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‘It’s the No. 1 thing our store does’

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Andy Swanson, Contributing Writer
August 28, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Denver dealership allows sled customers to connect at Movie Night

Unlike traditional dealership open house events that are driven by wholegood unit sales, an annual snowmobile holiday at Vickery Motorsports in Denver is about promoting snowmobiling and connecting with customers.

“I don’t have 10 guys running around trying to shove everybody in a chair and have them sign on a document. Just because I pick that date, a Friday, doesn’t mean that they want to buy on that Friday,” sales manager Brent Miller said.

Having worked at Vickery since 1986, Miller has learned that snowmobilers are very loyal, very finicky people. “They’ll buy their sled when they want, but I want them to remember this event and say, ‘You know what? Those are good guys and they bought me dinner that night … I’ll give them a shot at the business.’ If they give me that shot, that’s all that I’m asking for.”

Snowmobile Movie Night often gives the Vickery Motorsports sales staff that opportunity, eventually.

Connecting riders

About eight years ago Miller recognized a problem within the local snowmobiling community. Snowmobilers were coming into his Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha dealership and saying they were ready to quit snowmobiling because they didn’t have anybody to ride with. To help connect riders with each other, Miller created a list for people to share their contact information, but it wasn’t much of a success. A different solution was needed.

A former motorcycle road racer, Miller would invite fellow racers to Vickery Motorsports for a private party at the end of the racing season. They were fun, low-key gatherings where competitors shared stories, watched videos and built camaraderie. Miller thought a similar concept would help encourage snowmobilers to mingle and hopefully expand their riding groups.

A tough draw in its first year at Vickery Motorsports, Snowmobile Movie Night is now bursting at the seams with attendees. Sales manager Brent Miller encourages his staff to “friend up” customers during the event.

A tough draw in its first year at Vickery Motorsports, Snowmobile Movie Night is now bursting at the seams with attendees. Sales manager Brent Miller encourages his staff to “friend up” customers during the event.

He invited his customers to the shop one evening, fed them pizza and showed snowmobile videos. But after only about 75 people attended that inaugural Snowmobile Movie Night in 2005, Miller was heartbroken. He didn’t give up, though, and last year the event drew almost 400 people, he said.

“Really, it’s a night just for snowmobilers. It’s not about selling snowmobiles or anything else. It’s just a night to say thank you to the customers,” Miller said. “We have an informal setting that people can talk about stuff and not really be sold.”

Attractions during the event vary from appearances by snowmobiling heroes to outdoor recreation officials and experts. Polaris freeride athlete Chris Burandt shares with other sledders his experiences about backcountry riding. A representative from the Colorado parks and recreation department usually attends to talk about sound checks and other issues related to snowmobiling.

With goals to educate riders and strengthen the snowmobiling community, representatives from the Mile Hi Snowmobile Club sign up new members. Mountain snow expert Mike Duffy talks about avalanche safety, and a Vickery mechanic answers questions about machine setup, repairs and maintenance at the Tech Table. Door prizes are awarded throughout the night, which enables the store to gather names and email addresses for future promotions. And of course there are snowmobiling videos that play in the showroom-turned-movie theater. “It [took] repetition to build it up, and every year it’s grown and grown and grown,” Miller said.

Retention, satisfaction, loyalty

Most promotion for Snowmobile Movie Night happens at the annual Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Expo in Denver, where Miller hands out close to 1,000 fliers for the event. Word is also spread through the store’s Facebook page, in-store signage and by stuffing fliers in bags at the parts counter.

Attendees at the Vickery Motorsports event in Denver can visit the Tech Table to chat with service technicians.

Attendees at the Vickery Motorsports event in Denver can visit the Tech Table to chat with service technicians.

The event has become such a big success that Miller doesn’t know what will be the next step. People were elbow-to-elbow at last fall’s event, he said, and there isn’t room for more of them inside the 24,000-square-foot dealership.

“Every one of them thanks us. It’s quite a sight so see when we’re breaking down the event and people feel so good about it that they’re helping you fold up chairs, clean up tables and they don’t want to leave,” Miller said.

Generating all of that positive energy about Vickery Motorsports and helping to invigorate riders about snowmobiling comes pretty cheaply, too. “We have the employee costs, 100 pizzas and 100 Jimmy John’s sandwiches — that’s my cost,” Miller said. Giveaways are courtesy of the snowmobile manufacturers and suppliers.

Miller takes pride in building a happy, loyal customer base. “The snowmobile sales for the last few years for us have been pretty level, and comparatively speaking to everybody else who have dropped, I’m happy with that. The event kind of creates the loyalty,” he said.

If customers ask about deals on snowmobiles, the sales staff is happy to oblige, but Miller would rather focus on “friending-up” during Snowmobile Movie Night. “It’s a good, low-budget thing to do. I shouldn’t say ‘good,’ it’s great. I think it’s the No. 1 thing our store does.”

 

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