Service shop turns to tech rental space

Facebook, Google help new business attract customers

Addiction Motors’ first Facebook posts were mysterious. “There are rumblings of a new Addiction… ,” read one. Another said, “Looking for a home base to serve you better. Stay tuned…”

The posts were purposely vague to pique future customers’ interests and encourage the early start of a community. After all, these were posts that came months before Addiction Motors even opened its doors in September.

The shop is a unique business in itself. Nestled in Emeryville, Calif., the Bay Area business is structured as a cross between a motorcycle service shop and a hair salon, as Jay Larson, a company investor and social media guru describes it. No, customers won’t find stylists, shears or shampoo at Addiction Motors; instead, the co-op uses a salon-like business model. Its techs each have their own businesses ventures under the Addiction Motors LLC group. The techs have their own business names, licenses and insurance, and they pay Addiction Motors for parts orders, while the LLC provides the motorcycle lifts, appointment bookings, inventory and parts ordering, bookkeeping, a page on the Addiction Motors website, advertising and marketing and high-speed Internet and phone services.

“They get to do what they do best, which is fix motorcycles, and we get to do what we do best, which is help them fix motorcycles,” Larson explained.

The business also offers a consignment shop and detailing, motorcycle photography and personal shopping services.

Opening a business, and a unique one at that, while the economy was still lagging was a risk, Larson admits. On top of that, the business opened in the motorcycle offseason in an area where nearly three dozen motorcycle shops had already closed. So Larson and Galen Gunther, the owner of the business, knew they had to build a community of enthusiasts in order to make money.

“The first thing we did is we leveraged the techs that we got,” Larson said.

Their first three techs included an instructor from a local community college, a tech whose previous employer had closed and another technician who had been freelancing. To tap their contacts as well as others, Addiction Motors turned to the Internet.
“Our goal was customers, and our strategy was online because we had zero dollars, basically,” Larson explained.

The business has relied heavily on social media and search engine optimization. It boasts a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Pinterest. So far, Larson’s efforts seem to be paying off.

Addiction Motors owner Galen Gunther, left, talks to Lawrence Giardina, one of the business’ techs. Addiction Motors is modeled after a hair salon, where the techs own their own businesses and rent the space from Gunther.

“Just the awareness of the name has done wonders. I remember the day our business partner said at least half of the walk-in customers were coming in from doing Google searches or from social media,” he said. “It definitely has increased our walk-in new customer base.”

Facebook has brought Larson the most success, he said. Though the page has fewer than 300 fans, community engagement is more important to Addiction Motors.


“I’m not so interested in numbers; what I’m concerned about is the quality of the fans,” he said.

Larson posts on Facebook every day, and not every post has to do with the business. Some posts talk about riding weather; some ask fans to post photos of their bikes, and others ask fans to post about their bikes.

“The secret is to gain trust from our customers, to engage with them on a personal level,” Larson said.

So far, Facebook has been quite successful for Addiction Motors. The company recently hosted an event featuring John Ryan, who rode across the country in a Guinness World Record-breaking 86.5 hours; Melissa Holbrook-Pierson, who wrote “The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing” about Ryan; a female motorcycle photographer; a sculptor who does motorcycle-themed work out of old parts;

ha motorcycle furniture maker; and a poet. The event was promoted through Facebook, and about 120 people attended.

“We had this big event, this artistic thing around motorcycles, and we had it catered and everything, and that was a big event,” Larson said.

He also used a Facebook ad to attract a group of motorcyclists that work for Pixar Animation Studios. Addiction Motors sits only half a block away from Pixar headquarters, and the crew at Addiction would often see motorcyclists going in and out of the office. However, no one at Addiction had any connections with anyone at Pixar, and the lot is gated, preventing any impromptu visits. So Larson used a free promotional ad he had received from Facebook to target that group. Though only 44 people were targeted as Pixar employees that ride motorcycles, those people were exposed to the Addiction ad often because they were so few, and success was found.

“We got a lot of impressions on that ad,” Larson explained. “We actually got one guy that came into the shop that loved us and wrote a wonderful review on his blog, and we got the Pixar group.”

Addiction Motors plans to use more Facebook ads to target other demographics in its area. Larson said another important tool for him has been Google Adwords, which has boosted the SEO at his business’ website.

Using social media and SEO as its primary marketing and advertising tools has already brought returns for Addicted Motors, but Larson isn’t ready to slow down. He’s already planning more strategies in which he can engage with customers, and an app that allows customers to request service departments from Facebook is in development.

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