Give Customers the Super Bowl

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TIM RUSSERT, WHO PASSED away this summer, wasn't the world's largest Honda dealer and didn't win the latest motocross championship. He was just an outstanding journalist — the host of "Meet the Press," which airs on NBC every Sunday morning. Having an interest in journalism and marketing, I particularly enjoyed the show.

Much has been written about Russert since his untimely passing. Famous and respected journalists from all networks and print media have told countless stories, so I won't attempt to add to those poignant vignettes here.

But one particular story about Russert struck a chord with me, a story that I believe is a relevant and timely key strategic management issue in our industry today. One of his contemporaries was bragging on air about how Russert was so prepared as a journalist on all of his assignments — how he worked diligently and tirelessly at knowing more about the topic of his next TV show than even the guests he was going to interview. His questions were professional and thoughtful. They were arranged in the proper order so as to tell the fairest, most complete story without bias. He prepared for each show as though it was his first or his last — no detail was left unchecked. This journalist spoke about Russert's preparedness as though he was "getting ready for the Super Bowl, every week, without fail!"

HAVING YOUR OWN 'SUPER BOWL' PARTY

Is what we do as dealers any less demanding, important, or relevant to our customers (who are about to purchase one of the coolest and most enjoyable investments in their lives)? Or as a football team must prepare for the Super Bowl? Shouldn't we prepare our people and our dealerships as though we were having a Super Bowl party at our house? You know the drill for a Super Bowl party: everything in its place, balloons out front (so guests can find your house), balloons inside for that extra-festive, party feel, popcorn ready, coffee made, refreshments of choice on ice or in the fridge, sandwiches or snacks out, junk and clutter put away, a camera handy to take some memorable photos, the big-screen TV working perfectly and the dust wiped off, and most importantly, big smiles on your faces, happy to greet your guests and welcome them to your home for a few fun, exciting and enjoyable hours where their wish is your command.

I've had the pleasure of attending several Super Bowls in person and many more at parties at our house or at friends' houses. In each case, whether live or on TV, I've never attended this event where the teams and the hosts weren't fully prepared — some more than others — but always remarkably prepared. So, it makes me wonder, doesn't every customer, every day, deserve the same fun, festive, exciting, and memorable experience — in every department, by the way, not just vehicle sales — as the one who came to your dealership for your Mother's Day Sale, Memorial Day Sale, Father's Day Sale, or Fourth of July Sale?

Again, I ask this as a strategic question, not a tactical, merchandising one. What's wrong with treating every day and every customer as though they're our first? How did you treat your new customers in your first month in business? How did you dress your dealership that first month? What are the things you did personally that first year in business, hoping to survive just another month with a positive cash flow? How dependent were you in those days for every sale, every customer, every dollar? And how excited were you when you went to work every day that first year in business? Guess what? Today's market conditions demand nothing less.

PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH

Are you wondering if my dealership does all of these things every day? Daily, not yet. Weekly, absolutely. And we talk about how to constantly improve in our regular weekly and monthly leadership team meetings.

I encourage you to talk about this strategic question with your leadership team this week. What are the actions your team can take every day, or every week, or every month to make people feel like they are coming to your house for a Super Bowl party?

Clark Vitulli is a Harley-Davidson dealer in St. Augustine, Fla. Contact him via editors@dealernews.com.