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What Racing Retailers Can Learn From The Movies

Movies provide entertainment, but their underlying messages can also prove beneficial to racing businesses.

By Tom Shay, Profits Plus


People are expected to view the 2006 movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” starring Will Ferrell as a comedy about motorsports. From the characters to the cars, everything is a parody. The movie is categorized as a comedy.

When you watch the movies “Fifty First Dates” and “Groundhog Day,” they too are categorized as comedies. There is a similar story line in these two, as each focuses on an event that repeats itself every day.

With “Fifty First Dates,” the Drew Barrymore is unable to remember anyone she met after a car accident, so the romantic interest, Adam Sandler, has to develop a way to reintroduce himself to her every day. In “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray is a TV weathercaster who goes to report on Punxsutawney Phil and finds himself in a time loop, as the events of one day repeat on the following day.

In “Fifty First Dates,” Sandler finds a way to get the young woman who can’t remember him to recognize him each day; and Murray determines what is important to him and is able to free himself from doing the same thing over and over again.

All three movies are comedies—unfortunately, however, too many people in this industry only see “Ricky Bobby” as one. They live out the other two, over and over, each week of the racing season.

How so?

In season, you are likely to see your customers every week. They are busy repairing, rebuilding and improving their race car. On the weekend, many of you also see your customers at the track, because you have a portable shop or trailer that allows you to take care of your customers on race night.

The scenario repeats itself week after week throughout the season. And when the season is over you may still see your customers, depending on how much time, effort and money they put into their car during the winter months.

When the next season rolls around, there comes the expectation that your customer will be back at your doorstep, ready once again to be your customer for the season.
Unfortunately, it is that expectation that the customer is going to remember you that can get you and your business in trouble.

What if, one night at the track, there is something your customer needs, and you don’t have it on your trailer? Your customer will probably go looking for your competition’s trailer, or at least another racer that might just have that spare part.

A similar situation can happen during the week, with the expectation that because this person has done business with you before, he or she will continue to do business with you.

This is the similarity to the movies mentioned above—it is an expectation that the event that has previously happened is going to happen again. But realistically, the shop that is approaching its customer with this attitude is taking that relationship with the customer for granted.

What if there was a situation in which the customer had to go to the competition’s trailer on race night? Regardless of the price—better or worse—what if that shop owner made a point to write down that customer’s name. With only a few questions, the competition will soon know who is on his race team and where their shop is. He will know if they race in any additional classes or series, or at any other tracks.

What if the competition then made a point to drop by that racer’s shop late on the following Monday afternoon; just a courtesy call, but nevertheless, one in which the customer is told his business is appreciated and that the parts house welcomes the opportunity to once again have their business.

But the competition might not stop there. The competition might ask the racer and his team which nights and how late they are working on their cars. What if the competition gave that racer his cell phone number and told him that if he was working late on his car, the parts house would be glad to send someone to get the part late at night and deliver it to the race team, so they wouldn’t have to wait until another evening to work on that specific part of the car?

The parts house might even ask the racer what parts he is getting from out of town or the Internet. It might cause the parts house to rethink what they are stocking and make some additions to their product offering.

On race night, someone from the parts house might make a special effort to stop by to talk to this racer and his team to ask if there was anything they forgot to bring or anything they may suddenly find themselves in need of. This parts house might even tell the racer that if they did not have the necessary part on their trailer, they could send someone back to the parts house and have the part back in time for the racer to repair his car for the feature race.

At the end of the season, this parts house might throw a party to congratulate all of the racers and their teams for their season, and to thank them for their business, no matter how much or how little they spent with the parts house.

Once the season is over, this competing parts house might make a point to stay in touch with all the race teams they have done business with throughout the year. They might even find relevant articles in the trade magazines, including Performance Racing Industry, make photocopies of these articles and send the copies or digital links to the articles to the race teams as a means to help them, but also as a way to stay in touch.

When these trade magazines carry advertisements about new products, this competing parts house might make copies of these ads and send them to the race teams, along with a note to tell them that they are stocking these new products.

During the offseason, this competing parts house might be making the rounds to visit all of these racers to see what they are going to do differently for next year. Perhaps they are adding a car because the racer’s son or daughter is getting into the sport. The racer may decide to sell a car, or move into a new classification. After all, having information about each of the race teams could go a long way toward helping this parts house determine what must be stocked for the coming season.

All of this could happen; all of this could have started with a competing parts house just being in the right place at the right time. And it would be a competing parts house that simply started a relationship by reaching out to a racer after a race—and what you had thought/expected was a simple one-time purchase.

“Ricky Bobby” is still just a comedy. But in the other two movies, one person found a way to get someone to think about them first-thing every morning, and another figured out what was important and made a change.

The question that many racing entrepreneurs have to answer is whether you can trust your customers to remember you every time they need something, and continue to do business with you every time they need something. If not, you may want to change the way you market to racers.

But if you leave it the way it is, you run the risk of losing out to a competing racing business that gives an unbelievable amount of attention to racers, one that does what it takes to be the place where the racer gets all his parts, because that parts house doesn’t wait for the customer. It reaches out to its customers first.



Tom Shay

Tom Shay of Profits Plus in St. Petersburg, Florida, is a fourth generation small business owner and manager with more than three decades of experience as a successful independent retailer. He has authored 12 books on small business management and a college textbook on small business accounting. He has also produced hundreds of articles on management for over 75 business publications worldwide.

Performance Racing Industry