Automotive Undercar Trade Organization (AUTO)
AUTO was a voice for North American Manufacturers, Warehouse Distributors and Jobbers who produce or sell products for under the car – e.g. exhaust systems. Although this membership-funded organization had existed for over 15 years, it was limited by a low profile, a static membership and the perception that it functioned as an “old boys’ network”. Senior staff stated the need to create more value for existing members and a desire to build membership. Whiting & Holmes Limited had been involved with the Automotive Undercar Trade Organization (AUTO) over several years and had attended annual Board Member meetings.
To increase visibility, change perception, provide value, help retain membership and grow AUTO’s membership base. Initial discussions indicated a need to tightly define the organization’s mandate and focus. To help achieve those goals, Whiting & Holmes recommended that input be drawn directly from prospective members, specifically repair shop owners. The intent was to ensure their issues and needs were clearly known, thus allowing AUTO to address them in future membership approaches. However, with North America-wide membership and a very tight budget, communicating that information was a glaring cost problem.
Whiting & Holmes developed a three-phased approach. First, develop a dramatic, interactive website which would give the Association impact and contemporary appeal, as well as be a conduit for information and revenue generation for the Association. Next, to gather information that would help guide the construction of this web-based initiative. We recognized it was possible to collect the required data by communicating with AUTO members at industry tradeshows and car shows, and by conducting one-on-one surveys at these events. A questionnaire was developed that required both quantitative and qualitative responses, then distributed to members of the association, who in turn, administered the survey. The most prevalent responses were incorporated into the programs offered by AUTO, and the new website included an electronic forum for ongoing thoughts and media advertisements. Finally, phase three involved the ongoing promotion of the website, primarily through industry trade magazines.
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