Effectively reaching the youthful segment of the street/strip market requires a shift in mindset, according to our contacts.
The Internet and social media have been important in keeping a steady influx of racers at Auto-Plus Raceway in Gainesville, Florida. “We do what we can through local promotions and getting the word out, but the reality is that most of them start texting back and forth that they’re going to the track, and then their friends will all show up,” Mike Yurick explained.
“We do a lot with Facebook and Twitter and all of the other social media sites. I have a young marketing guy who’s really dialed in to all of that, and he does all that stuff for me, constantly updating everything,” he said. “Our track photographer and our marketing guy take a lot of photos that they post, and they and our racers post videos to YouTube, so there’s stuff floating around all the time about Auto-Plus Raceway.
“We try to find out what chat rooms and whatnot the guys are on, and try to get the word out when we run an event,” Yurick continued. “We also did several different promotional deals with Groupon last year, things like two spectator entries for the price of one, and those were pretty successful. We got quite a few of those back, and they seemed to be new people to the track.”
Gandrud Parts Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, doesn’t do much with social media, but Chris Slack told us they get excellent exposure with a traveling display they use to exhibit at drag racing events and car shows. “It’s more about introducing ourselves to people: Here’s what we can do, here’s how we’ll take care of you. They seem to remember that, and later on when they need an engine or a part, they call us.”
Brenspeed in Pierceton, Indiana, and another location in Dallas, Texas, fields anywhere from three to six cars in all NMRA events, and uses them to test the parts and packages it sells to the aftermarket. But the shop also uses its time at the races to provide trackside support to its customers. “We help them out and answer their questions and do everything we can to make sure they have a good weekend,” said Brent White.
“The late model performance guys are very, very social media savvy,” said Jordan Sharp at Karl Performance, Des Moines, Iowa. “In fact, I think social media as a whole has driven this industry, or really revived it. With the older hot rod and muscle car guys, it doesn’t play as predominant a role; I’d say word of mouth, shows and auctions are where we get big hits on those.”
The shop has experienced much success providing sponsorship for local Test-N-Tune and Midnight Madness events. “A few of our local tracks do like a Fast Four, and we’ll sponsor them with dyno giveaways, gift certificates and things like that,” Sharp explained. “Even more successful is the Cars and Coffee event we hold at our location the second Saturday of every month. We provide breakfast, music, drawings and giveaways, and dyno demonstrations. We usually do a King of the Hill type contest on the dyno, where there’s a pay-in and winner takes all. As many as 200, 300 and sometimes 400 cars come out. We get a great response from not only the late model performance-oriented guys, but hot rodders, too. We really try to be the only source in the Des Moines area for something like this.”
Steve Wolcott of Promedia, Santa Ana, California, affirmed the importance of social media in this market, but also agreed that old school marketing techniques can be equally or even more effective. “Digital is awesome, but we’re living in a more and more cluttered world,” he said. “People don’t always stare at banner ads the way they used to. We’re all getting hit with direct emails that maybe we didn’t ask for. Sometimes the old-fashioned stuff like signage or banners at the track can make all the difference in the world, or going to a local event and handing out flyers and business cards, or setting up shop on the midway.
“What I call those ‘belly-to-belly’ opportunities, where you’re right in front of your customer, are still very powerful,” he continued. “It’s kind of like the difference between someone sending you a hand-written thank you note versus an email. I think it’s great when you can connect with people on social media, but when you take the time to go out where they actually are, enjoying their vehicles, talk to them and help them out if they’ve got a problem, the word spreads that your shop is a place they can rely on.”