COVID-19 has changed our lives as we know it: no more concerts, no rowdy sporting events and a tight economy to keep us on our toes.
But as we take this opportunity to cut back, downsize and analyze our monthly spending habits, contrary to our gut feeling, it’s not the time to pause marketing budget. Re-evaluate? Heavily critique? Absolutely. But to pause all marketing efforts is putting your dealership at a disadvantage.
All the research – and the recent reality of the Q3 automotive recovery – points to a strong rebound for automotive. That may sound hard to believe when we’re engulfed by a COVID-19 second wave, but it’s clear that cars still are a hot commodity.
Whether it’s millennials who never thought they’d own a car because Ubering around was pretty convenient until the rampant pandemic, or commuters now hesitant of buses and trains, private transportation is here to stay.
This means your dealership is about to compete for the attention of emerging markets, something organic just can’t handle on its own.
And while my proposition may seem risky or counterintuitive, three iconic brands prove every gut instinct in our bodies is wrong. They show us opportunities that can come from looming recessions, especially as we push forward and invest in innovation to prepare for a strong recovery.
Netflix Lesson: Stay Ahead
Netflix was on the cusp of collapse during the 2000 bubble and had just endured the hardship of Blockbuster rebuffing a $50 million sale. The company not only was able to come out of the recession stronger, but also used this time to create streaming services to combat competition. This eventually beat out Blockbuster and saved the Netflix brand over the big blue ticket.
Your dealership’s marketing budget in the COVID-19 era needs to remain high quality and competitive, while being cost effective.
With a limited budget and staff, dealerships still need to consider efficient and creative marketing strategies that will keep them on the map.
And just as Netflix found its niche (and frankly, exactly what we need to survive these days), technology-driven marketing can keep dealers in the game and propel them forward post-COVID. It’s efficient, it’s scalable and it’s personalized.
Airbnb Lesson: Make Gaps in the Market Your Opportunity
It is 1997 and Airbnb founders have just decided to rent out a mattress – yes, a mattress – in the middle of their San Francisco living room.
Little did they know that in the recession of 2008, people would be priced out of high-cost hotels. Today, Airbnb is the hit of the venture capital world, experiencing phenomenal success.
COVID-19 presents a similar challenge and opportunity. The pandemic has changed the face of our reality, but it’s also promoted and accelerated technology adoption.
My grandmother is now an avid Zoom user and my Instacart account is basically on repeat. For most of us, the pandemic was a wake-up call to assess the efficiency of our current processes and figure out the most cost-effective way to get what we need without compromising on quality.
This is why it’s exactly the time to update marketing strategy to fit the dynamic changes in shoppers’ behavior: more people at home, less time in public places – which includes your showroom – and first-time car buyers.
Pausing your marketing spend means not getting in front of the people you’re trying to reach. At the same time, you want to be cautious and market wisely and in real-time. The balance of the two will keep your dealership from sinking.
GM Lesson: Proceed with Confidence
While he began with horse-drawn carriages in the late 1800s and purchased Buick Motor Company in 1904, it wasn’t until the middle of the Panic of 1907 that General Motors founder William Durant decided to launch GM as a holding company to acquire even more automobile manufacturers.
GM now is one of the largest corporations in the history of the world.
As it’s so close to home, GM is another great example for dealers to learn from: Dealerships also can be at the forefront of innovation during the pandemic by taking proper risks, educated leaps forward and proceeding with confidence.
It’s the opportune time to critique your digital marketing and see if it’s really bringing the ROI that’s necessary to survive in a COVID-19 era. And if not, what technology – like Zoom and Instacart – can move the needle in automotive?
Now is the time for dealerships to make history and become the next iconic business to teach us a lesson we’ll look back on one day. Don’t miss out.
Ilana Shabtay is the director of marketing for AutoLeadStar.