Oct. 5, 2009 – ‘Dealer solutions’ on marketing, staff, preowned

INDIANAPOLIS — The first-ever Powersports Business Conference and Expo delivered solution after solution to a turnout of more than 250 powersports dealers who were looking for answers to the challenges they face in today’s market.

Nine industry experts offered ideas, advice and insight for those challenges over the course of 12 educational sessions, covering every revenue center in today’s dealerships.

The event culminated with perhaps the best learning opportunity the event offered: Dealers learning from other dealers in what was coined as the “Dealer Solutions” panel.

Four dealers sat on the panel, discussing strategies that helped them endure the down economy. Those dealers included: Steve Budke of Budke Powersports, North Platte, Neb.; Bill Cameron, Skagit Powersports, Burlington, Wash.; Duane Dreyer, Dreyer Honda, Indianapolis; and Don Lemelin, Scuderia West, San Francisco.

Multi-Layered Marketing

Budke uses a multi-layered niche marketing campaign, making every customer count. He uses what he calls “micro-mailings” to target past customers and prospects — somewhere between 75 and 250 typically — with promotions on specific models.

He begins the promotion by tying it into the OEM’s offer, and he sweetens the deal with some incentives of his own. His sales team follows up the mailing with a phone call within 24-48 hours after the promo reached them. The sales team is armed with a word track, and they work diligently to earn an appointment for a demo or an appraisal on a used product.

But at that point, the follow-up is just beginning. He tracks the return on investment of each of these initiatives, “and then we strike again,” he explained. Another postcard or e-mail is sent to each prospect, and then another e-mail follow up. In all, Budke explains, there are about five touches on each customer.

The process is a result of Budke insisting — and incentivizing — his sales people capture prospect information. “It gives you a strategic advantage,” he said. “It’s all about how you gather the data and how you use it.”


Video Festival

Cameron tried some new ideas for his marketing in recent months. First, he redirected his marketing funds to focus on repeat customers. He said he learned that strategy from what he heard about a local profitable grocery store, which was capitalizing on a small repeat customer base. The message he received: That going back to customers who have given you their business is oftentimes more fruitful than trying to earn new customers.

Cameron also launched a contest on his Web site where customers could upload their videos for a chance to earn a prize. Customers also were given the opportunity to vote on the best of the best.

A different market

In most markets, business owners are accused of being quick to hire and slow to fire. But in this market, or at least in Don Lemelin’s market, he says the strategy should be just the opposite.

Whereas many dealers who have seen a 40-percent decrease in sales have countered the downturn with an equal percentage cut in payroll, Lemelin has not laid any of his employees off during these tough times. He has, however, made decisions to not re-hire for a position, or in some cases taken the opportunity to hire strong candidates.

“The pool out there right now is ridiculous,” he told the audience at PSBCE. “We had two techs with 10-plus years of experience leave. In any other market, we would have been crushed. But we have more resources now than we know what to do with.”

The right trade

Getting the right trade at the right time can be difficult, but when you expand your opportunities the way that Dreyer Honda has, you can oftentimes create the business you need. Dreyer went to area Harley-Davidson stores and auto dealerships, asking to buy the trade-ins that they had taken that didn’t fit their product mix. He found those dealers were often taking product in on trade that better fits with his brands, and he could help both the other dealer and himself by putting them on his floor.

— Matt Gruhn

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