The going gets tough
Continental expands its BestDrive network with specialized heavy duty tire dealers and looks at meeting the needs of the final client by making its way into workshops, engaged in exchanging know-how and market shares with traditional tire dealers
Continental’s international BestDrive network has set its sights on the Italian market and in particular in its heavy duty segment. We spoke about current status, future prospects and strategies with Dario De Vito, General Manager of Conti Trade Italia, and owner of the brand.
How is BestDrive organized and managed in our country?
"We work with three different categories of entrepreneurs: car tire dealers, truck tire dealers and repair workshops. For each of these categories we have developed different levels of membership covering the different needs of the entrepreneurs who choose us as franchise partners. Our advisors will work alongside them to encourage and support them in their professional growth depending on the level of affiliation they have chosen and they themselves will try their hands with marketing and training, again sized according to their membership choices. It is understood that when and how much to invest remains a decision of the individual entrepreneur”.
One does not normally think of repair workshops when it comes to tires. How did it all start and how are things working with them?
"Actually, these workshops deal with the same end customer you expect to see in tire dealers, so it seemed natural to take a step towards this sector. Obviously, the first requests workshops made dealt with tires and all the technical training that revolves around it, but it certainly did not end there. Our services range from professional to mechanical training, hi-tech products and support in deciding which products to offer and how. Collaborations with world-class partners such as Shell for lubricants and consumables, Texa for diagnostics, Ate (Continental Group brand) for brake parts and others, who have added value to our offer and enabled us to acquire a greater know-how and grow as a consequence. The result of these partnerships is the creation of a series of mechanical maintenance training courses for traditional tire dealers, which include all the main elements of mechanics and go as far as dealing with hybrid and full-electric technologies".
Let’s go back to the trucks.
Here the needs are rather different, both in terms of technology and marketing. What is BestDrive’s specific offer for this sector?
"Dealing with tires for commercial and industrial vehicles means above all talking to industrial fleets, which means dealing with highly qualified personnel, up-to-date as far as new technologies are concerned and careful towards many aspects, not just the immediate cost, which is more likely to happen with private customers. BestDrive therefore provides its members with specific marketing tools, capable of attracting business opportunities coming from these fleets also from a geographical point of view, not to mention hi-tech managing tools, such as RFID systems for casing traceability and TPMS data processing systems, all things that make a difference”.
Is the truck network expanding? And if so, how: from the inside, with renewed commitment from current members or scouting for those who have never joined a Continental network?
"The network is already well spread from Northern Italy all the way to Sicily, with 23 of our affiliates dealing specifically with truck tires, out of a total of 161 belonging to the network. BestDrive is still expanding, however the criterion is not purely geographical but "geo-rational", we want to be close to the fleets. We are not interested in "covering Italy with flags" we want to be where the work is, and understand how this can change from area to area following the different needs of large industrial fleets present on the territory. As for the processes that lead to affiliation, we follow them both. We are pleased that our present truck offer is an asset of the BestDrive network, with affiliates that choose to expand their turnover with renewed impetus, but we also reach out to other tire dealers, with the aim of increasing sales of Continental products. Furthermore, the network organizes meetings twice a year where participants exchange ideas and experiences, “spreading” know-how by osmosis".
Earlier we mentioned consulting and training. Can we go into more detail?
"Of course. Each of the three levels of our offer include these services. We provide training mainly in four key areas: product technology, business aspects, financial management, digital solutions. Technical training covers Continental as well as complementary products and is carried out exclusively by internal staff. Commercial training, on the other hand, is managed by highly qualified trainers in the retail sector and is aimed above all at understanding consumer needs and making the most of proximity marketing tools without neglecting the Internet (very important for the car sector). The main concept is up-selling, as opposed to down-selling, which focuses exclusively on low prices which could affect, in the long run, the point of sale’s revenues. This is also the subject of financial management courses, aimed at preparing the entrepreneur to deal with the ins and outs of management control and the profitability of their company in a perspective where prices and discounts can be strategically used to boost their customer base. Last but not least, digital solutions, which looks specifically at the needs of industrial fleets and where one can benefit from new technologies, provided that the franchisee learns how to deal with them and adapt them to the needs of the individual fleet manager. So far, the positive feedback we are getting from the network is giving us a boost and confirms that the path taken by BestDrive is the right one”.