A global pandemic. Who’s seen one before? It’s a natural reaction for dealerships to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by hitting pause on operations, on marketing, or on both. What’s unnatural is to be proactive in crisis, turn the lights back on and press in towards recovery. For some dealerships, the time is now. For other dealerships, that time is on the horizon. For every dealership, turning on the lights must be more than a flip of the switch — your business and your communities are depending on it.

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything our country has ever seen. However, what we know from past economic interruptions is that the companies that find ways to continue pressing forward can significantly lessen the time it will take for them to recover and can win bigger on the other side.

Let’s look at few examples:

  • During the Great Depression of the 1920s, Kellogg’s catapulted Post as the dry cereal category leader. Post cut back its ad spending while Kellogg’s doubled its spend, fueling a 30% growth.
  • Toyota maintained their ad spend amidst economic fallout from the energy crisis of 1973-75. By 1976, they eclipsed Volkswagen to become the top import manufacturer.
  • In the early 1990s, two fast food chains maintained their ad budgets while the known leader scaled back. The results? A 61% and 40% increase in sales for Pizza Hut and Taco Bell respectively, and a 28% fall off for McDonald’s.
  • The Harvard Business Review studied businesses after three recession periods and learned that businesses who simply cut costs (people, marketing budgets and operational expenses) to manage in prevention-mode, lagged other businesses by 50% in both sales & profits. And had the lowest probability (21%) of pulling ahead when times get better.
  • During the 2009 recession, Amazon invested in innovation and developed products designed to help consumers save money on books. Kindle was born and Amazon’s trajectory changed.

What we learn from these examples is the balance needed to navigate uncertain economic times. Balance means minimizing the time your business goes dark, pivoting quickly and investing in re-imagining the service you give to a consumer to evolve with the situation.

Here are some key things to keep in mind as you turn the lights back on:

1 Getting the right message to the right person has never been more important

Don’t just turn all of your marketing back on and hope for the best. The market has changed, our view of safety has changed, consumer media habits have changed and the economy is in a different place than it was just a few short months ago. Going back to what you were doing before COVID-19 — the messaging, the media mix, the offline data models – could limit your recovery.

Application: This is the time to evaluate every aspect of your previous marketing strategy through a COVID-19 lens. Then, make a plan to turn on or invest in strategies that are most relevant with today’s consumer and extinguish the rest.

2 Switch your messaging gears

Dealers tend to be programmed to think lower funnel in their messaging — focusing on incentives, vouchers and trade offers. To turn the lights on effectively, we need to think bigger picture. Recent surveys are clear – Consumers expect companies to connect with them with empathy and helpfulness, clearly putting a shopper’s needs first. They say the dealer who starts the conversation with “Buy now!” is tone deaf.

Application: When messaging, think upper funnel. Start with messages that establish trust and reliability. Let them know their health matters, so you’re expanding “we come to you” services and online retailing options. Help them take care of their families with service discounts and payment deferments.

3 Embrace COVID-19 changing your business

You can’t turn the lights on with messages relevant to the consumer without a service to back it up. Dealers must build out their “we’ll come to you” strategy. You know, the ideas that put Carvana on the map – at home delivery, at-home test drives, online purchasing.

Although stay at home orders could diminish in the near term, social distancing will not. And for those in the more vulnerable category, shelter-in-place is likely to be a long-term mentality. Morgan Stanley recently projected that only 50% of the workforce will be going back into the office in August of this year.

Application: Keep taking steps to move as much of the sales process online as possible. And begin equipping your teams to communicate that message. Yes, start with your marketing, AND simultaneously train your sales team and equip your BDC with scripts and engagement tactics that communicate upgrades you’ve made and the heart behind it.

4 DOUBLE-DOWN ON PEOPLE, NOT MEDIA

Before COVID-19 restricted a shopper’s ability to visit showrooms, research told us most shopping took place online. Now internet usage is skyrocketing. But don’t be fooled. Just because more and more people are online, doesn’t mean your digital strategy is reaching actual shoppers. Truth is, most digital ad spend is connected to anonymous cookies. The faster you can turn on marketing to actual shoppers, the better the investment for you and the more relevant the content for the customer you hope to serve.

Application: Prioritize marketing strategies that identify people who are actively shopping today. The Active Shopper Network® reports online shopping activity is fluctuating with the changing events of COVID-19. What a shopper is doing today might not match what that shopper does tomorrow. You want to get in front of shoppers as quickly as possible, and stay with them while they shop. You do that through data, not a media channel.

 

We’ve learned from history that those who go dark and/or stay dark too long, take longer to recover. Take intentional steps today to more fully adopt a consumer-centric business approach, craft the right helpful messages, and connect with the people who most want to hear from you.

Unlike previous recessions that often come with months of warning, the rapid evolution of the COVID-19 crisis put us all in a place of initial reactivity. The great news is, dealers can be proactive now. It’s not too late to start turning on the lights.

