5 Habits to Keep (or Start) in Your Dealership Marketing Strategy after the COVID-19 Shutdown

The 2020 COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way businesses operate and individuals shop, and the marketing that connects these groups had to quickly adapt to communicate needs, expectations, and adjustments.

However your dealership navigated stay-at-home restrictions, essential business operations, or the steps to return to business as not-so-normal, there are a few marketing habits that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic you should consider in all of your future marketing plans, during and after COVID-19.


1. Know your market.

What’s happening in your backyard? Are customers buying? Servicing?

If your customers are researching and buying cars, it’s important to know what they’re looking for. If you don’t know which of your customers are likely to buy which models, take a look at the data. Demographic and transactional information alongside your historical DMS data will match your customers with the inventory you’re trying to cycle out.

For service customers on the hunt for a shop, one of their first steps will be to look online. Whether they search by repair, “near me,” or OEM, you should show up at the top of search results. You can search for common trends in your region and create content to address questions and needs.


2. Focus on your customers’ needs, not just your offers.

Marketers had a hard time learning what messages were OK to present to customers during COVID-19. But as companies tested their strategies, it became clear on social media and online forums that customers wouldn’t buy into hard sells, false sympathy, or ads ignorant of the crisis. They connected with empathetic, genuine messages.

That genuine connection is something businesses struggle to make with customers every day, but it should be how we market all the time. Customers see thousands of advertising messages each day, desensitizing them to most marketing. When it comes to inspiring them to act, focus on messages that make them feel something positive and reflect their current or ideal lifestyle. Learn about your common demographics and what resonates with them to find marketing success moving forward.


3. Inspire an attitude of gratitude.

It’s been a stressful time for businesses and customers everywhere. When emotions are heightened, keep your responses positive and empathetic.

Dissatisfied customers quickly take to the internet to express their frustration. If customers do leave negative reviews online, take the conversation offline as soon as possible. Simply speaking to a customer about their experience and coming to a resolution will cause over 80% of people to go back and delete or edit their review of your business.

Positive reviews are harder to get without encouragement. Ask customers to leave a review on your dealership’s social and review pages, and send them a survey as part of regular follow-up. Then take the time to thank each reviewer for their feedback, reach an agreement for any complaints, and make an effort to continually improve.


4. Put your eggs in multiple baskets.

Consumers paused spending in response to a shaky market, and when they started buying again it was initially only for the essentials. We quickly saw a radical shift in the way consumers shopped as they moved online to avoid contact or to follow safety regulations. Dealerships who could afford to scrambled to diversify their marketing strategy across channels to address in-market customers wherever they searched for information.

On top of using new channels, demand for vehicles evaporated. Since most of the average dealership’s digital advertising budget is mostly spent on sales, many had to shift their focus to service marketing and away from sales-heavy content. Maintaining a healthy balance of sales and service content speaks to your in-market sales customers and encourages long-term service customers.


5. Stay flexible and learn what works best for you.

Digital advertising is always changing. As we saw with COVID-19, customers’ needs can change suddenly and radically. Be flexible and keep an eye on trends to help shape your strategy.

Between sales and service advertising, themed campaigns and content, and customer segments, you can try out many different types of messaging and channels. Take the time to review your results after each communication to learn what levels of engagement and results your dealership can expect, as well as achievable future goals.


As businesses reopen and customers return to shopping closer to normal levels, develop a long-term strategy for sales and service marketing, as well as a healthy balance between traditional and digital advertising channels. Doing this helps prepare your dealership for any future situation, and answers your customers’ needs at any stage of their individual journey.


Find more tips and strategies for crisis marketing on our website.