How to generate buzz for new models without auto shows

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on February 23, 2021

Auto shows have been part of new vehicle launch strategies for decades. But with Covid forcing the cancellation of live shows across Canada in 2021, generating buzz for this year’s new models is going to require some quick thinking and ingenuity.

Fortunately, there’s still time to execute some innovative ideas and get your customers excited about brands’ upcoming new vehicles. Here are some ideas to help you get the word out and to bring those customers through the doors and onto your sales floor.

Make sure your email marketing database and distribution methods are up to date.

If you’ve been ignoring email marketing for a while, now is the time to bring it up to speed. A willing and enthusiastic list of email subscribers is likely to be your most receptive group of potential customers for your dealership’s communications. Plus, while social media is very important, your posts there don’t always reach every potentially interested viewer in your area, especially if you’re not putting advertising budget into boosting them.

It takes some work to get an email distribution list properly set up. Canadian privacy laws require customers to opt in for communication and for certain features to be present in emails such as your business address and an unsubscribe feature. You’ll also want to ensure that a subscribe function is built into your website and is publicized through your social media channels once it’s ready. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get some professional help if you’re starting from scratch or working with a system that’s been idle for some time.

Make the most of corporate initiatives.

Many national and international head offices are developing their own digital vehicle reveals through live streams, YouTube premieres, and other methods. Don’t assume that the promotion being done by those brands at a corporate level will find its way to your clients on its own. Sharing announcements through your email distribution list and on your own social media channels will help ensure your most loyal customers receive the news directly and that they’ll come to you when they’re looking for answers to their questions. As an added bonus, this will help them to feel a sense of inclusion in your community, as though they’re part of the club.

Hold a socially distant launch party.

Launch parties obviously can’t be what they once were under pandemic restrictions. But your customers are itching for things to get excited about, so even a small amount of pomp and circumstance is likely to get their attention. When the first units of a new model arrive at your dealership, consider announcing a socially distant launch party through your channels, perhaps over the course of a weekend with visits scheduled by appointment. This ensures compliance with lockdown orders in those markets where they exist, but it may also increase customer comfort and ensure safety for your staff regardless of the situation where you’re located. Adding some decorations and a small take-home gift such as custom-decorated cookies or affordable snack boxes can add an element of celebration and delight for a reasonable budget. While the environment is set up, you could also record a walkaround video to post on your social media channels so that people who can’t attend in person feel like a part of the celebration.

Get back to basics.

Especially in locations outside of major cities, dealers regularly report that advertising on local radio stations and in community newspapers is a cost-effective way to reach their immediate market. With auto shows not generating that initial buzz this year, consider leaning into these platforms even more yourself to make a splash and draw attention to new model arrivals — just make sure you’re able to measure the ROI on your efforts.

Topics: Marketing tips, promotion