Keyser & Miller Ford didn’t panic when faced with the COVID-19 Crisis. They stayed the course with digital advertising spend through March and April, resulting in steady growth for the dealership, including finishing April in the black, despite state-wide restrictions.
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When Tim Hedrick took over as General Manager at Keyser & Miller Ford, the dealership needed strategic redirection to increase market share and improve sales performance. Hedrick began that work over a year ago before the dealership partnered with PureCars in January 2020.
The PureCars team worked closely with Hedrick to align the digital advertising strategy with Keyser & Miller’s sales goals, allocating budget across channels to capture the largest share of demand. Integrated search, social and display advertising are at the core of the strategy; and to measure sales performance and overall ROI of their ad budget, Keyser & Miller also uses PureCars full-funnel attribution tool.
- Qualified Traffic to Website
- Leads from Advertising
- Grow Market Share
- Improve Sales Performance
Not long after partnering with PureCars, the COVID-19 pandemic caused lockdown orders across the country. In Pennsylvania, where Keyser & Miller Ford is located, car sales were not permitted between March 20 and April 20, 2020.
Like so many business, the dealership had to make some tough decisions, and had to make them quickly.
“I knew eventually it would break open,” Hedrick said. “Didn’t think we weren’t going to be unable to sell cars for so long. We thought it would be a couple weeks and it ended up being a month. First, we reacted quickly when the governor shut us down. It was a hard day, but it was a day we had to do. Then, we decided to stay open because service was deemed essential.”
Drawing on his past experience with the ‘08 recession, Hedrick understood the opportunity of staying top of mind for customers while competitors were all going dark online; he quickly decided that he would not reduce ad spend and stayed the course on variable ops campaigns.
Partnering with his PureCars Success Manager, Kenny Williams, they agreed it was critical to update messaging across channels, but that they would keep Keyser & Miller’s advertising budget the same despite the state shutdown. Additionally, they activated PureCars’ dynamic, personalized website offers to capture more leads for service and sales.
“When I was preparing for the crisis, [my experience from ‘08] rang in my ears,” Hedrick said. “So I thought, I’m not going to cut back on marketing; I’m going to keep it exactly the same. I want us as a sales organization to stay in front of our customers.”
As for operations, Hedrick had to make some tough decisions, including reducing staff. He kept his six best technicians and three managers, deciding they would do whatever they could in parts and service. Even though Keyser & Miller Ford was restricted from selling vehicles, Tim took over BDC duties, followed up with customers and took deposits on existing inventory to ensure the dealership could hit the ground running once the restrictions were lifted.
“I looked back because I was curious and during the time we were down — especially Keith and I, we worked our keisters off. First week of April, I prospected 600 service customers to let them know we were open and what we could offer them.”
Tim Hedrick – General Manager, Keyser & Miller Ford
Hedrick took advantage of the time the showroom was closed, sitting down with his management team to completely revamp their sales process and online sales strategy.
“We didn’t get too frustrated with needing to change our process. We accepted what it was and we got together and decided to come up with a plan. We worked on that while we were closed; myself and the managers. The insight we gained by being able to sell more cars without having sales people was really intriguing to me.”
From then on everything else changed.
Keyser & Miller Ford furloughed its six salespeople initially. The dealership brought one back to do sales, and three as product specialists.
“It’s actually been a dream of mine to do [sales] this way for a while. It’s really working out. Our business will never be the way it was before and that’s a very positive statement. Other companies need to take the same approach and say ‘alright, what did we learn and what does the next dimension look like?’ How can we serve our customers better?”
“We’re going to expand what we do with online sales, even when we’re allowed to be fully open. Customers absolutely love it. They actually get a better snapshot of the car they’re buying than if they were here. If they’re here, all they want to do is drive it, but once the emotion wears off they call back when they notice scratches and scuffs. Here, everything is super transparent so there are no surprises when the customers come to pick it up.”
While the average PA Ford dealer observed a 56% decrease in website traffic during the 30-day closure, compared to previous 30 days, Keyser & Miller Ford was UP 8% in the same time frame. VDP views more than doubled YoY with 9,700 total. This is a direct result of the dealership’s strategy to hold steady with ad spend, pivot messaging and capitalize on attractive OEM incentives.
Not unlike website traffic, conversions for the average Ford dealer in PA were down 54%. Meanwhile, Keyser & Miller Ford drove an increase of 18%, with quality to boot.
“We are almost at 30 cars a week into May in the midst of a crisis. [PureCars] had a lot to do with that. Obviously [me] not backing away from advertising helped as well.”
Through bold action and willingness to take the road less traveled, Keyser & Miller Ford beat the odds in April and is on pace to do even better in May. The dealership finished 3rd in their district in April; and after selling 30 cars in just the first week of May, they held down 2nd place. In previous years, cracking the top 10 was a win.
“One thing [working with PureCars and] Kenny is his openness and how he explains things to me, [it] is way different than companies I’ve dealt with before. I’ve dealt with some big name vendors and they come in bragging about how many hits they drove to the website. My message to them was ‘I can get more people to come to my site, I can figure that out.’ What I need is people coming to the site who want to buy cars and submit leads. It was important to be on the same page with that.”
What’s Next for Keyser & Miller Ford?
Tim Hedrick and Keyser & Miller Ford plan to keep on keepin’ on, refining their online shopping experience for their customers. As Hedrick noted, business will not be the same as it was before — and that’s a good thing.
While none of us can predict the future, we can learn from experience; just as Hedrick and his team demonstrated a keen understanding of the importance of advertising during a downturn. They knew they needed to be there for their customers, even if they were temporarily unable to sell vehicles. By thinking quickly on their feet, and challenging themselves to forge a new path for sales will continue to pay off for the dealership, no matter what curveballs come their way next. Keyser & Miller Ford is well positioned to face whatever comes next head on with agility, creativity and true grit.
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