ACC president says digital marketing is crucial to the industry

Jan. 1, 2020
The financial squeeze that's seized the industry is felt at the marketing level just as much as in any other channel. But marketing and communications will likely change the landscape of the industry as we know it, especially as more companies place
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The financial squeeze that’s seized the industry is felt at the marketing level just as much as in any other channel. But marketing and communications will likely change the landscape of the industry as we know it, especially as more companies place a firm footing in the World Wide Web.

“The squeeze on budget forces everybody in the industry to look very carefully at what they’re spending money on, and at the end of the day combining physical print with as much online marketing as you can,” says Tom Marx, president of the Automotive Communication Council (ACC), which this month held its Spring Meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

Looking to the digital realm to market and to sell product is by no means a new concept. But Marx, who also leads the San Rafael, Calif.-based Marx Group, submits a “hybrid methodology” for executing this strategy: use external resources for the design and technology and internal resources to load and update content.

“Companies are depending way too much on internal technologies to get things done,” he adds.

Whether it’s electronic catalogs, company Web sites or e-mailers, the digital marketplace may very well be the most effective means for improving a business’ communications.

“From an industry perspective, I think it’s critically important to focus marketing on where you can reach the end customer as intimately as possible and as consistently as possible,” Marx continues. “And if that means Internet marketing, then do it right.”

ACC meetings, says Marx, are perhaps one of the best-kept secrets on the marketing side of the industry. “This is the only venue in the aftermarket that marketing professionals from all channels of the industry can get together to compare notes about what’s working and what’s not working,” he adds.

At this month’s meeting, for example, a jobber roundtable pondered inventory turns, effective promotions and the vitality of electronic catalogs; a heavy-duty panel discussed the importance of brand and the future of the heavy-duty marketplace.

Some on the jobber panel offered “forthright statements,” says Marx. For example, “‘You’re spending money on marketing that’s not really helping my business,’” and, “‘No more print catalogs.’” Marx says the audience applauded this statement, but is the industry at large really listening, he wonders.

To continue the online demands of the industry, Marx says that the jobber panel also expressed the need for more training programs, even if they’re on the Web.

The jobber panel also covered the need for up-to-date data, while admitting that they’ve had to source products from other manufacturers to improve margins, says Scott Howat, director of corporate communications for the Affinia Group. He adds that this poses a problem for manufacturers like Affinia.

“As a full line manufacturer, it’s very difficult for us to provide the data and still support the full line,” says Howat. “We need the jobber support. It’s very difficult when we have people buying short lines to supplement our full line, full service programs.”

Tim Stone, from Performance Automotive and one of the jobber panelists, says that keeping up with fill rates on products is becoming an increasing challenge for independent distribution. "We need help from manufacturers," he adds. "Instead of marketing support, we need breadth of inventory support."

ACC will host its Fall Meeting Sept. 22-23 in Memphis, Tenn. For more information, visit

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