Posted: March 15, 2013
Tapping Growth Opportunites In Niche Markets
Mike Deschenes, managing partner at Rampage Products discusses how they found growth in the niche Jeep market.By Mike Deschenes
My experience going back 30 years has been in looking for marketing opportunities. The mass market is always appealing, but focusing on niches of the market is the right way to grow a company.
In 2006, the market hadn’t quite started its demise, but we already saw hints of it. My partner, Jeff Beckman, had experience on the Jeep side of the business, and we discussed taking advantage of that. At the time, everybody was focusing on high-volume Fords, Chevys and Rams. But we saw the Jeep market had potential. And our timing was good.
Prior to 2007, it was common for Jeep guys to buy their vehicles and never go back to the dealer, because they were do-it-yourselfers. When the new Jeep came out in 2007 that started to change. It appealed more to the do-it-for-me country club crowd, and women were also much more attracted to it.
Jeep is an evolving market. It’s not a big one, but most of the parts that go on a Jeep are similar to the parts that go on a Dodge Ram. If you were to profile, today’s Jeep owners, they don’t look much different from the truck owner. They’re looking for accessories; bumpers, grille inserts, hood locks, floor mats, power mirrors. And now that Jeep is combined with Chrysler and Dodge stores, we see that as a whole new opportunity, not just for our company, but for retailers and installers as well.
We’ve always been in the truck business. Ford, Chevy, Tundra and Dodge represent a respectable percentage, but in the last couple of years, we’ve gained some momentum in the Jeep market. Overall, there seems to be only a small percentage of market growth, but the replacement parts business is doing well. Our Jeep top is a replacement product, so that element is helping us. Historically, the top had a framework, and companies made an aftermarket replacement. We could have duplicated that or made it cheaper, but we wanted to bring innovation.
We designed a top for the 1997 to 2006 CJ that doesn’t take a frame, and patented a new installation method. It attaches differently and is easier to install. That helped get us a position in the marketplace. At the SEMA Show this year, we’ll have that same concept and design carried into the 2012 model. We want to continue to pursue niches. We’ve gone into the Bronco, Blazer and Suzuki, all little niches. If you don’t keep hitting niche markets, your company will not grow. It’s always been about new, emerging markets.