Need new customers? Want to expand your market base? Perhaps build on your reputation as "the tire expert" in your town? Or, do you simply want to gain some well-earned exposure for your dealership?
Well, there’s a tailored-made opportunity just around the corner – National Tire Safety Week (NTSW), slated for Apr. 25 through May 1.
Heading into its third year, NTSW activities and participation has grown steadily, albeit slowly. NTSW has been run by the RMA since its inception in 2002, and the association has relied on partnerships with larger retail chains ®€“ Les Schwab Tire Centers, Big O Tires, Discount Tire, Bridgestone/Firestone and Goodyear company-owned stores, Tire Kingdom, STS Tires, Pep Boys, Sears Automotive Centers, Town Fair Tires and Sullivan Tires ®€“ to get the ball rolling, so to speak. Last year, some 4,000 retail locations participated in NTSW activities, a number RMA hopes to boost to 5,000 this year.
"National Tire Safety Week owes much of its success to the enthusiastic support of our Be Tire Smart partners," said Don Shea, RMA president and CEO. "Our goal is to reach every American motorist with crucial tire care and safety information, and the most effective way to do that is to enlist the active participation of industry partners across the country. That’s why we are encouraging all tire dealers to join us to promote important safety messages to motorists."
More importantly, perhaps, is the unique grassroots opportunity NTSW gives you to promote your business and strengthen existing relationships with customers and build new ones with potential customers. Most of the independents Tire Review hears from say they focus their NTSW activities on building future business. Dollar for dollar, can you think of a better way to get people into your store?
Cases in point:
®€′ R&W Tire & Turf in Boone, Iowa, organized a free tire inspection event during last year’s NTSW. In just five hours, R&W inspected tires on 125 cars and light trucks.
®€′ Double M Tire Factory in Newberg, Ore., not only offered free pressure checks and inspections, it held a well-attended, free class on tire maintenance.
NTSW is as much about tire dealers as it is about consumers. The week-long event gives you an easy, low-cost way to influence your entire market area, establish your expertise and value and build greater confidence among existing and prospective customers.
Who better than you to spearhead a local effort to improve tire maintenance knowledge and participation and drive home the true value of quality tires?
Now that you’re convinced NTSW is for you, what’s next?
Well, we’re going to offer you a wide range of tips and ideas you can use to create your own business-building NTSW program. How much you want to spend and how elaborate you want to get is strictly up to you.
The best place to start is with a few decisions: Do you want to participate? What do you want to accomplish? The answers to those key questions will dictate the rest of your planning.
Next, start jotting down ideas. You could simply offer free tire pressure checks, the most common NTSW event. Do you need gifts or prizes? What about publicity ®€“ how will anyone know you are having an event? How can you further leverage your NTSW event beyond tire inspections?
The bottom line here: You can go as far as you can dream. And even the most elaborate ideas don’t have to bust the bank. All you need is a little creativity, a bit of organization and some well-spent time.
Take a lesson from those who have done it. For example, R&W Tire & Turf made contact with 125 potential customers by doing simple tire inspections. And, the dealership wrangled a live remote broadcast on a local radio station and gave away balloons, tire gauges, t-shirts and a set of tires ®€“ most of which came from their tire supplier.
And, those people who attended Double M Tire Factory’s tire maintenance class received a road safety kit ®€“ including a flashlight, air gauge and jumper cables ®€“ provided by their supplier.
Once you decide what you want to accomplish, the next step is to sketch out a timeline, a schedule of when certain aspects of your promotional effort need to occur. For instance, when should you send a press release (which is a must) to local newspapers and radio and TV stations announcing your NTSW program? And when do you need to follow up with each to make sure your news will get run? When do you need to order banners, place ads, acquire give-away items and so forth? Organizing your thoughts and detailing out an execution plan will make it easier for you and your staff to get everything done.
Certainly, in order to create your timeline, you need to decide what kinds of activities you’ll want to have. As we mentioned, offering free tire inspections is pretty simple stuff and won’t take too much time to plan or execute.
