Advantages of joining a program group
Many of the 30,000 independent tire dealers in the United States have aligned themselves with either program groups or associate dealer programs. The former are often run by tire dealers, the latter by tire manufacturers.
Program groups give dealers more than just buying power and price competitiveness. They also offer multiple tire brands, warranties, credit cards, promotional support, training and, in the case of the Independent Tire Dealers Group LLC (ITDG), captive insurance for the group members.
They have strict requirements, and not everyone is eligible. Those who meet the qualifications retain the freedom to run their businesses as they see fit.
Here is a list of national and regional program groups open to domestic dealers. This year, we asked each one the following question:
“How does your group, either directly or indirectly, help drive consumer traffic to tire retailers?”
Missing from this year’s report is American Car Care Centers Inc. (ACCC), which disbanded on Jan. 31, 2014, after a 24-year run.
That means more than 1,100 former ACCC members may be looking to join other program groups. Or form a group or groups of their own.
Big O Tires LLC
“With a history that spans more than 50 years, consumers have come to know Big O Tires as a trusted name in the tire and automotive service industry,” says Kim McBee, vice president of marketing and advertising. “Known for their outstanding customer service, our franchisees have the benefit of a comprehensive business model that is backed by a dynamic franchisor support system and national buying network of exclusive products and major brands.
“Independent ownership and major corporate backing combined has created huge advantages for Big O tire franchise owners, who have built their reputation upon the customer service mind set and enjoy access to the knowledge and resources of industry leader TBC Corp., which also owns Tire Kingdom, Merchant’s Tire & Auto Centers, NTB, Midas, and SpeeDee Oil Change. From scientific pricing analysis to product procurement and inventory management to cutting-edge marketing, Big O is a full-fledged auto service franchise that continues to find innovative ways to harness the power of the group to benefit the franchisees and our customers. The National Marketing Program is just one component of this holistic business approach that Big O franchisees enjoy.”
Number of participants: 412 locations (in 21 states).
Marketing materials/services: “Big O develops an annual national promotions calendar designed to engage consumers and drive traffic to Big O for all their tire and automotive service needs. This includes the development of TV, radio, digital, print and point-of-purchase assets to support the national tire and auto service promotions. Additionally, we provide a toolbox of branded marketing assets that franchisees can use to implement successful marketing campaigns at a local level.
“We have a national search engine and customer relationship marketing program to drive customer loyalty.
“We have a national website featuring our products, services, promotional offers as well as local landing pages for each store. Big O uses key social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, to support promotions and contests at a local and national level.”
Future plans: “We will continue to develop promotional campaigns to drive consumers using electronic, print and digital media vehicles.”
Community Wholesale Tire Distributing Inc.
“We drive traffic to our retailers with a combination of TV, radio and Internet marketing, including PPC (pay per click),” says John Krajewski, marketing manager.
Number of participants: 115 independent tire dealer members.
Marketing materials/services: “We have an in-house sign and display department that customizes the showroom displays to fit each dealer’s individual needs. We provide sales and technical training through our ITD University training program.”
Conrad’s Tire Service Inc.
“We provide a public website, fully Google optimized, where members have their own unique landing pages that detail their businesses,” says W. Dan Cochran, sales manager. “From those landing pages, the consumer can look up tires by size or application. The site essentially shows the consumer our Xpress Tire total inventory availability, displayed at the individual dealer’s chosen selling price.
“The site is www.xpress-tire.com. We also actively advertise the site and dealers with cable, radio (and) direct mail campaigns.”
Number of participants: There are more than 120 Xpress Tire and Auto Service affiliate members.
Marketing materials/services: “We cover the cost of the public website, pay-per click and all group cable/radio advertising. We provide signage, and a free road hazard program on selected tire brands, and a volume rebate structure.”
Future plans: “Our intentions are to provide additional marketing support with social media initiatives, and an intensified cable and radio campaign at select times where tire brand consumer promotions are in play.”
Independent Tire Dealers Group LLC
“The ITDG functions primarily as a buying group — not as a marketing group,” says Ed Long, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “ITDG does not market directly to the consumer under one common umbrella name like a traditional marketing group.”
Number of participants: more than 135 members with 500-plus locations (in 34 states).
Marketing materials/services: “ITDG has marketing programs with vendors that support different segments to reach the consumer: website design and support, direct mail, POS data mining, new resident outreach programs, consumer warranties, consumer credit card program, etc. This allows our members to remain independent and choose their own path; that includes participation in other industry programs at the same time, as well as tire manufacturer and part manufacturer consumer pull-through programs, i.e., $70 rebates, premium giveaways, etc.”
Future plans: “ITDG is the Master Franchisor of point S in the United States. Point S began in Europe 40 years ago and has developed a very strong brand that consumers recognize as ‘the place to go’ for tires and automotive service. It will take time to develop that type of recognition in the U.S.”
K&M Tire Inc.
K&M drives consumer traffic to its dealer programs “by offering exclusive consumer rebates that are only available at our network dealers,” says Bonnie Marlow, assistant program/marketing manager. “We also drive consumer traffic to our retailers through our website and through our marketing resources.”
