Our most successful marketing tactics


For some independent tire dealers, marketing is one of those things that seems to jump from one to-do list to the next, always telling you I’ll come back to it later. For others, word of mouth seems like a great marketing tactic. But if you want to grow your customer base, especially by attracting people who may not know you, marketing is like your business’s welcome mat. It doesn’t matter if they are digital or printed, your marketing materials create a first impression of your business for customers.

In the digital age, there are so many ways to market your business that you may be wondering: what will work for me? You have limited time, so where can you best invest your money to reap the rewards of more business? We asked this question to this year’s Top Shop winner, Telle Tire & Auto Centers, and runners-up, Best-One of Indy and Don Foshay’s Discount Tire & Alignment – those who reached the top of our Top Shop 2022 contest , sponsored by Coats .

We caught up with this year’s top stores at our Top Shop Summit in Nashville, Tennessee this summer, where we discussed a variety of store operations topics. Here you’ll find the first in a series of podcasts covering pressing topics for shop owners, including recruiting and retaining technicians, industry trends, and tips for fellow tire dealers.

Listen to the audio podcast below, on our YouTube channel or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. Not a fan of watching the episode? Read the full episode transcript below.

Maddie Winer, Editor, Tire Review: So first, let’s hear from Telle Automotive and Tire Centers, this year’s Best Tire Store winner, about how they structure their marketing spend. Telle Tire has 18 branches across the state of Missouri, and Aaron Telle, fourth-generation tire dealer and president and CEO of Telle Tire, says the way his company structures its marketing spend continues to evolve.

Aaron Tell: So maybe five years ago 60 of our ads were in print. I would say today maybe 5% of our advertising is in print. And those dollars really keep going digital. So we use Google AdWords, we focus on an SEO strategy…and you get results over time. And then we also use Google AdWords. From a print perspective, what we’re seeing is that we’re sticking to local newspapers in small communities. Communities that have the tight-knit community always use these print ads and we are successful with that. We do email marketing reminders, communicating with our customers about oil change reminders is very important. We just started doing television for the first time. In fact, we just started this month. So we’re starting to develop that, and we’re excited to see how it will work for us.

Maddy: Aaron told us that cable TV and streaming is what Telle Tire is currently experimenting with; however, he said Google AdWords was the most effective marketing tactic for his business.

Aaron: If someone searches Google for tires or auto service repair needs, they really aren’t doing it for fun. And more than likely, they are ready for these services. So trying to be able to get their eyeballs on our web page and tell the story of why they should bring their vehicle to us is probably the most effective

Maddy: Telle Tire also adds a personal touch to its marketing, which seems to be popular with customers.

Aaron: One of the things we do that works really well for us is we set a goal for each store each month to send out 50 thank you cards to customers. It comes down to that personal touch. A handwritten thank you card can go a long way. Then we’ll even take it to another stage where when we’re talking about building relationships, it’s not just about fixing their vehicle, but really getting to know that person. So we could find out someone’s favorite restaurant or where they like to go for coffee in the morning and then we’d go out and buy a gift certificate for that restaurant or a gift card for Starbucks or whatever .

Maddy: Discount Tire & Alignment by Don Foshay, a Top Shop finalist this year and in 2019, has six locations in the state of Maine. Something owner Don Foshay said that was a common thread running through all of our interviews this year was that the most critical thing in business today is finding employees.

Put on: At least in our area, everyone has worked so hard with their marketing to attract more customers. And right now it’s been so busy. The number one priority is to staff your business to handle people who arrive anyway.

Maddy: We’ll learn more about how this year’s Top Shops find and retain employees in another episode. But for years, Don says word of mouth is one of his most successful marketing tactics.

Put on: Our system is different from a big box and some of these other people. We operate on the principle of “I have a guy”. If someone is at work and they have a problem with their car or they have a problem with their tires, the person they work with says, “I have a guy. In our stores and on several occasions, it is also “I have a daughter”. So I think that’s the most effective thing. Then we combine that with being very aggressive with our managers to get reviews. When I buy something now I look at the reviews and they can’t just be good, they have to be up to date and there has to be a lot of them. And we motivate our managers. We use a company called Bird Eye that collects these reviews and pushes them to the appropriate areas. But our managers are paid for convincing a client to give us a review. And so it worked very well. I think we’re at about 2,000 reviews. It’s five stars. And that in itself, if as long as your website is properly tooled, they search for you on Google [and find] tires near me, auto repair near me, we pop up. That’s a bunch of reviews. They are all current and they are five stars. And so we get our shot.

Maddy: Don says collecting customer reviews is part of his service advisors spiff program and they get a check at the end of the month for the reviews they provide. One tactic that has worked in the past for the company is to target certain zip codes to really target customers in a certain area.

Put on: We did well with cable TV. It’s very cost effective as you can target certain postcodes. You don’t pay for a litter you don’t need. So if you buy part of the network, unless you have 150 stores, you’re going to pay for a reach you don’t need. And on the digital side, it’s exactly the same. The ability to target postcodes from a digital marketing perspective. Those are the two things we use that aren’t word-of-mouth. Like I said, we’re so busy right now that most of your marketing efforts go into promoting ourselves to potential employees.

Maddie: Indy’s Best-One, one of our finalists in this year’s Top Shop program, is focused on its mission to “create raving fans”, which you can see in its marketing. With 15 locations in and around the Indianapolis, Indiana area, Best-One of Indy uses different tactics to spread its messages. Rich Elliot, the company’s president, describes its marketing strategy as follows:

Rich: It’s like an onion with many layers. And when you peel back those layers, you get to the center, which is our external fan or the customer. So each layer is a different tactic, but they serve the same purpose, which is to deliver our message to the customer who keeps us in mind. So all of our marketing layers work together to achieve this, even though they may not be ready to buy at the time.

These tactics keep the buzz low throughout the year. For example, annual outdoor signs placed strategically around the city loop, Google SCM for branding, monthly advertisements, and niche publications like Farm World. Our social media presence is more about branding than promotion, that sort of thing. However, this list also includes our website, our showrooms, the marketing materials you see in our showrooms, team member uniforms, and more. Truly, our brand is everything.

We have definitely entered the digital age. We did not ignore it. We are fully into it. And so that’s been a big part of what we do to capture the information and use the information to our advantage not to harass customers or potential customers, but to give us enough information to specifically target them.

Maddy: Another small but clever thing that Best-One of Indy does is hang tags on a customer’s rear view mirror to inform them of the various promotions and discounts the company is offering at that time. Rich also said that Best-One of Indy likes to have fun with its marketing, especially its sports marketing. which is definitely noticed by locals.

Rich: We do sports marketing. We have a long-standing partnership with the Indianapolis Indians, our in-town AAA baseball team. This year we did something we are really passionate about. We received so many text photos from people at Indy’s Best-One Picnic Area. It’s their corporate entertainment piece. So companies will bring their team members, feed them and give them drinks and the whole place will be branded with the Best-One of Indy umbrellas. I mean our logos are everywhere and we will be getting texts from friends and family whose business has taken them there.

Maddy: One piece of advice the Best-One of Indy team would give other dealerships is to pay attention to customer reviews and not put all your eggs in one basket, as company vice president Scott Monteith says.

Scott: You should use a multi-channel approach for your own marketing plans. Digital is the wave, it’s where everyone’s going. Social media is big. We are very keen to get as high a Google rating as possible. In fact, none of our stores are below 4.5.

I think we have one or two at 4.9. People will tell us, I came to you because I saw your reviews and your Google rating. So it’s powerful. We work hard to get a good Google score.

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