It's not about your damn motorcycles

Publish Date: 
Jul 24, 2013
By Eric Anderson

DO YOU REMEMBER that clapped-out Taco minibike you learned to ride on?

What about the 1974 Honda 550 that took you on your pre-college road trip through the wild west?

Or that Ironhead Harley Sportster that helped you cross the south part of your home state?

We remember the experiences we had on those machines. They were more than just inanimate mechanical devices — they were vehicles of dreams, of love and of tale-telling.

Motorcycles made many of our youthful experiences possible and for that reason they transcend mere machinery. Research from Cornell University* showed that spending money on material goods only brings short-term happiness, while experiences provide greater long-term satisfaction.

Nobody is saying to trade motorcycles for African safaris or hot air ballooning — quite the contrary. Don’t sell customers hardware; instead, teach new customers how to have experiences on their motorcycles.

Psychologists demonstrate that happiness only comes from experiences, not inanimate objects like what you sell. It isn’t difficult to understand such scientific claims, so why are you still selling just motorcycles and not motorcycle experiences?

Perhaps a small shift in retail thinking could improve the experiential aspect of motorcycling. The excitement of that newly purchased motorcycle in the garage easily fades into the reality of cleaning it, maintaining it and paying for it. Even at 90 days out, if there is nobody to ride with or nowhere to go, the new-owner situation can deteriorate.

Riding buddies and finding new destinations to experience have never been a problem for you dealers — you work in the industry. But your customers don’t. It’s tougher for them to stay involved on a consistent basis, so the experience dwindles. The now-static vehicle becomes a depressive anchor instead of a motivational elevator. You might have sold him the bike, but you just lost a customer.

Separate the act of purchasing a motorcycle from riding it down the road; and then facilitate both. Perhaps we too strongly assume people who buy the machine will find a way to ride it. Not true. They dream of riding it after seeing TV ads, watching racers and reading about magazine editors flying through space and time on their two-wheeled steeds. Unfortunately, re-creating those experiences for themselves can be quite challenging.

I recently discovered that a ‘ride” in some people’s minds is 20 minutes up the road and back — a Saturday afternoon escape. I won’t criticize that, but there is so much more potential that machine underneath your customer can provide than just a 40-minute putt, even if it is through the Alps in springtime.

That quickie escape experience is all some people want, but what I recently realized is that it’s all some people know. Nobody ever mentored them to ride further away from home. (continued)