Archive for September, 2010

Converting Buyers To Repeat Customers

September 27, 2010

Customers For Life: How To Turn that One-Time Buyer
Into a Lifetime Customer

How much would you pay to acquire a lifetime customer? One who would come  back to your dealership time after time to buy things, year after year? How about $15 and a few hours of your time? I thought so.

All you have to do is read a small paperback book, or, better yet, pick up a bunch of copies for your key employees. The book is the bestselling classic, “Customers For Life“, by Carl Sewell and Paul B.Brown. It also includes  a brief but informative section by management consultant Tom Peters. The book is published by Doubleday, initially in 1990 and reprinted in 2002. But it’s still valuable today, two decades later. It might be the best investment of a hundred bucks or so in staff training that you ever made. I don’t work for Amazon, but here’s where you can read other reviews and order the book on-line, if you wish.

The easy-to-read paperback contains 41 chapters in 210 pages. But you don’t have to read the entire book, front to back. Pick out chapters that are important to you, and start there. “Customers” is written by Carl Sewell, a Dallas car dealer, who is one of the most successful sellers of luxury cars in the country. His associate, Paul Brown, is a former writer and editor at Business Week, Forbes, Financial World, and Inc., and a specialist in customer service. These guys know what they are talking about and they know how to say it in plain, simple language that’s easy to grasp.


Great video/commercial from — can your store top it?

September 24, 2010

The guys over at just put together this video/commercial and I’ve gotta say it’s pretty fantastic. I don’t see a lot of local marketing programming done by my locals dealers — not their fault, I just DVR most of the TV I watch. While I can’t very well endorse the part where the rider pull off the main road like that to blast through the forest (are those approved trails?) I can certainly say it speaks to something we’ve probably all felt like doing — whether it was over a median, up an embankment to an off-ramp or over the tops of the cars in front of us.

That said, this is pretty well done piece of advertising for the e-commerce site that we wrote about in our print mag back in June. Read it here and here. Enjoy.

Customer Service: A Tale of Two Companies

September 17, 2010, A Winner. Target Stores, A Loser.

This is a story about customer service and how the same problem was handled by two different retailers, one a leading bricks and mortar operation and the other, an on-line business.

I’m talking about, Inc., the on-line business headquartered in Seattle,  and Target Corporation, based in Minneapolis.

Here’s my tale of how the two major retailers, using totally different business models, provided service to a customer, me, when I had a problem with a defective product. Amazon, the on-line retailer, did it correctly, beyond my greatest expectations, and will continue to receive lots of my business. Target, the hugely successful bricks and mortar retailer and one of my favorite local places to shop, completely dropped the ball, to the point of rudeness and stupidity, and has lost a big chunk of my business forever.

On June 24, 2010, I purchased a Kindle digital reader from my local Target store in West St. Paul, Minnesota.  I paid $189 and change for it and was happy to get it. I added a nifty leather carrying case to protect it and was off and running. The service I received from Target electronics people was helpful, and everything was good. I spent money with my local retailer, and I got the product I wanted at the price I wanted, all without the problems sometimes encountered with on-line purchases of sophisticated electronic products. Life was good.


Slow sales? Get ’em in gear

September 1, 2010

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews Sept. 2010 issue.

Each year we do a special issue in September called Gear, which, as the name suggests, focuses on all the things a rider might put on his or her body, from head to toe.

We figure there are a million reasons why you’d want to know about the newest collections from the various brands and distributors. For instance, some of the judges looking over the 2009 Top 100 entries noted that many dealers reported a shift in the percentage of profits away from unit sales and into the apparel and accessories department.

Take Bill Cameron at Skagit Powersports. Our July profile on the Washington state dealership shows that for his income by department, PG&A sales went from 15.3 percent of total in 2007 to 22.9 percent in 2009. And, at KTM North America’s recent dealer meeting, the OEM reported that PG&A sales now account for about 25 percent of the company’s worldwide profit.

So it would appear that now more than ever, apparel and accessories sales are of growing importance. Yes, we understand that selling jackets, pants and helmets won’t supplant new unit sales, but when bikes aren’t moving and consumer financing is nil, what’s another way to boost the bottom line?

In preparing for this issue, I talked with Jennifer Robison, the Tucker Rocky national retail specialist who spends the bulk of her time inside dealerships explaining the finer points of merchandizing, display and presentation. The way she sees it, vehicle sales won’t pick up until consumer confidence returns — and this isn’t gonna happen anytime soon. This is why, she says, it’s imperative that dealers turn their focus to gear and accessories.

During our e-mail exchanges and phone conversations, Robison made an observation that really resonated with me: Dealers continue to use new units as their main dealership draw while the main competition — read: Internet retailers — are promoting the heck out of any new additions to a brand’s apparel lineup, new helmets, new boots, new jackets. Yes, this is an e-tailer’s bread and butter, but perhaps it’s something a brick-and-mortar could replicate.

Your customers might not be able to swing the purchase of that new dirtbike, ATV or cruiser you’re advertising in your e-newsletter, but they sure might be able to buy the new Icon Airframe helmet that Revzilla is pimping on its Facebook fan site. Make sense?

Robison suggests that dealers start by putting more people in accessories and parts sales, dedicate more space to P&A and offer training to increase product knowledge. Customers want new products and new technology, presented well and aptly explained. Don’t let the customer know more about the products than your employees, she explains. If your employees use the products you sell, let them tell their stories.

Also, know the categories and lifestyles of the types of customers you’re trying attract. Do you know what your touring riders, cruisers, commuters, track day fiends, off-road racers, ATV hunters, and female customers all want? Having that knowledge base in-house allows for a smarter purchasing decision when it’s time to make an order. Here are a few questions she suggests asking:

• Is it new and fresh?
• Who will use it and what will they use it for?
• How does it compare to similar or competitive products?
• How durable is the product and what kind of product support does the manufacturer offer?

When merchandizing apparel, why not grade it and present it as good, better and best? I’ve seen examples from Robison on how to display gear in this fashion and it makes a lot of sense. Put the best stuff on display, while shelving the good and better gear.

Finally, remember that customers come in all shapes, sizes, genders and ages. Make sure the inventory has a broad appeal. Pink only for the women? Black only for, well, everybody? Forget about it.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief