Dealer's Film Festival Brings In New Business

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In conjunction with its annual open house, Skagit Powersports of Burlington, Wash., held its first Skagit Powersports Film Festival this past spring, where the local public was encouraged to submit film shorts depicting anything powersports-related. The result? Sales outperformed those of previous open houses, even when a moto-celebrity was in attendance.

"Last year, we had Jeremy McGrath, and the place was packed," says Skagit owner Bill Cameron. "The highway in front of the store was packed, the parking lot was packed, and it was so busy that we couldn't do any business." Customers stood elbow-to-elbow, he continues, with little chance to peruse merchandise and store specials.

The Saturday film festival, however, was popular enough to attract a constant flow of customer traffic, yet still gave customers some space to look – and buy. "We never got overwhelmingly busy, but we kicked ass. [Customers] had more room to walk around," Cameron says. "We sold six vehicles. On my normal weekends I'll sell two or three. We had a really good day." Open house events like a poker run, dyno shootout and other activities were staggered throughout the day to aid the customer flow.

A MAN WITH A PLAN

The film festival sprung from a meeting between Cameron and reps from LoyalTV, a YouTube-esque service specializing in niche videos. Having a powersports video page on Skagit's website would be kind of cool, he thought. Plus, the current business climate requires for something radical to help his store stand out from the others that also needed to unload a dust-collecting supply of inventory. "You gotta separate yourself from the herd so people will come to you," he adds. While driving one night, Cameron decided that a film festival contest would best draw attention to Skagit's website.

So it began. Entrants would have two weeks to craft moto-centric film shorts and upload them to Skagit's site. Winners were determined by public popular vote, with the top three receiving prizes like a choice of select Yamaha vehicles.

More than 150 videos were submitted from all over Washington state, and even as far away as New Zealand. Popular vote whittled them down to 10 finalists, and the winning videos were screened and announced at Skagit's open house. A parachuting skydiver dropped into the dealership's parking lot to hand-deliver the envelopes with the winners' names.

FILM FESTIVAL, TAKE TWO

As with any inaugural event, you're bound to hit a few snags. For one, Cameron states, rules weren't specific enough and entrants started to think creatively to sway votes. "We made it so you could only vote one e-mail address per vote. People started going through mailing lists and clubs," he says. "It was fine until we got to the 10 finalists. Everyone had 30 or 40 votes, and then two guys had like 200 and 300 votes. And these were lousy videos." It turns out that a handful of computer IP addresses were responsible for the hundreds of votes, which wasn't in the spirit of the contest, Cameron says. To keep things fair, he enlisted his staff to vote.

Skagit's Powersports Summer Film Festival II is currently underway with stricter voting rules, and a longer contest period. Instead of two weeks (as in the previous contest), entrants now have from June to September to submit videos. Voting will take place in October, "the deadest month of the year," Cameron says, to bring people into the dealership during the off-season. "We're going to have a big party, because nothing good is going on then. The one good thing about the economy right now is we have more time than we would if we were busy. It's a blessing in disguise."

It's estimated that the entire production, from advertising to the day of the event, cost him roughly $7,000 to $8,000. "If nothing else, I broke even for the day, which is pretty good for an event like that," Cameron says. "People think you're supposed to make a killing the day of the event, but you don't. It's all just advertising. You make the money later."

Attracting Web Visitors During the Off-Season

Cruisin' 66 Cycles picked a winner last year when trying to figure out how to draw visitor traffic to its website during the winter off-season. The Springfield, Mo., store held a local "Snot Sniffer Challenge," where customers were encouraged to submit photos online of themselves with their bike next to a thermometer that detailed the runny-nose-inducing, cold-weather temperatures. Winning entries received gift certificates to the store and other prizes.