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Dec. 22, 2008 – Business gambles that paid off

December 22, 2008
Filed under Features

A daily fast-lane program
Martin MotorSports, Boyertown, Pa.

The goal: Martin MotorSports implemented a fast-lane service department program to get their customers back on their bikes quicker.

About the initiative: The program allows customers to walk-in without an appointment to get their bikes serviced. Owner Dennis Martin says they do pretty much any service that can be done in an hour. The dealership started the program a couple years ago, but originally was only doing it on Saturdays. Martin says the lines became really long and some customers weren’t pleased. “We realized there’s a lot of demand out there for people to drive in and get small services done,” he noted. “The leap for us was to be able to expand it to an every day situation to take some of the pressure off Saturdays.” To make that happen, Service Manager Adam Schanely says they had to change their hard schedule, which dictates what work is being performed on what days. The service department was scheduling everyone, but when it started the program, the staff had to switch to only scheduling services that take more than an hour. The dealership has six technicians during their riding season and all of them work on the fast-lane program. “We need everyone to be flexible on a daily basis,” Schanely said. “I make judgment calls on who’s going to get the job based on what the techs are working on, the priorities of the jobs that’s on their list and then who’s coming in. It’s more or less in the moment who’s best suited to perform that service.” The program has increased the amount of business, so Schanely says they’ve had to request additional time for the technicians. “During our riding season, we typically schedule an additional 4-5 hours for the technicians over their normal 40 hours,” he said. “On a daily basis we’ll make requests if needed for additional time.”

The result: The dealership has seen an increase in customer labor. Schanely says it has gone up 28 percent compared to last year. Martin MotorSports’ tire sales also increased about 30 percent. Martin added, “If you have the tires in stock and you can put them on right away, it’s almost a no-brainer for most people.” Another factor resulting from the program is consistent scheduling. “Instead of scheduling everybody on the hard schedule and have weeks where you just couldn’t catch up or you’d be pushing people out three weeks or worse,” Martin said, “by taking care of those quick services, it stays amazingly steady at a week throughout the whole season.” Schanely says being consistent at a week prevents people from shopping around other for service and riders are more likely to get whatever they need taken care of. “If you’re scheduled three weeks from now, the likelihood of you to forget or something else to come up is there.”

What have been the difficulties?: “Unexpected mechanical problems and delays for waiters,” Schanley said. “You’re going to have that with anything, so there really hasn’t been too many difficulties. It was more or less being nervous to make (the program) every day.” The staff talked a lot about how to make the program available every day beforehand, so once they went through with it, Martin says it wasn’t that big of a deal.

If you were to start this project today, is there anything you would change?: “The only thing I would have done differently was to do it sooner,” Martin said. “We discussed it for a long time before implementing it.”
— Karin Gelschus

Driving consumer traffic
Copper Yamaha/Kawasaki/Suzuki, Memphis, Tenn.

The goal: Copper owner Mason Page looked to the community to create unique partnerships to drive consumer traffic to his dealership.

About the initiative: In an effort to encourage consumers to spend their 2008 tax rebates and government stimulus checks at his dealership, Page created a partnership with several local tax preparation businesses to promote both businesses. Page was able to convince three businesses near his dealership to place posters in their windows promoting his rebate/tax refund sales event. The companies also agreed to hand out brochures for his dealership to each customer that would receive a refund. For each sale Page made that was based off a referral from a tax preparation company, he would send that business a check ranging from $50-$500, depending upon the final overall sale.
“I was trying to figure out a way to really get people’s attention before they even had those checks in their hands, and that’s when I came up with the idea of the tax preparation services,” Page said. “By having our presence felt when people were finding out how much money they were going to receive, it gave them a good idea of what kind of powersports vehicle they could purchase. More important, it really got their mindset focused on buying a bike or ATV, as opposed to a new TV or something else.”

