Waterfowl conservation group offers ideal customer demo
Bret Plasters, a Ducks Unlimited senior regional director in Michigan, has seen powersports dealers have successful relationships with their local Ducks Unlimited chapters.
“I think there’s always an opportunity for the local dealership and the local DU chapter to partner,” Plasters said. “People who come to DU events are the people they want to talk to. The demographics are very similar. They’re hunters and fishermen who need the ATVs for their recreation.”
Plasters encourages dealers to seek out their local DU chapter as a potential partner.
“Our dinners here raise about $10,000 per event, and it would be a perfect spot to put an ATV on display,” he said. “Maybe donate a helmet to the event. The potential of having that many Ducks Unlimited members on your side is only going to help your business. And they’ll see their customers at the event, and the customer will appreciate their support of local conservation.”
Plasters himself has seen dealers be both receptive and not so interested in the partnership idea.
“Some go above and beyond, and others don’t want to talk to you,” he said. “The dealerships that are aggressive and come out to reach us are just driving more customers into their store that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Look in the parking lot at a DU dinner. It’s all SUVs and pickup trucks. These are your people if you’re a dealer.”
Yamaha’s relationship with Ducks Unlimited runs deep. Yamaha has produced Ducks Unlimited special edition Grizzly and Rhino models, and Yamaha contributes money to the Ducks Unlimited mission to conserve wetland acres necessary to sustain waterfowl populations. During prime market conditions, Yamaha was donating 10-12 units to state chapters annually for them to use as fundraising prizes. The OEM also provides Rhinos and Grizzly units annually for the DU outdoor writers camps, which helps DU spread its wetlands and waterfowl conservation message.
“We’ve worked to build the relationship with Ducks Unlimited at the national level for obvious reasons,” said Steve Nessl, marketing manager for Yamaha’s ATV/side-by-side group. “The amount of acreage they’ve actively conserved, their promotion of waterfowl conservation, and giving back to the land and still engaging in a passion and a lifestyle — those are all characteristics that Yamaha appreciates and supports.”
What’s the best way for a dealer not currently active with his local DU chapter to get involved? Nearly all DU chapters host highly successful annual dinners that serve as their main fundraiser. An approach such as sponsorship of a table could be an ideal start.
“We’ve had Ducks Unlimited representatives speak at our dealer meetings, and one time they put up a map that showed a heavy concentration of DU chapters in one state,” Nessl said. “The chapter locations were specified with a red dot, and as the DU guys said, ‘Why are you ignoring them?’”
When a Michigan dealership changed ownership and the new owner wasn’t interested in continuing its relationship with DU, Ray C’s Cycle and Sport was more than happy to affiliate itself with the waterfowl conservation group.
As Ray C’s celebrates 30 years as a dealership, principal Ray Clemens Jr. understands the value of outreach with the local community. That’s why Clemens has cherished his first year in lending a hand to DU.
“Ducks Unlimited is one of those groups that’s always been there for the outdoorsman and conservationists,” said Clemens, a deer hunter himself.
Ray C’s had already been a go-to dealership for deer hunters, with its annual Big Buck Pole event drawing 2,000 visitors to the store on the deer season opener.
“We’re going to be more active with DU this year by giving away a machine,” he said. “They’ll sell the raffle tickets and we’ll allow them to take a machine out to their events. Whatever we need to do, we’ll do. We’re a family dealership, so we rely on personal, friendship-type relationships.
“It’s a win-win. They’re taking it around and promoting our dealership with a sign, and they’re able to sell their raffle tickets that allows them to do their wetland conservation work.”