4 Tips for Choosing Your Marketing Trailer Vendor
August 15, 2019
So you've decided on a trailer for your mobile tour orexperiential activation and now it’s time to find a vendor to work with. Thisdecision is one that is often overlooked or minimized during the process, butis one of the most critical decisions you’ll make to determine the success ofyour program.
It’s likely that when sourcing a trailer, your accountcoordinator or account manager simply pulls up Google and types in “marketingtrailer”, “trailer rental”, or something similar. He or she then spends a fewminutes clicking through various search results, submitting quote requests to afew that look promising, and ultimately choosing the cheapest option so as tomaximize the activation budget.
While this may sound good in theory – especially to theprocurement team, who would rather the vendor pay you to lease their trailer – itmay cost you more in the long run. Here are a few tips to keep in mind whensourcing your next trailer.
1. Vet your vendor
It sounds simple enough, but believe it or not, this doesn’talways happen. With the pressures of keeping costs down, the lack of timeavailable in most experiential programs, and sometimes even the inability forthe person doing the sourcing to be the purchasing decision-maker, it’s fareasier to simply find a good price, stick with the vendor you’re familiar with,or use a recommendation from a colleague.
Can those options work out? Sure.
But whether your budget is a few thousand or multi-million,isn’t the goal to produce the best possible program for your client so they arehappy and you can earn repeat business with them? If so, spending a bit moretime vetting your vendor will pay off.
Pick up the phone and call. Get to know who you’re going tobe buying or renting from. Ask to see past examples of their work. Go see theirfacility and meet with them in person, or offer to host them in your office topresent their capabilities to your account team and/or production team.
A good quality vendor will welcome these asks because it’s achance to prove themselves. It also shows you that they’re willing to go theextra mile to earn your business. And if they do earn your business they’regoing to work hard to get it right because they also want your repeat business.
2. Cheaper isn’t always better
I can’t stress this one enough. As a high-quality trailervendor, we hear the following statement all the time from people who havepurchased cheap trailers elsewhere:
“I got a great deal on my trailer from [insert trailercompany here] but all I’ve had is problems. Can you fix it for me?”
We’re happy to fix them, but we would rather sell you aquality trailer that will work exactly the way you need it to from the start.
Just in the past week, we have had two different marketingtrailer customers contact us to get them out of a mess they got themselves intoby trying to go cheap.
One was a well-known agency that sourced their trailer fromCanada and it fell over when they were trying to make a turn. When they broughtit into our shop, we were shocked that someone would put this on the road. It’sso unstable that it’s a danger to not only the tour staff pulling it but otherpeople on the road.
Imagine the liability issues the agency would have faced ifthe trailer had landed on and injured (or killed) someone when it fell over. Doyou want your client’s name to be attached to that? Do you want to put yourtour staff in that position?
The other situation was a brand who sourced their trailerdirectly, also from Canada, and had an on-site consumer injury because thetrailer vendor didn’t properly and safely install the equipment. Now they’re scrappingthe whole thing and building a new trailer.
This is basic stuff that a trailer fabricator should know,but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. If you try to skimp on costs,it’s likely going to come back and bite you down the road.
If the trailer is the centerpiece of your activation – amobile tour, a market-based sampling program, a pop-up, etc. – put the rightinvestment into it. The client’s product should be the star of the activation,but a poorly-built trailer can turn your activation into a B-movie. Is that howyour client wants to be perceived?
3. Take your vendor’s advice
I get it. Your creative team or strategy and ideation teamhas a great idea. Their rendering looks fantastic and you’re excited to presentthis idea to your client. There’s nothing wrong with that.
However, if it involves a trailer, make sure to consult withyour trailer vendor before promising something that may not be feasible. Creativeteams serve a vital purpose at agencies, but sometimes their big ideas don’t necessarilyfit with reality.
If your trailer vendor suggests a different way of doing it,heed their advice. Assuming you have already followed Tip No. 2 and found areputable trailer partner, trust that they are experts at designing andfabricating trailers and if they’re building your trailer they want yourprogram to succeed just as much as you do. They’re not going to steer youwrong.
I learned this myself a few years ago when I was an AccountManager at an agency in Chicago. We needed a trailer for a national productsampling tour. Our tour staff would be cooking in the trailer and servingsamples at events and retail stores. The trailer vendor that we used at thetime gave us two options: a food trailer and a step-van food truck. We and ourclient fell in love with the food truck despite the vendor’s recommendationthat step vans weren’t designed to drive long distances.
Sure enough, by the time it arrived in Los Angeles for tourlaunch, it needed all new brakes and other work done. It pushed back our launchby a week and cost us more money from the start. We also had to increase ourdrive days in between markets – losing out on activation time – and faced otherissues throughout the 20-week tour.
All of this could have been avoided if we had taken ourvendor’s advice and gone with the traditional food trailer instead.
Another side effect of that decision was that with the stepvan, our tour staff had no way of getting around once it was parked at an eventfor the whole weekend. Or if they were at their hotel and needed to run out toget food, they had to drive the food truck. This led to them expensing Ubersand Lyfts, and thus, eating up our budget. With a food trailer like the vendorsuggested, they would have had a truck to get around in.
You may love an idea, but your trailer vendor knows whatthey are talking about, so if they recommend a different way of doing it, don’tblow them off.
4. Involve the vendor throughout the pitchprocess
This is similar to Tip No. 3, but expanded a bit. The sooneryou engage with your trailer vendor, the better product you’re going to get. Inthe experiential world, you don’t always have the benefit of time, but the moreyou can maximize that time with your trailer vendor, the better off you willbe.
As soon as you get that RFP and decide on using a trailer,get the conversation started. Send your trailer vendor a mockup of what youwould like it to look like. Describe how you intend to use it, where you intendto take it, and what the main goal of your program is. A good partner will helpprovide input into consumer flow, spacing, towing variables, and much more.
We aren’t here to tell you how to do things, but rather tohelp guide you toward the best possible outcome for any activation thatinvolves a trailer. As mentioned above, this can help you avoid pitchingsomething to your client that can’t be done. It can also help save you moneybecause we can mutually decide on the best fabrication items and it gives thevendor adequate time to accurately quote, rather than building in too muchbuffer because of unknown variables.
It’s like anything in business. You’re never going to get itcheap, fast, and high-quality. If you want it cheap, you better be okay withsacrificing quality. If you want it fast, it’s going to cost you. If you wantit high-quality, how much time do you have?
As you are sourcing trailers, ask yourself which of thosethree you are most willing to give up. More importantly, ask your client whichof those three they are most willing to give up.
I’m not saying Advantage Trailer is the only trailer vendoryou should ever use. There are many good and reputable trailer fabricators. Takethe time to find one, and if there is one vendor you’ve been defaulting to foryears, simply because that’s who you’ve always used, consider looking around tosee what else is out there.
We would love to be in the conversation. With 30 years inthe trailer business, we have done everything imaginable, so you can trust thatwe know what we’re doing. We’ve worked with agencies and brands, large andsmall.
I personally spent more than a decade in client service attwo different agencies in New York and Chicago. I have managed multi-milliondollar programs for clients. I have worked with trailer vendors to fabricatetrailers. I’ve been in your shoes and now I’m on the vendor side, which means Ican be a big asset to you.
I’m happy to come meet with your account teams or productionteams to discuss how we can work together. I’m happy to give you a trailerquote for your next RFP. I’m happy to talk through how a trailer can benefityour next experiential program. Give me a call at 630-529-2029 or email me at Justin@advantagetrailer.com.
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