MARKETING TO THE URBAN SPORTBIKE market isn't hard if you are willing to learn the ins and outs of this growing scene.
The urban sportbike market is comprised of all walks of people with four important things in common: 1) they all take great pride in their sportbikes, 2) they will gladly spend money to make their bike stand out in a crowd, 3) they are fiercely loyal to brands and businesses, and 4) they are some of the most open, friendly people on two wheels.
Here are 10 tips dealers can use to approach this growing, vibrant customer base.
1. Know how to create a custom on a budget. Everyone in the country is talking about ways to save money, so be prepared to make suggestions about how to give someone's sportbike a few custom touches without breaking the bank. Riders who have small budgets might be content with a dress-up kit, which generally includes fairing bolts, fork covers, bar ends and, often, mirror block-off plates. Riders who can spend more money may spring for an extended swingarm or a showy performance upgrade like an aftermarket shock or forks. Help your customers get the most out of their (limited) money by knowing what modifications will turn the most heads at bike night.
2. Understand the lingo, and make sure your service techs do, too. When my friend Craig opened his high-performance service shop a couple of years ago, he started picking up urban sportbike terms in a hurry. One of his customers described a drag race he was in as "three and bust, no spray." This meant that this guy was so confident in his drag-racing skills that he let his competitor start three bike lengths ahead, he wouldn't be the first to start accelerating, and he wouldn't use nitrous. The urban sportbike crowd has their own language, and you need to know it. Words like stretched, slammed, boost and spray are just a start.
3. Display the possibilities on your showroom floor. Do your customers think of your dealership first when they need or want to buy aftermarket products? Show them what they can do without ever leaving the dealership. Add custom touches to one or two of the models on your showroom floor, and don't be surprised when someone wants to buy it just like that.
4. Consider incorporating custom packages into your sales. Once you know what's popular, tell your customers about it. Offer price-tiered aftermarket packages to fit varying budgets, and wrap the cost into new-bike financing.
5. Tap into the marketing power of sportbike clubs. Sportbike clubs make up a significant percentage of the urban sportbike market, and chances are you've seen your fair share of customers wearing their club vests. Local clubs can be an invaluable way to gain loyal customers, not to mention a whole new avenue of marketing since most clubs have extensive e-mail lists. Consider special promotions that target these clubs, such as a discount for any customer who shows his club colors. When that customer comes back — and he will — you can bet he'll bring a few more club members with him.
6. Get involved with local events. Sponsor a class at your local drag strip, or work out a deal with the track to sell and mount tires during events. Weekend "pay-and-play" drag races are a big draw for locals with the urge to twist the wrist. Also, find out how to be a part of local stunt shows. Not only can you connect with your local sportbike riders at these events, but you might also meet high-profile stunters and racers who can be a part of your future marketing endeavors.
7. Host your own events. If you're more the "do-it-yourself" type, put together your own event. Talk to your urban sportbike customers and identify some local stunt teams that could put on a show in your parking lot. Invite clubs to come out, and offer prizes for the club that brings the most people. Host a custom sportbike show, hire a DJ, grill some burgers and have fun.
8. Go to sportbike-oriented bike nights. That's it; just go. You can take flyers for your dealership to hand out, but the most important thing is that you simply go, sit and watch. Take note of the most popular sportbike modifications that you see, and what "looks" are getting the most attention from other riders and the crowd. It will help you stay up on the trends, and you'll wind up making new contacts.
9. Get to know your local builders and painters. Sometimes what your customer wants is something you can't provide, like a one-off custom part or airbrushed bodywork. Build relationships with your local builders and painters so you can make recommendations quickly and easily. You'll show your customers that you're tapped into the market, and you'll wind up getting reciprocating recommendations — after all, a customizer can't build anything without a bike.
10. Finally, don't try so hard to fit in that you look like a dork. Yes, you need to know how to relate to the urban sportbike market, but that doesn't mean you have to fit the mold of the urban sportbiker. If your idea of a perfect Sunday is taking a leisurely ride on your cruiser, that's okay. Don't try to be something you're not. We're all riders, and that's what matters the most.
Beth Dolgner is a contributing editor for 2Wheel Tuner, a sister publication to Dealernews. 2Wheel Tuner is a consumer newsstand magazine dedicated to the performance sportbike market (www.2wtmag.com).