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Grow your customer base through education

Chris Peters, Contributing Writer
December 26, 2011
Filed under Features

Rider’s Edge training program doubles as a marketing tool for Florida Harley dealerships

Harley-Davidson’s Rider’s Edge program has helped many dealers get new customers in the door, but a pair of Harley-Davidson dealerships in Florida has taken things to a new level. In fact, Fort Myers Harley-Davidson and Naples Harley-Davidson, both owned by Scott Fischer Enterprises, have had so much success that their local Rider’s Edge course has been named the best in the country.

This year the two Harley dealers have had about 1,200 Rider’s Edge participants, a slight bump from last year’s 983 participants.
“We saw this as an opportunity for marketing,” said Gil Gibson, general manager for Fort Myers Harley-Davidson. “Our demographics are shrinking, and we really were trying to find a way to not only educate more students, but to build our own customer base and grow our customer base through education.”

Based on the numbers, it seems to be working.

“Last year, we sold nearly $4 million worth of bikes, parts and MotorClothes, through our Rider’s Edge. We tracked purchases, and that’s what they bought last year,” said Ron Hall, marketing manager for Scott Fischer Enterprises and coordinator of the Rider’s Edge program in Naples and Fort Myers. “We found out that 186 bike purchases are attributed to that program last year.”

According to Hall, the Rider’s Edge program is a big part of both dealerships’ marketing plans, and that has helped keep enrollment moving forward.

“We market the heck out of our Rider’s Edge program. Our owner is very bought into what the program does for the dealership,” Hall said.

“When you look at Rider’s Edge in and of itself, it does not make money. Unfortunately, a lot of dealerships aren’t bought into Rider’s Edge because of that. I think they’re too shortsighted on what the long-term advantages of the program are to our dealership. The bike sales, the accessory and MotorClothes sales and things that come after the fact aren’t included in the income statement for Rider’s Edge.”

Both dealerships bring personnel to a lot of community events with a full display in order to attract new riders through promotion of Rider’s Edge.

“We need to attract more riders to our sport. To attract them, we have to market to them,” Gibson said. “The marketing component revolves around non-riding events.”

They’ve also had success attracting new students by offering occasional discounts on tuition, typically knocking $50 off the $249 fee.

Both dealerships are having success turning new riders into customers through Rider’s Edge.

“Rider’s Edge was created as a marketing program to sell more units,” Hall said. “When these students are in the store, we try and engage them with everybody. They meet the service managers, the sales managers, the parts managers and the employees. We hope that we’ve done a good enough job to where they’d buy their motorcycle here. Building relationships is what we’re trying to do.”

Ensuring that all dealership employees are on board with the program has impacted its success, said Sean Delaney, general manager of Naples Harley-Davidson.

“The employees’ commitment to educating the customers is really key,” he said. “The employees feel passionate about the program. They all take the class. We require everybody to take it when they start working here. They’re thrilled to turn other people onto it.
“It’s more than teaching them how to ride a motorcycle. It’s really connecting with participants as people, and we really want to make people feel like that. That’s what we really feel passionately about.”

Many participants are sharing their great Rider’s Edge experience with their friends.

“The biggest reason for increases in participation is that we’re getting a lot of referrals from former students that have become our customers,” Gibson said.

“The biggest thing that we have to do, and have to do well, is create a great experience. We really focus on the student having a fantastic experience from the beginning all the way through graduation and then being able to perpetuate that ultimately with a motorcycle purchase.”

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