Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2010   by Laurie Izgerean, Curriculum Developer, Durham College

Knowledge Building: Targeted Marketing

Target marketing involves breaking a market into segments and then concentrating your marketing efforts on one or a few key segments.

To be successful in any marketplace, you have to stop trying to be all things to all people and focus on something specific. Additionally, an organization has to be able to continually adapt to an ever-changing economic environment, from two perspectives: the organization’s and the customer’s.

Whether marketing to a do-it-yourselfer, wholesale, retail, female, or young automotive customer, when you learn to address the specific needs and motives of a particular type of buyer, you will be able to retain that buyer as a loyal customer for the long term by meeting his or her wants and needs beyond price.

To understand the needs of your buyer is to first do an analysis of the specific market you are trying to reach. Begin with identifying your market limits. A retail environment may serve a local community; a wholesale environment may serve an entire industry or geographical region; and any business on the Internet has the potential to serve the entire world. So pick one and focus.

Market intelligence will net you valuable information: who your customers are, why they buy, when they buy, and who they buy from. You can gather this in a variety of ways, including customer surveys, competitive observations, and wholesale and retail customer interviews. Industry analysis comes from a more detailed study of government-supported industry statistics (, or independent industry studies from organizations like the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association ( or the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (

Once the data on your target market is gathered, it’s time to reposition yourself or perhaps diversify some of your product offerings to better meet the needs of the consumer group you are trying to reach. Repositioning is how you adjust perceptions in the eyes of your customer, whether they are about you or your competition. Product diversification is any modification of a current product that serves to expand the potential market.

Either term does not mean you reposition or diversify based on price alone. Why? Business author Jack Trout, who wrote the highly recommended Repositioning; Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change and Crisis, shares this concept. “When you are different from everyone else, you should be worth something.” When price becomes the focus of a marketing message, you are no longer unique. “Your competition has access to a pencil; with that they can mark down their prices any time they want, and there goes your advantage.”

You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel in the face of competition, change, or crisis to be a successful sales and marketing professional within the automotive industry. Sometimes all it takes to invigorate a brand, a store, or a product is a little imagination, insight, and creativity to match the marketplace you are working within.

How about running an ad in an off-roading magazine or guest-authoring an article about the latest greatest off-road gear, as an example? Or you could market to brand-new drivers who are trying to dress up old beaters as their first vehicle. Partner with driving schools or high school auto shops and one of your favourite jobbers or installers to promote the importance of regular maintenance and winter car care.

And what about markets that up until recently have been relatively untapped? Here are a few automotive-specific statistics gathered from Car Care Canada and a female-owned and operated automotive website by the name of You may want to consider, if you haven’t already:

• Women influence more than 85% of all automotive sales in U.S. households.

• Women comprise 50-65% of the customer base at service centres.

• Women buy 60% of all passenger tires.

• Youth are least likely to change their oil every 5,000 km, and 22% either had no idea when to change it or they wait until the oil light comes on.

• Only 45% of youth bring their vehicle in for maintenance at least once a year, versus 76% of people over 50 years of age.

• Female-only car care clinics are a great way to begin to bridge the gender gap within our industry. One particular clinic, sponsored by Schultz Automotive in Ontario, invited a female race car driver as the host and every participant received a gift bag with goodies from partnering businesses including a neighbourhood hardware store, the host shop, and NAPA. The gift bag included chocolate, driving sunglasses, car window cleaner, windshield washer solution, all-in-one tool with knife, screwdriver and light, tire pressure gauge, and a maintenance book by Car Care Canada. Now that’s what you call consumer loyalty insurance.

Great marketing initiatives begin with analysis, continue with truly knowing and understanding your target market, and end with the ability to communicate your messages effectively so the customer feels compelled to purchase what you have to offer over your competition.

You can print the greatest flyer around, but if your target market isn’t part of the demographic that reads or even likes flyers, your efforts will be wasted.

On the other side of the coin, you may promote the best service in town, but when a customer calls in and is greeted by a gruff voice that isn’t familiar with the type of product or service the customer is seeking or has a less-than-professional attitude, that’s not going to work in your favour either.

One of the most important forms of marketing is the message each and every employee communicates to every one of your customers on a daily basis, through conversations and interactions, whether it is through a parts driver’s ability to drop deliveries off at a preferred spot every time, or the inside sales/ counterperson having the ability to handle multiple customers in a professional, positive way, or through the outside sales force who continually problem-solve to keep existing customers happy or who are out drumming the pavement to find new ones.

No matter what your profession is within the industry, target marketing allows you and your organization to stand out from your competitors by eliminating the “one-size-fits-all” approach to sales and service. By differentiating yourself from your competitors by focusing on a specific type of customer at a time, those customers are less likely to focus on price as the key issue, resulting in the potential for higher profit margins and long-term customer loyalty.

For more information on parts sales training, visit CARS OnDemand training at: contact CARS at 1-888-224-3834.

If you have completed any of the Inside/Outside Sales CARS OnDemand courses, CARS would appreciate you taking the time to complete a short three-minute survey. To access the survey please go to the CARS website, log in, and under “Account Details” choose “Participants Surveys” -“Student Survey for the Inside/ Outside Sales Training Curricula Evaluation.” Your feedback is important to us.