Mar. 31, 2008 – A $315 solution to your most glaring problems

It was a standing room-only crowd. I’m guessing a couple hundred, with perhaps a dozen or more people standing in the aisles.
They had pressed into a second-floor room at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati to discuss something much less exciting than a new, chromed-out chopper. In fact, truth be told, it was a downer of a topic: How to survive in a struggling market. The V-twin custom market has mightily struggled during the past two years in an environment with two horrendous flaws: too much inventory and too little consumer buying.
What followed in the next hour or so was a lively discussion among members of an industry panel and the couple hundred audience members. Nearly a month after that assembly, one point brought up by an audience member sticks out as perhaps the most important part of that entire 60 minutes.
And it was so simple.
A custom V-twin dealer, whose name I was unable to obtain, said she had increased store traffic by merely placing a picnic table outside her store with a “welcome bikers” sign near it. Simple, right? Almost comically so. But the results are nothing to laugh at. The dealer said she routinely has bikers, who in the past would have just driven past the store, stop by simply because they know it as a convenient rest area.
In our industry, and really any other retail-driven business climate, it’s the simple things. Let the politicians come to terms with the economy, let’s wrestle with getting the simple things right.
And I have a simple answer to solve your most simple, glaring problems. But first, a couple of horrific real-life stories to drive this point home.
At Dealer Expo this year I had several discussions with e-commerce companies about how often dealers are able to turn online leads into actual new unit sales. One of the biggest reasons why that percentage is so low: Dealership sales personnel don’t call back all the potential leads.
Another simply disturbing real-life story: I made a late-morning visit earlier this year to a dealership that had made the effort to have a fresh pot of coffee available to consumers. For the crisp late winter morning, it was the perfect touch. Just one problem: no coffee cups.
Cups and calls both fall under the simple category, a category that becomes so much more crucial in this economic time. What to do about these deficiencies?
Simple. Hire a part-time person at minimum wage and have them complete a simple list of to-dos in your store. This would be my initial list:

  • Check to make sure the coffee is freshly brewed and there’s enough cups, cream and sugar;
  • Check to make sure the bathrooms are clean every hour;
  • Check the light bulbs on the retail showroom and empty the trash daily;
  • Constantly monitor the PG&A department, ensuring jackets and helmets are turned the right way and the POP material is clearly displayed;
  • Answer all incoming e-mail, even if it’s simply a note that says, “We’ve received your question and are currently looking for the answer, and thanks so much for asking.” Something more personal would even be better.
    Surely, your own “Simply Important Things To Do List” will be much longer.
    How do you pay for this additional position since your sales probably are down or flat vs. last year and you don’t want to add expenses now? Keep it simple.
    Hire the part-timer at four hours a day for the three busiest days of the week. At $6.50 an hour, that would be roughly $315 per month. If you wish, have this part-timer collect at least 20 e-mails per day from in-store consumers and then make this personnel expense part of your marketing budget. After a month, the part-timer should have collected more than 200 e-mail addresses, which could serve as the start of a handy online database for future, in-house marketing.
    Simple, right?
    The only glitch in this plan: I haven’t figured out a simple name for this position. Simpleman rather than salesman? Simple tech, rather than service tech? Or for those who prefer acronyms, DOES (Director of Everything Simple)?
    Regardless, keep it simple, and it likely will turn out to be one of your most memorable moves this spring.

    Neil Pascale is editor-in-chief of Powersports Business. He can be reached at psb

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