Posts Tagged ‘dealernews’

These words are for you

September 29, 2011

Writing for a living is a strange thing. You put words down. You send them out and hope that someone reads them. And then you do it all over and over. It’s either an exercise in optimism or the most futile profession on the planet.

And then there was my editor’s note from our September issue, “You love what you do. Right?” This one seemed to stir something in our readers, perhaps the same thing that prodded me into writing it.

From the dealernewsblog.com, 2Big2Ride says this, “Makes you ask yourself how much energy do we all expend over the things we cannot control while being distracted from the positive things we can influence and control?” Agreed. (Though my agreement runs a few words shorter.)

And Lori Alminde brings it right into the powersports fold: “I work as a sales rep and I love my job more than anything. I’m a biker first, a sales rep second. … I don’t wanna do anything else in my life. I love what I do. I even have my two bikes in the living room.” Now those are some interior decorating skills I can appreciate.

Most agreed on one main point: There’s way too much negativity in an industry that is rooted in pure, unadulterated fun. Yes, times are bad, but let’s all be thankful we didn’t take the Al Bundy route to Shoe Sales Hell. Our own service columnist, Dave Koshollek explains things pretty well with, “The good thing about this business is the passion everyone has. The bad thing about this business is the passion everyone has. Time to put that passion in check, step back and realize that anyone involved in the powersports business is better than anyone not involved in the powersports business.” Thanks, DAKO.

On to other things …

¡Viva la evolución! so say the T-shirts and bumper stickers. And evolve we must for nothing stinks likes stagnancy.

In the pages of Dealernews. On the floor of Dealer Expo. In the dozen stops of the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. In the quiet corners of our own lives. We need tweaks, nips and changes to stay fresh, to keep moving.

Click on through our e-zine and you’ll likely see some new faces and names in the pages of this Dealernews.

One of the first new partygoers you’ll see is Rod Stuckey, founder and president of Dealership University who, along with EVP Tory Hornsby, will be penning monthly columns on Sales and Marketing best practices. For October, Stuckey offers advice on how to foster a good online reputation and encourage positive reviews by offering excellent service. Hornsby is up next for a lesson in Sales — stay tuned.

Another newcomer that will be appearing monthly is a feature that’s chockfull of data from ADP Lightspeed’s Data Services team. The info (p. 31) is the result of a partnership between Dealernews and ADP Lightspeed meant to provide dealers with a real-time snapshot of what powersports units consumers are buying.

The ADP Lightspeed Product Mix report uses information gleaned from a sampling of dealers using the LightspeedNXT DMS to compare units sold, by segment, on a month-to-month basis compared to 2010. See what segment is losing share while others are picking it up. Also, learn which segments are bringing in more sales revenue and which are decreasing. The goal is to give dealers some insight into what mix of units from each segment can help improve profitability.

The remainder of this issue is filled with the fresh and insightful news and features you’ve come to expect. If you’ve noticed from our cover photo, our feature dealer is of particular interest. While some battened down the hatches in the doldrums of 2008, Bill Comegys kicked into high gear at Grand Prix Motorsports in Littleton, Colo. I don’t want to give away the story, so here’s the short version: Comegys converted some unused space into Grand Prix Guns, and the firearms store will make up for 10 percent of the store’s total gross this year. Nicely done.

So, turn a page or two and check out some of the words we’ve laid down for you.

Dennis Johnson

Editor in Chief

dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

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Dealers: You love what you do. Right?

August 1, 2011

THIS COLUMN originally was going to expand on something Mike Vaughan brings up in his column on the last page of this magazine.

In talking about the news that Kawasaki is taking its Costco referral program nationwide, Vaughan points out the never ending negativity that inevitably creeps into any discussion about a new product, new concept, new proposal or impending change in the motorcycle industry.

It’s an observation for a larger point he’s making, but Vaughan is on to something. See the negative online comments accompanying our Dealernews.com story about the Kawi/Costco partnership. But don’t stop there. At any given time stories on our website elicit nothing but negative comments.

And it’s not just our website. This grumbling pessimism and negativity is all pervasive across a myriad blogs, websites, forums, even in person among groups of industry folks. New bike model? It sucks. Someone get a promotion? Oh, he’s an asshole. New biker TV show? What a bunch of tools.

