Gary Linam developed the idea of Bird Dog Club in 1999, at the time he opened the first “Used Car Supercenter”, Driving 2000.com, in Huntsville, AL. Gary knew the importance of rewarding those individuals that successfully referred their family, friends, and co-workers to his dealership. The process by which the dealership was following was unclear and resulted in disappointed customers, frustrated sales personnel, and a very embarrassed Dealer Principal accused of not “doing what he said he was going to do”!
The Driving 2000 dealerships were having some specific issues trying to track their referral sales and the payment of referral fees to their bird dogs. The first problem was that as more referral sales occurred, the more occurrences of lost check requests, lost documentation and misunderstanding between customer and salesperson as to validity of referral fees. The second problem was that different individuals overseeing the payment of the referral fees and lack of management involvement could unintentionally result in non-payment of valid referrals or duplication of referral fees. Driving 2000 was looking for an application that could be accessed from anywhere, that would guard the integrity of the data, and that would motivate the sales staff and their respective Bird Dogs to achieve established referral goals.
The first draft of the Bird Dog Club™ program was written in 1999 on paper torn from notepad. These notes were given to one, Robert Lutrick, to put into digital format in the form of a website in which a button was to be placed on the front page of the company’s homepage. This would allow for quick access by the sales staff so that they may introduce the customer to the program, go over its premise, its rules, and finally a registration form that would allow the customer’s information ( name, address, telephone numbers, email address, etc) to be added to a simple Access® database for future utilization in marketing and communication and a method by which to track that customer’s success as a bird dog. Furthermore, it gave the customer a set of guidelines by which to follow in order to receive a reward and to provide a much-needed affiliation with a particular salesperson in order to achieve a “win-win” situation. There would be a method by which both parties, sales staff and customer, would be held accountable for the success of the rewards program and the reduction of confusion as to the process by which a successful sale results in a reward for the customer.
The program showed great success! Over 25% of the monthly sales for any give month were attributed directly to the program and its utilization by the sales staff. The program also attributed to a decrease in complaints from customers and, in fact, yielded a number of praises in the form of positive testimonials and letters to Gary thanking him for offering such a program.
In 2001, Gary was introduced to Jamie Cain, the son of a former co-worker with which Gary worked with at a former employer in Sheffiled, Al in the beginning days of his career in the automotive industry. Mr. Cain had a background in web design and database design and was to be employed at Driving 2000 as their future web-master / internet sales representative. In 2003, Jamie was given the charge of creating a more modern company website and administration duties over the current Bird Dog Club Program for the dealership. Jamie found great success in the program as the internet manager and reaped many sales as a result of its utilization. Seeing such great result from his efforts and his credence in the program, Gary suggested the idea and proposed that Jamie find a way to take the program and make it a sellable product for other dealers. In its current state, it was not scalable and not reproducible, and would need a complete overhaul in order to market it to other dealers as a viable method by which to track their referrals and yield the same results as Driving 2000.
Following exhausting research, Jamie and Gary happened upon a local company that offered their support and expert advice as to a method by which the current database could be expanded upon and the accompanying website pages could be re-written in order to produce a marketable product for use by other dealers. Substantial capital and countless hours of work over a period of a year resulted in the second version of the Bird Dog Club program in early 2004. Many new features such as reporting tools, automatic counters, and the ability to customize the look and feel for a particular dealer were added to the program, yielding a product that was ready to go to market. It was then that the decision was made to incorporate, and begin the task of hiring an outside sales staff, marketing staff, and customer support team.
The first employee to come aboard was Susan Glandon, a former automotive dealer. Susan has over 23 years experience in the automotive industry and a substantial list of affiliation within. She was the obvious candidate for our National Sales Director position. Upon accepting the position in 2005, she was given the task of establishing a sales force to market to dealers throughout the country.
Bird Dog Club, LLC. began selling its Bird Dog Club program in 2004. The company’s first customers were the dealer entities that made up the Driving 2000, Inc. auto group; Suzuki of Huntsville, Shoals Suzuki, Varsity Suzuki, Driving 2000 Pre-Owned, Driving 2000 Platinum and Hyundai of Decatur. In 2005, Sand Mountain Toyota joined the list and has seen great success with the program.
To date, Bird Dog Club, LLC. supports over 250 dealer in the United States and Canada and currently offers an alternative product with a different look and feel, the Prospector’s Club, and offers both programs in English, Spanish and French.