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Serving Your Customers in Service

Article Highlights:

  • Customers may hesitate to buy, but will need to service their vehicle.
  • Prioritize your customers’ needs to create the right marketing messages.

In this episode of Reynolds’ new video podcast, Connected, Brad Highland, director of digital marketing at Naked Lime Marketing, addresses marketing service to an audience still in need of essential repairs and maintenance.

Greg Uland: Hello, I’m Greg Uland, marketing director at Reynolds and Reynolds, and this is Connected, a podcast with best practices and ideas to help navigate what is happening in the automotive retail industry and the world today. As the COVID-19 virus continues to change our world and how we live and work daily, this podcast discusses ways to continue operating in this unprecedented social environment. On today’s episode, we have with us Brad Highland, director of digital marketing at Naked Lime Marketing. Brad, thanks for joining.

Brad Highland: Hey, Greg. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

GU: Of course. One of the big things I wanted to talk about today, Brad, and I’m hoping that you can dig into is service marketing. With a lot of dealerships, service in some cases is the only part of the business operating right now. In others, it’s certainly the primary part of the business. So we’re hoping to talk to you a little bit about service marketing and what this current environment means for dealerships.

BH: Yeah, it’s a great question, Greg. You know, historically new and used car sales and advertising on the front end of the business gets the lion’s share of the attention. And service, very important to any dealer’s success, on the advertising side doesn’t get as much attention.

I think given where we’re at today with many dealers, with the sales department shut down and consumers less likely to travel, the bottom line is, I just don’t think we’re seeing as much traffic across a number of retail environments right now, auto dealerships included. So I think on the service marketing side, it’s an interesting channel right now.

We’ve seen indicators that new and used vehicle searches on the search engines have decreased. There’s a lot of uncertainty and volatility out there right now around consumer practices and behaviors. You would expect there are going to be some people that maybe defer a big purchase or a lease like an auto vehicle. So what’s that mean on the service side?

There is probably going to be another subset of consumers that might need to go get their car serviced because they’re just not going to go buy something right now. So service is an opportunity that dealers can still tap into, given where we’re at right now. And they may want to put some extra energy into it just to try to grab those extra opportunities that are out there. If somebody has to get their car serviced, they’re still going to go and try to find a place to do that. And I think our dealers have a unique opportunity to maybe capitalize on something that, in a steady state environment, may not have been available to them.

GU: Yeah, for sure. And with that kind of backdrop, what are some best practices or what are some things that your team has seen success with, advertising for dealers in the service department here in the last couple of weeks?

BH: This situation is really forcing dealers to look at their digital presence and their marketing spend across every channel, because these are very extraordinary times and businesses of all kinds, including dealerships, are having to adapt to where we’re at right now and could be for months to come. We don’t know how this is going to play out. It’s changing day to day. And I think that volatility is hitting not only consumers, but also businesses.

So, to my earlier comment, service might be something that, in the marketing mix didn’t get a lot of attention previously, but there could be an opportunity there. A lot of dealers don’t have any fixed ops campaigns running on the paid side. So that that might be an avenue that could make sense given where we’re at right now. On the search and website side, most dealers tend to put their efforts around new content and search keywords and traffic to vehicles and models and details that lend themselves to people going out and buying and leasing vehicles. And given we’re in a different place right now, focusing some of that effort to the service drive might make more sense.

Every dealer is different, every community is different. This is impacting consumers differently across the United States. Taking a hard look at where some of those opportunities might be and then how you can reflect those opportunities in the way that your marketing looks for the foreseeable future, is just one of those things that any dealer should be paying attention to.

GU: Yeah, and a couple of those things you mentioned Brad, make complete sense, talking about paid search and content on the site. So SEO and things of that nature. And those two pieces really are reactive marketing, right? If somebody goes out and searches for dealership service or car service or check engine light on or whatever the search might be, you’re making sure that you’re present when they search for those things. What about, and this could be, I guess, kind of a sensitive topic, but what about proactive outreach to customers? Is there an opportunity right now to do that in the service department or is that something the dealer should kind of lay off of right now?

BH: I think if you do it the right way, it can be a good move for dealers. You know, people are online. Maybe more than they were previously, just given the number of people at home and folks not working as much as they were two, three, four weeks ago. There’s still a lot of activity just on the search engines out there. If you have the right messaging and the right approach, I think it can be effective for you.

I think what consumers are looking for now in many cases is peace of mind on some level. They want to know how businesses are adapting. What actions are you taking that can make your service drive a safe place for me, or somebody in my family, to be? Addressing those kinds of concerns with your customer base can be a very good thing.

To my earlier comment about there being so much volatility and uncertainty out there in the retail space, I think you’ve got to be a little careful of being maybe too pushy and aggressive with specials, those kinds of things. That can be a turnoff to a certain set of consumers. But if you do it the right way, there are consumers out there that, maybe more than ever want to find a good deal, or are looking for an opportunity to maybe save a buck on a service that they may not have gotten three, four, or five weeks ago. They’re deferring a car purchase, so now they’re in a service position. They’re trying to maybe find the right place to go with the right service deal to give them an opportunity to go in and get done what they need to get done. It’s a delicate piece. It requires a lot of thought by dealers to do it the right way. But I think if you do it the right way, that’s a much better path to take than just going dark on your customers.

GU: That’s fair. That makes sense. Well Brad, I definitely appreciate you taking a few minutes out of your day to talk with us. While we have the audience, and before we wrap up here, is there anything else that you want to touch on, or anything that you want to say?

BH: First, I appreciate you having me, Greg. This is has been good and I like what you’re doing here. To piggyback off some of my earlier comments… Dealers, like all businesses, are in a position where they have to adapt to where we’re at. And I think that requires some level of creativity and outside-the-box thinking to be something different to their customers and consumers than they were before. We’re just in a very different place. Dealers that find the right way to appeal to their customers around safety, around a different customer experience that they can offer, given where we’re at right now, are going to be the ones that ultimately have the most success through something like this.

I would challenge dealers, in any case, to try to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes and think, what would that person need to feel comfortable interacting with me as a business right now? And then, put your time and energy into focusing on those things that are going to get your customers to feel good about you and a service that you can provide them.

GU: Makes a lot of sense. I definitely appreciate it, Brad. Thanks again for your time and thanks again for hopping on today. It really does mean a lot.

BH: Glad to do it, Greg. Thank you.

GU: All right. Thank you. This has been Connected. Stay safe and we’ll see you on the next episode.

Continue to tune in often to see new episodes on best practices and tips for navigating the automotive industry during this unprecedented time.

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