Apr 1, 2014

Wheels and Deals: 20 Year Overnight Success

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are sticky brands.

You can’t just go out and “buy” a sticky brand for your business. It takes years, often decades, to build a brand that resonates in your market and brings customers back again-and-again.

“Every overnight successful business was 20 years in the making. We’re 34 years in the business, and we’re 14 years into the successful part of ours,” says Jim Gilbert, CEO of Jim Gilbert’s Wheels and Deals.

Jim Gilbert’s Wheels and Deals is the largest used car dealership in New Brunswick, and one of the largest in Eastern Canada. They sell over 1,200 “slightly used cars” a year. This is a big number considering the average independent used car dealership sells between 200 to 250 cars a year.

Wheels and Deals has an extremely loyal customer base, and they compete toe-to-toe with the new car dealers.

Measure where you’ve come from

When you visit Wheels and Deals you’ll find a company that has its brand act together:

  • Clear positioning: “Canada’s Huggable Car Dealer.”
  • Defined niche: “Slightly used cars.” They specialize in selling cars that are between 6 months to 2 years old, and have between 12,000 to 50,000 kilometers.
  • Advanced marketing programs: There’s a number of programs to list, but a great example is their birthday gift program. They ship over 12,000 custom birthday gifts a year.

Marketers and business owners look at them and think, “I want that.” But getting to this place all started with a choice. Jim explains, “For the first 20 years we ran our business like everyone else, and the past 14 we’ve changed our philosophy and approach to our brand.”

Jim Gilbert and his team made a clear choice around 2000 to cut their own path. They focused on a niche, invested in building a brand and created a buying experience that brings customers back repeatedly.

Make one improvement at a time

The development of the Wheels and Deals’ brand has been a journey. Every year they look for areas they can enhance, or new programs to implement.

For example the idea of their birthday gift program came from Joe Girard, “The World’s Greatest Salesman.” One of Girard’s famous strategies was to send all of his customers a birthday card every year.

Jim took the idea, and built upon it. Wheels and Deals creates a custom gift every year. They’re little keepsakes that delight their customers. The program reached over 12,000 people last year, and it helps reinforce the many relationships they’ve developed over the years.

The birthday program is just one example. Every year is an opportunity for Wheels and Deals to find and try new ideas like this. It’s the accumulation of executing these ideas over 14 years that has propelled their company from an also-ran option to the dominant player in their market.

Focus on what’s important, your customer

Wheels and Deals has purposefully grown their brand by focusing on their customers.

Improvement for improvement’s sake doesn’t grow a sticky brand. It’s the improvements your customers recognize and value that elevate your brand.

Never lose sight of what is important, your customers.

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