One of the things the firm always queries in the survey is the program feature that dealers find most important to them. “Consistently, year after year, it's marketing. It ranks No. 1, hands down,” Mr. Brown said.
According to Wes Stephenson, vice president of operations, Tire Pros, everything begins with an annual advertising plan, developed between the individual dealers and Tire Pros' marketing support team. The organization has 11 such field representatives based around the country, who are familiar with its various regional markets and meet with dealers to set up ad plans.
“We completely manage the budget for them, but they are the executives that get to make the final decision on anything,” he said. “So they have the power to veto. This is not a dictatorial relationship whatsoever,…but the marketing managers help the dealers never lose a dime of co-op that they earn.
“Something that the independent dealers have sometimes complained about is that the use-it-or-lose-it nature of co-op can cause some inefficiencies with the funds that you earn,” Mr. Stephenson added. “We take those things over and make sure the money is spent properly.”
Tire Pros and its dealers jointly derive an amount of money to contribute to the co-op on an annual basis, and Tire Pros manages everything, he said.
“We pay all the bills on marketing. We have media buyers, marketing coordinators, graphic design artists — we've got the complete in-house ability to take care of their needs, and so the cost savings that they enjoy is something that they can't get on their own. We provide all of that for them.”
The program is designed so that dealers are able to focus on operating their stores but also so that they have control, Messrs. Brown and Stephenson said.
Mr. Stephenson said Tire Pros has a “very robust” national dealer council program that has a powerful influence on how the program works. Four regional councils meet twice a year, and “the results, the findings, the concerns and questions from those go up to a national council that meets three times a year,” he said.
Top management from Tire Pros and ATD are present at all of these meetings, giving dealers access to those who affect change within the company. In addition, every dealer who joins the franchise is assigned a council representative who speaks on their behalf.
“One of the identified areas of value for the dealers is that they feel that it is a dealer-run organization that responds to the needs on the street,” Mr. Stephenson said. “We're very proud of how that functions and what it means to the recipient of the service.”
According to Mr. Brown, the next step for Tire Pros is boosting consumer awareness on a national scale, thereby creating even more value for its members.
Tire Pros recently completed a brand study to gauge its share of top-of-mind awareness among consumers throughout its markets.