Mark Stek on....Building
Value with Celebrity Customers
Marketing Director, Kelderman
Air Suspension Systems, YEN Member
At age 35, Mark Stek, an Oskaloosa, IA
native, and Iowa State graduate, currently holds the position of Marketing
Director for Kelderman Manufacturing. Also known to SEMA members as Kelderman
Air Suspension Systems, Kelderman is a diverse and unique SEMA member company
that manufactures and fabricates everything from agricultural parts to air
suspension systems for a customer base that is as diverse as their products. A
12 year veteran with Kelderman, Mark grew up around the automotive industry as
the son of a hot rodder, and now applies a synergy of his sports marketing /
management degree emphasis with his hot rodding roots to foster relationships
with celebrities to bring added value to both his company and his customers. We
sat down with Mark to discuss his experiences working with VIP customers and
how they may benefit other young executives in our industry.
did you get started with celebrity/VIP builds?
Rampage Jackson approached us a few years
ago at SEMA. He already had a lifted
truck, but really wanted our suspension on it.
Once the logistics were worked out, his truck came to our shop in Iowa
and we totally transformed it. We
created a video for YouTube that showed the build from beginning to end and
that has really increased our exposure. Our
celebrity clients, so far, all have reached out to us to receive our product.
the best part about developing this type of business?
The best part about working
with celebrity customers is that it is really a neat experience for all of our
employees. When they visit our facility,
everyone is eager to meet them and maybe get a picture and/or autograph. The guys we have worked with have been more
than accommodating which makes it a lot of fun.
do you find to be most difficult when working with this type of clientele?
The most difficult part
about working with celebrity customers is that their scheduling is very
complex. Celebrities are often short on
time on a fairly consistent basis. In
Rampage's case, he was training in the UK while we were working on his
truck. He was coming back to the States
for a couple of weeks to visit family so we had a very small window of time in
which the truck needed to be complete and he could visit our facility for the
"reveal." In other instances, you might
be dealing with working around the end of a baseball season as was the case
with Wes Helms. Being able to meet their
schedule and their expectations are very challenging.
do you find and cultivate these types of contacts?
We want the process to be as "organic" as
possible. We know there are celebrities
out there who like what we can offer, but maybe haven't heard about us. Informing them about us is important so they
can make a decision based on what they want rather than forcing it. We are confident that we have a great product
and the satisfaction of our customers really speaks to that. We work closely with our outside PR agency
(Martin & Company) that, when necessary, can use their more appropriate
contacts in order to help us develop a relationship between Kelderman and a
do you utilize those relationships and builds in a positive way to impact
customer interaction with your brand or products?
We try to utilize the celebrity status of our
customer in as many ways as possible to help promote our company. We had Rampage sign autographs at our SEMA
booth in 2010. We have also included our
celebrity customers in some of our promotional material, ads, website, Facebook,
etc. in order to help people associate that celebrity with our brand.
benefit does Kelderman receive from working with celebrities?
The benefit that our company
receives from being associated with celebrities is that it increases
credibility. When you consider the fact
that they are able to have the best of the best and they choose your company,
it says a lot. It also allows our
products more exposure and it allows potential customers to associate a product
they may be unfamiliar with to someone that they may already be familiar
advice would you offer to other YENsters looking to reach out to build these
types of relationships either on their own or on behalf of their company?
When doing anything to help
grow a company, you must use every resource that is available to you to your
fullest advantage. Developing
relationships and trust will take time, so be patient.
there any specific advantages that you feel the younger people in our industry
may have when working with celebrity/VIP customers? Any disadvantages?
A younger generation in the
industry will have more experience with a younger, up-and-coming crowd of
celebrities, so that will allow for a better understanding of the market to
which that celebrity will appeal to.
There is a good chance that a celebrity will be similar in age so
conversations about personal interests, family, etc. will even be easier.