Do your customers want marketing, or a personal connection?

Publish Date: 
Jan 2, 2012
By Dave Koshollek

ARE WE RELYING TOO MUCH on slick marketing and bountiful displays to attract the V-twin community? Or, is a better recipe for success more about making a personal connection?

Anyone who enters the V-twin world as a new rider or new to the Harley-Davidson, Indian, Victory, American custom or metric cruiser brand is initially wowed by the multitude of accessories available, the ease of personalizing their bike and the mass of clothing that shouts to the world, “I’m a V-twin rider!” At some point though, the V-twin rider matures. They become less excited about what the store has to sell them and more focused on What’s In It For Me?

House of Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee, Wis., understands this. The dealership grows clientele annually by holding some of the best events in town. Take its Cheap, Fast and Dirty show. The event posters are collectible, the bands are exciting, the food is good, the bike show is cool and the show specials are worth the trip alone. More than that, HoH employees ride with their customers and provide plenty of personal attention on an ongoing basis.

If you want to expand sales in the V-twin market, the focus should be on the personal connection your store has with each customer. I’ve been to stores that are gloriously stocked with motorcycles, accessories and clothing. They are picture-perfect and, truthfully, the data usually shows an increase in sales after a store is configured to look like this.

My experience tells me the increase is primarily caused by having stock on hand and by attracting new V-twin riders, who buy more because they’re easily impressed. Will that sizzle inspire repeat business? For a while, sure. Then the “sales before service” mentality becomes boring, and to some, offensive.

An example of the successful “service before sales” are Harley-Davidson Garage Parties. When a Harley dealer holds a Garage Party, attendees can expect personalized attention, frank discussion with experienced female riders and an inviting atmosphere. Garage Parties have worked so well that Harley maintains a strong lead over the rest of the motorcycle industry in female ridership. The gals in attendance know the Garage Party is about them first, with sales second.

Garage Parties have worked so well that
Harley maintains a strong lead over the rest of the
motorcycle industry in female ridership.

Then there’s the nonconforming Strokers Dallas, which is a Victory and Royal Enfield dealership run by well-known moto-celebrity (and Dealernews columnist) Rick Fairless. Rick’s store is a crazy chopper  museum with personal touches that include hundreds of pictures of Fairless and his family. Like a good movie, it’s worth going back again and again to see what was missed.