Make It Memorable
But, sometimes, the difference between a good program and a memorable one is a little creativity. And, as you’ll see with some of the ideas offered here, you can accomplish a lot on a small budget:
®€′ RMA has an array of materials that tire dealers can use both to promote NTSW and provide tire care and safety messages to customers. Most importantly, it offers a consumer brochure ®€“ Be Tire Smart, Play Your PART ®€“ that you can distribute to visitors. Tire dealers who are interested in obtaining free NTSW materials can visit RMA’s Web site at www.betiresmart.org, and sign up using the electronic form. But RMA cautions that you should order materials by Mar. 31 to ensure that you’ll receive the materials in time.
®€′ Contact all of your tire suppliers. Most will be glad to help, and even provide giveaway items like tire gauges, caps, t-shirts and other promo items. They may even give you a set of tires to offer as a prize. Many also have their own consumer tire care brochures you can use. Sure, you might need to spend some co-op ad money, or even a little out of your own pocket, but you can make a bigger splash with useful, memorable gifts.
®€′ Send a news release to your local newspapers and radio and TV stations. Don’t forget about your local cable company if it has a news program. The release should outline what you’re doing, when and where it will occur, and offer specifics about prizes and giveaways. Be sure to discuss the importance of proper tire care, information about which you can get from consumer tire care brochures from your suppliers. And, offer yourself for interviews. It is important that you personally follow-up with each media outlet and "sell the story." Tell the reporter, editor or producer what they can expect to see at your NTSW event, why you are offering this program to your local market and re-explain the value of proper tire care.
®€′ If you are an active advertiser in your local newspaper or with local radio and TV stations, consider adjusting your ads to promote your NTSW event. If you don’t advertise, perhaps this will be a good time to do so. And don’t hesitate to get your ad salespeople involved; they can help make sure your NTSW news release gets in the paper or on the airwaves. Perhaps they can even arrange a live radio remote at your event or have a reporter or news crew visit to get a story. Remember, NTSW is all about getting as much free exposure as you can while also providing an important educational service to the community.
®€′ Don’t underestimate the power of signs. Banners, window signs, even outdoor signs will attract attention.
®€′ Create a flyer to distribute to all customers. The flyer doesn’t need to be fancy. Just get them in the hands of customers starting about three weeks before the event.
®€′ Sponsor contests during your NTSW event and give away prizes, such as discounts on future service or tire purchases. Hold a raffle and give away a free set of tires. You can even do a little cross-marketing with other local businesses by offering coupons from beauty salons, restaurants, sporting goods stores, theaters, hardware stores, specialty shops ®€“ you name it. You’ll probably need to return the favor at some point and provide coupons they can distribute to their customers.
®€′ How about something more elaborate, like a cookout with free hot dogs and soft drinks for kids? Maybe some live music from a local band? Clowns with balloon animals? Partnering with a local charity to accept donations? There are a lot of civic groups you can tap into for some ideas.
®€′ Schedule some tire and/or car care clinics for consumers. Set them up in the evening so they don’t conflict with regular business or other NTSW activities. Send invitations to your customer database. Better yet, include information about your clinics in your news release and flyers, and ask people to call for reservations. This way, you can control attendance, better plan for any giveaways or refreshments, and monitor the impact of the event.
®€′ Make presentations to local civic organizations about the importance of proper tire care. Tell them about your NTSW plans and invite them to come. Make sure you do this in advance.
®€′ Take it a step further and offer to speak at local high schools, driving schools, technical colleges or universities about tire care and safety.
®€′ Put up small posters at local businesses that offer free posting space.
®€′ Write an article about tire care and safety and send it to your local newspapers. Make reprints and distribute it to customers.
®€′ Team up with another business, such as a gas station or auto parts store, and host a tire safety event or fair.
®€′ Contact the mayor or state governor, asking him/her to issue a proclamation declaring NTSW in your state or town. You will definitely need to do this well in advance.
When it comes to participating in NTSW, be as creative as you want to be. The important thing is to participate and help consumers learn to better appreciate the true value of their tires ®€“ and of your dealership.