The result: Page said the partnership brought in a total of 35 customers, increasing his spring sales by more than 20 percent. Of the 35 customers, more than half purchased a new or used ATV, UTV or motorcycle, and roughly the same percent acquired financing through his dealership as well. In return, the dealership sent out three checks totaling more than $6,000 to the participating businesses.

What have been the difficulties?: Page says the biggest difficulty has been convincing more businesses to join him. After the success of the spring sales, he thought of other partnerships he could arrange with area car dealerships and repair shops. The goal was to turn the one-time promotion into something he could benefit from year-round.
“It’s been a tough go trying to convince new businesses to join me,” he said. “With the economy the way it is, I’ve even lost one of the tax businesses I was working with, and they were the biggest promoter of the three I had originally partnered with. I think they don’t want to force anything onto their customers that isn’t directly related to their business.”
Another struggle was several customers never mentioned that they were referrals from the tax companies, which caused confusion regarding potential discounts, payments, etc. Page says this year customers will be required to hand in vouchers from one of the tax companies to receive the special discounts.

If you were to start this project today, is there anything you would change?: “This was a very successful experiment, so I don’t know if there’s really anything I would change from it,” Page said. “We do plan on doing this again next spring, and there are going to be some minor changes made to it. I’ve already committed to increasing the monetary compensation for businesses that partner with me, and I’m trying to negotiate having some of my sales staff located outside the other businesses to really sway potential customers to check out the deals we have available.”
— Steve Bauer

Community involvement
Friend & Friend, Ellsworth, Maine

The goal: The dealership partnered with the local YMCA chapter to help raise funds for the organization, as well as improve community relations and drive customer awareness of the dealership through phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

About the initiative: Friend & Friend, in an effort to help raise money for the town’s YMCA chapter, partnered with a local radio station to put together an ATV raffle promotion. All money collected was then donated to the YMCA. Interested parties could visit the dealership and get one entry ticket per day for free, or pay a dollar for every additional ticket purchased.
“We’ve always had a strong relationship with the YMCA, and try to help them whenever we can,” said Kyle Hildebrand, co-owner of Friend & Friend. “Whether it’s a donation or sponsoring a team, we do what we can whenever our finances allow it. The raffle was just another way for us to help, and in the process we were able to promote the dealership as well.”
The result: All participants entered into the drawing were asked to provide phone numbers and e-mail addresses, which were then added to the dealership’s traffic log system. Hildebrand says the response to the promotion was positive, and there was a marked increase in foot traffic to the dealership. “Traffic certainly increased. It was hard to pinpoint it because spring is a busy time for us anyway, but I’d say there were probably 200 new visitors,” he said. “It was worth our time, we did get a lot of people in here that have never been here before. And when it was all said and done, it raised more than $500 for the YMCA, and that was our ultimate goal all along, to help them out as much as possible.” Hildebrand adds that although a lot of people came forward during the event and complimented the dealership on the idea, to date they have no plans to partner with additional organizations for similar events.
What have been the difficulties?: Hildebrand says the biggest difficulty was the cost involved with giving away the ATV, which was a financial hit the dealership had to absorb. Because it partnered with a radio station, the dealership did receive free advertising as part of the process. Despite the cost, however, Hildebrand says the experience was overwhelming positive. “The process was a positive event all the way around,” he said. “There weren’t too many downsides to it besides the cost. But we’ll revisit the idea for next year and see what opportunities present themselves in terms of helping us with the costs involved.”

If you were to start this project today, is there anything you would change?: “I think the next time, if I do this, I’ll try to get a little more bang for my buck in the sense that we’d try to get more media advertising out of it,” Hildebrand said. “Also, I think we’ll look into pairing up with another company that isn’t necessarily competition, but would be a good partner and help defray the costs a bit. But we’ll definitely consider doing it again next year.”
— Steve Bauer

Creating a bigger open house
MotorSports International, Auburn, Mass.

