Jan. 18, 2010 – Driving safety and sales with aggressive marketing

Fear is a terrific motivator, isn’t it?
That thought is something I once mentioned to the owner of a fitness gym. The owner had asked me to take a look at a direct mail flier she was sending out to the public. Much like our industry, the fitness world is mostly dependant on one time of the year. Their key season? It’s the weeks following the holidays when as a nation we’ve gained countless pounds and are weighed down by chocolate-remorse.
The direct mail flier she asked me to look at was, in fact, pretty interesting. It outlined first and foremost the lack of a huge time commitment needed to improve one’s health at the gym. Fifteen or 20 minutes a day was sufficient. Come in, work up a sweat and before you know it, you’re back to your regular workday.
Then, it outlined what type of fast results one could expect. In other words, sweat equity was indeed measurable and predictable.
Finally, it spoke about the life-altering consequences this insignificant, daily chore could have: A better life, and a longer one.
It was one of those “A plus B equals C” marketing strategies. You do something, for so long and you get the stated benefits.
The problem is the potential for benefits, regardless of the extent of their allure, don’t always cause change. They certainly peak our interest, but often fail to bring about an actual change in our routine. The fact that we, as consumers, are besieged by marketing has certainly not helped improve that equation.
What I advised the fitness owner to do was to consider the impact of fear.
Consider: Studies have shown that if you do not exercise on a routine basis, your likelihood for a shortened lifespan is considerably greater than your sweaty counterpart. In fact, studies have even found specific percentage increases for life-threatening diseases, like heart disease and prostate or colon cancer, if you don’t get yourself on a treadmill or elliptical.
For sure, this marketing approach is blunt. It downplays benefits and time commitment issues and instead goes straight to “why should I care.” It may, in fact, be too blunt for some who dismiss it as being overly aggressive marketing. But others will read it, digest it and then ponder their own situation.
The same marketing argument — playing upon fear vs. explaining benefits — could be made in the powersports world. Take helmets, for instance. A category that would seem an ideal place to generate off-season activity and revenue. A recent blog on a consumer motorcycle site asked a fairly generic question about helmets: Where should I buy them and how much should I pay? I won’t get into the latter part of the post but will tell you that several replies to the blog answered, “Go to a dealership or shop online.” Very few bloggers who answered that question saw a difference between one or the other.
There was, however, one that did. That
blogger touched on the importance of getting the right helmet fit. They remarked, “Recently, I learned that I’ve evidently been wearing a
helmet two sizes too big, while shopping to replace my ‘crashed-in’ helmet.”
Clearly that’s a consumer who was not initially motivated by fear. The potential for injury due to an incorrectly fitted helmet did not override their instinct for finding a convenient or more inexpensive shopping source. My question is this: When that consumer originally shopped, were they explained the benefits of the individual model and the potential for disaster if they don’t get it properly fit? I can’t understand why the second part of that equation isn’t as important as the first for the brick-and-mortar dealership.
In fact, why don’t we designate a member of the parts department as the “Helmet Fit Expert?” Let’s just call them the HFE since we as a society just can’t get enough acronyms. Then send an e-mail to your consumer base alerting them that your dealership now has a HFE. But again, downplay the benefits of the HFE until you’ve given them just cause to change their perception.
“Dear valued customer,” the e-mail would start, “we’ve recently been alerted that too many riders don’t have properly fitted helmets. This is incredibly worrisome as an improper fit can lead to life-changing injuries in the event of an accident.
“Don’t let this happen to you. Please make an appointment to meet with our Helmet Fit Expert at your earliest convenience. Since this dealership cares first and foremost for your safety, we’ve set aside our HFE’s time at no cost to you for the upcoming week.”
Some will scoff at this marketing example as playing upon our consumers’ fears to drive business, a questionable ethical practice. But let’s face it, we as dealerships have not drove home the importance of a properly fitted helmet or the amount of online sales in this category would not be as healthy as it is today.
We, after all, can’t rely upon holiday-inflated waistlines to keep our businesses healthy.

At the shows
My colleagues at Powersports Business and I?will be attending both the upcoming V-Twin Expo (booth No. 745) and the Dealer Expo (No. 737). There, we’ll be discussing some of the new projects we’re working on for 2010. Last year, we introduced a whole new dealer educational event as well as our Training Day Contest. There’s more to come in 2010.

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

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