Tire Dealer Survival Guide: How to Use Digital Tools, Data to Target New Customers

May 18, 2021

This Tire Dealer Survival Guide exclusive can also be found inside the May edition of MTD.

There was a time — not too long ago — when, as a tire dealer, you followed the same, tried-and-true methodology to move tires. 

Here’s an example. With the winter or summer driving season approaching and a ton of product in your warehouse, you want to unload passenger, SUV and year-round tires.

With this in mind, you set out to do what you’ve always done — you have a sale promoting big discounts on these products. 

You hang some banners outside your dealership and buy a few “mammoth sale” flags to run up the pole. You call that radio station lady you talk to twice a year who helps you with a few 30-second spots. You also meet with the ad salesman from the local paper about a couple of quarter-page display ads in their special “summer getaways” or “get ready for winter” section coming out in a few weeks. 

Like in years past, you think of printing up a bunch of flyers and putting them under the windshield wipers of cars and light trucks with tread-challenged tires in the big box store lot across the street. Maybe you hire a guy in a rooster outfit to stand outside and wave down drivers and hand out lollipops to kids with your dealership’s name printed on the stick. 

It could work, right? About 20,000 cars pass by your dealership on any given day. Someone is bound to pull in with nearly bald tires and ask to see a salesman. You’re feeling enthusiastic about the potential return on your investment.  

Then you remember — it’s 2021! 

And it’s back to the drawing board. 

If any of the above sounds familiar, it’s time to move into the 21st century and get smart about your marketing initiatives. That means understanding as much about your target demographic as possible. 

It means knowing that, for example, within your zip code you have 6,500 households, each one owning 1.6 cars with an average, per-car age of 5.2 years, with only 10% of these households having replaced their tires in the last three years. 

Then there’s another 2,800 households with a light truck in the driveway.

And 410 local households own a performance vehicle. 

In short, understanding your target demographic is all about amassing as much data and information about households within a defined radius of your dealership. This is your bread and butter — and these are the numbers that translate into purchases. 

How can you glean this kind of information and turn it into sales? You need to work with a company that specializes in amassing, analyzing and understanding demographics and data analytics and putting it all together in a cohesive, concrete package that you can use to target real prospects with the right message using appropriate media — be it traditional, social or a combination thereof. 

In my more than four decades in tire and automotive aftermarket advertising and marketing — and as partner and vice president of sales and marketing at Tire Consultants Group — one aspect of the equation stands towering above all else — know your potential customer! 

If you’re moving into a new market, how do you begin to learn about your prospective customers and what they need and want? 

The answer is digital tools. 

Using digital tools is the smart, state-of-the-art road to defining your market, knowing the right details about your target demographic and designing a program to zero in on and capture new business. 

It’s not brain surgery. It’s more like heart surgery, with some solid mathematics, analytics and psychology thrown in for good measure. 

It’s about putting the latest technologies to work that will enable you to find and pursue solid leads from within your retail trade area or the area you’re targeting. 

It’s about employing state-of-the-art digital tools to discern the demographic makeup of prospective customers before you enter a new market. This includes who lives there, their economic status, what they drive, when they buy and other factors. 

It’s all germane and it’s all vital information to you. 

With these tools in hand, you can analyze the data to determine your prime prospects. This is commonly referred to as “market intelligence.” It’s a proven process, it matters and it’s worth the time and effort. 

But first, you have to understand the retail trade area, which is simply the region around your dealership or the area you’re interested in entering. In other words, it’s where customers can be found. It can be within a certain radius — be it two miles, five miles or 25 miles. It might be within a neighborhood or township or municipality, a zip code, a main thoroughfare or an entire community. 

Once your retail trade area is delineated, it requires amassing and reviewing data on that geographic entity to determine the makeup of your target market, so you can effectively zero in on the households or businesses found there. 

With this data in hand, you can determine who to target, how to craft appropriate messages and the right marketing venue to utilize, which will ultimately help you enjoy greater sales. 

Once you determine your target area, the next step is to arrive at a count of the number of potential households or businesses in this predetermined geographic region. You want to derive tangible data that pertains to driving behaviors and habits. 

It’s crucial to define each household by data points that help you determine what kind of tires people who live there are likely to need and what the potential is for a member of that household to buy tires in the near future. 

Are household members young, middle-age or retired? Do they speak another language in the home? How many children are in the household? Are they white-collar or blue-collar? How far do they drive for work each day? Are they high, middle or low-income? Are they sedan drivers, SUV drivers, sporty import drivers or light truck drivers? 

This household/demographic segmentation is money in the bank to you and will form the foundation of your digital and/or traditional marketing efforts going forward. 

Keep in mind that this integrated approach is all about adding value to automotive marketing efforts by providing greater access to qualified, targeted prospects and ultimately reaching out to them using appropriate media channels, including everything from online ads on websites and email to social media and traditional advertising vehicles like direct mail or print. 

The beauty of these initiatives is that each one is customized to your prospects’ needs and to your dealership’s goals — and crafted to ensure that your campaign reaches or exceeds your expectations. There’s nothing haphazard about it, unlike hiring a guy in a rooster out t to stand curbside waving drivers into your dealership. 

In the digital age, we all have access to a wide range of tools and devices that help to delineate viable target households and subsequently develop marketing initiatives to mine that data field. 

In short, it’s easier than ever to know who likely tire buyers are, where they live, what they drive and how to reach them. 

Armed with valuable segmentation data, you can knock on the proverbial door, so to speak — and not just any door. You can knock on doors that want to be knocked on! 

You might opt for a single communication piquing interest in a special deal on light truck tires. You might add an email campaign with a series of offers. You might initiate a direct mail program, sending customers a postcard with the offer, perhaps following up with an email and then creating pop-up ads on websites they frequent. You might also create a loyalty campaign that drives customers to your shop. 

Using today’s digital tools, you can reinforce or revise your messages. You can repeat offers or  fine-tune them, as warranted. 

Some of the other tools you might employ include saturation mailings to targeted recipients, based on their proximity to your dealership, or a new homeowner initiative that targets residents who recently purchased a home or who are new renters in the region. 

These people are ideal targets for loyalty programs. You can know their vehicles and salient demographic and household information and can use that data to create a digital or direct mail campaign tailored specifically to their driving needs. 

Additionally, with analytics that alert you to a household change, such as a new baby or a new teen driver, you can target those households accordingly. And credit data gleaned from analytics also can show you which prospects are likely to apply and be approved for credit-related offers. 

What all of this adds up to is an incredible opportunity to use the latest digital technologies to advance your understanding of new markets, broaden your knowledge of targeted customers and approach lead generation from an educated, exacting position. 

It also allows you to take a hyper-focused approach in your marketing efforts — to zero in on a target based on tangible, hard data that tells you everything you want to know about this prospect.  

This being 2021, we are light years away from relying solely on gut instinct and a few clever ads in the local papers — or a pithy jingle and slogan in a radio commercial — to move tires. 

Today, success is all about data, analytics, empirical information and knowledge of your target customer, based on hard facts. It’s about relying on digital tools to really know your prospects, reaching out to them where you know they will see and digest your message and using all of the knowledge you have accumulated to appeal to and create new, loyal, lifelong customers. 

Rich Clarke is partner and vice president of sales and marketing at Tire Consultants Group, which provides strategic planning, market insight, market research and analysis and a wide range of logistical and branding services to the tire industry. He is also president of Fifteen Degrees Advertising in New York City. To contact Rich, email him at [email protected].

Click on the following link to read a previously published Tire Dealer Survival Guide article:

Tire Dealer Survival Guide: How to Manage COVID-19 Vaccinations, Employee Privacy and More