Understood that things have been in the toilet now for a few years and thoughts run bleak in times like these, but this creeping negativism isn’t relegated only to the recession years. It was evident even in the Boom Time, often from the same folks spewing bile now (hmm, maybe there’s something to that?).

Now I understand that some people are just irascible cranks, and I’m no Pollyanna — far from it — but I guess my original question to those who grumble and spit is, what the hell?

But I digress. This was going to be the topic of this column until the day that I sat down to write it I got news of the death of one of the biggest influences on my adult professional life. Jolene Combs, adviser for my junior college journalism program and mentor to countless working journalists, died July 13.

Prior to entering her classroom, I’d never encountered an educator of such wit, passion and energy who demanded excellence and encouraged all. Just about any student who came through the El Camino College journalism program absorbed Combs’ love of the profession, which she taught with such exacting standards that those who learned AP Style through her relentless testing still remember how she phrased her questions.

As an adult deciding to get a college degree at age 25, I was a bit of an aimless lout who finally found direction through Combs and her colleague Lori Medigovich. These two taught me to love the profession, helped me channel my latent abilities and served to guide my way into this career.

I learned that excellence isn’t something to rest on, but something to continually try to attain. That the next story I write will be the best one I write, and so on. Her teaching helped me into a profession, but her words gave me something more.

What does this have to do with the motorcycle industry and the negativity that spreads through it like a rash? Well, as far as I know, JC wasn’t a motorcyclist, but the lessons she taught me and the guidance she gave transcends any one topic.

You see, JC had “three things,” a trio of principles that would help you find success in life. Find someone to love, who loves you back. Be healthy. And, find something you love to do for a living. She’d say the first two were out of your control to a degree, but the third was well within your power.

And this is why I ask, what the hell? We’re all likely in this industry because it’s something we love to do. I don’t know too many people getting rich in powersports, but I do know a lot who love that their careers intersect with their passion.

Taking JC’s advice, I made the choice to do something I love doing in a business I love. So I don’t understand those who made the same choice, who piss and bemoan anything and everything that comes along. I don’t know what purpose it serves other than to reflect a poor attitude.

Think about it. This is what we get to do for a living. This. You’ve gotta admit, this is pretty cool.
Thanks, JC.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

Hip to be square: Demystifying the QR code

June 2, 2011

They’re called QR codes, and they’re seemingly everywhere these days — you may have noticed them in store windows, magazine articles, and other places where you’d usually find traditional advertising. But what exactly are they, and what function do they serve for retailers?

“By the book definition, they’re two-dimensional barcodes that can be scanned by a mobile device or camera phone, which would lead you to a phone number, SMS text message, or URL,” says Scott Bronenberg, regional sales manager for Advanced Telecom Services.

In newbie terms, QR codes are similar to regular product barcodes — only instead of listing a price at the checkout counter, they act as portals to a retailer’s mobile website or other information. Users scan the code, and in turn, the code sends the user to whatever the retailer has linked to the code — whether mobile website, coupon, or other information.

“Right now, people are using QR codes to [redirect] users to their websites,” Bronenberg says. “But what we’ve found is that there’s so much more we can do with further integrating that landing page. Be it Facebook, Twitter, an opportunity to download an app, watching a video, and live streaming.”

QR codes were first developed in Japan as early as 1994, when they were used to track automotive parts — sort of a mobile tagging system. It wasn’t until just about a few years ago that they caught on in the United States. “We’ve been working with QR codes for about a year and a half, and the growth is spiking right now,” Bronenberg says.

And, with mobile phone companies like Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile planning to offer phones equipped with QR scanners rather than have users download these scanners themselves, Bronenberg muses the interest in them will multiply — not fade out like other marketing fads. “Right now, they’re like the shiny object in the room — they’re new, and unique. But if people get more comfortable with them, their growth could be endless,” he says. “They’ve been in use in Japan for awhile now. If we as marketers can do a good job of executing what’s on the back end, they will be here to stay.”

