The nation’s largest network of independent tire dealers increased overall passenger and light truck tire unit sales in 2016 by 7.8% and same-store sales by 5.5%. With a net gain of 44 new Tire Pros stores last year, Ron Sinclair reminded dealers, “We have power!”
Sinclair, chief marketing officer for Tire Pros and its parent company, American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD), is now the leader of the retail franchise network following the 2016 retirement of Dan Brown. And during the annual Tire Pros National Dealer Business Conference, Sinclair offered what became an often-repeated refrain to members: Tire Pros dealers need to recognize their combined strength in the market, and work to offer a unified brand experience for consumers.
Perry Leonard is the new chairman of the Tire Pros National Dealer Council, and he owns nine stores in the Dallas area. He said dealers need to be engaged. “ATD, Tire Pros and the dealers — we’re all in it as one.”
Tire Pros is rolling out more opportunities for dealers to get involved in 2017. The group typically has named dealers to its National Dealer Council, and that group has considered initiatives for the entire network. The national council will remain in place, but Tire Pros is adding four more dealer councils that will focus on these specific topics: customer experience, marketing, training and technology.
Each of those groups is made up of eight dealers, along with representation from the Tire Pros leadership team. Ultimately, those councils will offer best practices and ideas for the entire Tire Pros network.
Sinclair said he believes Tire Pros dealers are “unified in spirit,” but that consumers would report different kinds of experiences if comparing one store to another. These councils will help develop practices to unite dealers.
One of the first things Tire Pros will implement is a uniform telephone greeting, where dealers will be sure to mention Tire Pros when answering a call.Bob Bittner is director of store operations for all 748 Tire Pros stores in the U.S. He told Modern Tire Dealer that because Tire Pros has invested to market its name nationally, it makes sense to help consumers make that connection on the telephone.
“I think there’s a bit of a learning curve for a dealer who’s been a successful independent for a long time and has learned the value of a consistent phone greeting, and now has to add Tire Pros to it,” Bittner said. “There’s a bit of discipline that needs to be applied to that, but when you look at the way forward and our list of the must haves, it doesn’t get any more fundamental than the telephone.”
Asked about the potential for push back from dealers on these strategies and fears that these steps might chip away at a dealer’s independence, Sinclair said he thinks dealers recognize they reap benefits from the larger Tire Pros brand.
“These are all independent entrepreneurs. We’re trying to build a better business, draw more consumers in, and ultimately have those strong business results.”Measuring performance
Stuart Schuette, CEO and president of ATD, said the company sees an opportunity to use data to help Tire Pros dealers perform better in their markets. By the late fourth quarter of this year Tire Pros will roll out a net promoter score (NPS) system which will help dealers measure their performance.
Dealers responded with applause when Schuette told them the expense of the NPS initiative would be covered by ATD and Tire Pros.Ultimately, the NPS boils down to One Question a dealer will ask his or her customers: How likely are you to recommend Tire Pros to a friend or colleague?
Consumers will answer the question using a 0-10 scale, with zero representing “not at all likely” and a 10 being “extremely likely” to recommend.
Sinclair said the answer will help dealers’ business four ways:
- It will objectively measure the customer experience.
- It will alert a dealer to issues that need attention.
- It will highlight opportunities to retain customers.
- It will build value in the Tire Pros brand.
National marketing efforts are driving consumers to the www.TirePros.com website, and this year consumers will have the option of selecting a “buy now” button. The button is an affiliate link to ATD’s TireBuyer platform, and consumers will be prompted to select a dealer for installation. They won’t be offered a “ship-to-home” option, and dealers will get credit for each sale.
Sinclair told MTD, “We want to drive that consumer to the Tire Pros dealer’s location to set the appointment. But we all know there are a certain number of consumers who really want to purchase now, buy now and close the transaction. We believe it’s important to have that functionality on the site. We’re trying to capture that consumer who wants to buy now, who if we didn’t offer that functionality, would probably go somewhere else to buy.”
Quick Chadwick, director of marketing for Tire Pros, likened the “buy now” button to an opportunity for the group to “dip its toe in the water” of online selling. “Our brand positioning is about providing a simple, straightforward and hassle-free experience. In order to fulfill that, we probably need to have an opportunity for those who want to buy online,” Chadwick said. “Providing a hassle-free experience means in-store and online.”
Tire Pros dealers routinely cite the group’s marketing efforts as a key influence to join the national network. Chadwick oversees a staff of 36, and in 2016 Tire Pros dealers capitalized on everything from regional advertising efforts to branded credit card sales. Nationally, dealers counted $21 million in sales on the Tire Pros credit card.
Chadwick said 390 tire dealers participated in 22 group advertising campaigns. “If you’re not in a group, get in one.”
And during a six-month campaign, dealers raised more than $125,000 for a new Allies for Independence effort which provides wheelchairs to injured veterans. Three dealers accounted for about half of the money raised. Tire World Auto Repair Tire Pros, with six locations in Colorado Springs, raised $45,745 for the cause. Three Bud’s Tire Pros locations in California raised $10,002 and Rite-Way Auto Service Tire Pros in Excelsior Springs, Mo., collected $7,850.
Tire Pros will plan two eight-week campaigns to support the veterans effort in 2017. ■