Michael Cirillo •
Mar 19 2020 •
4-5 min read
We're living in a pretty crazy world right now. The spread of COVID-19 and the regulatory lock downs of many businesses have dealerships around the world worried.
While many are closing their doors for the next two weeks, I would like to submit that there are ways to remain active and keep building relationships of trust with those customers currently engaged in the buying process.
In context, I hope to help spark creativity. Unforeseen circumstances have an exciting way of pulling our best out of us. When the market crashed in 2008, our company flirted with insolvency. We were transitioning out of the print business and put all of our chips into digital solutions. With 100 percent of our focus on building our new business model, we weren't even thinking about the potential of economic collapse.
I'm grateful to have been raised with a solutions-oriented, creative mind. The pressure caused us to think outside the box and adapt our business model to fit the evolving demands of the market.
That's why I am deeply passionate about the concept of preparation. I believe that the decisions you make today will have a compounding effect that will last decades. Those dark days taught us the importance of planning, and then following through with a strategy. They taught us the importance of staying the course. It's why that message now resonates in more than 100 countries via my top-20 marketing podcast, The Dealer Playbook.
It's also why we doubled-down on marketing. For many dealerships, marketing is the first thing that hits the chopping block when unforeseen circumstances arise. For us, it's what saved us.
Marketing is not a silo that sits in the corner of the office and does its own thing. Marketing is part of our revenue team. Marketing is how you choose to communicate with your customers on an ongoing basis. It's how you set the tone of who you are and what you believe. It's how you foster lasting relationships of trust and build generational wealth.
Keep in mind that your actions will determine the level of customers you get when we're able to return back to some level of normality. For example, Google's consumer data indicates that the average purchase journey in Canada takes between 70 - 74 days. That means that you already have customers who are in the buying process — who are visiting your website and social outlets for information. If they see you are closed, they are more likely to choose those that are open.
Today we face a lot of uncertainty. Uncertainty makes it easy to contract rather than expand — it causes the masses to panic rather than think creatively or logically. Contraction is not something anyone can afford. So, in the spirit of fostering creativity, here are five things you can do to keep the momentum moving forward during these strange times.
Send a message to your entire database to let them know that you are still available during regular business hours. Conduct appointments via ZOOM or Facetime, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. If we're completely honest, the data has shown us for years that this is the type of connection many customers want anyway. You can use a free service like Calendly, which connects your calendar to theirs so that they can book a time that makes sense for their schedule. We have time working on our side right now as more customers are working from home.
Use e-signature software to send your customers important paperwork via email. There are some really great options out there like Sign Now or Adobe Sign, which will allow you to get the customer's signature and send fully executed copies of purchase agreements. Again, the point is to keep them engaged and moving forward while working creatively within the new conditions that we are all facing.
Stripe is a fully secure online payment processor that will allow you to accept all major credit cards, while also embedding the payment link on your site. During one of your virtual meetings, you can easily walk them through how it works via screen share.
Activity breeds motivation and inspiration. Keep busy by calling all of your customers to see how they are doing. Don't talk about car sales, don't push your agenda on them. Just call them out of kindness and concern to see how they are doing. This one gesture will perhaps do more for your business long-term than anything else.
Say this to yourself and tell me if it makes sense: “I only advertise when everyone else is advertising.”
Contrary to mass hysterical belief, this is the perfect time to keep ads running. We are seeing a steady flow of website traffic and vehicle-related searches, which means that, despite what the media is reporting, people are still searching for vehicles. They are searching for creative dealerships. They are searching for business partners that don't buckle when the going gets tough. They are looking for someone to trust. Using Facebook and Google, you can retarget customers who are still visiting your website with creative offers, valuable content, and information that will help them along their path to purchase. In other words, the well has not dried up, and the opportunity is still out for those that let the market know.
TL;DR: Out of sight, out of mind.
Now more than ever, it's important to remain focused, remain calm and make smart decisions. You may need to act quickly to shift some processes, but I truly believe that you will come out of this much stronger than you were before. We are in this together.