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Point of View: Same or Different?

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This is the time of year when many tool manufacturers spend their weekends talking to an important segment of their business, the mobile tool distributors. I was walking one of the shows recently with a relative newcomer to the business. He lowered his voice and whispered to me, “Why do shop owners let more than one tool truck stop at their shops during a week?”

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I looked at him uncomprehendingly, “What do you mean?”

“I’ve been coming to these shows and I see all the same people (suppliers) here as the other shows, they just wear a different color shirt. It seems like there should just be one mobile tool distributor per shop.”

“Blasphemer!” I thought to myself. But then, the more I thought about it, I had to ask myself the question and answer it honestly.

It’s common knowledge that many small and large manufacturers supply products to the four mobile distributors under the private-brand umbrella. Though each of the mobiles are primary manufacturers of some portion of their product line, the majority of their tools and equipment are sourced from other manufacturers. Some manufacturers sell to one or two of them, but many sell to all four. In some cases, they’ll sell just a small portion of their line to the mobiles; in others, the mobiles will take on a majority of the product line.

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To further complicate the scenario, the manufacturers also sell to the tool and equipment warehouses across the country. Most of the time, the manufacturers provide the exact same tool to all their customers, the only difference being the three P’s of Private Branding: Packaging, Product mix and Pricing. Occasionally you will find a temporarily exclusive product at one or the other of the mobiles, however, this is rarely the case with the brick and mortar WDs.

So, back to the original question, “why do shop owners let more than one tool truck stop at their shops during the week?”

For the same reason you have more than one loyal customer. Just as the professional technician associates a quality tool with a certain brand, your customers have come to associate good, quality work with your brand, your company and your people. Don’t you offer the same services and repairs that a similar shop in town can do? Are your prices higher or lower? Aren’t you using the same tools and equipment to diagnose and repair vehicles? If that’s the case, you are no different than the mobile distributors. You just happen to have four walls and a roof around your business instead of sheet metal and tires.

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People like to have choices. They like to believe there’s a special reason to choose one tool over another. They don’t want to believe that a screwdriver from Sears could be the same as a screwdriver from Mac Tools or Matco or Snap-on or Cornwell Tools. A purchasing thought process might go like this: “The handle is different. It feels more comfortable. The blade lengths are different. One has a lifetime warranty; one has a five-year warranty. These are not the same. One is better than the other. That’s why I have to make the right choice.”

Each of the mobile distributors started with just three things: an idea of bringing tools to the individual technician, a product or products they were known for and their brand name. They began with regional strength and grew nationally and internationally. The important thing to realize is how these four major tool distributors have come to differentiate themselves to their customers. You can learn from their success.

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Differentiation — Do you understand how and why your shop must differ from the competition? There are three critical differentiating points you should know.

The 3 P’s of Private Branding: Packaging, Product Mix and Price — Understand how important the 3 P’s are to your business.


To read this article in its entirety, please go to www.techshop-ets.blogspot.com, or wait for the June issue of TechShop for Part Two.

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