Santa suit, camera go a long way for holiday marketing

Biker Bob’s Harley-Davidson Motown in Michigan got plenty of reach from hosting Santa at its store in December. Santa stopped by on Dec. 10 and 17 from 11 a.m-4 p.m. Free pictures were provided for kids who wanted to sit with Santa on his Harley sleigh. Pets were also welcome. But rather than wrap up the event by simply handing over a picture of the youngsters (oldsters, too), Biker Bob’s took the next step by posting more than 130 photos of each customer with Santa on the dealership’s Facebook page. It’s incredible to think of the percentage of those customers who then liked the Biker Bob’s Facebook page, or at least directed friends and relatives to the page.

Chris Baxter, marketing manager at Biker Bob’s, shared the daily lineup with me:

“We own the Santa suit and had a salaried employee fill in the spot. We printed the photos and handed them to the customers, and offered a discount on H-D frames.

We had several things going on Saturday [Dec. 17]: live music, Toys for Tots, free food and free gift wrapping. We had about 700 customers and sold over $22,000 in parts and MotorClothes. And three bikes.”

Total marketing budget? The ink and photo paper was $40, and a banner placed outside in front of the store was $85. The only other outreach was done through the Biker Bob’s e-newsletter (sign up now to see how the pros do it), social media and in-store signage.

Dressers up
Tim Waggoner, in sales at Landers Toad Suck Harley-Davidson in Conway, Ark., has found Dressers and Street Glides to be making their move to the top of the V-twin sales charts.

“On the Dressers they like the 103 cubic-inch engine and the six speed,” Waggoner said. “We have a lot of guys who take trips, so they like the luggage compartments. If you go from a Road King to a Dresser, they like that extra trunk space and storage. It’s a little extra money, but they’re doing the full Dresser.”

December sales at Landers Toad Suck “surprised me. It was a lot better than it was last month,” Waggoner said. “After Christmas, that week really did a lot for us.”

In what might be the ultimate sign that the sales team at the dealership is doing something right, Waggoner said that one customer came in to look at T-shirts, and bought a bike.

Familiar face
It’s a pleasure to welcome Sam Dantzler as a columnist for the Solutions section of Powersports Business. I first met Sam at the 2011 Profit Xcelerator, where he presented two outstanding dealer education sessions — one on generating more sales from existing customers and in the Sales & Marketing Track and another on capitalizing on enhancing profits in your sales department. It didn’t take long for me to think: “We’ve got to get Sam on our Solutions panel in the magazine.”

As for the title of his column, which will appear in every other edition of the magazine?

Dantzler: “Headroom? Too often dealers look at what they did, as opposed to what they could have done. I call the difference, ‘Headroom.’”


Not so foreign
In reaction to our Focus section on pre-owned in the December edition, here’s how one dealer described his perception of overseas dealers influencing auction prices.

“The auctions have been so out of control. I was sitting next to a handful of guys from Europe. They were from Germany, and I speak German. So they’re all talking to each other in German and I bet they bought 30 percent of all the bikes,” he said. “They were jacking up the prices. The European dollar for a little bit was so strong, and they were coming here and stealing all the bikes and taking them over there and selling them. They were taking a bike that should have been selling for X value, and taking a good $1,500-$2,000 over. I had seven or eight buddies going, too, and they stopped. It got to be too crazy.”

Ain’t over yet
The more dealers, suppliers and industry executives I talk to, the more times I hear that dealerships aren’t done shutting their doors. The ink was barely dry on a column I wrote for the November edition on Delta Powersports in California. You might recall that the two dealer principals, David Adams and Kevin Williams, entered the business in 2008 in Lathrop, and in May bought a second store in Merced. The headline said it all “Passion has fueled dealer’s fire since 2008.” Well, two days before Christmas, I learned in an email from Williams that both stores had closed: “While we would like to continue on in business, we have been put in the situation of no choice.”

This was out of the blue, folks, and all the more reason to wonder how many stores are fighting tooth and nail to stay in the black.

Expansion time
Not long after I received notice of the two dealerships above closing in California, there was good news out of the state. Dealer principal Eddie Benson checked in to let me know about his Fremont Honda Kawasaki dealership’s expansion.

Benson, a member of the board of directors for the California Motorcycle Dealers Association, has watched his store buck the trend of poor growth or no growth at all.

In Q4, Fremont Honda Kawasaki moved 300 yards north of its previous location, into a former Harley-Davidson dealership’s building. In addition to more space, the move allows for better visibility and easier access off the 880 freeway in Fremont. The new digs are about 5,000 square feet larger with plentiful parking, and with Fremont Cycle Salvage just outside the backdoor, it’s a motorcycle shopping heaven for customers.

There’s more. Benson said he expects Q1 to show even more growth, as Fremont Honda Kawasaki recently added the Kawasaki Mule to its offerings to become a side-by-side service center and dealership. In addition, Benson said he’s adding Suzuki to the lineup, and will be a full-line Suzuki dealership.

It’s easy to see that there’s plenty for this store and its staff members to celebrate, so on Jan. 27 the dealership will be hosting two Kawasaki rider teams prior to the races at the Oakland Supercross. Team Monster Energy Kawasaki and Team Monster Energy Pro Circuit Riders will be in attendance.

It all adds up to a whale of a start to 2012, and more reason to aim for the top.

Dave McMahon is Senior Editor of Powersports Business. Reach him with your dealership’s success stories at or 763/383-4411. 

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