Besides linking to a website or social media page, one could also run various promotions with QR codes. Frank Mazza, Advanced Telecom Services’ QR code production director, recently helped develop what the company calls a “scannenger hunt.” Retailers would place QR codes around their store, asking consumers to scan them to view and download exclusive content. Mazza also suggests that dealers place QR codes on showroom vehicles that link to videos of vehicle demos or customer reviews. “[Customers] can scan them, and they can see the vehicles in motion [in a video],” Mazza says. “They have all of the details they need on their phones. You could also tie the QR codes in with vehicle servicing.” The best part? Customers have access to all of this interactive content, all without having to leave your store to get it.

Advanced Telecom Services helps retailers build custom apps and marketing campaigns to link to these QR codes. The company offers customization, building, setup and development services that start at $500, plus monthly maintenance fees. Customized QR codes that are branded according to your business start at $100. Bronenberg and Mazza also run a website, QRcode2.com, where one can generate generic, black and white QR codes for free. “A lot of people who use the standard QR code just link it to their website,” Mazza says. “But the thing is, yeah, you can use them for free, but you want to brand it, from the outside and inside. That’s what we do. We’re creating a landing site for you. The works.”

New bike = New thrills

June 1, 2011

Recently I found myself aboard a Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring, the über version of Duc’s über sport touring motorcycle.

There’s a very fortunate perk of my job, and the positions of many others working in the business, and that’s getting the privilege of riding a number of different motorcycles from a variety of OEMs. Quite simply it’s a motorcycle geek’s dream gig — even with the long hours of staring at words on a computer screen (that’s the writing geek’s dream job, a different story entirely).

This time around, thanks to Ducati’s PR dude extraordinaire, John Paolo Canton, I got about two-week’s seat time in the Multi, my first time on the do-all machine since its reincarnation as a superbike motor-powered touring bike.

The new Multi has more technical geekiness packed into than anything I’ve ever ridden. By comparison, my personal ride is a 2004 Triumph Thruxton: a carbureted motorcycle for goodness sake! Ride-by-wire throttle. Electronically adjusted front and rear suspension. Brakes that would stop the earth’s rotation. Ergonomics to die for. Four-mode engine mapping. Motorcycling by way of “Tron.”

When I picked up the bike from Tom Hicks’ Southern California Ducati in Brea, Calif., (home to Ducati’s press fleet) I didn’t know what I was expecting. I’d read about the four different engine modes but hadn’t given it much thought. Didn’t know I’d be giving it a lot of thought later. A brief run-through of features with a tech and away I went.

And that’s when I discovered something about the Multi 1200 S: That ride home made me feel like I was discovering motorcycling again.

Settling into the machine over the next many days, this feeling of newness grew more intense. Sport mode was way different than touring mode as was urban and enduro. Switching back and forth between the settings offered a new type of thrill each time. Just the feel of it. The upright and very comfortable seating on a bike that produces 150hp simply felt like a entirely different experience.
Freeway cruising (touring). Short trips to the store and around town (sport). Quick trips around the block (urban). Long rides through the twisties of Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains (sport). Commutes to work and back (sport, OK, there’s a trend here). Each one a journey unto itself.
The bike’s been on the market for a while now, so I’m not the first person to ride it or write about it. I’m just one rider with an opinion which, when it comes down to it, that’s what we all are. One man’s hyperbole is another man’s yawn.

And with motorcycling, more than anything in life (save for your tastebuds or musical inclinations), riding is a singular event specific to one person at one particular moment in his or her life. That’s why each ride is an adventure. Why one bike that works for this guy might not work for that girl or the other dude.

In this case, riding the Ducati truly felt like learning anew the thrill of motorcycling. Alas, it soon was time to return the loaner and settle quite comfortably back onto my own Thruxton — like putting on an old, British, shoe.

This experience got me thinking about my current ride and my past motorcycles and scooters. How often do I take the time to rediscover the thing that’s in my garage? To make the changes and tweaks to make my next ride that much different? To make me feel like I’m rediscovering motorcycling? To be honest, not enough. It’s been a while since I uncorked the Thruxton’s motor, replaced mirrors, mounted a fairing or changed the suspension.

How often and in what ways do you help your customers rediscover their own machines? How often do you do the same with yours?

