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MESA Makes Membership Gains, Expands Programs

ARVADA, COLO. – The Mobile Electronics Specialists Association (MESA) is expanding its membership base and its selection of dealer programs. The 12-volt buying and marketingsupport group entered 2013 with 44 dues-paying members that generated $153 million in 12- volt revenue (including installation) through 137 locations. As of April 2014, membership rose to 81 members, 189 outlets, and $200 million in revenue. MESA promises additional membership growth before the year is through.

Membership got a boost beginning last August with the establishment of a gold-level program that expanded eligibility to smaller dealers that mainly operate a single store in secondary markets, said executive director Ryan Gunter. “We got calls constantly from these types of dealers to join,” he said. “We got a lot of new members when we launched the gold membership, and we will expand more this year,” he said.

To be eligible for gold-level buying programs, dealers must generate between $750,000 and $1.8 million in annual volume. To be eligible for platinum-level buying programs, dealers must generate more than $1.8 million in revenues. Platinum dealers on average operate three to four stores, though some members operate five to seven stores.

Both classes of members get identical marketing support from MESA, whose members are mostly 12-volt specialists. Some members also sell home audio and video.

MESA limits membership to one dealer per geographic territory because the organization supplies members with such marketing materials as TV commercials and themed sales-support materials.

Marketing support includes:

• “sales-in-a-box” packages that support 12 different sales themes such as back-to-school sales and truckload sales;

• 22 themed email templates, such as March madness, refreshed every year with more to come in 2014;

• monthly newsletter templates; and

• TV commercials and in-store digital signage. The programs deliver economies of scale to make dealer costs affordable, Gunter said.

In 2014, MESA plans to launch template websites and the MESA Fit program, a sales tool enabling salespeople to go to a single website instead of multiple vendors’ websites to determine which accessories are needed for a particular install.

Also in 2014, MESA plans to launch its second line of private-label products. MESA-branded window tinting, supplied by Solar Gard, will debut in the fall, joining MESA-brand Scosche-supplied accessories.

Membership also entitles dealers to attend the organization’s annual summit, which includes vendors. The fourth annual summit is slated this year for Sept. 6-8 in Denver.

So far this year, member dealers are enjoying year-over-year sales gains, in part because mass merchants such as Best Buy have scaled back their assortments and because members “are way more promotional,” thanks to MESA’s marketing-support programs.

Support programs include MESA’s sales-in-abox program, which supplies dealers with POP material, email templates and Facebook banner ads to support 12 promotional themes, including garage sales, truckload sales and back-to-school sales. POP includes a 3-foot by 10-foot banner, a 2-foot by 3-foot window cling, double-sided table tents and price tags.

Much like the turnkey sales-in-a-box program, MESA’s themed email templates are available in multiple sales themes, such as March Madness and dads and grads. MESA supplies templates for 22 types of sales and plans to expand the number of themes in 2014. The templates are refreshed annually.

The email template is “90 percent complete” with store logo and store-specific links. Dealers insert product pictures, product information and prices. MESA inserts promotional products with national rebates.

Similarly, MESA provides monthly newsletter templates that dealers email to consumers to educate them about such topics as integrating smartphones into car audio systems or the benefits of Bluetooth. These templates, also 90 percent complete, come with space on the right for dealers to insert pictures and details about their own installations.

TV commercials are still important to 12-volt specialists, and MERA offers five 30-second commercials with three more to come by the end of May. The current five, launched last September, use live actors instead of the animated characters used in previous commercials to make the statement that consumers don’t need to buy a new car to get new car audio technology, Gunter said. The ads, targeted to males and females, feature a “similar look and feel to make you look bigger than if you ran one commercial all the time,” he said. Dealers put their own tag at the end of the commercials, which can be run on TV, YouTube or Pandora.

The five commercials focus on navigation, backup cameras, rear-seat entertainment, smartphone integration and remote-start systems. The next three commercials will be MESA’s first to promote radar detectors, window tinting and OEM-system upgrades.

MESA’s digital-signage program, launched two years ago, has expanded to 100 locations. Dealers get a 46-inch TV, Internet-connected PC, and a 60-minute consumer-targeted content loop pushed from MESA and completely refreshed every quarter, Gunter said. By meta-tagging content, MESA ensures that a particular dealer’s signage displays content only from that dealer’s vendors.

For the digital signs, MESA also provides training with online vendor quizzes with prizes awarded.

Later this year, MESA plans to add content that turns the digital signs into an interactive sales tool that consumers can use in lieu of a flip chart.

Also later this year, MESA plans second-quarter delivery of its first templated website for dealers. Recognizing that dealer websites aren’t updated often, MESA will push updated content from vendors on a continuing basis to individual sites. Dealers will opt for various levels of control so that, for example, content would be pushed only to a certain area of the site, Gunter said. All sites will feature the same general layout, though colors can be changed.

In another initiative later this year, MESA is targeting the third quarter to launch MESA Fit website. Currently, salespeople and installers access up to eight to 10 different websites every day to search for the right accessories needed to install a particular product into a particular vehicle, Gunter said. MESA Fit will consolidate products available from multiple vendors into one site. Accessories appearing on the site will include speakersize adapters, dash-mount kits, wiring harnesses, steering- wheel-remote adapters, and the like. MESA vendors’ parts are listed first, and accessories from other brands are listed next.

The site can be used as a sales tool, and it will make install bays more efficient by eliminating call-backs to consumers to inform them that an unanticipated part is needed, Gunter said.