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Cyberspace a meeting place

Honda finding success with video meetings

American Honda Motor Co. is finding that cyberspace is becoming the ideal meeting place. Among other attributes, there are no flight delays, no prolonged stays away from the dealership and no one from the staff feeling omitted from business trip.

Honda’s RedLine video updates began in 2008. Since then, Honda has distributed 25 videos via the Honda online interactive network system that allows dealers to view them at their leisure to learn about the company’s new models, business initiatives, programs and significant industry activities.

The videos range in time from 15-35 minutes on most productions.

Chuck Boderman, assistant vice president (sales), Bob Gurga, assistant vice president (marketing) and Dan Wright, senior manager field sales, provided Powersports Business readers with some insight on to the program’s origins and purpose.

PSB: To start, wasn’t Honda the first OEM to host a dealer meeting?

AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR CO.: That’s right, we were the first motorcycle manufacturer to have a dealer meeting, in about 1969. We introduced the 750, and we still have pictures in the corporate offices of Mr. Honda pouring glasses of wine for the dealers there.

PSB: How did the idea rise of video as a communication tool?

AHMC: We had been looking at the effectiveness of the dealer convention, and how our dealers view them. We know that some of our dealers are going to three, four, five conventions in a year, and that can get cost-prohibitive.

So we formed a task force in 2008 with our managers and senior managers. We met for several months and discussed what the future held for communication with our dealers.

PSB: Did the idea of reaching deeper into the dealership become appealing?

AHMC: With all the positives you can take away from a dealer meeting, we would always hear ‘I wish my business partner or GM had been here to listen to hear about a certain topic,’ or ‘I wish I could have had more time to learn about this new product.’

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So our challenge was how do we get more absorption and retention from our dealers over time. So our conclusion was to do some sort of video broadcast. We looked at once a quarter as a model, but it worked so well that we’re using it more often. It’s evolved from there.

PSB: Has doing the videos met the expectations of the dealers, and Honda?

AHMC: It continues to grow, and we’re really happy with what’s happening with it. We’re looking at doing all kinds of things that will help us be more direct with the dealers, and provide useful and timely business information.

Ray Blank, senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co., makes a presentation during one of the Honda RedLine video sessions. American Honda has turned to video presentations to reach dealers more frequently and with a more precise message.

PSB: Does its success eliminate a national dealer meeting, in person?

AHMC: No, not at all. We’re constantly looking at the opportunity to meet with our dealers, and since 2008 we have increased the visit frequency of out field staff and national management team at dealerships. In additon, we periodically conduct meetings with groups of dealers both at our national office and in local market areas.

PSB: I’m sure dealers appreciate the time and money savings.

AHMC: We get over 90 percent of the dealers participating in these videos. Each one gets about 3,000 hits, from the principal on down to anyone else in the dealership who wants to view it.

PSB: That penetration can only help from a branding standpoint.

AHMC: That’s right. The message to our business partners at the dealer meetings was important, but the message did not necessarily reach the sales manager or the associates who weren’t at the meeting. Now, sales people can watch it. It’s really proven to be a very powerful tool that is sort of setting a precedent in the industry.

PSB: On to the makeup and lighting… How easy or difficult are they to produce?

AHMC: There is a lot of preparation time that goes into them. It’s been a good return on the investment, though, because they’re reaching so many people at the dealer level. We do have a state-of-the-art production studio here on our campus.

Things can change tomorrow on any number of fronts, and we can get the edits done almost immediately.

PSB: Can a dealer recommend a content topic for a future edition?

AHMC: It’s evolved over time and allowed us to focus our attention more on the things they’re asking about. Dealers provide us with feedback and ideas for RedLine via surveys we post at the end of RedLine and anytime via our online communication. This feedback allows us to understand how well our message is getting through to them, and when we talk face-to-face it becomes more conversational in tone.

It’s also opened a lot of avenues. We can go to Wing Ding and take a camera to get some footage and share it on RedLine. It gives them perspective on what’s happening in the market. We’ve also used it to pay tribute to legacy dealers.

PSB: I imagine the savings is noticeable for six or eight videos a year compared to a dealer meeting.

AHMC: There’s not so much a change in the investment as it is redirecting the investment. It’s not about the cost savings to us, because we’re spending our budget on promotions and other areas of our business to support our dealers. The main thing is that it makes good communication sense, and we feel like we have better communication using this going forth.

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