Marketing During The Off-Season

Just because the weather's cooling down doesn't mean your marketing tactics should, too.

We are heading into the nail-bitingly slow season for many dealers. How about you try something different this year? Instead of sitting there, suffering the pain of watching your sales drop as each dreary winter month passes, take control of the situation and market the living heck out of your business right on through spring.

The goal is to not let your foot off the marketing pedal for anything. Where is the logic in staring out the window, wondering where all your customers are when you have deliberately decided to stop communicating with them? I understand it’s hard to spend money when the cash flow coming in is low, but you do need to keep your marketing efforts going at full speed year round if you expect to be a leader in your market.

Here are several ideas to get yourself thinking about the off-season. When these strategies are executed correctly, they will deliver the sales dollars you are looking for.

Grow Your Marketing Lists While The Season Is Still Hot

During your peak season, you must train your staff to gather email addresses and mobile phone numbers at every turn. I know, I know — the dealership is a nuthouse and no one has time to think, but you need to make time. Look at every customer as an off-season sale, and you’ll be motivated to ask him or her for contact information.

Jam your website and social channels with multiple calls to action (CTAs) while traffic is buzzing, and you will find that gathering customer contact information is relatively easy. The most obvious way to do this is by offering something in exchange for them subscribing to your newsletter. Let’s get creative here. Don’t be above giving away a tchotchke or two in exchange for an email or phone number. What is an off-season customer worth?

Another idea I personally love is to publicize a gift card lottery. The lottery offers every customer who walks through the door a $5 gift card (valid during the dead season, of course) with a chance to win a $500 gift card (or $5,000 if you’re a big hitter). The reason this works is because no one spends $5 when they shop — the temptation is just too great to spend more. Get customers in your store to pick up, use the card when you are most in need of revenue and have your staff ready to upsell.

Collect Customer Reviews
It seems dealers wake up to the importance of online customer reviews after they have racked up a few nasty ones. Get ahead of this game with a planned reputation management strategy rooted in regular, consistent requests to your customers. Simply ask your customer to write a review sharing their personal story, interaction with a salesperson, or a riding story that relates back to the vehicle they bought from your dealership. Keep asking for reviews even after you’ve achieved top ratings on relevant sites such as Google+ and Yelp. Users notice when there are wide gaps in time between review postings, so keep the reviews coming year round. This is particularly important in the dead of winter when people are bored and dreaming of getting their bikes back on the road when the snow melts; this desire pushes them to surf around online where they will find your dealership, the one that customers love.

Off-Season Content And Offers
Start promoting your off-season services with early bird discounts. If you offer vehicle winterization, encourage early signup so you reel in the business before your competitors even have a chance. Next, publish inspiring, dream-provoking content in the dead of winter. Immediately after a snowstorm is the best time to remind your customers that there are better days ahead. Give your customers something to look forward to and get them thinking about your dealership when they least expect it.

Stay Social All Year
Customers don’t disappear during the off-season; they’re just nestled up inside with even more time to connect with friends, family and businesses via social media channels. Produce off-season content that is funny, entertaining or lifestyle related. One of the most shared images on Facebook last season was a guy frozen on a motorcycle, icicles hanging from every limb. People just couldn’t get enough of it.

Offer Sales And Discounts To Locals Only

Show your local customers some love! After all, they’re the people with the most loyalty to your dealership. Create an email marketing campaign or
Facebook ad campaign targeted to customers only in your ZIP code and promote it as an exclusive special for locals. For example, make Thursday “Community Day, Receive 10 Percent Off,” or host “Get Out of the House Fridays” at the dealership.

Historically, dealers who plan early and keep their marketing efforts going strong in the off-season are the ones that succeed in the end. Don’t let the season stop you — it’s full steam ahead, 365 days a year, seven days a week.

Award-winning blogger and CEO of Duo Web Solutions, Heather Blessington is a nationally-renowned speaker on social media marketing and a digital marketing veteran. Her company provides MPN monthly columns focused on best practices in Web marketing for powersports dealers.

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