Guilfoil explains that he knows that having faithful, loyal customers is paramount to running a good business. “They know who we are. With everybody who comes in here, we have to go, ‘I want that guy to be my friend, because he’s going to buy from me.’ You can’t put together a slick brochure and send it out to a bunch of people and tell them how they should get to know you and like you,” he adds.
This, you have to prove.
Reaching out. Having a small shop might come with its advantages when talking about customer service and maintaining overhead, but it’s not exactly the best position to be in when you’re in a city that’s within a county that served as the poster child for the economic and real estate meltdown of the past few years.
Once home to Norton Air Force Base (before it closed in 1994), and then a booming warehousing industry, San Bernardino suffered mightily when the recession came crashing down. The median home price plummeted to about $175,000 in 2009 from a high of around $350,000 in 2006. Unemployment in the city hit 19 percent last year, while the overall county came in at 14 percent.
“Going back two years ago, we could see things beginning to change. It hadn’t changed yet, but we could see it on the horizon,” Guilfoil says. “We thought, ‘Let’s assume things are going to go to crap. Let’s assume that the money tree is going to dry up and we’re going to have to find money in the ground. Where are we going to find it?’”
They decided to start looking for sales outside of their local market. Not looking to step on the toes of nearby dealers, they headed north and east where there were no other Triumph dealers. “The Palm Springs area has got us a lot of sales,” Guilfoil says.
With a marketing and advertising budget of around zero, they turned to Craigslist, YouTube and Facebook to promote not only different bikes for sale, but riding in general, and the store itself. They also counted on loyal customers spreading the word. The goal was to get the Doug Douglas name out using the most inexpensive methods possible.
The results were more e-mails, cards, letters, phone calls and referrals in 2009 than during all past years combined.