Volume 11, Issue 1 - January/February 2009

Independent Means
IGA Fall Marketing Conference Attendees Leave with New Ways to Market and a Look to the Future
by Penny Stacey

When independents came together for the Independent Glass Association’s (IGA) fall marketing conference, they probably expected some advertising tips, a look at the Internet and maybe a chance to network. But they received even more—an education, and a chance to learn what the IGA is all about.

IGA president Dave Zoldowski revealed just that when he opened the conference with a memory of the 2001 Independents’ Days, where IGA staffers led the audience in chanting, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Though much has changed about the association since that conference, Zoldowski reminded attendees that this concept has not. 

Zoldowski, who is president of Auto One in Brighton, Mich., asked the group a series of questions, including “Are we losing jobs to 24/7 [call centers]?”

“The answers to these questions make me madder than hell,” he told the group. And, he added, “It’s our belief that the independents need the IGA more than ever.”

Brian Yarborough of the Glass Doctor in Tampa echoed Zoldowski’s thoughts. Noting that he’s a semi-newcomer to the industry, with just seven years in the auto glass business, Yarborough said, “I’m just in awe of the way the insurance companies control the industry.”

Steering Issues
After Zoldowski’s fervent opening, Yarborough Shawn Newport of Star Auto Glass in Erie, Pa., took center stage with a topic near (though perhaps not dear) to many independents’ hearts: steering. The two provided an update on the group’s “Don’t Get Steered Program,” and Yarborough explained why this program is important.

“There’s not a single person on this board that’s not about making the independent successful,” he said. “We have to push back or they’re just going to run us over.”

The IGA comic book is just one of many anti-steering initiatives the association has taken on over the last year. Zoldowski says he hands it out to every customer who comes to his shop.

“I’m amazed at the amount of customers who say, ‘you know, this is kind of what happened to me—but I demanded I come to your shop,’“ he recalled.

The Online Market
After the steering portion of the day’s events passed, the focus switched to marketing to potential customers. Scott Orth, formerly of GTS Services, kicked off the discussion with a presentation about Internet marketing.

Among several design items, he advocated left-hand navigation (when a site is indexed to the left, so the consumer always knows what he/she is looking for will be somewhere to the left), text-based designs (so that search engines know what the site is about) and a call to action.

“No matter what you do, you have to have a call to action,” he said.

He also stressed that the customer is best person to design your website (or, at least, that having the customer in mind is important).

Orth also reminded participants that planning a website is just like planning your marketing strategy.

“It’s the same thing with the Internet—you have to have a plan,” he said.

Orth then offered attendees the chance to review and critique their websites publicly—a popular option—and suggested that attendees visit the website www.scoremywebsite.com for similar advice.

On the Radio

After Orth’s presentation, Kyle O’Brien, creative director for Xhang Creative in Portland, Ore., reminded attendees that online marketing isn’t the only method available. O’Brien focused on controlling branding through effective radio advertising.

He stressed to conference attendees that a successful radio campaign only works if it is given time to develop. 

“Only spending just a few weeks [on the radio] will never give an auto glass retailer brand equity in a market,” he said. 

“By the time you’ve finished two weeks on the air people will only have heard your ad a couple times and it may not register. So make sure you’re able to sustain a presence for several months so people can come to know you and your brand.”

O’Brien also suggested that it’s important to focus advertising by town and demographics “to maximize your media buy.”O’Brien offered the following statistics on radio coverage in the United States:

• Ninety-three percent of Americans 12 and older listen to radio weekly (Source: Arbitron, Radio Today, 2007). • Radio has added 6 million listeners since 2004. 
• The future of radio is bright. There are more than 235 million listeners and this number is growing (Source: Arbitron, March 2008). 
• Radio technology is everywhere, including streaming from the Internet, mobile phones, MP3 players (Zune & iPod FM functions), iTunes tagging and HD radio. 
• The Radio Heard Here campaign, available at www.radioheardhere.com, is pushing radio into the future. 
• Creativity in radio is endless. It doesn’t need to be flashy to sell, especially in the auto glass repair and replacement business.

Looking to the Future

The IGA’s annual Independents’ Days Conference and Spring Auto Glass Show™ currently is scheduled for May 12-14 in Fort Myers, Fla., at the Sanibel Harbour Resort and Spa. 

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR magazine.


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