Talkin’ With Lou: Marc Cloutier, National Sales manager, MBRPinc.

Dec 2, 2009

L.J.: Marc, thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to chat with me. Before we get started, can you tell me more about MBRP? You know, how long you guys have been in business and how you got started in performance exhaust?

Marc: In 1995, MBRP’s founders, Martin and Ginger Barkey, began promoting a snowmobile silencer design that was lighter, more compact, better built and produced an awesome sound. Working from their garage, within three years the “B&B Eliminator” was the #1 aftermarket snowmobile silencer. That success led to exhaust products for the sport compact, hot rod and muscle car enthusiast communities. The challenge was there were already many large and entrenched manufacturers servicing these markets. Even though MBRP did it well, they were a long way from becoming a household name.

L.J.: And today?

Marc: Today, MBRP enjoys a solid following. It is also blessed to have established solid partnerships with many of the top warehouse distributors. And now, after two years of developing what has become a fast growing line of sport truck performance exhaust, we are expanding it to offer the same great design and quality in T409 and aluminized grades as well as our T304.

L.J.: How about new products, anything exciting?

Marc: We are just now launching our Jeep line, and we are making plans to introduce a line of performance exhaust for sport bikes. We’re also looking to release the first of our new exotic sport car line with a header and exhaust combination for the Porsche 911/997 TT in early summer.

L.J.: I gotta tell ya, your website literally rocks. I spent the better part of an afternoon listening to all of the different exhaust MP-3 files. You have four sound clips for each; two exterior and two interior, covering hard acceleration and a 50 mph drive-by, or as I like to think of it; the sound that gets you to turn and look. Much like alternate guitar tunings, I’m guessing tuning an exhaust is more art than science?

Marc: Thanks Lou. About two-and-a-half years ago, our website was nothing more than a scanned version of our catalog. Four revisions later, we believe that we are able to offer a site that provides the enthusiast, as well as our distribution channel partners, a complete resource to learn about not just our products but to explore performance exhaust generally. People buy our systems for the rich, mellow note as well as for the power and fuel savings.

L.J.: Again this year, MBRP is a title sponsor for the National Hot Rod Diesel Association, the NHRDA. How’d you guys get involved in diesel racing and what does this sponsorship do for your brand building?

Marc: This year we’ve taken on the role as sole title sponsor of the NHRDA, which remains the fastest growing diesel drag and sled pull organization anywhere. We have been with them, in some capacity, from the very beginning. For the last couple of years, we have been the official exhaust for the NHRDA. We see our role of title sponsorship as critical to the advancement of NHRDA’s mission of promoting awareness of diesel powered vehicles and their ability to achieve high levels of power while maintaining fuel economy and longevity. MBRP was an inaugural sponsor of the NHRDA and views it as a vital element in the fostering of diesel powered vehicles in North America.

The NHRDA serves the dual role of exposing diesel power and performance to the general public while at the same time creating a proving ground for the advancement of diesel technology.

L.J.: On your website, you mention MBRP’s dedication to excellence, but also to stand behind its dealers and distributors and the loyalty that they have given back in return. What types of sales training, product training and overall support do you offer your WDs and jobbers?

Marc: In 2007, I was personally on the road for over three months of the year meeting and holding training seminars with our distributors and dealers. Our customer service staff has also found themselves traveling to various events and vendor shows. One area we are particularly proud of is our inbound technical support. Our distributors, dealers and their customers know that if they run into any difficulty with MBRP products, then someone who knows what they are talking about are a simple toll-free phone call away. The amount of detail on our website helps a lot, but there is no substitute for someone who will walk you through any problem, every step of the way.

L.J.: Okay Marc, in every issue I hope to find one good idea a retailer can implement today resulting in more sales. If you were a performance retailer, what would you be doing today to increase sales, awareness and differentiating yourself from the guy down the street?

Marc: Retailers find themselves competing increasingly with Internet and mail-order vendors. Yet, many still rely on loading their wares on a shelf, or worse, keep it hidden in the back room. A retailer who has invested in brick and mortar and all that entails, needs to provide their customers with more than what they are able to get with a few clicks of their mouse. They have an opportunity to deliver their customers the opportunity to experience the products that they have chosen to offer.

Consumers look to their retailers for professionalism and expertise, which they typically do not find online. The tendency of many retailers, however, is to duplicate the online experience and take on every exhaust line or every tonneau cover. This robs them of the opportunity of making a statement; that, “As an expert, I have evaluated the product field, and here are the products that I, in my professional judgment and expertise, endorse.”

L.J.: That’s such a great point, duplicating the online experience. There’s no reason to do so.

Marc: Right, and second is the Sales 101 mantra that, “You sell what you show.” Put our exhaust on your shop truck, and give your customers an opportunity to experience the sound, power and style that it provides. Put your products where they can be seen and heard and felt.

Again, retailers need to draw on the “credibility capital” that they have with their customers and demonstrate their own faith and reliance in the products that they are looking to sell. That, in itself, is a compelling differentiator from the guy selling whatever product he can sell from a computer monitor.

L.J.: Great advice, thanks again. And heck, if two out of three of these ideas work…

Marc: Well, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

MARC CLOUTIER, CEO/Owner,National Sales Manager, MBRP Performance Exhaust

Favorite Car:
1978 Mercedes-Benz C111 with a top speed of 200mph and an average 14.7mpg@ 195.4 miles over a 12 hour cruise this is the car that really demonstrated what diesel could do

Last book read:
Negotiate to Close Gary Karrass

Favorite place to drive:
Algonquin Provincial Park, early morning in late spring.

On the iPod:
Meatloaf, Bat out of Hell; Jann Arden, Where No One Knows Me; Chris de Burgh, Crusad