Thinking of joining a marketing program? If your distributor is American Tire Distributors Holdings Inc. (ATD), you might have a plethora from which to choose.
ATD, the largest independent wholesaler in the U.S., represents about seven different programs, including its own.
``It's a complicated tool box,'' admitted Ron Sinclair, ATD's vice president of marketing. To avoid confusing a new dealership customer by presenting ATD's total selection of programs, Mr. Sinclair said the wholesaler tries to ``profile and assess'' beforehand what the dealership needs.
ATD's 140 field salespeople have the responsibility of asking questions of new dealers to help them understand the dealership's market demographics, the type of customers it caters to, the products it sells and its business focus.
``They ask a lot of questions,'' Mr. Sinclair said. ``A dealer shouldn't be presented with all seven programs. Rather, they say, `Here are one or two programs that meet your objectives.' It could be overwhelming to throw eight pamphlets at (the dealer).''
ATD offers its own ServiceBay marketing program, as well as the American Car Care Centers (ACCC) Inc., Bridgestone/Firestone TireStarz, Michelin North America Inc. Alliance, Goodyear G3X, Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. Fuel and Continental Tire North America Inc. Gold dealer programs.
``We represent and market all these manufacturer programs,'' Mr. Sinclair said. And if that wasn't enough, in Northern California and Nevada, ATD is expanding the Tires & More advertising-based affiliate program it acquired last year.
The programs have similarities, such as offering road hazard warranties, but they also have some differences. ``It's the differences that ultimately are the way dealers make a decision,'' Mr. Sinclair said.
So with all these programs, do dealerships join more than one?
``It depends,'' Mr. Sinclair responded. ``Some dealers are focused on one program. Others may choose to participate in two to three programs.''
He said a significant number of Alliance participants, for example, also participate in ServiceBay because there are certain benefits in ServiceBay that are exclusive to ATD.
ATD's ServiceBay provides a filler option to the other programs, allowing dealers who buy at least $25,000 annually from ATD and continually increase their annual tire purchases to participate in any of the eight benefit packages. The options are: a road hazard warranty, a private label credit card, training, marketing, online ordering, group discounts and consulting services.
In April, ATD added ResourceBay to its ServiceBay portfolio, offering insurance, training and a rebate/rewards program through auto parts distributor CarQuest Corp.
Some dealers take advantage of all the ``bay'' packages while others only use one or two, Mr. Sinclair said.
Of the 8,000 dealerships that would be eligible, 4,500 are enrolled in ServiceBay, which ATD offers in all its markets. The company has 76 distribution centers servicing 46,000 points of sale in 36 states.
As ATD expands enrollment in 18-month-old ServiceBay-what it calls its ``foundation'' program-it is phasing out its 7-year-old AutoEdge marketing program. A majority of the 300-plus AutoEdge participants have transferred to ServiceBay with its additional benefits, the company said.
Mr. Sinclair expects the remaining 50 AutoEdge dealers eventually will make the transition, too.
ATD also has been building enrollment in the ACCC program in markets where it has distribution rights. In Utah, for example, where ATD acquired ACCC-affiliated Wholesale Tire Distributors Inc. two years ago, ATD has been signing additional ACCC dealers and developing ACCC's presence in that market, according to Mr. Sinclair.
ATD became one of ACCC's 14 member distributors when it purchased Florida-based Target Tire Co. in 2004 and since has gained ACCC territories through acquisitions of other affiliated wholesalers. The most recent was the June buyout of the wholesale operation of Jim Paris Tire City of Montebello Inc. in Colorado.
Mr. Sinclair said the ACCC dealer program has similarities and differences with ATD's ServiceBay. ACCC offers dealers a comprehensive program while ServiceBay ``is a little more a la carte.''
``We found when we offer both, a vast majority of ACCC dealers stay on the ACCC program,'' he said.
ATD has plans to continue its track record of acquiring other distributors in the coming years to expand its own markets and possibly expand its ACCC coverage.
``Picking up (ACCC) geographical markets would now be based on acquisitions of existing ACCC distributors,'' Mr. Sinclair said, noting that ACCC member distributors have market exclusivity rights.
``It would not be a surprise to see us expand through acquisitions,'' he said of ATD's future plans, but they ``may or may not be ACCC distributors.'' ATD also would consider actively pursuing green field expansion in the next 12 to 18 months, he added without divulging details.
``We want to continue to grow. There are a few places we do not cover. But we've got to grow in a smart way,'' he said, and that involves finding the right distributor with the right business culture. ``We're a program-based distributor. We look for program-based distributors with similar go-to-market strategies.''
However, ATD shuns acquiring retail outlets. ``We believe in not competing with our dealers,'' Mr. Sinclair said.