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Soft Sell or Hard Sell: Selecting the right message for your dealership

The last few weeks of Coronavirus have felt like getting caught up in a tornado. Social distancing has become a real thing, customers are delaying purchasing new vehicles, and car dealerships are experiencing the impact. But what about website traffic? According to recent reports from Google Trends, search volume on Google is down for keywords like “dealer near me” and “used car.” However, people are spending more time online, browsing social media to get their latest news updates, and connecting with friends and family, and that’s a trend that can be great news for your dealership.

Gain Your Customer’s Attention With The Right Messaging

As automotive demand and sales decline, dealerships are finding new ways to survive. This means thinking outside the box with how to reach their audience. Should you use an empathetic tone to keep your dealership’s image intact during the pandemic, or do you go back to a hard-sell approach to try to gain market share while sales continue to decline? What is the happy medium?

We know that shoppers ARE online. However, their focus has shifted from “buy, buy, buy” to researching safety protocols being implemented and comparing vehicles. Consider turning your messaging from “take a test drive!” to “here’s how we can help if you need an oil change.”

Make Your Dealership Stand Out Against Competitors

Do you know in what part of the funnel your customers are? In marketing, we refer to the process of moving leads through the different sales stages as a sales funnel. There are three distinct levels of the sales funnel: Top- where people are starting your research, Middle- where people are researching with more intent specific to their needs, and Bottom-where they go specifically to take action. Right now, the area dealerships need to focus on has shifted from the bottom of the funnel to middle and top of the funnel. 

During this new reality we’re living, dealers should focus now on HOW they can stand out from their competitors in a saturated market where messages are all starting to sound the same. Think about it, when was the last time you heard an ad that didn’t contain the words “these are unprecedented times” or “with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19…”? Some of the ways you can differentiate your dealership from your competitors include:

  • Tell shoppers what your dealership is doing to keep them safe and be specific about what safety protocols you’re implementing. In fact, SHOW them via social media on a video of your sales and service staff cleaning the showroom, sanitizing the cars, and wearing masks. This quickly paints a real picture for consumers as to the approach your dealership is taking to keep your staff and your customers safe.
  • Communicate that your sales and service departments are open and are offering alternative solutions like pick-up and delivery to keep customers and employees safe.
  • Remind your customers there are multiple ways for them to reach you! Whether it’s a phone call, email, text, or web chat, Let them know that their automotive needs will be addressed and satisfied. If they need a part, you will deliver it. If they need service, you will pick up their car and deliver it when done. If they want to buy a car, you can offer remote presentations, walkthroughs and provide electronic paperwork options for financing and signings.
  • Partner up with other local businesses! For example, consider supporting a local restaurant that’s in a similar position as you and hard hit by restrictions. You could help the restaurant by purchasing lunch for your staff. This shows you care and are helping rebuild to bring things back to normal as soon as possible.

Use this time to refocus and think about your dealership’s messaging. When you’ve determined the goal of your messaging, stay focused, and consistent in how you’re communicating it. While there can be a happy medium between soft and hard automotive sales, the focus of your marketing should shift from loud offer ads to acknowledging people’s fears. Tell customers how your dealership is listening and reducing any potential risk. If you would like to learn more about how you can get help creating brand messaging, contact us 561-877-5221 or email us at

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