August 8, 2011 – Need to keep customers connected? Go mobile

“It really does move the needle. Getting people in the door is the challenge. They see that mobile is driving people into the store.”
That’s how Ron Cariker, president of 7 Media Group LLC, describes the latest buzz about mobile texting. As Cariker has worked with numerous Harley-Davidson dealerships over the past two years on their mobile efforts, he has seen dealership owners grow in their appreciation for the revenue-generating possibilities of mobile texting.
How can a dealership turn to the latest mobile marketing technique to enhance its bottom line? Cariker will provide a bevy of ideas to dealers as he has been selected to present a seminar on mobile marketing at Powersports Business’ Profit Xcelerator Conference and Expo. The event, heavily relied upon by powersports dealers who are aiming to find new profit centers, is set for Sept. 25-27 at the Red Rock Resort Casino & Spa in Las Vegas.
In “Taking Your Dealership Mobile,” Cariker will present best practices for dealers as they reach out to current and future customers via smartphones.
“I’ve got a lot of background in media, and for several years, mobile has become more and more of an important part of the media mix for everyone,” Cariker said in a phone interview after returning from a mobile training session with employees at Pig Trail Harley-Davidson in Rogers, Ark.
Since forming 7 Media Group in 2009, Cariker has watched his powersports clientele increase. Dealership owners have been receptive to the potential of mobile, he said.
“The way I position it to them is it’s an opportunity to reach out to their customers, their core audience, versus spending all their money in traditional media, which as we all know is a shotgun approach and hasn’t changed a lot,” Cariker said. “Giving them the ability to control and manage the communication with their customers — they like that a lot.”
The immediacy of mobile is a bottom-line builder for dealers as well.
“A number of them have been able to equate sales and traffic due to specific messages that come out,” Cariker said. “Rarely do you have someone come in who says ‘I heard about this on the radio or I saw this on TV.’ They like the unique aspect of it, but the fact that people are so personal with their phones and the way they communicate, they actually respond to the messages.
Surveys have shown that 97 percent of all text messages are opened, Cariker said. “And of those, 80 percent are read within the first 10 minutes of being received,” he added. “So not only are they being read, they’re being read almost immediately. Open rates in email have gotten so low.”
Understanding how dealers market and advertise their product in traditional media channels allows Cariker to provide tips and best practices for incorporating mobile into those campaigns as well.
“It’s usually a case of ‘You’re already successful, you’ve got a good dealership and you want to extend that further.’ Mobile is going to help you do that,” Caricker said.
Cariker’s first client put him on the path to mobile success. In 2010, he managed the mobile campaign for the Republican candidate for governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin. Fallin went on to become the state’s first female governor.
“There was a group of powersports dealers who I had relationship with or knew and started doing mobile, and it kind of snowballed,” Cariker said. “I know the industry, and in most industries word gets out. That’s really how it happened.”
Cariker suggests dealerships begin reaching their mobile clubs via SMS (short message service) or plain text messaging.
“I think it’s a good practice to design or develop toward the least common denominator,” he said. “There are several Harley dealers I’ve worked with that have iPhone applications but they don’t have plain text messaging. I question that because they don’t quite understand how many people they’re not reaching.”
A plain text message that provides a link to a mobile site is the first step in getting customers engaged.
“If they do that, they’ve hardly failed,” Cariker said. “You’re doing all of the work for that person showing them exactly what it is you want them to see.”
Cariker suggests that dealerships have a call to action, or something to verify whether or not the text is effective. One of his clients — a Harley dealership — used a buy one T-shirt, get one free promotion on its first mobile promotion.
“It was their best day in three years in their MotorClothes department,” Cariker said. “Nobody else knew about the buy one, get one free T-shirts. They didn’t advertise it. They sent it out to their text database and people responded. They had a huge day in sales.”
Another dealership offered a similar promotion for tires.
“And the customer pays for installation. They did it over a weekend, only to their mobile members, and they had to make two more orders for tires after they did it. They were surprised at the success.”

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