Are you appealing to the right niche markets?

Everyone knows that I’m in the business of making accessories for UTVs. We work with a number of companies, not just on their OEM accessories but on the actual vehicle design as well. It’s pretty fascinating to see how the UTV market has evolved, grown, fragmented and specialized in the last five years. Think about it: In 2001 no one even talked about the UTV category at all, yet now it’s the fastest growing and most rapidly evolving category in powersports.

But it’s not just a powersports category. I estimate that more than 35 percent of all the UTVs sold each year are NOT sold in powersports dealerships — they’re sold in farm/agriculture dealerships. There’s another decent chunk of units that are sold in golf car dealerships. Heck, the category started in farm/agriculture dealerships.

We’ve also seen the category grow into a handful of very specialized niches, like the sport/performance segment that didn’t exist until Polaris brought us the RZR, or the hunting vehicles like the all-electric Bad Boy Buggies, or the hard core work vehicles like the Kubota RTV1100.

Even with these clearly defined niches, the customers and how they use them cross back forth all the time. The guy with a Kubota RTV1100 uses it go hunting. The guy with the RZR uses it to drag tree branches and logs around his property. The guy with the electric hunting vehicle uses it to haul firewood.

The niches in the UTV business aren’t at all determined by the distribution channel or manufacturer. Deere has the new Gator RSX, which is clearly a recreation/sport vehicle. Polaris markets the Rangers as ‘hardest working, smoothest riding,’ clearly trying to appeal to the farmer in all of us. Kawasaki sells lots of utilitarian Mules in farm/agriculture dealerships, but the Teryx is clearly a recreation vehicle.

The beauty of the vehicles lies in their versatility. They can do tons of stuff, even if they’re designed specifically to excel at something else.

A major part of the practical, real world use a vehicle sees is determined by geography. A vehicle in farm country is likely to be used differently than if you’re in the mountains or the desert. But there is still crossover. There is ALWAYS crossover. It’s the nature of UTVs. If you can understand as many of these different potential uses and effectively communicate them to customers, you’ve got a better chance of selling the vehicle AND a bunch of accessories (hopefully Seizmik branded, wink wink). Help your customer visualize themselves doing these various different things in a vehicle that you sell. Show them how they’ll have more fun, get more work done and be more efficient.

When you understand the various niches you can appeal to — really understand them, not just be a poser — you’ve got a much better chance of winning trust and loyalty. You’ll do even better when you can lead your customers and show them better solutions and offer more value than what they expected. This goes beyond just selling them a vehicle. They need more than just the vehicle to meet their needs and be happy with their purchase. Figure out what that is, and you win.

Steve Shankin is founder/president/CEO (Chief Executive Optimist) of Seizmik and its parent company, Vialink. As a result of his big brain (read: luck), he got into the UTV accessory business in 2002, well before it was what all the cool kids were doing. His companies have designed whole vehicles and extensively studied how consumers use UTVs. He still calls them “UTVs” and not “side-by-sides.” He’s a father of three girls, competitive cyclist and not a very good cook but he keeps on tryin’ anyway.


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