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

It’s about damn time

April 22, 2011

Harley-Davidson boasts the highest market share of women riders out of all the OEMs, according to Amanda Lee, the company’s PR manager in charge of Outreach audiences — women, young adults, African American, Hispanic and active military. This, of course, is no big surprise given Harley’s long history with women riding its motorcycles.

Of the 235,000 people trained through the company’s Rider’s Edge courses, 35 percent are women. Lee herself is a graduate of Rider’s Edge, as is Claudia Garber, Harley’s director of marketing and product planning.

The Motor Co. is reaching out to women riders with a host of events and marketing efforts. From the now-ubiquitous Garage Parties to this month’s Biker Bootcamp for Women (a full week in Milwaukee immersed in Harley culture), Harley-Davidson is taking an active and aggressive effort to connect with its female customers, existing and potential.

Harley’s idea is to seize upon the growing women rider demographic and help encourage, support and inform those who have taken or are taking the leap into what has traditionally been a male-dominated sport/pastime/industry.

“As more women get into the sport, it’s kind of a contagious thing,” Lee says. “As more women are riding and more women are seeing other women riding, more women are stepping up to the plate and saying, ‘I want to do that.’

“We’re simply throwing fuel on the fire, responding to a movement that’s happening in the industry,” she adds.

The “women riders movement” — not that it’s a formal title or anything — is a relatively new phenomenon. Yes, women have been riding motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft and snowmobiles forever, but not in any great number and not in a way that ever attracted much attention from the industry at large.

Even five years ago a female motorcyclist would have been hard-pressed to find riding gear that not only was cut to fit the female form, but was stylish to boot. Again, yes, there was riding apparel, but it wasn’t until Joe Rocket and Icon jumped into the mix that women’s gear looked like it had actually been designed by and for women.

These days, apparel manufacturers know they need a women’s line to even compete.

How about riding on the back? You’ve got to be kidding. Women are finally coming into their own in the powersports industry, and it’s about time. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But with more women moving into everything from dealership and OEM/aftermarket management to wins on the racetrack, it’s clear: This ain’t the same old boy’s club.

In honor of May’s Women Riders Month, Dealernews puts its focus on the women who help drive this industry, from the pioneers who pushed through gender barriers to those coming into a business that now welcomes them. Even our cover profile highlights Top 100 dealer Donna Coryell and her dealership, Deptford Honda Yamaha. Hers is an inspiring story.

Why is it important to recognize the women in our industry? Because it’s about damn time. Women are more than the “other half”; they bring new perspective and vitality to a business that — truth be told — could use some freshening up. The industry’s history has been drenched in testosterone, and it’s left things a bit, um, ripe.

Indeed, there are many, many women leading the charge at the dealership, in the media, in the aftermarket, at the OEM level and on the racecourse. We’re profiling just a few of them in this issue. Go to www.dealernews.com/women11 to see a running roster of notable femmes and their contribution to our industry. And if you’d like to nominate women for the list, drop us a line at editors@dealernews.com with their names and brief bios. We’d love to add them.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

Business Seminar Helps Chinese Manufacturers

February 21, 2011

Panelists’ Message: U.S. Consumers Want Quality and Value

INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 21, 2011)— Chinese manufacturers Sunday received several tips on how to successfully sell powersports vehicles and equipment in the United States. The seminar here was put on by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) and Advanstar Communications for Chinese exhibitors before a packed house at this year’s Dealer Expo.

Attendees heard from government and industry experts about what it takes to successfully sell powersports equipment in the U.S. market. Presenters included representatives of Sargent’s Motorsports Groups, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Dealernews magazine. The program, entitled, How To Successfully Sell Powersports Vehicles in the United States, was moderated by Paul Vitrano, executive vice president of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA).

The key messages delivered by panelists were:

  • QUALITY PAYS. Attendees were told that American consumers value quality over cost and that they are willing to pay more for a better product.
  • OBEY THE RULES. Panelists, especially representatives of the CPSC, emphasized the importance of following U.S. government rules and regulations. “Government agencies balance their responsibilities of helping businesses with protecting consumers,” Vitrano said, “and they lean toward protecting consumers.” Penalties for breaking the rules are stiff and expensive, attendees were told.

