Tatum: Digging Out of The Hole

July 1, 2024
What you can do when you have operational issues.

I guess that my tagline might be a little broad, but it's by design. This will be the first of a few entries that you will see regarding this topic.  

This first one will focus on the store location itself and any outside influence on your business. It is not always the wrong management team or the wrong team that holds us back. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is just changes out of your control that are digging you deeper into a hole. 

Let’s just check out the data: In 2023, the oil change market was a $10.8 billion dollar market. The size of the industry increased by nearly 3% and over the last few years, it has grown over 5% on average between 2018 and 2023.  

But do you want to know what did not increase like that in the last five years? The automobile sales industry. This means that there are more locations out there for options and less new cars on the road. Much of this is due to the expansion efforts of franchise oil change businesses such as Jiffy Lube, Valvoline, Take 5, Strickland Brothers, and more. 

So, here you are, an oil change business operator. Your business has been a staple in your location for 10 years. As the world changed, so did your area. You may not be on the prime street or traffic pattern anymore. Maybe the mall has changed locations during your time and other businesses have followed. But here you are, the option for the surrounding area for their maintenance needs.  

It is maybe a little slower sometimes—which happens when less people are frequenting your roadway—but it’s manageable. In comes a competitor to the area. They scouted out the best location on the best road with the best traffic pattern. They are where everything else moved to when they left your area.  

Now, your business is drying up and it is not anything that you caused. People are looking for quick options and one-stop shops. They want to go to one place and get things done. It is the next generation of consumers. 

So, what can you do to grab your slice of the pie back? It is not like you can just close your doors and move to another spot. You likely own your property and if you do not, you have a lease. So, you will have to fight to earn new customers and keep the ones that you have.  

What you will find when watching how the competitor operates is that they will come in with discounts to start. You will see a large marketing push in your area in digital and print media and even geofencing your location to offer discounts to potential customers of yours. You will lose some. 

In the end, the generation today is less brand loyal and more inclined to check out a discount or a shiny new building. So, you will have to get through the initial launch to really make an impact hit back in your favor. 

You have multiple advertising options at your disposal at this point. We all know the major ones, like Google marketing, keyword searches, etc. But those cost money, and you will have to spend some, but let us examine some other options.  

Remember that you have always been there. These invaders are new to the area and the “community.” How many of you get the call for a coupon code on the high school or local youth sports discount card? They generally only put one oil change place on the card. Make sure that it is you. You can set the discount code as well, allowing you to match what the competition is doing.  

Secondly, get into the community arts. How many of you get the chance to sponsor a 5K or to buy the uniforms for the county team? Do it. Those parents and grandparents are drivers. They will appreciate your funding of the team.  

Finally, a good marketing ploy involves billboards. Find one that is near your competitor and post it up in the traffic line. Keep the attention on your business and not the shiny new toy. 

There is a way to rebuild your customer counts. Above, we discussed a few things that you could do on the marketing side after a competitor comes in or when you are not on the right side of town any longer. There are things that we did not discuss, but that might be for another time.

We will discuss things that you can change in the building and grounds appearance or the operations on the floor in future stories. For now, look at how your marketing dollars are being spent. Are you maximizing your opportunities or just throwing another scoop of dirt in the hole? 

About the Author

Adam Tatum

Adam Tatum is the Director of Operations for Virginia Lubes, a Jiffy Lube franchisee with 11 locations. He has over a decade of experience in the industry with a proven track record of building customer counts and sales, as well as using innovative ways to bring a new look to the automotive field for both the customer and the employee.  Performance comes from growing your business through people.

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