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Two OEM brands, two approaches to demo tours

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Jeff Hemmel, Contributing Writer
May 21, 2012
Filed under Features

Sea-Doo, Yamaha aim to help dealers move product

Both Sea-Doo and Yamaha know the reality of the PWC market. And that reality has shown that a consumer is far more inclined to buy one of the companies’ products if they’re given the opportunity to test ride one first.

It’s a fact that has driven both industry giants to unveil nationwide demo tours for the spring and summer of 2012. But while the end goal of these tours is the same, the two manufacturers are taking decidedly different paths to reach it.

The ’Doo Tour
Like it did in 2011, Sea-Doo is footing the bill for a broad demo tour that will see two individual teams take to the road and visit a total of 28 cities across the country through August as part of the Sea-Doo Life Test Ride Tour.

“We work with the dealers to pick the best venues and timing to create the best possible, high-impact event,” said LOOK Marketing’s Tim McKercher, whose company will once again manage the tour. “We want BRP dealers to be able to focus on selling, so we provide a team of product experts with a fleet of new PWC that gives a good representation of the entire lineup, our flagship 210 platform boat and branded trucks filled with everything needed to produce a first-class test-ride event.”

McKercher knows the results of a successful tour.

“Producing a high-quality test-ride event that will pull new people into the purchase funnel and make it easy for the dealers to focus on selling is our objective. This format allows us to work side by side with the dealers and strengthen the dealer/OEM relationship and allows the OEM to talk to the consumers one-on-one, which provides BRP with invaluable insight.”

The Sea-Doo Life Test Ride Tour returns in 2012, with BRP providing a team of experts on the waterfront whose aim is to bring customers into any local BRP dealership.

Sea-Doo’s approach has one obvious, if overlooked, benefit to participating dealers. Hours are accumulated on manufacturer test models, not dealer inventory. The flipside? Individual dealers don’t have the show to themselves, but instead share the event with other dealers in their local markets.

As for dealers who aren’t fortunate enough to be located close to a demo? Said McKercher: “For those dealers who are not in the major markets but do represent Sea-Doo well, BRP supports them with special programs to put inventory units into demo and support them with pre-designed, event marketing materials.”

Yamaha’s Dealer Focus
Yamaha’s approach is markedly different. Rather than foot the bill for a traveling show of the brand’s craft (as the company once did with Club Wave), Yamaha is offering dealers the benefits of its vast marketing muscle, using everything from digital and print advertising to text messaging and social media to get the word out about the company’s On The Water Demo Days. Once that customer’s interest is piqued, a website (www.yamahaonthewater.com) directs them to the closest dealership, which will be responsible for running its own demo event. The goal? To open the opportunity to any dealer nationwide and provide that dealer with qualified leads.

“Essentially, by opening it up for all dealers to participate, we were able to get over 100 dealers nationwide,” said Andrew Cullen, marketing communications manager for Yamaha WaterCraft Group. “That makes it pretty easy for a lot of people to get access.”

    The extent of individual demos is completely up to the dealer’s discretion. “Some of them may provide food or entertainment. Some of them may make it more intimate, where they communicate with that person ahead of time and figure out what product they would like to demo and then just kind of make it their own. We don’t put any limitations on what the dealer can do.

“Each party is doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. The dealer is supposed to close his sale in his individual market, and Yamaha is supposed to use its national marketing power to bring as many customers into the mix as possible.”

This … Or That?
Which program do dealers prefer? Depends on their perspective.

“Any time a salesman can control his own demo, he has more control of the customer,” suggested Matt Dettman of Yamaha dealer The Ski Dock in Austin, Texas. “I would rather have myself on the beach or in the boat with a customer than any traveling rep.”

The connection prospective customers can make with local sales staffs at the demo events also has its benefits.

“I think one of the biggest differences is drawing people to talk to staff at the dealerships themselves and getting to know the local dealers, which is nice,” said Scott Tucker of Lake Springfield Marina in Springfield, Ill. “That personal interaction with people around the area is really a big benefit. We actually prefer that.”

Others, however, favor the Sea-Doo approach. “We do our own demo events as well,” said Susan Martin, general manager of Lake Norman Powersports in Cornelius, N.C. “But with the Sea-Doo test drive, it is nice to have people out there who are committed to the Sea-Doo brand and who are knowledgeable. It’s better organized, and to be honest, from a dealer’s perspective it keeps hours off of our machines. We don’t have to deal with the roughnecks; they have to deal with it. We can kind of sit back and pick and choose who are buyers and who aren’t. Honestly it goes a lot smoother, and it takes a lot of weight off our shoulders.”

Competition among hosting dealers could be a concern, but it’s typically not an issue.

“As long as we all work together instead of fighting each other, it works out fairly well,” said Martin, whose dealership is one of four in the Charlotte area involved with the upcoming Sea-Doo demo.

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