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The toughest trick of all: Identifying what to change

Neil Pascale, Columnist
June 11, 2012
Filed under Columns

Maybe it’s because I experienced the growth, saw perhaps the best years the industry will realize in decades and then lived through the collapse.

Maybe that’s why I viewed the term “survivor” as something of a merit badge. An achievement.

At least I did.

See, I was recently asked to look forward, beyond the day-to-day business activities and identify forward-looking strategies, an activity that may sound relatively painless, but actually turned out to be quite challenging. Why? Because what we did in the past, regardless of its success, isn’t necessarily the best path for the future.

Being a survivor doesn’t mean you possess some type of prosperity compass for the future.

“The competitors left standing are often those that outlasted others, not companies with real advantage.” Those words, written by a Harvard Business School professor, Michael Porter, were published long before the recession and long before the rise and fall of the industry’s new unit sales. They remain, however, noteworthy today.

To get beyond survival means identifying what you’re doing today and then what you should change. That’s right — change, not add. Part of identifying sound strategy — and this is where it really gets dicey — is identifying what you’re going to do, and not do.
Let’s take marketing as an example. From my conversations with dealers, it’s evident fellow survivors got through the recession by doing little, if any, text marketing. But as we were surviving, the world was changing. In 2006, when new unit sales were climbing to all-time highs, text messaging was gaining steam, as monthly text messaging totaled 12.5 billion, according to CTIA, an international association for the wireless telecommunications industry.

Five years later, text messaging has simply exploded. Monthly text messaging topped 196 billion last June, the CTIA found. That’s right, billion!

Not surprisingly, a separate 2011 marketing study, conducted by Tatango Text Message Advertising, found marketers were having success with this new consumer touch point. The study found close to 60 percent of consumers ages 25-34 had opted into a text-marketing message. A healthy percentage (40 percent) of consumers ages 35-54 also had agreed to receive text-marketing messages.

And yet, it appears there is little text marketing going on in our industry. A recent survey of dealers by Dominion Powersports in a webinar showed less than 20 percent of dealers using text marketing as part of their current marketing plan.

Clearly, fellow survivors of this industry will have to adapt to a changing consumer clientele. One that, as the webinar pointed out, is purchasing smartphones so quickly that the rate of iPhone sales in the world has exceeded 4 … per second. That’s right, second!

Gaining a competitive advantage — as Apple clearly has done with its iPhones — means identifying what to change. We’ll have to collectively do the same with our marketing plans as we strive to become much more than just industry survivors.

A note on Facebook
A Powersports Business reader called to my attention a point in a recent column regarding Facebook giveaways — a point that needs some clarification. The column had advised dealers to incentivize their enthusiasts to do something social on behalf of the dealership — sharing or liking your brand on Facebook for example — and in return reward them for that behavior. That social strategy still makes perfect sense, but as the reader advised, I should note a Facebook rule in connection with that point.

The rule: Retailers on Facebook are not allowed to directly reward their fans for taking Facebook actions such as sharing and commenting through their business pages, according to Facebook itself. A way to accomplish this feat, without violating Facebook rules, is through applications, like some of the ones we highlighted in the Dominion Powersports webinar that was discussed in the prior column. Retailers can reward consumers for sharing posts on Facebook and Twitter through reward systems administered through a Facebook application from a third party.

For more information on how that process works, see the aforementioned webinar at http://bit.ly/HHpLNV.

Thanks to the heads up reader for bringing this point up, and if there is any remaining confusion, please feel free to
contact me.

Neil Pascale is the Business Development Manager for Dominion Powersports, the parent company of PowerSports Network, Cycle Trader, Traffic Log Pro, Ziios and Dominion Insights. He can be reached at
neil.pascale@dominionpowersports.com.

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