Joe Delmont, contributing editor for Dealernews, told the audience that it’s important to build a brand, not simply try to export products to the U.S. under many different names to be sold by many different distributors. “That’s a prescription for failure,” he said.

Delmont, who provided a checklist of things to consider in looking at the U.S. market, told the audience that to gain 5% market share in a specific segment for a new China brand might take three years and cost as much as $300 million.

CPSC representatives Tanya Topka and Justin Jirgl described in detail the process of working with the agency that has been set up under the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). A key regulation developed by the CPSC under the law calls for action plans to be approved by the agency before a company’s ATVs may be sold in the U.S.

Gary Sargent, Sr., and Gary Sargent, Jr., have been selling and servicing powersports equipment in their Portland, OR. dealership for more than seven years. They emphasized the importance of building quality machines and backing them with quality parts.

Gary Jr., who runs the dealership’s service operation, told attendees that he prefers to use more expensive, quality parts on a repair job and be confident that it won’t fail.

“I want satisfied customers,” he said, “not unhappy customers who come back because a part failed.”   JD

Remembering why we ride

November 1, 2010

It was hell getting out of Queens and out of the city. Packed traffic on the Cross Island Parkway up and over the Throgs Neck Bridge. Accidents on the 95 heading to the George Washington Bridge. All lanes just limping along. Sitting in the jam on a superheated idling V-twin, no lane-splitting relief in sight.

Over the bridge and into New Jersey and it was hot. Not a lot of traffic, but a long list of highway changes in my travel plans. The effects of the red-eye flight were now clearly being felt, not a good thing given this was my first time on two wheels in this pocket of the Northeast. A handful of wrong turns and route changes, and things were finally smoothing out.

The city quickly fell away to country. Green ruled the color palette. The front wheel aimed north on the 87 — a straight shot (more or less) the rest of the way, and any tension that had built up during the first few hours into the journey evaporated into the ether. The only goal now was Lake George in upstate New York for the Drag Specialties Adirondack Run.

I’d been invited by LeMans to attend the annual dealer/distributor ride and jumped at the chance. The day-to-day slog of trade magazine work involves a lot of sitting, reading and editing. It means staring at a computer for hours at a time and transcribing taped interviews. It means juggling story budgets and weekly editorial meetings and lots of run-around tasks only tangentially related. It’s long bouts of grinding it out punctuated by short bursts of adrenaline.

In other words, magazine work is lot like many other jobs. So when given the chance, I happily snag the perks that come in the form of new bike intros and organized press rides or, in this instance, the fifth annual installment of the ride organized by Drag Specialties. Turns out I wasn’t the only one eager to step out of the office for a little two-wheel therapy.

Jim Matchette, Drag’s national sales manager, says the run was launched not only as a way to bring together its dealers, vendors and sales employees, but also as a chance to ride motorcycles in great locations. “That’s why we all got into the business in the first place,” Matchette said.

And boy, did they get it right this time. Two major loops featuring hundreds of miles of woodsy, twisty blacktop, all of it winding through upstate’s sheer natural beauty. The trees were just starting to turn, so the greens ran into reds into yellows. One trip went to Lake Placid, home of the 1980 Winter Olympics, the other up and around Lake Sacandaga to a lunch stop at the picturesque Jimbo’s Club on Brant Lake.

On one of the loops, I had the chance to ride with Jim Bannon and Buck Shelton, owner and service manager, respectively, of Mavrix Motorsports, a Honda Powerhouse dealership in Middletown, N.Y. Also in our group were their superstar Drag rep, Rick Pence, and one other LeMans employee whose name now escapes me. Good dudes all around. We took a wrong turn at one point that — like all good wrong turns — led to a miles-long lakeside road filled with banked turns and fast bits of two-lane.

Two days of riding through some of the best scenery this country has to offer. Nearly 400 miles of not thinking about a computer or a deadline or a desk or a meeting. Nothing but the steady drone of the road and wind one hears inside a helmet. Trees and turns and lakes and rain and road and acceleration. It was constant locomotion punctuated by leisure and cocktails and conversation.

