SEMA Member News -- March/April 2009
PRO Membership Benefits Can Help Businesses Stay Competitive in 2009
Valuable networking events and marketing tools are available
The importance of a tight-knit community such as the automotive
industry is never more visible than during tough economic times. As
businesses from every industry face challenges and setbacks, councils,
such as the SEMA’s Professional Restylers Organization (PRO), and its
growing membership are excellent places to turn for new contacts, fresh
insight, marketing ideas and more.
Reaching the influential restyling market will be even more
important this year, as restylers, installers and manufacturers alike
face challenges in retaining business, inspiring customer confidence
and generating revenue.
However, opportunities are available. Although we don’t have a
crystal ball into the future, 2008 ended with substantially lower gas
prices that likely left more money in consumers’ pockets than the
mid-summer fuel rates. This means more selling opportunities for
An additional smart tactic to grow your business includes
diversifying your market niche or product offering to reach a broader
base of customers. Check out the possibility of fleet or commercial
work. Restylers can look around their existing markets to find ready
and willing customers to pitch, such as municipalities, emergency
services and contractors. Many of these customers generally will stick
with one supplier if they’re happy with your work.
Here is another example: Someone who has the appropriate skills to
apply vinyl graphics and striping may investigate additional training
to begin offering vehicle wraps, window tint and paint-protection film.
These types of skills lend themselves particularly well to retail sales
as opposed to wholesale dealer sales, and they convert into higher
profit margins and more revenue. An added side benefit is immediate
payment in retail sales as opposed to dealer work, which often is paid
30 to 60 days after the work is done.
Diversifying also provides additional opportunities to upsell
customers. The reality is that it’s possible to generate higher dollars
on fewer vehicles with retail sales, and the range of products that can
be sold runs the gamut from vehicle graphics and tint to electronics
and hard parts.
Many valuable networking events and marketing tools are available
from PRO, including seminars; project-vehicle activities; voluntary
codes of recommended business practices for manufacturers,
distributors, restylers and installers; dealer sales-training videos;
and the PRO Business Development Guidebook: The Nuts and Bolts of Running a Successful Restyling Business.
So how can a PRO membership specifically help overcome today’s
challenges and help the auto channel capitalize on current
opportunities? We asked PRO President Karl Stearns just that. His
response? Turn off the nightly news.
“As my friend Tom Shay says, ‘Recession and rearview mirror both
start with R for a reason. The best view is out the windshield,’”
Stearns explained. “In other words, look ahead. What are your skills?
Where do you need training? Some businesses will probably not survive
economic downturns. It’s usually because they’ve failed to do things
they should have done, such as eliminating unnecessary expenses,
dropping unprofitable products and cutting off slow-paying customers.
“Letting customers know you’re still there and ready to serve them
will go a long way toward building confidence and sales. Use some of
the ‘down time’ to get additional training, work on your marketing and
business plans, network with local businesses that may need your
products and services—in short, do something positive to build for your
future every day.”
One area that has been overlooked in our industry and could use some
much-needed attention in 2009 is the proper use of technology. Learn
how to market and sell to an entirely new generation of customers.
Tools, such as e-mail marketing, a good website and updated computer
skills are musts in today’s environment.
The Internet has taught people that there are numerous places to buy
products inexpensively. But many have also learned that the one thing
they need most—personal attention—is hard to get from a computer
screen. So dealing with a solid, honest and capable local business
person can mean a lot to anyone who has been fried by a cheap Internet
seller who offers no technical support nor product knowledge and is
unwilling to accept the return of a damaged, unacceptable or
A growing council such as PRO can help new and established companies
jumpstart their businesses and show what the restyling market really
has to offer in 2009.
| It is time for PRO Select Committee elections. The big news this
year is that final ballots will be e-mailed to the PRO membership via a
Zoomerang Survey, allowing electronic polling and tabulation. Be on the
lookout for your Zoomerang ballot, and be sure to turn in your votes!
Select Committee Elections Go Electronic!
It is time once again for PRO Select Committee elections. The big
news this year is that final ballots will be e-mailed to the PRO
membership via a Zoomerang Survey. This is a major breakthrough
compared to the traditional paper ballots, which must be mailed,
received, read, filled out, return mailed and manually tabulated. With
Zoomerang, you open the e-mail, read the nominee information, click on
your selections and push “Send.” Back at SEMA, the votes are tabulated
automatically by software. With this new technology in hand, we are
counting on a record number of returns this year. Look out for your
Zoomerang ballot, and be sure to turn in your votes!