offering altered maintenance services such as prepaid contactless oil changes.
In all of your marketing and promotional tactics, be sure to use copy that is reassuring to customers. This is a strange time for all of us, and the last thing people need to worry about is their vehicle.
If your dealership has a loyalty program, keep it active for your loyal members. Additionally, consider offering these customers exclusive service department discounts during the health crisis.
Dealerships can also use this opportunity to enroll more customers into the loyalty program. Promotional offers could include a free tire rotation or discount on another service if customers sign up by the end of the month.
Maintaining loyal customers is key. As the old adage goes, 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your customers! Loyal customers will help your dealership throughout this strange time, and after it’s all said and done, they will refer your business to their friends and family.
With everyone spending far more time at home, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of print marketing. From flyers to coupons, now’s your opportunity to get creative with print ads!
While you can use your CRM to send print ads and materials to existing customers, use this time to get your dealership in front of other residents in your town. Work with a marketing agency or your local USPS branch to create the perfect print piece and send it to new audiences whose vehicle(s) or interests align with your brand.
Some of your customer base may not understand why they need to keep up with vehicle maintenance during the global health crisis. They may not know what their vehicle needs to operate effectively in general.
Although you can’t educate customers in your showroom at the time, you can create educational content that answers all of their maintenance questions.
Start by asking your audience what they want to learn about and write informative blog content around those topics. From there, you can actively research keywords and phrases searched by your target market and create even more content about those queries. As you continue with this strategy, you’ll build up a wealth of content that your dealership and service department can use well after the COVID-19 crisis to benefit your sales team, customer relations, and online marketing strategy.
Even though the world may feel like it’s crashing down, now is not the time to abandon your social media strategy. While you should pause any pre-scheduled posts related to your showroom, now is the opportunity to ramp up your social media strategy as it relates to your service department.
Publish content that tells customers your service department is still open for business! No matter the content — graphics, live video streams, service appointment scheduling links —the goal is to get the word out about your available maintenance services.
Since consumers are stuck at home, they’re also scrolling through their social media feeds more often than usual. Use this opportunity to post fun interactive content related to your service department, too. A fun post, for example, could be a “Spot the Difference” image where an altered picture of your service department is contrasted with an unaltered one and fans have to spot the differences!
This type of engaging social media content both advertises your service department and consumers and gives consumers a quick break from all the negative content online.
Your dealership could also use this time to fine-tune your social media advertising efforts. Play around with different ad formats and see which ones drive traffic to your service department. Consider using lookalike audiences to find new customers with similar interests and demographic data to your target audience.
Review your existing email marketing campaigns that were scheduled to be sent out this month. Are they still relevant now that the COVID-19 crisis has struck? Will they be seen as insensitive and pushy?
Now is the time to revise your email marketing strategy to offer customers peace of mind and guidance. After all, some customers may not realize that dealership service departments are still open!
Although you can send relevant coupons and offers to your customers who have opted into email marketing, use this time to also send:
- Business updates regarding your hours, availability, services, and cleaning processes.
- Educational content related to vehicle maintenance.
- Messages from your employees.
- Information from other local businesses and community organizations.
Your email marketing strategy should always aim to help the customer, not alienate them. With this in mind, consider scaling back the frequency at which you send your messages. Too many emails at this time may position your dealership’s brand as spammy.
Revisit your website and make sure visitors have the ability to easily opt in to your email marketing promotions and newsletters.
Your dealership has likely already built up a loyal customer base within your community. But what about surrounding towns and neighborhoods? Consumers needing vehicle maintenance will have limited options during this crisis, and they need to know that your dealership’s service department is open for business.
Paid search ads place your dealership in front of new customers actively searching for vehicle maintenance services in your local area in real-time. When a customer searches for oil changes in your town on Google or Bing, for example, your ad will appear at the top of the search engine.
A 2019 study from Search Engine Land found that 75 percent of people say that paid search ads make it easier to find the information they are searching for online, and that 33 percent clicked on a paid search ad because it directly answered their question.
Now is an excellent time to get your service department in front of potential customers searching for maintenance centers that are still open!
If there’s one thing we’ve all learned from this crisis, it’s the importance of community. People everywhere have stepped up to help family and friends, along with those on the front lines and the wider community.
Drive more traffic to your service department by partnering with other local businesses. Not only will this bring more business to your dealership, but it will also support those who are struggling.
Use your local network to come up with a creative way to support both your business and other businesses in the community. You could advertise a special where everyone who visits your service department receives a coupon for a free coffee from your local coffee shop. By sponsoring these coffees ahead of time, you are helping your local coffee shop stay afloat while also boosting your service department revenue.
You could also send sandwiches made by your local deli to the nearest hospital or medical center for those helping others and risking their lives. While this is a more generous partnership without a direct return, customers will remember your good deed and community-oriented focus when they choose where to go for their next oil change or tune-up.
With not much to do at home, customers are tuned in to their devices more than ever before, discovering content from all over the Internet.
Build your online audience and promote your service department by embracing a high-quality video marketing strategy. Through these efforts, you’ll create informative and entertaining content while also keeping your brand at the forefront.
Best of all, your dealership can make video content about almost anything! Consider creating videos on topics such as:
- Common vehicle maintenance problems and their solutions.
- Vehicle walk-throughs.
- How-to videos for simple at-home fixes.
- Vehicle terminology definitions.
- A behind-the-scenes look at your service department and dealership.
When creating a video, think about what the consumer wants to see and learn. They may not want to sit through an hour-long explanation of what a spark plug does, but they would love to quickly learn about its function car operations.
To get started, take a look at the blog content you’ve already published for your dealership. These topics can easily be transformed into educational and engaging videos for your audience.
Remember to publish these videos on your social media channels and website for maximum online exposure.
These are unprecedented times. If your dealership needs help generating traffic and revenue for your service department, the team at J&L Marketing is happy to help.