MUSCATINE, Iowa-Bandag Inc. may dominate the retread market, but don't call the company complacent with its existing business.
For years the retread materials and equipment supplier has tried to gain new accounts by offering fleets the ``Bandag Challenge''-a sales promotion in which fleets are invited to use Bandag retreads for a trial period against whatever tires the fleet already is using. If the Bandag product doesn't outperform a competing tire on a cost-per-mile basis as promised, Bandag pledges to reimburse the difference, according to a company spokesman.
The Challenge has been a sales tool for Bandag franchisees at least since the 1980s, according to the spokesman, but because of the program's longevity, the company noticed that some dealerships used it sporadically or dropped it altogether. Bandag realized it needed to ``reignite its sales force behind the Bandag Challenge'' and renew enthusiasm for it, the spokesman said.
So the company began a contest beginning late last year and continuing through early 2001. Commercial sales representatives were encouraged to sell fleets on the Challenge and add as many new fleet customers as possible-which earned them unlimited entries in a random drawing in April for a 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser.
Ted Robinson, a sales representative with Charlotte, N.C.-based Snider Tire Inc., won the drawing for the Cruiser. The top three sales reps who set up the most Challenges during the contest were awarded cash prizes.
The Bandag spokesman said he wasn't sure if the company would continue to promote the Challenge with future contests but pointed out that every dealership won by picking up new business through the contest. And he called the Challenge ``one of the most effective ways to show Bandag performance to fleets.''
John Rhoads, a sales territory representative for Belle Tire Distributors in Oakwood Village, Ohio, placed second in the contest for most Challenges with 22 and won $750. He explained that the way the Challenge works is a tire dealership performs regular readings of Bandag retreads and competitor tires for a potential customer over a three- to six-month period.
The customer fills out a form that chronicles the results of axle tests and can calculate on Bandag software how much it saves on a cost-per-mile basis, Mr. Rhoads said.
In his 17 years as a Bandag sales rep, Mr. Rhoads said he has seen more fleets switch to Bandag after a Challenge, not to mention no one needing reimbursement because a Bandag product failed to perform.
``When you can give someone a guarantee that your tires are going to work better or you'll pay them the difference, most people are willing to at least listen to you,'' Mr. Rhoads said.
``Even if they don't see a large difference in the tires, normally, just the fact that you're there doing the checking is normally more than most do.
``When they see you're putting in the time and that you are dedicated-even if the tires just come out the same-they're satisfied.''