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What We Learned: Fixed Ops Marketing During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Article Highlights:

  • How to create a long-term marketing strategy for fixed operations.
  • Preparing for dips in the economy.

It’s said bad habits are made in good times while good habits are made during bad times.

The last few months have been rough for dealerships. Many stores had to shut down their sales floor for some period of time, causing fixed operations to become their primary, and in some cases only, source of income. Consumers stayed in, started questioning their purchases, and took to online research and shopping more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many dealerships to adopt new processes and prioritize their online presence. Those that weren’t prepared for this shift had to adjust quickly.

Let’s take a look at how marketing fixed operations changed during the pandemic and what best practices you can implement for future success.

What was happening pre-COVID-19?

It depends on the dealership. Some prioritize profitable service work in their marketing while others may not consider it in their marketing strategy at all.

For most dealerships, the fixed operations department sticks to more traditional, proactive marketing strategies— methods like email, direct mail, and newsletters. These are successful ways of speaking to your service customers; but now more than ever, customers go online when they need to service their vehicle. In the midst of internet searches, you face more competition from rival dealerships and independent auto repair shops.

What happened during the pandemic?

Consumers were already spending hours online every day before the pandemic, but being stuck at home and working remotely increased that time.

Automotive search trends shifted toward fixed operations, and the dealerships (and independent repair shops) that had built up their online presence were the first to win urgent service business. Late-adopters and dealerships who had to pause digital ad spend were left to fight their way up the search results.

How do you prepare for the future?
It takes time for Google’s algorithms to review your site and your ads to figure out whether your content is relevant to a customer’s search. While it’s easy to pause or change ad spend, the effectiveness of your advertising is impacted by your long-term strategy.

Take the time to understand your customers’ service needs and make space on your website or blog to answer them. You should also adjust your paid search ads by using phrases and keywords related to their searches.

Here are a few places to start:

  • Do customers regularly check to see what services you offer? Draft a list and post it online! Take it a step further and optimize the content for structured snippets and promote it with ad extensions.
  • Are customers unsure of your current repair and maintenance offers? Create paid ads for service promotions leading to your website.
  • Is your audience active on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram? Target them with ads on those sites where they spend their time.

Most importantly, remember a digital strategy isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it process. You should constantly review and adjust your spend, keywords, and ad content as you learn what performs well and answers customers’ needs.

Check back in to read part two of this series which will cover how the pandemic has affected service department processes.

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Vice President of Fixed Operations Product Planning

Jason Sideris is the vice president of fixed operations product management at Reynolds and Reynolds. For over 25 years, his focus has been on how innovative technology and dealership processes come together to create an efficient experience where both dealership customers and employees thrive.

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