Dealerships Deserve A Promotion

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P.T. BARNUM once famously said, "Without promotion, something terrible happens — nothing." The folks at Mike's Cycle World must have been listening, for they seem to know that promotions are one of the most important elements of their success.

While both Mike's Cycle World locations, one in Glasgow, Ky., founded by Mike Gill in 1980, and the other in Bowling Green, Ky., launched by Gill in 1990, are average-sized dealerships, Mike's is a outright giant when it comes to well-planned-and-carried-out promotions. From high-energy sales events to community outreach efforts, Mike's Cycle World knows how to not only blow its horn, but also carry a pretty catch tune.

In fact, Mike's Cycle World won the Dealernews Top 100's 2005 and 2006 Top Promotions Awards for Mike's 25th anniversary celebration of its Glasgow store and its March Madness sales event (at both locations, respectively). Both events show that Mike's Cycle World is serious about carrying out a winning promotion.

TWO WINNING EXAMPLES

"We started planning way in advance for that event," says general manager Perry Vincent, adding that while the dealership had never spent "a lot of" money on a promotion before, it ponied up roughly $7,000 to celebrate the Glasgow store's silver anniversary.

To generate interest, Mike's ran newspaper inserts hyping the four-day event and sent invites to its previous customers, inviting them to participate in the activities, contests and a complimentary barbecue blowout. The event also featured 50 door prizes and activities, such as a dunking machine manned by Vincent himself.

"I don't know if I'll ever do that again," Vincent jokes.

Ever the promotions maestro, Vincent says the anniversary celebration was really two events in one. Mike's leveraged the June event to kick off another promotion that let customers roll dice in an attempt to spell out the word Yamaha to win a motorcycle. That contest ran until the end of December 2005.

And that $7,000 price tag? It resulted in gross profits of $25,000 — definitely adding shine to the silver anniversary.

Capitalizing on Kentucky's basketball mania, Mike's 2006 March Madness event pitted the Bowling Green and Glasgow stores against each other. Team members at one location wore red jerseys and staff at the other wore blue jerseys, while managers — wisely — donned referee garb.

Mike's Cycle World ran radio and TV ads to build excitement and drive customers to both locations. To keep them fired up, both locations served snacks, set up Nerf ball hoops on the showroom floor and let customers compete for Mike's Cycle Bucks, store money they could spend at the dealership.

To judge the intra-store competition, Mike's assigned points to the location that sold the most units, had the greatest gross profit in unit sales, sold the most parts, had the largest parts gross profit, and several other similar factors. The store with the most points would win a meal cooked by Vincent and assistant general manager Chris Taylor.

Let's just say that once the shot clock finally ran out, Bowling Green ate. And while event-related expenses for the location were $4,000, gross profits were Shaq-sized at $30,000.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH

Not every promotional effort is specifically geared to drive sales and foot traffic. Others build awareness by addressing community needs. In addition to sponsoring local bike nights, Mike's hosts local club poker runs and enters a float in the Christmas parade. Mike's also promotes ATV and motorcycle safety awareness in its local area.

Last year, Mike's worked with the mayors of Bowling Green and Glasgow to proclaim Motorcycle Safety months in both towns. Vincent advertised in local papers and provided public service announcements to local radio stations to spread awareness. "And those were free — I like those PSAs," Vincent says.

The dealer also created "Cruisin' Without a Bruisin'" booklets that addressed motorcycle safety from both the rider's and motorist's point of view, which it distributed at the dealership and gave to the mayors' offices, newspapers and radios. Mike's still distributes them to new riders.

Sometimes getting those safety messages to "stick" with the powers that be can present the dealer with an uphill battle. Mike's is regularly invited to give safety presentations at local schools and events at local universities. Vincent recalls that after giving a presentation on ATV safety to more than 400 fourth-graders, he was amazed to hear about some of the accidents the kids had.

Nonetheless, Mike's keeps forging ahead with its ATV safety efforts. To that end, assistant general manager Taylor is working on establishing ATV safety courses with a target start date of this spring.

The last key to successful dealer promotions? Don't stop. Despite all the promotional programs, all the contests and all the costumes, Vincent is now determining how Mike's can increase its community involvement even more.

"I don't know if we do enough," he says. "I think we need to do more."