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Diversify or die

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 00:00

That headline sums up our business philosophy. It might have some relevance for your business as well. After 73 years in print, we went digital with Aftermarket Business because that's what the market demands. It's simple — we can provide more information and we can provide it faster. Soon we will take another major step to broaden our scope for your benefit, but I'll save that announcement for another time.

Above all, we will continue to diversify to build our business. How about you? Doing the same thing you did 10 years ago or five years ago or even one year ago, will not assure you of continued success. Of course, some of what you have built your business on will keep you going, but it just might not be enough to propel you forward. And, in my mind, if you're not growing, you are dying.

Diversification comes in many forms and will require further investment in your business. This is especially tricky these days with banks and other lenders being downright sheepish about lending. Assuming you can get the funding you need, there are several ways you can go within the automotive sector, as well as some things not even associated with the automotive business. The latter, being more of an unknown to you, is bolder but a lot more risky, so the wiser investment might be in the area of what you know or can learn fast.

With the DIY market surging, you might want to give some thought to opening up some DIY bays where consumers can bring their cars and work on them. There are many levels to run this business — from just providing a temperature-controlled, well-lighted work area — to offering products and expert advice from a certified technician. And if you already offer mechanical repair, those DIYers who get in over their heads might turn to your store/shop for the more difficult repairs.

If you don't want to take a risk of starting a new business per se, then you should at least utilize some of the industry programs that already exist. One of the most notable ones, I think, is April Car Care Month. The Car Care Council proves every April and October that Car Care Month is extremely worthwhile if embraced and utilized.

To take full advantage of Car Care Month and to jump start your diversification, you should think in terms of either creating or participating in a Car Care Fair. Together, along with some of your suppliers, other non-competitive automotive businesses and community groups, you can build customer traffic like you've never seen before. As much as you might want to think your business is irresistible, it is just a building that people pass by every day. A Car Care Fair on your property is a traffic stopper for the curious and the serious motorist.

One of the most effective features at a Car Care Fair is the vehicle inspection lane, which is open to all motorists for the purpose of providing them a free bumper-to-bumper vehicle inspection. You and your sponsoring partners can provide motorists with a report on the condition of their vehicles after checking everything from tire pressure to leaky hoses to dent/scratch repair. It's up to them what they do with the report. However, it's likely it will generate business for you and your partners at some point. At the very least, you build goodwill and provide an essential community service.

Participating in Car Care Month should get you to think differently about your business. Ideas will emerge from those you partner with to the motorists you serve. It's a great way to start your diversification. You know what we think the alternative is.

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