Since K&M Tire acquired Universal Cooperatives’ Triton Tire & Battery division in November 2010, the company has been on a steady growth track. Most recently, the Delphos, Ohio-based wholesaler purchased assets of Don’s Tire in Cross Plains, Wis.
And at its annual tire dealer marketing group meeting, held mid-January in Las Vegas with 175 dealers in attendance, K&M shared its plans for adding distribution centers, expanding its Mr. Tire network and launching a Mr. Tire affiliated dealer program in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Georgia.
K&M, which services thousands of customers over 17 states stretching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico with the heaviest concentration in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and Nebraska plans to add three distribution centers in 2012. While exact locations have not been decided, K&M Sales Manager Jon Schadl said the warehouses will expand the company’s reach within its existing territory, mainly in the west, in the area acquired in the Triton deal.
K&M continues to expand its product offering, as well. It currently carries 18 passenger/light truck tire brands; ag tire brands BKT, Carlisle, Firestone, Goodyear, Mitas, Titan and Petlas; and truck tire brands Bridgestone, Firestone, Goodyear, Kelly, Continental, Michelin, Gladiator and Roadmaster. K&M plans to enter the OTR/industrial tire segment within the next couple years, according to Bonnie Marlow, assistant program/marketing manager.
Jeff Wallick, K&M's program/marketing manager, outlines the growth goals for the Mr. Tire program.
While K&M offers many tools to its dealers including advertising assistance, point of sale materials and training a major advantage, according to Marlow, is the company’s Weblink online ordering system. The program, which offers dealers the ability to look up tire and warranty information, view K&M’s interactive product guide and place orders online, currently accounts for 41% of all orders, she explained.
Expanding Mr. Tire
The company’s Mr. Tire marketing program has seen rapid growth: One year ago there were 191 Mr. Tire dealers, while today there are 278. K&M estimates the Mr. Tire marketing group will encompass 403 dealers by this time next year.
Over the next several months and years, K&M will invest heavily in branding Mr. Tire as “the elite independent tire dealer program in the nation,” according to Jeff Wallick, program/marketing manager.
“Because we understand the importance of brand building, maintaining exclusivity through a rigid dealer selection process is extremely important,” he said. “Our outside sales team is integral in this process and the Mr. Tire team relies heavily on their good judgment in nominating quality Mr. Tire candidates.”
The K&M Tire dealer meeting in Las Vegas also included a well-attended trade show, with booths by several tire and part manufacturers.
Among other qualities, some attributes K&M looks for in Mr. Tire candidates include:
Quality sales and service staff: knowledgeable, trustworthy, honest, sociable
Excellent phone communication with consumers
Solid reputation within the community
Clean and comfortable showroom and customer waiting area
Desire to co-brand business as Mr. Tire with POP materials and indoor, lighted signage, which is provided to new Mr. Tire dealers upon acceptance as a Mr. Tire dealer.
K&M will place much emphasis on online branding and marketing in 2012, since on average, online brand advertising increases brand awareness by 5.4%, brand recall by 45.3% and purchase intent by 4.9%, Marlow noted.
The company’s efforts will include a new website and mobile-friendly site for the Mr. Tire program, according to Wallick. The site will allow visitors to search for tires by vehicle and size; offer a dealer locator; and provide links to Mr. Tire’s social media pages. New for program members is a pre-built website provided by K&M that individual dealers can customize based on the brands they sell.
Mr. Tire dealers will continue to have access to nationwide tire road hazard and service warranty programs; vendor parts programs; social media management and search engine optimization support; vendor oil programs; POP materials; and the company’s signage program.
K&M's online marketing efforts will include a new website and mobile-friendly site for the Mr. Tire program, which were previewed at the dealer meeting.
Announced at this year’s meeting is a partnership with AskPatty.com for a training and marketing program in which tire dealers can become certified female friendly. Mr. Tire dealers will have discounted access to AskPatty.com’s program
The new affiliated program which cannot carry the Mr. Tire name due to a naming rights agreement Triton held with Monro Muffler Brake in Indiana, Ohio and Georgia will launch by the second quarter of 2012. All program offers and benefits will be identical to the Mr. Tire program, Schadl noted. At its launch, the Mr. Tire affiliate program will encompass 25 dealers in Ohio, plus 45 in Michigan, 15 in Indiana and 35 in Georgia.
“We’ve been getting a lot of pressure from our dealers to offer Mr. Tire in their area especially in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, where our core used to be,” Schadl said. “They’ve been asking for those products for a while and we’re happy to be able to provide them with those tools.”
So, just how big does K&M plan to become? President and founder Ken Langhals explained there’s no set goal, but growth is sure to continue. “We’re so much bigger than I ever imagined we would be, so there isn’t an end goal in mind,” he said. “I do see us continuing to grow, but it’ll be a controlled growth. It’s very important to have controlled growth so you can keep a handle on everything to make sure all your processes and procedures are right so we can continue to service customers like we should.”
Vice President Cheryl Gossard said K&M doesn’t have true nationwide ambitions, but wants to continue strengthening its presence in the Midwest and surrounding areas and grow the Mr. Tire program so it’s more widely recognized by the public.
“Our direction is definitely to keep K&M family-owned, with a big focus on relationships,” she said. “As we grow we do have to add more procedures and policies, but our goal is to still keep those family-owned values in place.”
To view exclusive photos from this event, click here.