Ask Fairless: Justifying shows, and why you need to work harder

Publish Date: 
Jan 2, 2012
By Rick Fairless

Ed Note: We first introduced you to Ask Fairless in November, and results were mixed. One reader threatened to cancel his free subscription to Dealernews. Another said he looked forward to further rants and raves from Fairless. And one guy in Houston explained how his store handles customers who bring in parts for installation, adding that he once wanted to work for Fairless, but wasn’t sure about it anymore.

The biggest issue? Apparently we didn’t do a good enough job explaining that this is a new feature and Fairless would be making up his own questions and answers until the real submissions start pouring in.

While we’re waiting, we offer another — more subdued — installment of Ask Fairless with this warning: these questions aren’t from real people, but are based on topics he’s heard over the years in the motorcycle business. Help a brother out and submit your own questions to or

Dear Rick,
There are many motorcycle shows in my area that I sometimes attend, but I never have displayed at any show. I have inquired about the cost of booth space and it always seems that it’s too much money to justify the expense.

If I paid the money for the booth space, then I have to pay employees to work that space, which could run into overtime for a full weekend. What do you think?  — Signed: Concerned in Southern California

Dear Concerned,
Yes, it is very expensive to display at shows, especially out-of-town shows. But in most cases, the potential outweighs the risk. I would think that in Southern California there are lots of shows — probably some every weekend. Yeah, that could get expensive if you do them all, but you should pick and choose the shows that can help you the most.

Know where your competition is and display at shows in their neighborhood. I would check out every bike show within a 50-mile radius to see which ones might benefit your company the most. Basically, what you want to do is create some awareness in your competitor’s neighborhood, and maybe get some of their customers coming to your store. You can hand out fliers giving the prospective customer a reason to come to your store. Maybe it’s a service special, or maybe it’s a discount on parts, or maybe it’s because you have a good-looking ol’ lady (I doubt it).

I try to get the customer to come visit my store one time. After that, it’s my job, and my staff’s job, to take such good care of them that they keep coming back. What I try to do is outwork my competitors. I look at the competition as it’s them versus me, and I want nothing more than to kick their asses. That’s what business is — it’s you and your people versus your competitors and their people. Setting up a booth at shows in their territory will bring awareness to your business. So, I say give it a try, but make sure you have an impressive display and some well-done, professional fliers to hand out, giving them a reason to come visit your store.

If you have a chickenshit display, then you’re better off sitting on the couch watching reruns of “The Brady Bunch” (Can you say Marsha, Marsha, Marsha?). Hey, get off the couch and let’s get back to work!   

Dear Rick,
I have owned my motorcycle shop for 10 years now, and business sucks. Business was bad enough, but about a year ago a new shop opened up five miles from me and since then, they’ve taken what little business I had. We sell used bikes, offer a full line of parts, motorcycle clothing, leathers, helmets and accessories; I have a full service center where we work on all American-made motorcycles.