By Brett Morris
Do you remember last year when the pandemic hit, how much fear swept across small retail businesses? Nobody knew how the pandemic would affect sales and ultimately their livelihoods, causing numerous dealers to pause their marketing and advertising efforts. And while Covid was certainly unkind to countless small businesses, many of the dealerships I work with reported better-than-expected sales volumes. The smart dealers who continued to advertise in the early stages of the pandemic, reaped the benefits of being proactive in their messaging.
Fast forward to 2021 and the lasting effects of the pandemic are starting to manifest in inventory scarcity, resulting in a different type of crisis. Again faced with uncertainty, many dealers are pausing advertising programs – which is understandable if there is no inventory to sell.
But the most proactive dealers can still position themselves to be top of mind when supply finally catches up with demand. Consider the following ways to keep your dealership visible to potential customers.
Utilize Google My Business
If you have sat in any marketing webinar in the past two years, every dealership marketing consultant has likely driven home the importance of utilizing your Google My Business (GMB) profile, and I am certainly no different. Why? Because it’s free and it’s extremely powerful.
Keep in mind these two new features that will help you make the most of your GMB profile:
● Turn on GMB Messaging: Google recently switched on the ability for customers to message you directly from your GMB profile. Make sure you go into your GMB settings and turn on this functionality. Eliminating any friction between you and your potential customer is important, especially in this very competitive space.
● Add products to your profile: In 2020, Google gave businesses the ability to manually add products directly to their profiles, complete with photos and even pricing information. So, for instance, if a potential customer is searching for “Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 42” and you’ve added that product to your local profile, you’ll boost your chances of being discovered for that product.
Engage your existing customer list
In the OPE industry, I find that dealers will spend tens of thousands of dollars per year to acquire new customers, yet ignore – or just take for granted – their existing customer base. According to Marketing Metrics, the probability of converting an existing customer is between 60 – 70 percent, but the probability of converting a new prospect is only between 5 – 20 percent.
The way our industry is structured, especially with how co-op ad dollars from OEMs work, the majority of our focus tends to be on new customer acquisition. And while acquisition is extremely important, think about where your business really makes its money and its margins. Most dealerships would say it’s in service and in repeat purchases.
Every dealership has a customer list, but do you have contact information for your customers? An email address? A cell phone number? Maybe buried in your DMS somewhere? Smart dealers can take control of their data by utilizing a CRM (customer relationship management) system.
If you don’t have a CRM or a DMS capable of exporting your customer list, make this a priority for the second half of 2021. When coupled with an email marketing and text-automation tool, creating and maintaining a robust CRM will pay dividends multiple times over by allowing you to communicate with existing customers in real time, informing them of service promotions or other incentives. And if you do happen to have good inventory on a particular model, you might then be in a unique position to sell quickly to a captive audience.
Once you have a system in place to capture and nurture those contacts, consider driving more people to sign up to join your list. Be creative by establishing a “wait list” for customers to sign up to be informed when new inventory arrives – that way, you can have them sold by the time product hits the floor.
Don’t stop spending
Are you considering suspending advertising? If you decide to completely stop your advertising programs during slow times, keep in mind that there’s always a competitor out there who is maintaining some level of spend to ensure that their name is the first one found when customers are searching.
Yes, you should definitely reduce your ad programs from your usual peak spending highs, but make sure you maintain a presence to keep your dealership in the spotlight. You can stop video ads, banner ads and even social ads during this time, but consider keeping some budget in the Google network, either utilizing Search ads or Local ads. These ad types appear when someone is specifically searching for you or products you provide, so this tactic allows you to be present when a potential customer is showing some intent to find you. Best of all: If they don’t click, you don’t pay.
It’s important to spend any “down time” preparing for when inventory starts to arrive, because this forced shift in seasons won’t last forever. If you are proactive now, you won’t be scrambling to move late-arriving inventory before selling season is completely over.
Brett Morris is the owner of Dealers Digital (www.dealersdigital.com), a digital marketing agency for outdoor power equipment dealers and dealerAMP, a marketing automation platform for the OPE industry. He can grease all the fittings on a Woods Batwing in less than seven minutes. Contact him at 859/568-3689 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared in the July/August issue of OPE Business.