Imagine starting a tinting business at age 21, what film would you buy? Probably whatever is cheapest! Eventually though, as you work to set yourself apart from your competitors, you’ll probably want to make a more intentional choice – but how? Back in the day, you wanted to pay more for carbon film because cheap dyed film would turn purple and peel off. Film technology has advanced light years since then, and it seems like now every brand offers UV protection, nano technology, multi-layer construction and fantastic warranties. Is one really any better than another? Is finding the cheapest option still the best way to choose? Partnering with a film company can have benefits beyond the product itself.
When your business depends on high numbers of customers day in and day out, marketing is crucial, but most small shops don’t have the budget for effective campaigns. Film companies on the other hand have far more resources. They can do a great job of increasing customer awareness, and then help those customers find shops to do the work. A company with a good dealer locator and lead generation can be a great asset.
It’s also in a brand’s self interest not to over saturate the market. Just like you don’t put 3 Chevy dealerships within 5 miles of each other, you don’t want 3 shops selling the same film in too close proximity to each other. If shop A and shop B are 2 blocks apart selling the same product, they’re going to start competing with each other based on price. Form the film company’s point of view, that devalues the brand, and from the shop owner’s point of view it cuts into profits. So some manufacturers will limit the number of dealers based on the size of the market.
With the advent of plotters, tinting got a lot faster. If you’re not using a plotter, well, we’ll talk about that in another article. But a plotter is only as good as the patterns you use. This used to be a bigger variable, but all of the major brands have been working hard to level the playing field, and pattern quality isn’t as much of an issue anymore. Still, the cost of the software can be a factor.
Brands can do a lot to facilitate relationships among their dealers. I talk about this a lot because it’s important to me that we as business owners don’t just sit in our shops unaware of what’s going on in the industry. Community makes us all better. Xpel has a dealer conference once a year that brings everyone together. They have educational breakout sessions, a competition with cash prizes and round table discussions where dealers can learn from each other. It’s created an enormous amount of loyalty and support unheard of in this business. Suntek always threw the biggest and baddest party at SEMA with ice sculptures, food, an open bar, and an opportunity to get to know everyone from across the country that was looked forward to all year. I believe 3M also has an annual conference with dealer of the year awards similar to Xpel but without the competition. I don’t know the details of what every brand does to foster relationships with their dealers, but a good way to find out is to talk to some of their dealers and ask why they love being part of that brand’s family.
The future of brand dealer relationships will depend on who helps the dealers grow with marketing and sales support, coaching and training. Each brand is going to handle these elements differently, and some are going to be more important to you than others depending on your situation. I have a great marketing and lead generation system of my own, so getting that from my film company isn’t important to me now, but it used to be. Territory protection also isn’t at the top of my list since I have a well-established customer base, but it’s very important to a lot of my member stores. I value the relationship building opportunities I’ve had through dealer conferences more than almost anything else. Choose your brand wisely, research how they handle all areas of dealer support, and pick the one that’s the right fit for you