The goal: MotorSports International attempted to liven up its annual open house by adding an ATV demo ride, an idea that is hardly new but one that comes with some hefty hurdles for many dealerships.

About the initiative: MotorSports’ open house is not unlike other dealerships’ events, where a freestyle bike stunt team performs and consumers are lured in by a free lunch. However, this year another opportunity came about: ATV demo rides. The dealership had not previously held such rides because of the lack of available land and liability concerns. However, the dealership moved to a new location this year that includes a 6-acre parcel of land. Plus Can-Am offered to cover the liability insurance — as well as provide all necessary safety gear — with its factory demo group. “I have to give all the credit to Can-Am,” said Steve Pighetti, MotorSports’ general manager. “They were the ones that put the bug in my ear that they could show up with their factory truck.” In fact, the yellow truck ended up being parked not too far off a major highway, providing a very visible marketing presence. Pighetti said the cost of the ATV demo ride was $2,500, but that 50 percent of it was co-oped by BRP. Besides providing about 15 quads, Can-Am also provided personnel help for the event.

The result: “It was an absolute eye-opener for us as a dealership,” Pighetti said of the ATV demo event. At day’s end, more than 100 consumers participated in the demo. Door swings jumped from the store’s average of 500 per day to more than 1,200. “They were thrilled,” Pighetti said of Can-Am, “and we were happy because we sold three ATVs that we had no business selling. I know this for a fact because one of them was my buddy.” After Pighetti’s friend and his wife took rides, “his wife was talking him into buying one,” he said. “Then their neighbors came because they told them and they bought one.” Two other Can-Am quads sold later that week.

What have been the difficulties?: Namely two: Traffic control and the dealership had to be careful not to advertise the demo as an “all-rider” event. Can-Am didn’t supply youth quads so only riders ages 16 and over could participate. The dealership had volunteers and hired a police officer to help with traffic control, but it still remained an issue.
What would you change about the idea?: Pighetti did not have a salesperson or dealership employee available to talk with consumers after their demo ride — something he would prefer to have in the future.
— Neil Pascale

Non-traditional advertising
Motorcycle Mall, Belleville, N.J.

The goal: To gain a wider public awareness of the dealership through non-traditional advertising means, specifically through vinyl sheet bus advertising.

About the initiative: In an effort to spark interest in the Belleville, N.J., community, owner John Resciniti came up with the idea to advertise on a city bus. However, this wasn’t your ordinary, side-of-a-bus ad typically seen on public transportation. Instead, Resciniti paid to have a mass transit bus completely covered in vinyl wrap, advertising the dealership and its products.
“We really wanted to set ourselves apart from the competition and turn people’s heads, and I think we accomplished that,” Resciniti said.

The result: The advertising campaign ran for several weeks, and Resciniti says there was definitely increased interest in the dealership both from customers and other dealers who were interested in similar marketing. As far as sales as a result of the bus advertising, Resciniti says that number is harder to pin down.
“We have done the best job we can to try and ask customers who come through the doors whether they’ve seen the bus ad or not,” he said. “Many mention it without us even having to ask, and we’ve had people come to the store specifically because they saw the ad.”

What have been the difficulties?: Resciniti says the biggest obstacles were the cost to cover the entire bus, as well as figuring out a design that would have the highest appeal.
“When we began this project we wanted to do it on our own, but we ended up working with a consulting firm to come up with the most effective message,” he said. “The cost was also significant, so we had to ensure we were getting the most out of our investment, which obviously is difficult to measure.”

If you were to start this project today, is there anything you would change?: Resciniti says he would consider doing something similar in terms of advertising in the future, but that next time he would ensure there was a more tangible way to measure the effects the advertising was having in terms of customer traffic, sales leads, etc.
“It was a unique idea that is a very highly effective form of advertising, and we’ll consider it with other ideas when budgeting for 2009,” he said. “The word-of-mouth that it generated was great, and the challenge is to ensure that the attention converts into actual sales.”
— Steve Bauer

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