50% Marketing

Dec 1, 2009

Someone told me one time that all advertising works 50% of the time. You just don’t know which 50%. For years, I have just thrown ideas left and right for marketing and advertising needs at Vivid Racing. However, once you get to a certain level in your business; wasting money is the most effective way to not increase sales or opportunities. When looking at your business, similarities do exist in the manufacturer and distributor sectors. How you budget, track and act upon these opportunities is what will make your marketing really turn into profits for your business.

Keep Your Product Line Fresh!

As a competitive industry still trying to find its boundaries, being dynamic in your marketing efforts will take your brand and products to a new level. News updates, customer interaction and creative tactics are several ways to bring a new product to the masses. Whether you are a manufacturer or distributor, constantly having new products in your line up is key. Even re-releasing old ones can give you some press and rejuvenate sales. You know what they say, “Any press is good press.”

New products keep customers always trying to obtain that next level with their vehicle performance, such as a new exhaust system that gains 15 horsepower instead of 10. It could be an ECU system that allows even the most non-technical consumer to use it. Or, how about the newest style of wheels that the JDM enthusiast must have to win competitions?

New products keep this industry thriving!

Get the Word Out

Once you have new products, how do you reach your demographic to show them the new items they must have? Several things can be done in many media outlets. One of the easiest and simplest ways is by emailing your customer or dealer database. With newsletter managers available, you can target your past customers based upon the products you are releasing. You might even have a product that appeals to just a segment of your customers. If you are releasing new snow tires, don’t bother to send the press release to your customers in Texas. Targeting the correct demographic will give you the best return and traceable sales.

What I have found best to get a product out there is through press releases in all media outlets: magazines, forums, ezines and blogs. First, I start with my magazine contacts. I send the product press release with two high-resolution images to all relevant contacts.

They’re not only for the editors; sometimes getting them to the advertising sales guys is good too. By dealing with the ad guys, you’re dealing with someone who is constantly in touch with your allies and competitors in the business.

Getting your product featured in the magazines also gives you the ability to target everyone in that readership’s demographic. Besides the little blurb in front of the magazine, partnering up with a project car being featured step-by-step gives your product an opportunity to stand out. During a Scion TC build in Modified Magazine, my manufacturing company, Agency Power, donated radiator hoses and a lightweight crank pulley to the project. We received a full two pages on the install and the products performance gains. With full page ads going up and up, that equates to about $8,000 in free advertising. Not a bad trade for $100 in parts!

Once the magazine came out, customers were looking for those parts. Dealers were calling in for orders, and sales increased on those two part numbers.

Use the Internet

Probably the best way to get your product out and talked about is through the online community forums. If you are not a sponsor or a very active member, find the hot shot on the forum, and give him your product in exchange for a review, test and pictures. That guy with 5 million posts will gain your product instant approval from your core consumers.

The online communities can help provide feedback on that product. As well, you can see how others are using it, and that can provide understanding as to what the other consumers are looking for in that product.

However you decide to blast your new product out there, you definitely need to track it down. If you are doing guerilla marketing tactics online, use reference links with IDs to track the click-throughs to your website. If you are running advertisements, use a different phone extension or even phone number to see how many inquiries you get. Or easiest, set up a separate email to track down the inquiries. But once you find out how much hype you have started, figure out how to turn those interests into product sales.

Choosing Product

As a distributor and retail shop owner, spending money on inventory is a lot of risk. You want to have products on the shelf that turnover with profit and help make you retain customers. However, bad purchases can turn into wasted money sitting on the shelf.

When a new product or company comes our way, we look at what advantages we have to sell it and stock it. First we look at the margins. We find out the deepest deal we can get. We then look at who is selling the product in the industry, and how well their product is being represented in that market.

If a product has no MAP pricing or a lot of undercutting, we generally will not take on the product. We also look at what type of company we are dealing with. Do they provide dealer support? Do they have co-op advertising? Can we be listed on their website dealer list?

Finally, how much information can they provide us on the product for our website? The better the images, technical data and price sheets, the easier it is to list on the website and sell. I feel all are very important as a distributor when wanting to buy a new product or product line. But, the most important thing is what type of incentives do we have to stock the product? If we can save a percent or too, get free shipping or be provided with demo product for our vehicles, then we generally step up to add it on our shelves.

Inventory Management

How much to buy is always the concern. If it is a new product or product line, how much to stock is really up to the product and market demand. For example, when Cosworth came out with their new camshafts for the EVO IX, they were the only one in the market. Vivid Racing saw an opportunity and bought all their stock so we were the place to buy these from retail and wholesale.

If we are buying into a new product line, we generally will get what the initial buy-in is and then evaluate after the first month is finished. One thing that is important for manufacturers to do is to help get products into the retailer’s hands that sell. Moving your junk to us will only put a bad taste in our mouths.

Mackin Industries is one good example of this. They provide us with inventory sheets of all the new Volk and Advan racing wheels along with what cars they will fit. This way, we are always in the loop of what is in stock or coming in stock. My manufacturing company, Agency Power, will analyze a company’s business and make a recommended stocking order based upon the current market trends, production and what that business can be capable of.

Stand Out

As the industry gets more and more competitive, some of us hope that more regulations will be brought from companies to protect their dealers. The performance parts business needs to take after the action sports industry. Distributing products to the end user takes a lot of creativity to earn their business.

With the direction the industry is moving, I think we will see more out of the box marketing ideas come to life. Cross marketing with non endemic companies, going to a larger arena of people through mass media and even bringing the products to more of a lifestyle relation. For readers of Playboy, Maxim or even Rolling Stone, they might buy wheels or exhausts just because it is the in thing to do!

Whatever you do to market your product, make sure you stand out. Don’t be another “me too” advertisement or product. Leave a strong impression in the consumers’ minds. Conservative or aggressive, that creativity will take you a long way.

Check out more marketing and business development ideas from me at www.therohnstein.com.