The Schmidt family—Al, his wife Joelle and their son Greg—relies largely on their reputation, rather than a substantial advertising budget, to promote Paradigm Automotive & Performance of Brainerd, Minnesota. Friends telling friends creates repeat business, they believe.
They do, however, use social media to stay in touch with those customers and to promote sales. “We run specials on Facebook that we can target to specific people,” said Greg Schmidt, who manages the store’s social media campaigns.
By buying sponsored ads based on keywords, “we can advertise to men, women, certain age groups,” he said, explaining features that can be highly selective, such as targeting specific niches of road racers or drag racers, that significantly increase the cost-effectiveness of any marketing effort.
Paradigm Automotive & Performance also uses Facebook and Instagram to generate greater interest in the store, but Greg is quick to note that each is used differently and reaches a different audience. “I can throw up a picture faster on Instagram than I can on Facebook,” he said, “and I use it to show more personal stuff so customers can see what we’re doing.”
The focus on Facebook is less immediate and with a broader perspective on the sport. “Customers can follow us and see what’s going on in drag racing throughout Minnesota,” said Greg.
That also helps customers keep track of where the Schmidts will be on any given weekend. “If our customers know we will be in Fargo on a weekend, then they know they won’t have to haul their fuel tanks to the track,” said Al, offering an example of how the Facebook postings boost trackside business.
The Schmidts also have taken on the responsibility of promoting a local car show in Brainerd that they believe will be a valuable marketing project for Paradigm Automotive & Performance. “The guy who had been in charge of the show was a customer of ours,” explained Al.
After first asking for sponsorship help, he realized that organizing the show was more work than he thought. Schmidt jumped at the chance to take over the show, which in the past has filled downtown Brainerd with more than 100 cars.
“It brings in older guys with muscle cars, younger guys, and gets all the car clubs together,” he said. “It will get our name out there in front of our demographics,” which includes both street rodders and racers. It should increase business at a time when the economy is hitting a higher gear, Schmidt believes.
“Customers are now willing to spend more money on toys,” he observed. “They are not just sitting on their money.” As an example, he cites one of his recent restoration projects, an original 1964 Mustang. “A customer’s wife fell in love with it, so he bought it for her while he spent money on his own race car,” recalled Schmidt.
Running a car show will also add to Schmidt’s workload, as he recalled sleeping on a cot in the shop while putting in 18-hour days to get Paradigm Automotive & Performance off the ground. But as far as Schmidt is concerned, the show is just another opportunity to make friends. “I’m here on a lot of weekends anyway,” he said, adding that he gives customers his personal cell phone number and encourages them to use it.
“I don’t go on vacation,” Schmidt admitted. “When I’m at the race track, that’s when I’m on vacation.” And like anybody on vacation, he spends much of the time mingling with friends and trying to make new ones.
Read the entire Retailer Profile of Paradigm Automotive & Performance in February’s issue of Performance Racing Industry magazine online.