Dealers should make way for shiny new products

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It’s February, and that means it’s Dealer Expo month. By this time of year, most of the country’s motor­cycles have been locked away behind closed doors for several months, many of their riders feverishly poring over enthusiast magazines and checking websites for new and different accessories for their rides — and themselves — in the spring. Expo gives you an opportunity to get a closer look at many of the new products that some of these guys are already considering.

“New” is a really important word in the consumer’s mind — and should be in yours, too. My dictionary lists nine descriptions for the adjective “new.” I personally like “for the first time” best. I don’t know why “new” has such power, but we see its power demonstrated all the time: People flock to auto shows to see the “new” cars, even though many of them are simply paint and chrome changes. New housing developments also attract a large share of folks with no intention of buying, but who are simply interested in seeing “what’s new.”

Motorcycles, motorcycle accessories and motorcycle services have that same appeal. Just go to any one of the 12 International Motorcycle Shows around the country and watch the tens of thousands of motor­cyclists as they sit on new bikes, pass judgment on their styling and take the information they’ve gathered back home to their friends who didn’t go. They’ve seen what’s new, and that makes them feel special. Then they’ve had the opportunity to pass what they know onto someone else, which gives them a bit more stature — at least in their minds, if not among their friends.

Dealer Expo is all about what’s new. Whether it’s a piece of hardware, gear, a business process, or technique, you’ll find it at Expo. Expo gives you the chance to touch and feel the products and talk to the manufacturers and distributors. You’ll return home armed with knowledge that can help improve next year’s bottom line through increased aftermarket sales, or more efficient management techniques. Most importantly you’ll know and have what’s new.

Talking to a dealer in Florida a few days ago really drove home the power of “new.” He noted that most of the people who come into his store are repeat customers: some coming in for service, some for a part or accessory, or just to check in. If they’re coming in for parts or service, he doesn’t want them to buy what they came for and leave. He wants to engage them, he wants them to linger, he wants them to think about what this or that accessory or piece of gear can do to improve their motorcycle or their look, or comfort. “This,” he said, “is where ‘new’ comes into play. If I have something new, I identify it as being new or just in. Not everybody’s going to be interested, but some will be, and if one of my salespeople can engage them — explain the features and benefits of the new item — chances are good that I’ll make a sale.”

If in fact people are hanging on to and still using their old rides, and instead of buying new bikes, buying used, then being at Expo is more important than ever. Where else can you find hundreds of manufacturers and distributors of products that you sell in one location? Sure, eventually most of the new items will end up available through Tucker Rocky or Parts, but how are you going to find what’s “new” if you don’t know what new is? Expo gives you a leg up. You’ve seen it, you’ve held it in your hands, you know where to get it, and you can probably get a better deal on the item than someone who didn’t attend.

Sure Expo can be a hassle, but it doesn’t have to be that way. All it takes is a little preparation. There are now more hotel rooms available near the convention center, eliminating that shuttle ride. This year, everything’s under one roof.

There are a lot of new features to enable you to navigate the show, such as grouping exhibitors by category: ATV/UTV/Off-road, Cruiser, Parts and Maintenance, Management, etc. There are seminars covering every aspect of our business from sales to service. And perhaps best of all, there’s a mapping device on the Dealer Expo website that allows you to map your tour through the show in order to make the most efficient use of your time. Visit www.dealerexpo.com for all the new features and benefits of this year’s largest powersports trade show.

Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Wear comfortable clothing. While your walk to the convention center may be chilly, once inside it can get pretty warm. No matter how you map it, you’re going to spend a lot of time on your feet. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and allow for several hours of walking and standing. Bring something to carry brochures and other handouts. While roller bags are really convenient, they’re really a hassle for anyone walking behind you. A backpack is only slightly less easy to use and eliminates the problem of the trailing obstacle for those trailing you.

One last word: Enjoy. Enjoy seeing new items. Enjoy being with your fellow dealers. Enjoy the fact that you’re selling things to people that they really want.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews February 2011 issue.