A global pandemic. Who’s seen one before? It’s a natural reaction for dealerships to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by hitting pause on operations, on marketing, or on both. What’s unnatural is to be proactive in crisis, turn the lights back on and press in towards recovery. For some dealerships, the time is now. For other dealerships, that time is on the horizon. For every dealership, turning on the lights must be more than a flip of the switch — your business and your communities are depending on it.

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything our country has ever seen. However, what we know from past economic interruptions is that the companies that find ways to continue pressing forward can significantly lessen the time it will take for them to recover and can win bigger on the other side.

Let’s look at few examples:

  • During the Great Depression of the 1920s, Kellogg’s catapulted Post as the dry cereal category leader. Post cut back its ad spending while Kellogg’s doubled its spend, fueling a 30% growth.
  • Toyota maintained their ad spend amidst economic fallout from the energy crisis of 1973-75. By 1976, they eclipsed Volkswagen to become the top import manufacturer.
  • In the early 1990s, two fast food chains maintained their ad budgets while the known leader scaled back. The results? A 61% and 40% increase in sales for Pizza Hut and Taco Bell respectively, and a 28% fall off for McDonald’s.
  • The Harvard Business Review studied businesses after three recession periods and learned that businesses who simply cut costs (people, marketing budgets and operational expenses) to manage in prevention-mode, lagged other businesses by 50% in both sales & profits. And had the lowest probability (21%) of pulling ahead when times get better.
  • During the 2009 recession, Amazon invested in innovation and developed products designed to help consumers save money on books. Kindle was born and Amazon’s trajectory changed.

What we learn from these examples is the balance needed to navigate uncertain economic times. Balance means minimizing the time your business goes dark, pivoting quickly and investing in re-imagining the service you give to a consumer to evolve with the situation.

Here are some key things to keep in mind as you turn the lights back on:

1 Getting the right message to the right person has never been more important

Don’t just turn all of your marketing back on and hope for the best. The market has changed, our view of safety has changed, consumer media habits have changed and the economy is in a different place than it was just a few short months ago. Going back to what you were doing before COVID-19 — the messaging, the media mix, the offline data models – could limit your recovery.

Application: This is the time to evaluate every aspect of your previous marketing strategy through a COVID-19 lens. Then, make a plan to turn on or invest in strategies that are most relevant with today’s consumer and extinguish the rest.

2 Switch your messaging gears

Dealers tend to be programmed to think lower funnel in their messaging — focusing on incentives, vouchers and trade offers. To turn the lights on effectively, we need to think bigger picture. Recent surveys are clear – Consumers expect companies to connect with them with empathy and helpfulness, clearly putting a shopper’s needs first. They say the dealer who starts the conversation with “Buy now!” is tone deaf.

Application: When messaging, think upper funnel. Start with messages that establish trust and reliability. Let them know their health matters, so you’re expanding “we come to you” services and online retailing options. Help them take care of their families with service discounts and payment deferments.

3 Embrace COVID-19 changing your business

You can’t turn the lights on with messages relevant to the consumer without a service to back it up. Dealers must build out their “we’ll come to you” strategy. You know, the ideas that put Carvana on the map – at home delivery, at-home test drives, online purchasing.

Although stay at home orders could diminish in the near term, social distancing will not. And for those in the more vulnerable category, shelter-in-place is likely to be a long-term mentality. Morgan Stanley recently projected that only 50% of the workforce will be going back into the office in August of this year.

Application: Keep taking steps to move as much of the sales process online as possible. And begin equipping your teams to communicate that message. Yes, start with your marketing, AND simultaneously train your sales team and equip your BDC with scripts and engagement tactics that communicate upgrades you’ve made and the heart behind it.

4 DOUBLE-DOWN ON PEOPLE, NOT MEDIA

Before COVID-19 restricted a shopper’s ability to visit showrooms, research told us most shopping took place online. Now internet usage is skyrocketing. But don’t be fooled. Just because more and more people are online, doesn’t mean your digital strategy is reaching actual shoppers. Truth is, most digital ad spend is connected to anonymous cookies. The faster you can turn on marketing to actual shoppers, the better the investment for you and the more relevant the content for the customer you hope to serve.

Application: Prioritize marketing strategies that identify people who are actively shopping today. The Active Shopper Network® reports online shopping activity is fluctuating with the changing events of COVID-19. What a shopper is doing today might not match what that shopper does tomorrow. You want to get in front of shoppers as quickly as possible, and stay with them while they shop. You do that through data, not a media channel.

 

We’ve learned from history that those who go dark and/or stay dark too long, take longer to recover. Take intentional steps today to more fully adopt a consumer-centric business approach, craft the right helpful messages, and connect with the people who most want to hear from you.

Unlike previous recessions that often come with months of warning, the rapid evolution of the COVID-19 crisis put us all in a place of initial reactivity. The great news is, dealers can be proactive now. It’s not too late to start turning on the lights.