Number of participants: There are 660 total dealers between the Mr. Tire and Big 3 Tire dealer programs.
Marketing materials/services: “We provide graphic design services. Additionally, we have a number of partners that offer their services to our network dealers at a discount. This includes radio advertising creation, television advertising creation, custom website development, social media support and much more.
“Besides marketing support, we also have a private branded credit card, some exclusive tire programs, nationwide road hazard program, nationwide service warranty program, parts rebate programs, oil programs, uniform programs, dealer locator, signage program, tire equipment program and much more.”
Future plans: “We are currently evaluating different marketing support/services and will add those items that will benefit our dealers and fit into our program.”
Tire Centers LLC (TCi)
“There are many elements of the program that drive traffic to the retailer,” says Vickie Johnson, director of retail marketing. “A key element we are focused on currently is T3 Smart. T3 Smart is a social media management software designed exclusively for TCi T3 dealers. The software helps our T3 dealers leverage the power of social media to improve sales and retention by allowing them to post content, monitor their social influence and manage their online reputation all from a single interface. The password-protected site is designed with seamless capabilities giving dealers the ability to post to three social media sites all at once. In addition, it offers scheduling flexibility that allows the dealers to post days, weeks and even months in advance.”
Number of participants: There are more than 1,000 T3 Marketing Program participants.
Marketing materials/services: “The T3 Marketing Program provides many services, including advertising capabilities, social media and web development support and TPMS support. Also, participating dealers enjoy retail price monitoring and a three year Nationwide Road Hazard Warranty, for which P.O.P. materials and posters related to the program are included. All of this is in addition to nationally negotiated vendor partner programs.”
Future plans: “Dealers coming into the market in the following year will benefit from several new plans we’re in the process of rolling out. Our focus will be to continue to create innovative ways to help them drive more traffic to their stores, improve their consumer experience and streamline their operations.”
Tire Factory LLC
CEO John Kreidel lists six ways his group helps drive consumer traffic to its Advantage members. Starting with brand presence and ending with a multi-brand strategy.
1. Brand presence. “Tire Factory locations look similar, and new members always report increased sales (view some video testimonials on our website at www.jointirefactory.com). Customers recognize the value of hundreds of stores to service the sale afterwards in 15 states, and the stores are recognizable; but locally owned!”
2. Common warranty. “We show customers with retail point-of-purchase materials how their investment in tires and service is backed up by over 200 other local stores. It works, and consumers like the ‘map’ on the wall showing all the dots in the West.”
3. Local website. “Once a member joins, they are provided a free website to drive new business to their stores. We always are near the top on Google searches because we utilize best-of-breed practices using separate pages for each physical location. This results in lots of ‘hits’ for new customers. Customers can get quotes and schedule service appointments. For the owner’s benefit, every phone call that comes off the local site is recorded for the owner to listen to, all at no charge. This helps the owner make sure his team is practicing good sales skills on the phones. This is a very popular feature.”
4. Complete advertising program. The advertising “tool kit” includes radio, television, newspaper, a paid Web search and billboards, all customized for free for members for use in their zones or stores.
5. Strong vendor promotional plan. The year-long advertising plan features solid programs “designed to sell through with extra discounts during promo periods.” Ad rebates (co-op) are based on the purchase of VIP lines. “These are extra funds for the local stores to use to drive in more customers, (and) can be used on any tool kit item.”
6. Multi-brand strategy. Regional distribution centers offer Goodyear, Cooper, Dunlop, Kelly, Yokohama, Hankook and Falken, as well as exclusive brands like Nokian, Summit, Runway, Trazano, Blacklion and AgPro.
Number of participants: 154 members with 201 co-branded locations. “We have affiliates too; they just are not branded or members of the co-op yet.”
Future plans: Much stronger Web-based promotional themes targeted to specific customers. Also, Point of Sale Integrated “denied service” emails “based on dealer-driven parameters for brake jobs and other items, all tied in to our proprietary Traction point-of-sale system.”
Tire Pros (American Tire Distributors Inc.)
“It starts with branding, and building the Tire Pros name in conjunction with the dealers,” says Dave Crawford, vice president of operations and training. “Tire Pros manages the dealer’s marketing efforts with their input, and develops an ongoing advertising plan tailored to the dealer’s local market. It focuses on building both brands and driving traffic. Additionally, Tire Pros has exclusive consumer promotions that will help drive traffic to the dealer throughout the year.
“We also work to pull individual dealers together where there is enough density into a group advertising effort to increase awareness. We had 19 separate market campaigns in 2013 with 199 participating dealers, which generated 55 million consumer impressions.”
Number of participants: There are 561 franchise locations.
Marketing materials/services: “We provide ongoing point-of-purchase materials each quarter, and material to support the Tire Pros exclusive promotions. We partner with key vendors to provide advertising material, digital elements, produce TV and radio, social media and print. We manage all of this for the dealer with a marketing support team comprised of 11 regional marketing managers, media buyers, marketing coordinators, and graphic designers — basically an in-house ad agency.”
Future plans: “In addition to the comments above, we continue to look for new opportunities and avenues to reach the consumer with both branding and traffic-building messages.” ■