It's What's Going On: Underestimating Brand Study Bad for Tire Companies – And Dealers - Tire Review Magazine

It’s What’s Going On: Underestimating Brand Study Bad for Tire Companies – And Dealers

By and large, tire companies are a lot better ‘business partners’ than they were 20-odd years ago when I first broke into this industry. Back in the day, there were some obvious differences between marketers. Some would do anything to sell everything at any time, damn the consequences. Others were a tad more considerate of their decisions and actions, despite the pressure from bottom feeders.

Today, it’s far more of a par field out there. And that’s a good thing for everyone in the industry – dealers and tire companies alike.

In the past, we have intentionally avoided making comment about the results of our annual Tire Brands Study. The numbers, after all, should speak for themselves. Not much need for us to add our two cents to the obvious. It is your opinion – not mine – that counts here.

Historically, we have seen results ebb and flow fairly consistently with the actions of the various tire companies. Occasionally, there have been anomalies, to be sure, but the overall consistency of the Study shows that dealers have a good handle on what’s going on. Our 2006 Study (page 44) proves that point.

While the Tire Brands Study is a research project, it is not a scientific review of proven data. We don’t look at dealer sales or marketshare data. We don’t poll consumers. We certainly don’t test tires. We simply ask tire dealers to tell us how they feel the various tire brands they carry and sell have performed. We want opinions, not indisputable facts.

Perception is reality, smart marketers will tell you. And that is what the Tire Brands Study reveals – the perceptions dealers have based on their experiences.

Sometimes that simple fact is lost in translation. That’s another story.

What I find heartening is just how many tire companies are interested in “doing better.” Some are on our doorstep to get the results even before this issue hits your doorstep. They take your opinions to heart, and use them as performance goals for the coming year. Believe me, your voice is heard. Loud and clear.

That’s the positive.

Just as with the proactive tire companies, tracking the results over a few years clearly shows the other end of that spectrum.

Some are victims of their own Kool-Aid and firmly believe they can do no wrong. Some think dealers are out of touch or out to get them. Others don’t seem to notice. And that is a shame.

You can see it in their numbers, and certainly, we have personally heard from many who want to pick apart every response. “Why didn’t we do better?” “Come on, everyone knows we are the best.”

Fact is, there is no secret to success in this study. Those that have close win-win relationships with their dealers come out on top. Those that are making a conscious effort to improve see their numbers improve. Those that don’t, well, you know.

Dealers are the people who handle your tires, day in and day out. They try to sell them. They try to support them. They deal with lousy fill rates and unfriendly adjustment policies and weak, misdirected or no promotional efforts. They try to make money on them. They want them to succeed because they made the decision to carry them.

Dealers are your best customers and your very best advocates. If the product works, does what its supposed to do, doesn’t come back to haunt them, doesn’t tarnish their reputation, is easy to sell, and makes them money – real money, not just 5-6 points – they will support it 100%. If the company appears to care little about quality – in people or products – or this vital channel or cannot seem to manage its business, etc., well, the dealers speak their piece.

In other words: If they’re not getting it, you’re not getting it.

It would, of course, be interesting to turn the tables and poll tire companies about their dealers. Who does the best job carrying the flag? Who is smartest about pricing? Who works the hardest to land and keep customers? Who expects their suppliers to bend over backwards – and then some – to keep their business? Who begs incessantly for another point or two? Who screws up orders and then calls and complains? Who thinks monthly lunches and free rides to the annual dealer meeting are a right and not a privilege?

Interesting, to be sure, and wholly impossible.

In a perfect world, every tire company-dealer marriage would be a faultless, absolute win-win. In real life, none are perfect. Not always.

But, it takes two to make the relationship work. So, while you are poring over the 2006 Tire Brands Study, take a minute to think about how your suppliers see you. Do you rate high marks, or do you swim in the middle of the pool?

More importantly, think about how both of you can move closer to wedded bliss.

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