This month we are going to talk about the crazy way this industry has evolved through the years in a mere 843 words! Put on your seatbelt, because here we go.
First, let’s take a trip back to when manufacturers were excited to see a big spring order. Most of them would offer you a competitive discount in an attempt to get 40 percent of your business. They were happy, maybe jubilant, to get smaller orders throughout the year. The programs they offered included freight, stocking discounts, and another 2 percent or so as the incentive discount. Those were the days when margin was kind to all of us.
Fast forward to about 12 years ago, when distributors (such as us) made life much easier for your pocketbook. We continued to offer buying programs, but only in some cases did you buy 40 percent of your year with a given product line. The incentive discounts shrunk, and you had to buy larger amounts to get freight. It was a great trade-off for most dealers since the good distributors could get your parts to you in a day or two, max. Those were the days of saving your money, and buying when you need it. Life was so good, right? Wrong.
The industry started to see e-tailers become their competition. Several companies were created in a basement, but didn’t have much of a presence at that time. Many of the existing e-tailers were you. You had a legitimate brick and mortar dealership, and were able to sell a few orders on the World Wide Web! Life was good, right? Wrong.
Talk about crazy. Just when everyone seemed to be playing well together, we started to see more outside companies coming into our industry. The worst part was that they had no clue what we even do. They bought a domain, and started looking for product lines to sell. They didn’t have a warehouse, didn’t offer technical support, and hardly answered their phone when it rang.
Are we now in a full-blown state of confusion? If you’re a dealer, you’re competing against places and items you never heard of. You play fair and begin asking yourself “why do I do this?” Large e-tailers make life so much harder for not just you, but us too. Good distributors play fair and find themselves in a predicament. Do I sell to e-tailers and hurt dealers, or do I continue to lose business by staying loyal to dealers?
It’s the same for you. For years, you earned loyalty from most of your customers. For years, you got to take a vacation, and your customers understood. For years, you placed an order once a week, and your customers were okay waiting. As if I have to tell you, but those days are gone – not just gone, long gone! Forget everything you learned over the last few years, because I promise you that, unless you are the only game in a town with no internet service, they are coming for you too. Who is “they,” A.D.? Or should it be, who are you talking about, A.D.? I am talking about every major e-tailer online today. The world has become much smaller with the big “A” company. They are a PRIME example of why we need to fight back with parts when your customers need them. You have to ignore the voices in your head telling you that all is well if you have the part for your customer tomorrow. NO, IT IS NOT! May I repeat that? NO, IT IS NOT! (By the way, if you have voices in your head telling you what to do, you should probably see a professional.) Try telling someone who drives more than 10 miles that you can have the part tomorrow. Your customer will leave without ordering from you, go to their car, put in the part number of what they want, and press “order.” You lost them for that transaction, and possibly forever.
I can hear you now, “A.D., you have no clue! My customers love me! They would never do that to me.” I have three simple words for you. Yes. They. Will. (Maybe they have already tested the waters.)
Talk to your suppliers about offering stocking programs if they don’t today. A good stocking program allows you to order the things you anticipate needing to get you through a few months.
Business is never easy, but is supposed to be fun. Gain control of your fun again. Do the things that you want done to you. Maybe you’re okay with the waiting game, but I think you are in the minority. Remember that superior customer service will get you more business. Inferior might get you a new career.
I would love to hear from you on this topic even if you tell me I have no clue. Remember to keep your blades and mind sharp. You can contact me by e-mailing OPEMAGAD@gmail.com or you can tweet me at @OPEMAGAD but I have no clue what to do when it arrives.