September 3, 2007 – Victory to co-op dealer bike nights

By Karin Gelschus
associate Editor
In hopes of developing its still relatively young brand, Victory Motorcycles for the first time has begun co-oping its dealers’ bike nights.
Victory officials reached the conclusion that customers of the custom market segment were more involved with bike nights than customers of other models after the introduction of the company’s Vegas Jackpot. The introduction coincided with a demo-type bike night.
Nan Woodsome, of Victory dealer Cruisin’ 66 in Springfield, Mo., said they already hold bike nights, something she believes creates a lot of buzz for the industry.
“They’ve helped the biking community because people now realize that it’s just everyday people who ride bikes,” Woodsome said. “It’s not just one genre.”
Mark Blackwell, vice president of Victory Motorcycles, feels the events are a better way to invest the company’s marketing money rather than a typical ad touting discounts.
“We don’t promote Victory by price tags,” he said.
The bike nights are a type of marketing that discounted prices, billboards, the Internet and other traditional forms of advertising can’t compete with, Blackwell said.
“Those are all important, but no matter how much a customer sees a bike, they aren’t going to get the desire for it they normally would if they touched and experienced the bike,” he said.
In hopes that more dealers will host bike nights, Victory used its recent dealer meeting in Nashville to show dealers how to put on such an event. Here are some of the tips Victory passed along to dealers:
n Find the right partner: A bar or restaurant that has an established relationship with bikers is a good place to start. Also, a dealer should find a partner that is willing to promote the event via their Web site, bulletin board, etc. The restaurant’s wait staff should be in Victory clothing, have Victory brochures on every table, create a Victory appetizer menu (Hammer wings, Jackpot fries, etc.), play the latest Victory video and anything else to complete the theme.
n Find the right night: Cruisin’ 66 chose Wednesday nights because Thursday was the city’s bike night, but they wanted a greater emphasis on Victory. Woodsome said their turnout has been increasing every summer.
n Plan and execute: Have staff wear Victory gear; in small markets, personally invite top customers; have both stock and accessorized bikes on display and have sufficient supplies (bandannas, T-shirts, brochures, banners, etc.)
n Leverage and promote: Forward the event schedule to all outlets that promote/announce bike events (radio, magazines, Web sites); place flyers throughout the community; promote heavily in the dealership and bar/restaurant; send postcards to all current prospects and past customers.
Polaris Outdoors of Tulsa, Okla., hosts its bike nights at a local restaurant, Joe’s Crab Shack, which has a huge courtyard in the back that’s surrounded by a pond, according to Bryan King in sales. The setting can hold up to 1,000 bikes, and King said they’ve reached about 500 so far.
The dealership usually brings in bands requested by regular attendees. King said the cost of the band and other expenses are pretty much split between the restaurant and the dealer given that both companies are benefiting in the end.
Even people who aren’t crazy about bikes attend, allowing them to become more familiar with the motorcycling atmosphere.
“It’s a way for everyone with a common interest in bikes to be able to hang out and have a place to go and feel safe while they’re there,” Woodsome said.
Cruisin’ 66 has a trivia game complete with prizes that asks questions about anything to do with motorcycles. It’s simple, but Woodsome said people enjoy it.
People familiarizing themselves with the industry and Victory are a part of the purchase process Victory wants consumers to go through, Blackwell said. That process aims to get more people familiar with the brand and eventually consider a Victory bike for their next purchase, according to Blackwell. Bike nights are another way to get people moving through that process.
Hopefully, that process leads to a purchase, but in reality, selling the bike is just one measure of a successful bike night. “If you just look at ringing the cash register, that’s pretty short sided,” Blackwell said.
For Victory, bike nights are still in the early stages and are still an evolving idea, according to Blackwell, but dealers that have participated seem to think they work.
Cruisin’ 66 has been holding bike nights for about four years. Its focus for the bike nights is developing relationships with its customers, said Woodsome, noting that’s a crucial part of the motorcycle business.
“People have to trust you to bring you their bike, leave it and know you are going to take care of them and get them the right gear. They trust you to do that,” she said. “They have to know that No. 1, you know what you’re talking about.”
Bike nights can be an efficient way to create and build many relationships in a relatively short period of time. Current and potential customers are able to recognize the qualities of the dealer at the events, and those potential customers often times turn into regular customers themselves, Woodsome said.
“We’ve brought in a lot of customers that don’t buy their bikes from us, but they come in for everything else,” she added.
That’s also the case for Polaris Outdoors.
King said that their main goal was to sell at least 5-7 bikes a year through the bike nights, but so far they’re only selling one or two. Although the nights aren’t selling as many bikes as the dealer had hoped and have only brought in a small percentage of service customers, their accessory sales have flourished.
“When we’re out there talking to customers, our customized bikes are right there for them to see,” he said. “It’s nothing but nonstop selling indirectly.”
Every dealer has to adjust its bike night to make it fit its personality. One thing Cruisin’ 66 has worked hard on is getting people to see a bike is a bike, whether it’s metric or American, Woodsome said.
“In the past, it (bike night) has been more sport bike riders,” she said. “We’ve worked very hard during the past two years to get those two to mix, so people can see that two wheels are two wheels.”
It will be awhile before Victory is able to tell if the bike nights benefit the company since it’s still in the early stages, Blackwell said, but the early responses have been positive. Both Cruisin’66 and Polaris Outdoors plan to continue hosting them.

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