March 26, 2002 Volume 1 Issue 42
A Truck Stop in Your Near Future
Those of us who are frequent flyers may feel we're an "elite" group. Especially the 100,000+ mile a year folks.
May I introduce you to another group; truck drivers. Yes, those pushing and pulling the 18 wheelers across our highways. Who bring us a large hunk of our everyday goods. And who we'd miss in about 48 hours if they stopped.
It's a good bet many of these drivers put more than 100,000 miles on the road every year - as that is truly what they do. They drive.
You may not know there is considerable competition between the truck stop groups - just as between airlines, hotels, rent-a-car services that you and I may be a bit more familiar with. So, if you've a collection of truck stops - what do you do to get more than your fair share of business? You create a frequency club - and offer special benefits to your best customers. Dah!
Before we dive into 3 groups doing just that, let's talk truck stops generally. In a previous life they were for truckers exclusively. Designed and stocked and staffed for truckers. With 24/7/365 service - because 18 wheelers are on the road 24/7/365.
Beginning in the late '80's changes began. Offering diesel fuel, oil, a little maintenance and a wash alone was not enough to be profitable. So "centers" or "plazas" were built. Truck stops began reaching out for those in 4 wheelers (and on 2 wheels - motorcycles are welcome!) - with special islands outside to service the tourist and business traveler. And special services inside, too.
Scores of truck stops have upgraded all facilities ... beginning with rest rooms. A key thing for everyone. Meaning the baths are large, well lighted, clean. Next were the communications options. Most often there is a place to hook up your laptop, as well as to make a telephone call. I frequently drop in at a truck stop to get a quiet place to spread out my papers and make a series of telephone calls. I know there will be a place almost as good as a private hotel room.
Food service has been upgraded, too. Beyond triple burgers with chili/cheese and chicken fried steak (both still available). Now there are food courts offering just about everything ... as well as the sit-down restaurant there has always been.
Game rooms, once exclusively for truckers, are now open to you and me. Need a shower? - you can get one. How about overnight accommodations? ... good chance there is a name brand motel/hotel right there.
In addition, if you're in a hurry, there is most often a convenience store with more options than the average 7-11 or Circle K. Most come with wide aisles and a friendly, helpful staff. I've actually bought "things" at a truck stop ... just because I was there, saw a gift, and bought. If the item was too big to haul on my Harley, I asked them to ship it to my office. At one stop in west Texas a young lady served as "Travel Coordinator" ... I asked her to make all shipping arrangements. She did.
Okay, enough of an introduction. Let's look at three companies doing some interesting things at truck stops; TravelCenters of America @ www.tatravelcenters.com, Flying J @ www.flyingj.com, and Petro Stopping Centers @ www.petrotruckstops.com.
We begin with TravelCenters. I liked their web site immediately because the home page has a motorcycle pictured, along with a car, an RV (another BIG audience at truck stops!) and a truck. They put out the welcome for those of us who ride the highways on a bike. Nice.
TA RoadKing Club is the name of the TravelCenters "club". Their web site is both open and "closed" - meaning you and I can wonder through and learn a lot. Yet, you must be a RoadKing member to access additional data.
Last fall they were updating their system - and decided to issue a new card to every member. Just as with the airlines - there was a bonus of a1000 RoadMiles when you updated your account. With some drop-dead dates - to encourage every trucker to get their account up to date on time.
What do you get if you're a RoadKing member? Well, no waiting in line for the showers. Discounts on fuel and other purchases. The first may not seem like much - yet, again, I've been in truck stops where you took a number for a shower. And waited. Membership puts you at the front of the line. Just like upgrades on the airlines.
Of course discounts on anything is an immediate benefit. Many truckers are independent drivers - they truly work to pay the bills. A few extra pennies in the pocket can add up over the year.
Let's move on. Flying J is based in Ogden, Utah. #46 on the Forbes list of the 500 largest private companies. They are the largest retail distributor of diesel fuel in North America. In 41 states they have 149 travel plazas - with 26 more under construction as I write this article.
Their customer loyalty program - the Frequent Fueler membership - is divided into three;
... Professional Drivers
Depending on the program you earn points different ways. You get fuel discounts. There is specially priced merchandise in their store and menu items in the restaurants. Insurance is another offering. They make a big play for both your RV and auto needs. Pre-paid telephone calling cards are available.
For the truckers they offer even more. A free shower and fountain drink when you buy 50 gallons of fuel. Plus points for everything else you buy. The points can be used for meals, lodging and almost anything bought in their store. Long distance telephone calling is a given for a trucker. So the RoadLink calling card is offered.
Petro Stopping Centers is based in El Paso, Texas. I've eaten in their Iron Skillet Restaurant more than once - in more than one location. Like their competition, they offer game and movie rooms, laundry facilities, Internet Kiosk services, phone banks, a travel and convenience store, food courts, ATM and fax services.
Their frequency program is titled Petro Passport Driver Rewards. They have a Platinum Passport level, too - again, just like the airlines and hotels ... for the best customers they offer more. Your earn points and award certificates good for use almost anywhere inside a Petro stop.
The Petro web site does not make a pitch directly for RV'ers and those of us on 2 or 4 wheels. Only Flying J Rewards truly reaches out to the highway traveler - no matter what set of wheels you are on. Yet, they all have programs for their prime audience - the 18 wheel driver.
The week I wrote this article a client was asking about creating a "Club". A frequent buyer program for their customers. You can bet I took notes from the truck stop folks - they're doing it right.
Drop in each of the web sites. You will find it interesting.
You undoubtedly have seen these numbers elsewhere. Yet, every time I pick up my copy of these figures I find it interesting. And "assume" you will, too.
If the earth's population was exactly 100 people, here is what the mix would be;
It's a good things numbers do not always tell the full story. Even with my travels around the globe, this story is surprisingly different than what I thought. It's probably different for you, too.
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This issue of The Works of Marketing with Ray includes another quote that hits me right between the eyes ... maybe it applies somewhere in your life, too;
"Success doesn't come to you ... you go to it."
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