Case Study: The Right Promotion
SHOP STATS: Fastlane Lubemasters Location: Gurnee, Ill. Operator: Morris Clement Average Car Count: 30 Staff Size: 4 Shop Size: 4 bays
Morris Clement knows feast and famine in the quick lube industry after 26 years.
His shop, Fastlane Lubemasters, started at the end of a large retail lot in 1994. At the time, he says that area of Gurnee, Ill. wasn’t as developed. As the only game in town, the shop enjoyed huge car counts.
That’s enticing territory for other operators.
“We had a great start,” Clement says. “And then everybody thought, ‘Morris is having too much fun, so we gotta get some competition up here.’”
To stay successful, Clement has devised some clever promotions over the years.
This is universal in the quick lube business: What’s a promotion that will entice people to line up in front of the bay?
It’s just as important for existing customers as for return customers. The latter group makes up 71 percent of shops’ customer bases, according to the 2020 NOLN Operator Survey.
Clement is a savvy operator. You might have listened to his podcast in June about turning one of his bays into a hand sanitizer production facility to produce Fast-Tizer.
Just prior to Fast-Tizer, he had another successful promotion that lots of shops could replicate.
Being in the oil change business, Clement gets lots and lots of 16-gallon Mobil 1 oil drums. They’re about waist-high and made of durable metal. But once the oil is transferred out and used, the drums don’t have much of a purpose.
“I had a full basement at one time,” Clement says. “I’ve got 100 of these empty kegs sitting down there. So, I came upstairs and went on Facebook.”
He just typed up a promotion on the spot. Get an oil change, get a barrel. For free.
The promotion garnered interest and served its most important purpose: getting customers in the door.
“Believe it or not, that created a lot of interest for our oil changes and it helped us get oil changes,” he says. “You’d be shocked at all the things people use these barrels for.”
Clement employs a classic community business strategy for the promotion. He uses his name, which shows how involved he is in the operation.
“Ask for Morris’ barrel deal” is how customers are encouraged.
That’s what they do. Clement says people come in and just ask for the barrels.
“It worked, and we had lots of people,” he says. “We got rid of 100 barrels in probably two weeks just giving them away free.”
The promotion lasted just about two months before he ran out of his excess oil drum supply. But the demand is still there. Luckily, Clement is still selling oil changes, and new drums arrive regularly. Pretty soon, he’s going to have a full basement again.
“We go through, I'm going to say, between four and six barrels of Mobil 1 per week,” he says. “And so we got those barrels all the time. We’re just turning them over and giving them to the customers.”
The people of Gurnee haven’t seen the last of Morris’ barrel deal.
It wasn’t long after the first run of barrels ran out that Clement got into the hand sanitizer game with his Fast-Tizer product. Both promotions were successful, and Clement has a knack for generating interest.
That can be one of the toughest things about creating a new promotion, especially for operators thinking outside the box. A flop can be costly, but a successful one can generate that elusive word-of-mouth branding. Clement got that with the oil drums, which he appreciates, because he knows the difficulty that promotions can bring.
“That was a good promotion,” he says. “Other than that it’s hard to figure out things to do that people haven't done to really turn around customers.”
Clement knows that while the barrel idea was a good one, it was successful because of a constellation of factors that came from his business practices. Clement has a racing background. He’s a car guy. He says that having those factors work in concert is crucial in both the business and racing worlds.
“It’s very much like the racing game,” he says. “In the racing game, you’ve got three parts. You’ve got the driver, a quality product in the car and then the crew guys who are helping you. If you don't have all three of those, you’re not going to win anything. This business is the same way. We go through the same process.”