Marketing in a Lean Inventory Environment

Given today’s inventory shortage challenges, it can be tempting to cut back on advertising. After all, what’s the point in marketing when you don’t have as much inventory to sell. But experience has shown that cutting advertising can lead to significant, long-term setbacks.

Henry Ford understood this concept way back in the early 1900s when he said that stopping advertising to save money is like stopping a clock to save time. But that doesn’t mean your marketing has to stay at status quo. Here are a few smart ways to evolve your marketing strategy for lean inventory times.

Adjusted New-Inventory Campaigns

Now is a great time to focus your marketing on vehicles with more availability. Promote in-transit inventory and vehicles scheduled to arrive. Remove bargain pages and raising prices to match demand. It may also be wise to add urgency to advertisements that help customers understand the realities of availability limits. Fear of missing out can bring in new customers, even if those customers have to wait just a little longer to get their vehicle.

Used Car Advertising Campaigns

New cars may not be immediately available, but there are a lot of pre-owned cars in the world, many of which are prime for purchase and resell opportunity. Shift your used car advertising dollars toward pre-owned campaigns, targeted at shoppers with trade-ins and who are more likely to buy used. As long as you can continue to source used inventory, you can sustain sales operations until manufacturers catch up to meet new inventory demands.

Pre-Order Purchase Campaigns

A car doesn’t have to be physically on the lot for you to sell it. Advertise the opportunity to pre-order a car and promote the option to hand-select features, giving your customers a customized, personalized vehicle purchase experience. These types of pre-order campaigns can also direct your automobile leads to your dealership’s digital retailing tools, allowing them to complete large portions of the buying process online.

Brand Awareness Campaigns

Inventory may be scarce, but buyers are still out there. Brand awareness campaigns can keep your dealership top of mind with active or soon-to-be active shoppers, while reinforcing all the reasons to buy from your dealership. Just as importantly, these types of campaigns prevent competitors from stealing market share by filling an advertising void.

Service Campaigns

Less inventory also means more miles on your customers’ current cars. Shift some of your advertising spend to promote your service department. In doing so, don’t forget about lesser-known services like your wash bay, auto detailing, and other services that can be attractive for drivers wanting to make small upgrades and make do with what they have for the foreseeable future.


As Henry Ford predicted all those years ago, time and car sales continue to march forward. And while inventory shortages are only temporary, the customers you bring in through your marketing can last a lifetime and help your dealership sustain short- and long-term success. To learn more strategies for thriving in the current inventory environment, check out our free Lean Inventory Playbook.


Lean Inventory Playbook

A practical guide for aligning dealerships strategies with inventory shortages.​