Identifying, adapting to a changing business model

The dealership of tomorrow

I recently had lunch with a friend who works in a related recreational industry. In between bites, he mentioned his difficulty in digesting a report that predicted rocky multi-year sales because of an influential consumer group — a rather large, influential consumer group — moving out of that industry.

“We’ve got to change something,” he said, somewhat depressingly.

The change, as I told him, has to come in how we interact with our current and future buying public.

Before that day’s lunch, I had spent most of my morning doing a study of how dealerships are using social networking for a partner OEM. The conclusion? Our collective dealer network was getting merely a passing grade in social networking. A little more than 60 percent of dealers had Facebook sites, but they were only posting, or communicating, to their enthusiasts slightly more than once a week.

The study was only a sampling of dealers, but it echoed what I discovered in conducting social networking seminars at different industry events over the past six months.

Its conclusion is scarier than the financial forecast my friend cited. Forecasts can be changed, behaviors not so easily.

We’re clearly behind on social networking. A recent survey of close to 2,000 small businesses by Constant Contact found 81 percent using social media marketing. We, as dealers, are lagging behind.

That’s not the case with most of the industry’s manufacturers.

A recent, touching Facebook post by KYMCO USA on the death of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon yielded close to 80 likes and more than 20 comments.

On another day, a post on Victory’s Facebook site showing a photo of three new motorcycles — one red, one white and one blue — outside Cochise Motorsports in Sierra Vista, Ariz., on Veteran’s Day drew more than 150 likes.

On yet another day, a simple question — What’s your favorite ride? — on Harley-Davidson’s Facebook page yielded an astonishing 1,200-plus likes and more than 180 comments.


And those are just examples of single posts, not an indication of what a single day’s usage or readership was like for those individual sites.

You want change? Why don’t we start by identifying how the business model is shaping up in a social media-addicted world? Try this: Take brand popularity, mix it daily with consumer focus on said brand, and make more money. For math fans, it looks like this: Brand + Consumer focus = Increased future revenue.

Doubting that equation?

Then I’ll challenge you to log onto Facebook and call up the wall, or home page, for Tide, the popular laundry detergent. Tide has more than 2.3 million likes … and it’s a household supply! A single question to Tide followers — What are your tips for a stress-free and stain-free holiday? — drew more than 100 comments. (My favorite answer: “Do not eat … just drink!”)

If more than 2 million people can get excited over a household supply that gets treated like nuclear waste at my house, why can’t an x-factor of that number do the same over something that’s abundantly more exciting and exhilarating like motorcycles? Why can’t we as an industry not expect at least 80 percent of our retailers to have an effective and meaningful Facebook presence? Why can’t each of our collective businesses’ likes be in the thousands rather than in the hundreds, as is most often the case?

Let’s be clear: This isn’t a demographic issue. If we’re going to start throwing out excuses of why we’re lagging behind on Facebook, then demographics can’t be one of the excuses. Numerous published reports list the largest demographic group on Facebook to be between the ages of 35-54, the absolute sweet spot for our industry.

And this shouldn’t be a “time” issue, as in “my staff doesn’t have time.” There is now an industry application that allows dealership personnel to write a number of posts at one time, then schedule those messages to be sent to their Facebook wall throughout the week. Have some down time on Tuesday morning? Sit down for a few minutes, come up with some engaging interactions with your enthusiasts and then let the application send them out Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, preferably mid-day.

But let’s not waste time by diving into excuses. Let’s focus instead on the new business equation that social media and Facebook have yielded. Brand + Consumer focus = Increased future revenue.

As my friend said, “We’ve got to change.”

    Neil Pascale is the business development manager for Dominion Powersports Solutions, a dealer service company that includes PowerSports Network, Cycle Trader, Traffic Log Pro, Ziios and Dominion Insights. He can be reached at   

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