After it was over, on the ride downstate into the city, the obvious smacked me upside the helmet. Matchette was absolutely right about actually taking the time to get out and ride, to get out and enjoy why most of us got into this business to begin with — riding motorcycles.

I’m not too sure about everybody else, but it’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in the workaday minutiae of our careers, even when working in this great industry, and put our passions on the backburner. So I wonder, how often do you get out and ride? How about your employees? Let us know at
editors@dealernews.com.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews November 2010 issue.

Profiting From Failed Competitors

October 13, 2010

“Dealers struggle with this because they feel the pain of their
competitor going out of business.
What do you say to this guy?
It’s not a fun conversation, but it’s something you’ve got to do.”

—Bill Shenk

Nobody likes to see a local business fail. The question is, How do you deal with it? How do you treat a competitor that has failed or is failing? Ignore his problem? Sympathize? Take advantage of his situation? What are you prepared to do?

What if you helped yourself and helped her at the same time… by quickly purchasing some of his most valuable customer assets?

It’s a sensitive situation, of course, especially if you’ve had a cordial relationship with the competitor. But the reality is that when that store closes, several things are likely to happen, and most of them are not going to benefit you unless you take quick action. For example, assuming that he has many of the same lines that you carry:

  • He’s going to have a closeout sale that’s going to suck many of the hot prospects out of the market. That means you lose sales today and in the near future as consumers move up their purchases.
  • When he closes, his OEMs may very well set up a new dealer, or dealers, and if this happens, the new competition very likely is going to be more aggressive and better financed than his predecessor. Now, you have a tougher competitor than you did before; that doesn’t sound like fun, does it?
  • Your OEMs may give you a chance to take over his point, or at least the OEM may sell you his inventory at a discount— if they don’t sell it to another of your competitors.

So, if you wait, your options aren’t very good and they actually could be bad enough TO PUT YOU OUT OF BUSINESS. What are you going to do? I asked Bill Shenk, head of PowerHouse Dealer consulting services and the key man in Dealernews’ Dealer Lab project, if this subject had come up in his 20 Group meetings. It has, he said, and he told me some of the steps that his dealers have taken in this situation.

“Going after ORPHAN CUSTOMERS is one of the best ways to boost your business in a tough economy,” says Shenk. “Orphan customers— those without a dealer relationship— are already in the lifestyle and they are looking for a dealership to take care of them.

“But you have to be PROACTIVE. Only one person is going to get that customer list,” emphasizes Shenk. “OEMs tend to split up the list among surrounding dealers. And the (failed) dealer may have brands you don’t carry; you want to get those names, too.”

First, put sensitivities aside, for the moment, and move into action. Make a list of the things that you can do to take advantage of the big change in your marketplace. Here is a sample Action Plan:

CALL your competitor and tell him that you sympathize with his situation and you want to do some things that will help both of you. Offer to pay him for pieces of his business that he won’t be able to sell elsewhere.

BUY his phone number and have calls to his store forwarded to your dealership. Set up a separate number coming into your store so that your employees know where the calls are coming from. Then they can answer with a special greeting. “You have to tell the customers that you bought the number from the previous dealer and that you are trying to take care of them,” says Shenk. This straightforward approach creates a comfort level with the new customers and creates confidence that you will service their needs, he says.

OFFER to purchase his customer list. There are more customers than the ones who have purchased new units; those generally are available from the OEM. “Say there’s a store 30 miles away that carries one of your lines. A nice store might be worth 100 new units a month,” says Shenk. “So, if you get a list of those who purchased in the last two years, you might get 2,500 names from the OEM. But there really might be 10,000 active customers on the total list, people who have purchased parts and accessories and service.”

REVIEW the dealer’s DMS. You’ll get more information here than you would from your OEM. The DMS probably will provide you with the customer’s entire purchase transaction record.

RUN ADVERTISING aimed at your competitor’s customers, offering inexpensive products and services. “It’s easier for these prospects to try you and this new experience for $100, rather than buying a unit for several thousand dollars,” points out Shenk. “It’s a lot easier to drive to your store and try it for a small, first time purchase.” But don’t spend a lot of money on splashy ads. “The cost for advertising to attract these customers can go way through the roof,” says Shenk. “There’s no ROI here.”

