I started my career at a dealership and remember sometimes thinking, “Why doesn’t the corporate office do THIS to make our lives at retail easier?” When I moved to the “mother ship,” I better understood the challenges of aligning corporate and retail goals, resources and training. These suggestions will improve communication and understanding between both, and help you improve your marketing to bring in more female customers.
Promotions with the biggest impact have corporate support and local execution via ads, public relations, email, social media and other marketing avenues. Money and time are wasted on both ends when dealers aren’t able to utilize corporate resources and execute promotions on a short timeline. Marketers at brand headquarters should provide dealers with marketing to women campaign details 6-12 months in advance. If you have a brand that’s consistently sending last-minute communications for all campaigns, let them know the costs associated with this inefficient behavior. Invite the brand’s marketing director to spend a week at your dealership, so they fully understand all of the dynamics on a local level.
Concise and consistent communication is imperative. Countless dealers have heard customers giving them the lowdown about a national promotion after reading about it on Facebook, or getting an email from the brand directly. To avoid that embarrassment, brands should provide weekly dealer topline, one-page news alerts with links to more details and resources. Dealers should post these for all employees to see and review in every staff meeting, ensuring that absentees are responsible for reviewing staff meeting notes. Common sense, but it is common practice at every dealer?
Corporate folks sometimes lament that dealers are lazy and don’t use all of the resources available to them. In my experience, the main reasons dealers don’t utilize materials are because they are confused by pages of copy overloaded with “25 Steps to a Successful Campaign.” Or, the person managing promotions at the dealership has limited marketing knowledge, i.e. it’s done by the sales manager, parts guy or a relative of the owner fresh out of college, degree in hand but no real world experience.
Brands need to be succinct with communication, and can provide two to three levels of engagement regarding campaigns, depending on the dealer size and capabilities. By prioritizing “must do” vs. “optional” parts of a promotion, corporate marketers can help dealers with limited resources still be successful.
Some staff are more experienced than others at discerning gender communication differences. Many young guys don’t have much experience talking with women in general, much less in a sales situation. My teams at Harley and Trek created videos and guidelines to foster conversations between managers and staff about selling to women. I’ve included a few tips in previous articles, “What She Really Hears” and “Selling to Her Emotional Brain.”
Dealers should ask if the corporate office has training materials. If they are outdated or lousy, provide that feedback. Ask for real world examples and relevant materials. When creating training tools, brands should incorporate dealer ideas and success stories relatable to all dealers. A smaller dealer once told me, “Sure, those big dealers are successful at selling to women because they have tons of money to do so.” That spurred me to promote Redwood Harley-Davidson in Eureka, California. Not a huge dealership, they still had one of the highest percentage of sales to women among 600+ Harley dealers.
I realized early in my career that if an owner is respectful of women, he runs a dealership with a no-tolerance policy for anything but. Although sometimes a larger dealership can be at a disadvantage, since the owner can’t always be on the showroom floor making sure every employee is respectful in his communications. A friend who owns two large dealerships told me how frustrated he became when his female district manager told him of a bad experience with an offensive salesperson. It reminded him of the importance of better hiring procedures and regular staff training. So, seek out resources and talk about them with your staff. Consider role-playing and getting salespeople outside their comfort zone.
One of the best dealer training techniques I ever heard was from a manager who gives new salesmen a list of five items to learn about and buy at a women’s cosmetics or beauty store, such as Sephora. Most likely, the salesman is uncomfortable in that environment and unknowledgeable about those products. Interactions like this help him understand how new female customers may feel coming into a powersports dealership for the first time.
Corporate partnership can share these types of ideas with dealers via monthly marketing best practice tips. Overall, better communication and understanding of the challenges at both retail and corporate levels will improve marketing efforts and efficiencies.
A rider for 25 years, Leslie spent 15 years with Harley-Davidson (three retail, 12 corporate) and created their marketing to women role in 2007. She spearheaded Women Riders Month and a Garage Party Campaign which drove 25,000 women to dealers. After two years at Trek Bicycles, Leslie now helps companies be strategic with their marketing.