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The challenge of the millennium: How do we get millennials?

By Napoleon Tetreault

If you have been in business even a short amount of time, there is no doubt that you have faced challenges. They can be on the macro scale, such as surviving the crash of 2008, or a micro scale such as getting a line of credit for inventory expansion. Either way, your ability to be profitable or even survive as a business boils down to how well you and your team deal with these challenges. One of the biggest challenges that I have been hearing a lot lately has to do with growing the millennial portion of our business. This is the population that are roughly 20-36 years of age at the time of this writing and that are not coming into our stores nearly as much as we would like them to. All you have to do is pick up a Powersports Business paper, look at LinkedIn or even just count your door swings to see this happening. So, with the problem identified, how do we fix it?  

Don’t get excited just yet. I’m not going to give you the answer because I don’t have it. What I am going to give you is a challenge. I challenge you to personally accept responsibility for growing this demographic in your store through research, out of the box thinking and experimentation.

Research this generation — What do we know about them? We know that a lot are strapped with debilitating student loan debt (thank you, federal gov’t). We know that they are not buying houses like generations before. We know that a lot have grown up in the “everybody gets an award” environment and have been bubble wrapped — I love that term. We know they say few words in conversation but will go on a social media rant that rivals the length of the Declaration of Independence. We know that they prefer the experience of something over the pride of owning it. But what don’t we know? Engage with this generation through social media to find out more. Your goal is to gather as much information as you can so that you can formulate a plan to reach more millennials.

Think outside of the box — Once we have our data, it’s time to think outside the box in order to come up with a plan for this generation. Our current model is not working. If you are thinking that a sale will work to move some inventory because your market is strapped for cash you are wrong. You need to think outside the box. The result may redefine your dealership as you know it. Be ready for that. It looks like our business model may need some redefining anyway, so why not start now? An example that comes to my mind is: Based on our research of millennials, we know that they are strapped for cash, don’t particularly want to own, but still like the experiences. I put all that info into my out of the box think tank and come up with the solution that I need to expand my rental/shared ownership/lease options so that there is a low financial barrier, the customer does not have the hassle of owning, but they still get the awesome experience. Bam! Now we just have to experiment with the logistics of building a program and we potentially have ourselves a whole new revenue stream and sales pipeline.

Experiment — Maybe this involves a select group of customers that comes into your store. Maybe a group that is outside of our customer base? The goal is to experiment as close to the target market as you can. Testing your hypothesis on a 50-year-old experienced rider may get you feedback, but it’s not the right feedback you need for this generation. Be sure you keep an open mind to the results.

This process is the same for any change you make. The challenge is for you to take on the task of growing this portion of the market and being open to the significant change it could bring. Think it rests on someone else’s shoulders? I invite you to read the book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink, or listen to any of his podcasts regarding personal responsibility in business today. As a salesman, I beg for problems that I can solve, and I challenge all in the powersports business community to join me in finding the solution to the challenge of the millennium.

Napoleon Tetreault is a sales representative with Tucker Rocky, an aftermarket PG&A distributor in the powersports industry. He works with powersports retailers on merchandising, profitability and management of the parts department as well as the education of dealership personnel. His experience includes being the GM of the largest indoor motocross facility in the U.S., owner/operator of a regional distribution company and current role with Tucker Rocky. He can be reached at:

Email: ntetreault@tuckerrocky.com  

Website: www.trdealer.com  (Consumer: www.powersportrider.com)

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