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Dealers Find Old and New Marketing Works in 2020

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Tire dealers have learned plenty of lessons while navigating uncertainties in 2020, and the leaders of Grupo Tersa and Waukegan Tire & Supply Inc. say the importance of marketing has been a big one.

The dealers talked about their lessons learned and strategies during a Tire Industry Association session that focused on successful tire dealers during SEMA360.

Rodrigo Valle Hernandez, executive president of Grupo Tersa, is a tire dealer in Mexico who oversees a business that spans seven Mexican states and 26 cities with more than 150 stores, plus a large wholesaling operation. In addition, he owns 13 car dealerships.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Valle says the company’s social media marketing has become incredibly important. He now has a five-person social media staff to coordinate efforts.

Typically, his businesses sponsor and participate in “a lot of events,” while also spending marketing money on television and radio. “But social media is where we’re more focused and investing more. We’re learning, but we have to be learning fast.”

Steve Nerheim is vice president and chief operating officer of Waukegan Tire. The 52-year-old tire dealership, with three locations north of Chicago, focuses its marketing resources on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But even with those social media platforms, Nerheim says one of the more traditional formats of marketing is still viable for the company — radio.

“We do quite a bit of radio,” he said. The company has four local radio stations in its market and does live remote events.

Valle says he has found a good deal on another form of old-school marketing in recent months — billboards. “This is something new because before they were very expensive.” But because of the pandemic and uncertain economy other companies have canceled their contracts and billboard prices in Mexico’s big cities have dropped significantly, he says.

Finding and retaining technicians

Jerry Nerheim, the founder of Waukegan Tire, says the dealership works “closely” with a local community college and hires students in the automotive technician classes to learn the ropes. “They have been a very good source for young people. We bring them in and teach them everything on tires. Then they move up to oil changes,” he says.

The hands-on lessons at the tire dealership have complimented the students’ coursework, he says. “Our retention has been really good. Some of them have come into sales and they’re very good at the counter because they understand cars.”

Even though Valle’s company has operations throughout Mexico, the technician issue is particularly difficult in northern Mexico near the U.S. border. People are constantly moving. “It’s always hard to really satisfy getting the best people.”

But the company does have long-time employees, and as a way to recognize and reward them Valle says employees who have 20 years of service are called the company’s ambassadors.

A current look at business

Even though overall miles driven continues to lag below norms, the tire dealers say their businesses are busy and rebounding from the slow down of early 2020.

Jerry Nerheim says, “Business is very solid and there’s usually a line at the counter every day. We’re seeing new customers every day as well as repeat customers.”

Waukegan Tire’s overall sales are split between 68% retail tire sales and 32% service, he says.

Valle says, “This past month of October we had double digit increase in sales and units, except truck tires.” He says the country’s trucking industry has been hit hard this year. But even with a drop in commercial truck business, he says overall sales are at 2019 levels.

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