A global pandemic. Who’s seen one before? It’s a natural reaction for dealerships to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by hitting pause on operations, on marketing, or on both. What’s unnatural is to be proactive in crisis, turn the lights back on and press in towards recovery. For some dealerships, the time is now. For other dealerships, that time is on the horizon. For every dealership, turning on the lights must be more than a flip of the switch — your business and your communities are depending on it.

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything our country has ever seen. However, what we know from past economic interruptions is that the companies that find ways to continue pressing forward can significantly lessen the time it will take for them to recover and can win bigger on the other side.

Let’s look at few examples:

  • During the Great Depression of the 1920s, Kellogg’s catapulted Post as the dry cereal category leader. Post cut back its ad spending while Kellogg’s doubled its spend, fueling a 30% growth.
  • Toyota maintained their ad spend amidst economic fallout from the energy crisis of 1973-75. By 1976, they eclipsed Volkswagen to become the top import manufacturer.
  • In the early 1990s, two fast food chains maintained their ad budgets while the known leader scaled back. The results? A 61% and 40% increase in sales for Pizza Hut and Taco Bell respectively, and a 28% fall off for McDonald’s.
  • The Harvard Business Review studied businesses after three recession periods and learned that businesses who simply cut costs (people, marketing budgets and operational expenses) to manage in prevention-mode, lagged other businesses by 50% in both sales & profits. And had the lowest probability (21%) of pulling ahead when times get better.
  • During the 2009 recession, Amazon invested in innovation and developed products designed to help consumers save money on books. Kindle was born and Amazon’s trajectory changed.

What we learn from these examples is the balance needed to navigate uncertain economic times. Balance means minimizing the time your business goes dark, pivoting quickly and investing in re-imagining the service you give to a consumer to evolve with the situation.

Here are some key things to keep in mind as you turn the lights back on:

1 Getting the right message to the right person has never been more important

Don’t just turn all of your marketing back on and hope for the best. The market has changed, our view of safety has changed, consumer media habits have changed and the economy is in a different place than it was just a few short months ago. Going back to what you were doing before COVID-19 — the messaging, the media mix, the offline data models – could limit your recovery.

Application: This is the time to evaluate every aspect of your previous marketing strategy through a COVID-19 lens. Then, make a plan to turn on or invest in strategies that are most relevant with today’s consumer and extinguish the rest.

2 Switch your messaging gears

Dealers tend to be programmed to think lower funnel in their messaging — focusing on incentives, vouchers and trade offers. To turn the lights on effectively, we need to think bigger picture. Recent surveys are clear – Consumers expect companies to connect with them with empathy and helpfulness, clearly putting a shopper’s needs first. They say the dealer who starts the conversation with “Buy now!” is tone deaf.

Application: When messaging, think upper funnel. Start with messages that establish trust and reliability. Let them know their health matters, so you’re expanding “we come to you” services and online retailing options. Help them take care of their families with service discounts and payment deferments.

3 Embrace COVID-19 changing your business

You can’t turn the lights on with messages relevant to the consumer without a service to back it up. Dealers must build out their “we’ll come to you” strategy. You know, the ideas that put Carvana on the map – at home delivery, at-home test drives, online purchasing.

Although stay at home orders could diminish in the near term, social distancing will not. And for those in the more vulnerable category, shelter-in-place is likely to be a long-term mentality. Morgan Stanley recently projected that only 50% of the workforce will be going back into the office in August of this year.

Application: Keep taking steps to move as much of the sales process online as possible. And begin equipping your teams to communicate that message. Yes, start with your marketing, AND simultaneously train your sales team and equip your BDC with scripts and engagement tactics that communicate upgrades you’ve made and the heart behind it.

4 DOUBLE-DOWN ON PEOPLE, NOT MEDIA

Before COVID-19 restricted a shopper’s ability to visit showrooms, research told us most shopping took place online. Now internet usage is skyrocketing. But don’t be fooled. Just because more and more people are online, doesn’t mean your digital strategy is reaching actual shoppers. Truth is, most digital ad spend is connected to anonymous cookies. The faster you can turn on marketing to actual shoppers, the better the investment for you and the more relevant the content for the customer you hope to serve.

Application: Prioritize marketing strategies that identify people who are actively shopping today. The Active Shopper Network® reports online shopping activity is fluctuating with the changing events of COVID-19. What a shopper is doing today might not match what that shopper does tomorrow. You want to get in front of shoppers as quickly as possible, and stay with them while they shop. You do that through data, not a media channel.

 

We’ve learned from history that those who go dark and/or stay dark too long, take longer to recover. Take intentional steps today to more fully adopt a consumer-centric business approach, craft the right helpful messages, and connect with the people who most want to hear from you.

Unlike previous recessions that often come with months of warning, the rapid evolution of the COVID-19 crisis put us all in a place of initial reactivity. The great news is, dealers can be proactive now. It’s not too late to start turning on the lights.