Diversity in powersports marketing

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This story originally appeared in the Dealernews August 2010 issue.

Sleek, high-testosterone ads will draw in the bulk of your clientele (read: male riders), but your efforts may miss the mark with a potentially large chunk of your audience — women.

“Women either directly spend or influence more than 80 cents of every dollar spent in the U.S. today,” says Michele Miller, a marketing expert and founder of WonderBranding.com. “[This is one of the] several basic reasons why marketing to women has gone mainstream.”

Women are also more receptive than men to notions of bonding and brand loyalty, Miller says, because they have a higher number of connections between the left and right sides of their brains. “I would venture to say that first impressions hit women first and have the most impact,” Miller says. “She’s taking in many subconscious signals that can have her form an opinion before she even talks to a salesperson.”

Drawing in a female audience isn’t a new concept to most dealers, evident in the number of Garage Parties as well as Mother’s Day and other female-centric events described in last year’s Top 100 applications. Harley-Davidson (see story below) is a company in particular that attracts a large female following. Companies outside of the industry, like Ford and Best Buy, also have amped up their marketing efforts toward women. Ford now claims that 40 percent of its Mustang drivers are women. And in light of the onslaught of do-it-yourself television programming on cable networks like HGTV, home improvement sectors are working to reach more women as well.

When crafting ads and events, keep in mind that “women are receptive to ads that are relevant and answer the question ‘What’s in it for me?’” Miller says. With things like “Motorcycling 101” seminars and evening oil-change how-to classes, the “what’s in it for me” part is that women leave with a better understanding of their bikes.

If you’re on a budget (like many are), you’ll get the most bang for your buck in radio ads. “Advertising on radio, if done well, is the highest and most efficient use of your advertising dollar,” Miller says. For one, you’ll reach a large amount of people for a small amount of money. But perhaps the biggest benefit of radio ads is how the brain retains auditory information. “The auditory cortex of the brain holds on to sound much longer than the visual cortex holds on to images,” Miller continues.

Another nugget for the budget-conscious: Aim for the bulk of female customers who “live in the now,” and who are in the 45-and-older age bracket rather than the typical 18-to-34 crowd. “The segment of 45-plus is now the major buying segment, with trillions of dollars to spend and an outlook that ‘life begins at 45,’” Miller says. “I say, follow the money and culture, and then create messaging that’s relevant to that group.”

MARKETING THE HARLEY WAY

Harley-Davidson is no stranger to women’s marketing. Not only does its website feature an updated calendar of women’s events encompassing all of its dealerships, but The Motor Co. designates the month of May as Women Riders Month — which culminates in a two-day bash. Thousands of riders flock to Milwaukee to take part. Here are some tips from the event that you can incorporate into your own events, women-themed or not:

Get other businesses involved. Whether you’re hosting a ride or an open house, make it worthwhile for out-of-towners to make the trip by having nearby stores and restaurants offer discounts and specials on the day of your event.

Simulated motorcycle riding. Most of your customers already ride, so you have to get creative when attracting newbies. Harley offered a stationary bike for non-riders who wanted to get a feel for shifting gears and such. A step above this are video games, with motorcycle simulations, which you can use to keep the kiddies entertained.

Fashion show. Enlist the help of local dignitaries, friends and riders to help you show off the latest apparel in your store, catwalk-style.

Bike blessing. Bikes and riders can get a blessing for the ride home.

Harley’s latest women-centric effort is its Pink Label, a gear and apparel line launched earlier this year that donates a portion of profits to Breast Cancer Network of Strength. So far, the line has raised more than $100,000 for the organization.