Tire Pros' advertising tagline - Everything Rotates Around You - might well apply to how it engages its fast-growing cadre of U.S. retail dealers.
Dan Brown, president of Tire Pros for ATD, recognized Tom Ceniglis for his service as chairman of the Tire Pros National Dealer Council.
For the 265 dealers represented at the franchise operation’s annual National Business Conference, it was two solid days of total education immersion, whether through the general session and subject-specific seminars or by meeting with program vendors or networking with their fellow Tire Pros members.
Sure, there was some late-winter R&R time at the El Conquistador Resort just outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico, but not that much. Otherwise, it was a full plate of connecting and learning and sharing.
Tom Ceniglis wrapped up his fifth and final year as chairman of the Tire Pros National Dealer Council, opening the meeting and welcoming the Tire Pros dealer principals and managers present at the event. More than 700 people attended dealers, employees, spouses and significant others making it the largest Tire Pros gathering since American Tire Distributors took over the program a few years ago.
Ceniglis ran down NDC accomplishments for the past year, especially improved communications, the addition of an exclusive wheel program in partnership with DUB, creating a standardized vehicle inspection sheet to be used by all Tire Pros dealers, and the development of exclusive promotions for members. He praised the interaction of ATD’s Tire Pros management at the dealer level.
Dan Brown, now president of Tire Pros for ATD, fought off a serious bout of hoarseness to recognize Ceniglis for his service, noting that the four regional and the national dealer councils are “central to our success” and help keep lines of communication open.
“We’re not a buying group,” he said. “We’re not a cooperative. We’re so much more than that. And we are committed to getting better and faster than the other guys.”
Dave Crawford, Tire Pros vice president of operations.
Brown said that total transparency from the store floor to ATD headquarters was vital to the program for dealers. Toward that end, Brown pointed to the Tire Pros Online website and Dealer Hub feature as “a critical piece of our program and a major benefit to you.” The Dealer Hub features forums for dealers to discuss important issues, find information, offer their insights to other dealers or get answers to critical questions.
Since the national conference last year in Miami, Tire Pros has added 151 dealers, and now there are 462 points of sale over 40 states in the franchise program, said Brown, representing some $550 million in retail sales and 2.1 million tires sold. What’s more, Tire Pros dealer passenger/light truck purchases grew 5% in 2011, even as the industry saw replacement tire shipments remain flat.
So far in 2012, Brown said, Tire Pros added has 15 new dealers with 19 locations, and currently is talking with another 16 dealers about joining.
ATD added 13 people to the Tire Pros team, he told dealers, including four more regional marketing people. There are now 44 dedicated Tire Pros staff members at headquarters and in the field.
Over the last year, Tire Pros conducted an online survey to gauge member feelings about the program and where it could be improved. In that survey, Brown said, 92.6% of member dealers feel their expectations are being met by the program’s “initiatives, promotions, meetings and training.”
Even though it is less than a year old, 68% of dealers claimed to regularly visit Tire Pros Online, and 76.2% said Tire Pros’ exclusive sales promotions helped drive traffic to their stores. Just over 80% said they had made use of the online Tire Pros University training program, and 97% of those said the training helped in their businesses.
On an overall basis, 85.8% said Tire Pros met their expectations, and 43.8% said the program “exceeded” their expectations.
Noting that everything Tire Pros brings to the table is “dealer-up” meaning it originated with and was created especially for members Ed Mangola, vice president of marketing, talked about 2011 accomplishments, including the launch of a “consistent dealer advertising planning process with greater controls and visibility.”
Myles Kovacs, founder and president of DUB Publishing, which has partnered with Tire Pros on a wheel program.
In 2012, Mangola said, Tire Pros is adding a new “multi-user, multi-dimensional database system” that will provide better ROI analysis and reporting, giving dealers a better understanding of their promotion budgets and resulting success.
With a continued focus on positioning Tire Pros dealerships as being the “hassle-free” place to buy tires, have vehicles serviced and gain trustworthy advice, Mangola showed off new Tire Pros branding efforts with billboards, print ads, direct mail, online ads and more featuring the “Everything Rotates Around You” tagline.
The materials, he said, include open templates that dealers can customize with their business details and specials.
Tire Pros dealers will see 18 total tire sale promotions throughout 2012, five of which are exclusive Tire Pros efforts unrelated to existing tire manufacturer efforts. In addition, quarterly POS kits will look to capitalize on things like summer vacations and the fall football season, plus there will be a consumer contest where the winner receives an all-expenses paid trip for two to the Atlantis Resort & Casino in the Bahamas.
With consumers doing more pre-purchase research online and using social media to communicate about their bricks-and-mortar experiences Tire Pros is working to help dealers improve their search engine optimization and better leverage SEO marketing, including social media and online reputation management.
Tire Dealer Objectives
“Tire Pros is more than a name, it’s everything we do,” said vice president of operations Dave Crawford. And in order to get the greatest benefit, dealers involved in the program have to focus on meeting consumer expectations.
He outlined 2012 objectives for dealers, which included building on branding efforts; taking advantage of training opportunities; improving staff phone skills; setting benchmarks for key performance indicators, particularly their advertising and promotion ROI; participating in the new DUB wheel program; and developing stronger relationships with other Tire Pros dealers.
“‘Curb appeal’ is more than the outside of your business,” Crawford said regarding branding efforts. “It continues through every part of your store. Consumers expect better than that old ‘grease pit’ image many of them still have, and we want all Tire Pros dealers to deliver.”
Crawford stressed creating a “no-hassles” experience for customers, and not making it hard to do business.
He urged dealers to take advantage of the Tire Pros University training programs; offer program warranties (roadside assistance with towing coverage and nationwide tire protection); use the new Tire Pros credit card program, which features a “quick screen” to help dealers pre-qualify customers without a formal application; and embrace the “Quick Bay” tire-service-only concept to get customers back on the road in 59 minutes or less.
The focus on professionalism at all levels of a dealership building tire and service expertise requires training, he said. Tire Pros is working to expand its library of online training materials, as well as with vendors to improve staff phone skills.
Tire Pros retained Marketplace Insights to “mystery shop” program dealers to gauge first-touch phone skills, and member dealers also can have MPI mystery shop themselves and their competition. The idea, Crawford said, was to develop a baseline, and then schedule both in-store and online training to help dealers and store personnel improve their phone skills.
MPI also is helping Tire Pros dealers with benchmarking against key performance indicators, as well as measure advertising and promotion ROI.
Crawford stepped aside for a few minutes as Brian Moyer, director of wheel sales, Dave Insull, director of wheel procurement and marketing for ATD, and Myles Kovacs, founder and president of DUB Publishing, talked about the new Tire Pros wheel program.
Last fall, ATD and DUB partnered on a program to bring an exclusive wheel program to dealers, with TIS, DropStars and Monster branded wheels available to Tire Pros dealers.
Kovacs also talked about how his organization can help Tire Pros dealers reach growing “multi-cultural customers” younger, highly-engaged and knowledgeable buyers who are not typical in attitude or how they can best be reached. DUB, through its branded events and marketing efforts, does reach this segment, and he urged dealers to take advantage of the marketing opportunities DUB creates nationally and locally.
Moyer and Insull updated dealers on details of the wheel program, including POS materials and available pricing packages and volume bonuses. They noted that thus far, the wheel program has been a hit and that every TIS, DropStar and Monster-branded wheel produced was sold before it left the factories.
While the location for the 2013 conference has yet to be set, it had better be spacious if Tire Pros officials are right, by that time there will be about 600 dealer stores signed into the franchise program.
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