Scott Deatherage, owner of Dee's Tire Stores Inc., has found that sometimes the best way to promote a business is to have fun with potential customers.
Every Saturday afternoon, Mr. Deatherage-also known as Scotty D-sits at the mike at KOMA 1520 AM to take caller questions on car and tire care, discuss racing events and interview guests on any subject related to vehicles. His ``All about car care and the hour of horsepower'' radio program runs the gamut of subject matter.
``All about car care and the hour of horsepower is not a do-it-yourself call-in talk show,'' Mr. Deatherage tells his listeners. ```All about car care' is designed to give our listening audience the technical information to communicate service repair needs.''
The show's content varies week to week. One week Mr. Deatherage and a couple of his service techs might field questions about anti-lock brake systems and tire inflation. Then Mr. Deatherage turns the spotlight on one of his techs and asks him to share with listeners his experience as a Navy sonar technician on a nuclear submarine.
During Memorial Day weekend, ``All about car care'' featured the commissioner of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol who discussed highway safety, details of fatalities and injuries, the location of road construction sites and seat belt usage.
Another week the show focused strictly on female customers and how most women aren't satisfied with their auto service or feel they were treated differently due to gender bias. ``If I could have all the women customers, I'd give all the men away,'' Mr. Deatherage said. ``I'd let everybody else have all the men and I'll take all the women customers...when you do a good job and you explain everything to (women) in detail, they're the most loyal customers you can have.''
He pointed out that he has seen new female customers recently in his stores who were entered into the dealership's database for the first time.
To keep the show entertaining, Mr. Deatherage often asks trivia questions, such as the make of the Cunninghams' car in the old ``Happy Days'' TV series, or the name of the Goodyear airship used in the movie ``Black Sunday.''
To encourage call-ins during the show, Mr. Deatherage has provided a little incentive by holding a giveaway for a set of Goodyear Assurance tires. Every person who calls in with a vehicle question from July 10 through Sept. 24 is registered once in a drawing to win a set of Assurance tires, and everyone who calls in and answers a trivia question is registered twice. All first-time callers receive a $20 gift certificate to any of Dee's Tire's three locations.
``Everybody likes to win stuff and play trivia games....Your audience has to be comfortable with calling you,'' Mr. Deatherage said. ``That's what drives ratings-people call, and then the management of the radio station realizes that people are listening and tuning in and participating in it.''
On the July 24 show, for instance, ``All about car care'' featured Phil Brown, plant manager of Goodyear's Lawton, Okla., tire manufacturing facility. Mr. Brown touted the Lawton factory's one-day production record of 74,143 tires set on July 1 and how the facility already has produced 1 million Assurance tires. Mr. Deatherage quipped on why Oklahomans would want to buy any other tires except Goodyear tires made in Lawton and then reminded callers they can be entered in Dee's Tire's Assurance contest.
``All about car care'' was born, in part, by Mr. Deatherage's following of other automotive radio talk shows-such as Bobby Likus' nationwide Car Clinic call-in show-as well as the overall popularity of news talk radio. Mr. Deatherage, who studied speech communication and broadcasting while in college, had wanted to pursue a broadcasting career and swore he'd never be a part of his family's tire dealership.
But after his father Larry invited him to work in the business after his graduation from college in 1988, Mr. Deatherage agreed and became responsible for calling on commercial accounts.
``I was apprehensive, but when you're 21 you can take more chances,'' Mr. Deatherage said of his career move. He became a minority owner of the company in 1993 and produced all radio and TV ad spots for the dealership. Last October, he purchased Dee's Tire from his father and started pursuing his dream to have a car care radio show.
An hour time slot opened on KOMA 1520 AM in March, and Mr. Deatherage began putting together a call-in program that informs listeners on what to ask technicians and how to go about finding good auto service.
A one-hour show costs $300 to produce, so Mr. Deatherage asked Goodyear for financial support. He received it and has found three solid advertisers who buy commercial time from him, all of which has helped him keep his programming costs minimal. He declined to elaborate on how much he receives from Goodyear and his advertisers, but said the show seems to have boosted his business.
``We've seen our service numbers going up,'' he said. ``...Almost every customer who comes through the door asks about the racing or (says) I saw you on TV, or I heard you on the radio.''
As its name suggests, the radio program isn't exclusively about car care. ``The hour of horsepower'' is the last segment of the program, which focuses on asphalt truck racing and weekend racing events. Mr. Deatherage owns a team and drives a race truck in a series where all proceeds from sales and race purse winnings go to benefit the Oklahoma Children's Health Foundation. On some Saturdays, if Mr. Deatherage is scheduled to race, he does the radio program live from the Altus Motor Speedway in Altus, Okla.
To keep credibility with his listeners, Mr. Deatherage said he gives advice on how to find a good mechanic, including letting people know that if a shop can see their car right away, that's a red flag that the shop isn't busy enough. He also has advised listeners to keep a small notepad handy in their car to write down whatever the car is doing wrong for a few weeks so that they can better explain the problems to a tech. He said he has even had guest technicians from other repair shops on his show answering questions.
``People like that we're saying that this (Dee's) isn't the only place they should go,'' he noted. ``We subliminally give that message out by saying, `Here's what you need to ask your mechanic, the guy that you go to.' Maybe one of these days, they'll come to us.''