PAY THE DEALER to write a letter to his customers recommending your dealership as the place to go for service and support.

SCOOP UP an existing franchise that could fit your operation as quickly as possible. “My preference is to be a motorcycle dealer or an ATV dealer,” says Shenk, “rather than a single-line store. People would rather go to a store that has it all, rather than a one-brand store. That’s been proven.”

Working with your failed competitor isn’t something most of us want to do, but it’s something that you should definitely consider and then move on quickly. “This is a real time sensitive deal,” says Shenk. “Dealers struggle with this because they feel the pain of their competitor going out of business. What do you say to this guy? It’s not a fun conversation, but it’s something you’ve got to do.”  JD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas at
joe@powersportsupdate.com or 952/893-6876

Gear ethics 101

October 4, 2010

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews October 2010 issue.

As part of our ongoing coverage of the importance of selling gear — for you and your customers — we asked you to submit comments on how you deal with selling riding apparel and safety equipment. We wanted to know if you bring up the possibility of crashing when discussing gear. We asked if selling customers on good riding apparel was the ethical thing to do or just good business. True, you can’t demand customers protect themselves, but it just seems to be good common sense that they do.

We didn’t get an avalanche of responses, but those that did come in were well-thought-out. Two stood out, one from Art Elting, the owner of Country Rode Motowerks, a BMW/Euro store in Rochester, N.Y. The other came from Bob Henig of Bob’s BMW in Jessup, Md. Hmm, both Beemer stores. A coincidence you think?

Elting’s response is good because of its smart-alecky (smart-alecky always wins for me) nature and offers up why certain riders wear what they wear. Scooter riders (he’s also a Vespa/Piaggio dealer) seem to think they can’t get hurt because they don’t go fast. “Very bad mistake,” he says. Sportbike riders in full-face helmets with shorts and T-shirts? Unbelievable. And cruiser riders in soup bowl helmets, fingerless gloves and leather vests. Have to look the part, right? Wrong. BMW riders? Most wear gear. Most. The way he sees it, you can lead a horse to water, but. … You know the rest.

“We know many people who have had serious road rash, and [it’s] guaranteed, if they do ride again, they’ll wear proper gear. A year of skin grafts is not a walk in the park,” he says.
Henig’s response was more his overall take on wearing gear and the atmosphere he fosters in his dealership. “I firmly believe several things — that as dealers we are responsible for setting the right example for our customers, our employees and the general motorcycle population as well as those who don’t ride but see us out riding.” As such, he requires his entire staff to suit up head-to-toe if they’re on a dealership-owned bike. Techs must wear a jacket, boots, a helmet, gloves and a high-visibility vest on test rides. Service advisers must wear helmet and gloves when riding a customer’s bike around the building. Customers who demo bikes are required to be in head-to-toe gear at all times. Henig maintains a full size range of demo gear (boots are coming soon) in men’s and women’s sizes, and he allows customers to test ride gear off the rack. To press the point, he shares stories from other customers about how the gear he sold them helped save their skin, their bones and sometimes their lives.

“My staff is required to strongly suggest that while wearing all this stuff is not legally required, it is the smart thing to do,” he says. “We don’t need to be pushy, but we do need to be sure we educate them [about gear] and [tell them] that maybe their friends are not watching out for their best interests if they still wear jeans and T-shirts while riding today’s motorcycles.”

Did I choose these two examples because they meshed with my beliefs? Absolutely. I’ll never understand why some people dress the way they do when they ride. Should they have the freedom to do so? Yes. But they’ve also got the freedom to hit themselves in the head with a hammer or eat glass. Should they be forced to suit up by law? Probably not.

I suppose my question is why wouldn’t they? I’ve seen the aftermath of bad accidents as have most people who have been around powersports long enough, and it’s pretty ugly. Riding is inherently dangerous and gear won’t save everyone, but it’s all about minimizing the risk. So to the T-shirts-and-shorts-clad duo I saw riding two-up on the 405, I just have to ask why? If they don’t think of themselves, don’t they have families and loved ones to think of? I know this is a question that I will never get answered, but it’s one I’ll always be asking.

How do you sell gear? Let us know.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

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.

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