10 Tips for Empathetic Marketing During a Pandemic

No one knows what is going on right now and that's OK. We are all going to get through this uncertain time together.

By Lindsay Shearon, Dealer Consultant, Dealer OMG

No one knows what is going on right now and that's OK. We are all going to get through this uncertain time together. And if all goes well, we will even come out of it more refined, innovative dealership owners and employees. But in the meantime, let's discuss some ways that we can be effective in our response to the COVID19 crisis right now, in the short term, and in the long term.

1. Community-first, empathetic messaging.
Be clear, honest, and empathetic with your ad copy. Rather than just communicating OEM incentives (even if they are a great deal) and leaving them to speak for themselves, make it clear how the offer could benefit the consumer in this time of crisis.
2. Customer convenience through digital. 
Keep customer convenience at the forefront of every decision you make at your store right now. Facebook is seeing a massive uptick in the use of their messenger platforms right now. So, if you have to, give access to your Facebook page to more employees than you usually would to assist in quickly responding to all inquiries coming through your Facebook page and Instagram account.
3. Set realistic expectations.
Communication is key right now. Give customers realistic timelines for your products and services if you have evolved them to cater to pick up, delivery, and online purchasing.
4. Think outside the box with your sources of revenue.
Typically, we don't see auto advertisers put too much emphasis on areas of their business outside of service and sales. However, a time like this could be an opportunity to boost your parts department's sales while everyone is stuck at home and gearheads are passing the time working on their latest project.
5. Video is still king on social media.
Now more than ever, people are looking for entertainment and distraction so it's a good time to crank out some quality social media video content to use during the pandemic or down the road when things return to normal. Explaining in text all the things you are doing to keep your dealership and vehicles sanitized are great, but if you have the time, why not take it to the next level with a video of your staff sanitizing a few prime pieces of inventory?
6. Stay aware of evolving legislation/regulation.
Follow resources on various state and national levels such as TIADA, NIADA, and other governmental agencies like the economic development offices in your area.
7. Take supply-chain into consideration.
Take into account where your OEM manufactures to determine how that will impact your inventory levels and whether or not you should shift advertising budgets from a focus on new to used or from a focus on models produced primarily in one country that has halted production to another that hasn't.
8. What are you doing for the community?
While most dealers are focused on just keeping their business afloat right now, which is completely understandable, if any individual employees or the organization as a whole is supporting the community in a way that doesn't directly benefit your business, now is the time to let people know! If you are supporting a local medical practice, hospital, etc. in any way during this time, let people know how they can help too and spread goodwill.

9. Keep the operational changes you made in response to the pandemic that are feasible. 
We tend to be resistant to change, but now that we have been forced to do so, you might as well evaluate what parts of the new version of your services is possible to keep after this is all over. Once customers get a taste of things like pickup/delivery service or being able to handle all the transactions online, rather than spending an hour after their purchase in the finance department, it's going to be difficult to get them to go back. Start preparing for this now.
10. Think LONG-TERM.
Remember that how your business is perceived in the community during this time is going to likely have a major impact on your brand image for years to come. Communicate to customers what you are doing to take care of your staff as well as your customers.


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