who has been in the parts business for any time at all usually has a
following of some sort. That following may be as simple as friends and
family or as wide as people being sent your way because someone has
seen what you are capable of. We have to get people to our store
somehow and that requires some form of marketing because, the old adage
that “if you build it, they will come” is no longer a complete truth.
you are in a big box store you will have to forgive me for a moment.
The truth is that the big box stores have larger budgets, as it would
seem, to market themselves and promote ways to get customers into their
stores. This marketing is often done by people who have been trained on
the major markets and ideology of the marketing profession.
advantage is their experience as marketing directors. However, we
smaller stores and groups do not have unlimited budgets or marketing
professionals to help us. So what do we do to help ourselves get people
through the front door? We cannot cover it all here. However, we can
review a few steps, and with a little effort, you can research and
build a good marketing plan.
poor plan, poorly executed, is still better than no plan at all! The
best laid plans often fail but, you have to plan your play and play
your plan. Planning can be the most difficult part of getting your
marketing started. The options are unlimited but, simply stated, you
should first choose the market segment you are going to target.
Example: teens who want cool interior products; middle-aged folks who
need to save time; or do you target the professional technician? These
are just a few examples, but you have to consider these options before
you just venture into spending a bunch of money on marketing or an
on the market segment you are going to target, i.e. farmers, teachers,
truck fleets, big truck fleets, construction or teens. This is
important as you have to consider all the options out there. Some
believe there are no one-size-fits-all advertising or marketing
techniques and those of us on a limited budget try to do just that.
Often, we don’t have a good idea about who we are really trying to get
into our stores. That shotgun effect fails more often than not and we
waste our money.
is possible to combine some of the market segments if they involve very
specific products or services. The goal is to get people in the store.
So, we are going to have to come up with some ideas to get them to the
door. We have thousands of products in our stores and many of them will
cross over from one segment to another, and therefore, we can send a
sales flyer out that will cover it. If we are targeting a farmer, we
can’t expect him to be interested in an OBD II scanner, but the fleet
customer might be. So we have to choose our products wisely as we head
into the market.
the tools you already have. So far, we have determined who we are going
to market to and the products or services we are going to offer. For
this example, let’s look at the farmer. In the small communities we
have files upon files of Farm Exemption Tax Forms. Those are ready-made
marketing tools as we have the names and addresses for us to send out a
special price on whatever we are going to sell.
are two ways to increase sales: get your current customers to buy more
or gain new business. In this case, the farmer is a regular customer,
but he may not know you can get International Farm-All 140 seats, PTO
shafts, points, plugs or plug wires. So, send the customer something
specific that may or may not be known. Use the tools already in place
because there’s no reason to re-invent the wheel. Take those existing
lists or files and go through them and separate them into market
segments, find specific products and now you can customize the program
to the specific customer and even personalize it if you wish.
this opportunity to build a relationship with the customer. Those of us
who have smaller stores rely on those same repeat customers and most of
the time we have honed our talents at relationship building. We have
mastered the idea of making repeat customers a priority. But now, we
need to add new ones and if we can get new customers in the store then
we have a chance to get to know them better and that gives us the
opportunity to better perform steps one thru three again.
searching. There is no end to the list of ideas that can help build new
business or add to existing business. Many articles back we covered the
importance of merchandising and moving the old products out and the new
ones in. For us veterans of the business it gets very difficult to let
go of the old products that used to sell every day. We all know that
the 58-147 is a 350 water pump and we use to have as many as five on
the shelf and now we barely even need one. Then, there is the
ever-popular Ford Control module socket or tool that we just have to
keep no matter how few of them we sell anymore. The point is that the
customers will tell you what you need but you have to listen to them.
The “head down, mouth shut and ears open” method will tell you a whole
lot about what you need to do to keep them coming back.
to the customer is a big step toward earning new business or gaining
more business from existing customers in the market. But, customer
retention will be key and that will be discussed in a later issue. The
fact is, we can use any number of analogies to describe our plan but, a
poor plan poorly executed is better than no plan at all. There is no
one-size-fits all marketing program and if there was a magic button
there would be no need for all this. There will be some trial and error
but, do not get discouraged and keep searching for what works best for
you. Plan your play and pay your plan!
Gerald Wheelus is general manager of Edgewood Auto Parts, Edgewood, Texas.