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Feed the pipeline

By Ryan Brown

As I awoke this morning grabbed my coffee and opened my Facebook feed, I was smacked in the face like a ton of bricks. At the top of my newsfeed was the news of Harley closing its Kansas City plant in 2019. It sparked my thought and I wrote out my thoughts on my social media. My post started some great conversation with many of my industry peers which hence turned into this blog, so here goes.

The bottom line in most of these conversations is that motorcycling has failed to offer products that appeal and are affordable to younger generations. Motorcycling has failed to feed the pipeline. A recent report stated that the average age of today’s motorcycle rider is 47 years old! Where are the below 40s? Where are the teens and twenty-somethings?

In order for motorcycling to rise again we must feed the pipeline with newer, younger riders. We must get kids, teens, 20s and 30s riding motorcycles again. We must show them how cool it is to ride a motorcycle. Here are my suggestions to doing so:

  1. Go where they are. Go where they hang out. These age demographics are all over social media. If dealerships are not all over social media talking about how cool it is to ride, then dealerships are missing an opportunity to connect with younger generations. If dealerships do not bring in younger riders then their customer base is going to die off and nothing new will come in behind it.
  2. Offer low priced options. Most manufacturers still have offerings that are cool and in those affordable price points. Dealers must push the lower priced options to the youth. Sure, the margins may be slim in these options, but if you don’t get them to buy now, you may never have new customers for the future. Other options may lie in good, low-priced pre-owned offerings.
  3. Don’t be negative about our youth. Embrace their ways. Dealers must quit saying that younger generations don’t have money, because they do. They are spending hundreds of dollars per month on smart phones, expensive tennis shoes and home delivery clothing packages. Yet these same youth are not spending it with motorcycle dealers. The youth have money, dealers just have to convince them that riding a motorcycle to class is far cooler than the Jordans on their feet.
  4. Sell it as a social activity. Get the young people who work at your dealership to promote motorcycling. Get them involved with the customers. Have young sales guys lead group rides or promote track days. Host events at your dealership influencing the youth. Show the youth that motorcycling is a social activity.
  5. Sell the family aspect. Get young families involved. Young families are your 20s and 30s. Promote off-road riding to families with young kids. Find ways to sell the whole family. Mom, dad, brothers and sisters can all ride together. If dealers get kids involved at an early age, they are much more likely to be involved in riding later in life.

Motorcycling is far from dead. There is a huge opportunity that lies out there. Our youth is yearning for an industry to reach them in a way that inspires them to express themselves. Motorcycling is cool, perhaps the most cool form of personal expression in history. A friend who was once raised against motorcycling, to fear motorcycling even told me, “Deep down everyone wants to ride. Riding is cool and even I wanted to ride, against my parents’ wishes.” Motorcycling has at our finger tips an opportunity that no other industry has, now we must go after it. Don’t wait, sell to younger riders today. Feed the motorcycling pipeline!

Ryan Brown is an account executive at Big Time Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with years of powersports industry experience and success. Brown has more than 15 years of experience in the powersports industry as a rep and also GM of a national top 10 multi-line dealership. Brown uses his knowledge of the powersports industry and digital advertising to put together winning advertising plans that deliver more leads to dealerships across the country.

2 comments

  1. Ryan - Very well said and right on the money. While the aging issue has been acknowledged and is being addressed (to some degree) by the manufacturers, the activities that can bring about the necessary changes must ultimately be embraced and driven by the dealers.

    • First Name: Steve
    • Last Name: Jones
    • Email Address: stevejonesconsults@gmail.com

    [Reply]

  2. I am going to have to almost completely disagree with you. Yes I agree that social media is a tool that all dealerships should be utilizing, but without an effective call to action, and an attractive product, it's nothing but newsfeed white noise. The industry needs to better identify what is going to attract younger riders. We are selling analog products in a digital age. You are never going to convince a younger person that they need a motorcycle more than they need their style or technology. The industry needs to instead integrate itself with modern style and technology. Manufacturers need to start being more concerned with building products that target a broader audience, instead of building products that will impress industry insiders, and win the next class shootout. The best example I can give you of what is wrong with the industry would be the new Goldwing. The motorcycle with the most modern technology is built for the oldest, and least technologically proficient, riders. All while the bikes being manufactured and targeted to the younger, and most technologically proficient riders, are almost completely lacking of any attractive technological features. I could go on and on, but in my humble opinion, unless the industry presents a technologically advanced class of bikes to integrate into the lifestyles of younger riders, we will keep having the same conversation about aging riders and shrinking markets.

    • First Name: ANTHONY
    • Last Name: WALKER
    • Email Address: TONY_WALKER@JIMWALKERS.COM

    [Reply]

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