APPLETON, Wis.As technology and changing consumer demands continually force tire dealers to make adjustments to their business models, the same is true for marketing programs.
In order to stay relevant, the most successful programs make it a point to add features and take advantage of new ways to create value and convenience for their program members. Since 2015, Appleton-based U.S. AutoForce has tried to do just that, expanding its premium Tire One affiliate dealer program with several enhancements.
One of the most recent additions to Tire Onewhich U.S. AutoForce has controlled since purchasing the rights to it along with Royal Tire Inc. in 2011was a comprehensive online management training program the firm added in early 2015 that covers five areas, including:
c Business planningU.S. AutoForce helps its dealer to develop a business plan, something Chad Moon, program director for the company, said many didn't have when they started out.
A lot of these shop owners came in and were probably really good techs, and they got sick of working for whomever so they decided to open their own shop, he said. ...They just said, 'Hey, I'm going to open my doors, start fixing cars, charge customers for it and it's all going to work.'
And then after a year they're like, 'Oh my God, I didn't realize how much the owner did behind the scenes.'
c Labor inventoryMany shop owners look over their parts inventory, according to Mr. Moon, and they know they need oil filters and so many tires in stock, but they don't manage labor inventorythe people working for them.
We teach them how to comprehensively manage labor inventory for every one of their techs in the shop.
c Financials and operationsMany small tire dealershipsTire One program members includeddon't have bookkeepers on staff. As a result, useful metrics such as gross profit percentage can go overlooked.
Mr. Moonwho likened not knowing these numbers to a sports team not knowing the score during a gamesaid dealers receive training on how to use this information to be successful.
If they don't know the score, they can't make adjustments, he said.
c Staffing and compensationIt's a common theme that we have a tough time finding people and retaining our best people, Mr. Moon said, so we train them on how to do that.
c Marketing and advertisingLastly, Mr. Moon said U.S. AutoForce helps its Tire One members build an advertising plan to catch as many customers as possible.
All together, the training takes about 48 hours to complete, according to Mr. Moon, and is done via webinars that take two hours per day, twice per week.
Dealers are generally really strapped for time, Mr. Moon said. They hate leaving their shops, and it's really hard to get them to travel for training, so we do all this via webinar.
Attendance for the webinars has been outstanding, he said, with about 95 percent of dealers who sign up for the training taking part. Those who sign up and can't take part are able to view the training later.
We record them all, so if there is a dealer who signed up but something really urgent came up and he can't make this particular two-hour course, he can just log in and listen to the course and still get the information, Mr. Moon said.
In addition to the training, Tire One added the One Bucks rewards program in 2015, which incentivizes service writers to sell warranties when they sell tires.
With independent dealers, repairs have changed in the last four to five years, Mr. Moon said. Cars don't break down as often as they used to. We need to rely more on maintenance sales and add-on sales.
Warranty registration for the tires is handled completely electronically, he noted. Dealers register the tires via an online dealer portal. Once registration is complete, a spiff payment is loaded right onto a One Bucks debit card.
About six months ago, Mr. Moon said U.S. AutoForce enhanced the warranty registration process so that each tire registered also is automatically registered with the manufacturer.
Most dealers haven't done a great job of registering tires, but we've put a really good tool in place for them to do it now, so it made it a heck of a lot easier for them, he said. Plus they're getting paid to do it now, so why wouldn't they?
The tire registration process, which Mr. Moon said has been very successful, is still being tweaked.
The most recent enhancement to Tire One came late last yearthe addition of social media management via an undisclosed vendor U.S. AutoForce hired to create and maintain Facebook and Twitter pages for dealers.
A lot of these shop owners don't want anything to do with Facebook, or they say, 'I don't have time to be putting stuff on Facebook every day or respond to all the likes or the action that happens on Facebook,' so we take care of that for you, he said.
The social media management firm posts status updates and Tweets relevant to the region in which a particular dealer is locatedfor instance, comments on sports game resultsand fills them in with occasional posts related to tires and automotive repair.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6148; Twitter: @Will_Schertz