RAB Open For Biz

It’s no secret that March and April were disastrous months for U.S. auto dealers, many of whom were forced to close their doors.

That didn’t mean, however, there weren’t opportunities to be had — even for shuttered businesses. Service departments, for example, were deemed essential and could see customers. The web provided online storefronts, Facetime technology allowed would-be customers to get a close-up look at a particular vehicle, and dealers could offer things like personalized calls to work out financing details.

“They really needed to let buyers know the new way of selling cars,” said Marnie Chenard-Klebart, Sales Manager at Westport, CT-based Connoisseur Media, “and we knew we could help. As sellers, it was important to us to let our dealers know that they had to build trust and open communication with their marketplace.”

Enter a campaign called “Wheels in Motion,” which brought all available assets to bear. It began with PSAs for service departments before ascending to a new level entirely, one that included commercial and promo schedules; video interviews; a robust social media drive; and a virtual showroom, which allowed traffic to be driven to a single site where vehicles from multiple dealers could be viewed, among other features.

The program was just about the present. But it also aimed to capitalize on the pent-up demand in the near future. “This is key: Pent-up demand is real,” Chenard-Klebart said. “There are tens of thousands of expired leases… [and] incentives [that] are so good they could motivate somebody to get out of the old and into the new… If our dealers aren’t inviting them in to do business, they’re going to go elsewhere.”

The strategy outlined by Chenard-Klebart was one of several shared Wednesday during a Radio Advertising Bureau webinar called “Sellers Idea Exchange: Proven Tactics for Engaging Local Clients During COVID-19.” The event focused on programs radio sellers have successfully implemented in their local markets.

In addition to Chenard-Klebart, panelists for the event included moderator Erica Farber, the President and CEO of the RAB; Liz Rehling of KTAR News & Arizona Sports, Bonneville Phoenix; Alex Witt, WTOP, Hubbard Radio; and John Taylor, Senior Account Executive, Beasley Media Group’s “98.5 The Sports Hub” WBZ-FM Boston.

Taylor explained that he launched a program called “Healthcare Heroes,” which focuses on fundraising as well as using station assets to tell the stories of frontline healthcare workers who are battling the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an idea where he found inspiration close to home: His wife is a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“We’re not calling people and asking them to advertise,” he explained. “We’re calling and asking them to get behind an initiative to help our healthcare heroes in this marketplace.”

Key sponsors were secured in areas like beer, grocery, healthcare and footwear. The campaign set out to raise $100,000 for things like PPE, medical supplies, dependent care, transportation, groceries and more. (The fundraising goal was eventually surpassed, with every dollar going directly to the needs of frontline workers.)

“As a sports station, we typically have all these great things going on,” Taylor said. “So what we did, we kind of looked at our hospitals and nurses and doctors as the star athletes we traditionally work with, and celebrated their stories. We also created a platform to make a difference, to talk about COVID-19 in a different way that wasn’t just about the death count that’s happening in the news, but positive stories about success and health and hope.”